Monday, October 31, 2011

The Water Boy

Happy Halloween!  Here's the latest news. Have a great night trick-or-treating!!!

 Hey Mom!!!!!

So, funny news. I got transferred again. I'm headed back to Yerevan. Except now I'll be serving in center. It's way crazy because that's where all the stuff happens. The president's house, parliament, the opera house, and all the national monuments are in my area now.

I'll be serving with an Elder named Elder Strader. He should be interesting. But I'm way excited because it snowed here last night and it should be a tad warmer in Yerevan. The church building here is actually owned by the church instead of just rented, so that is going to be way cool.

Anyways, it's Halloween today. We're planning on having a little party with just the 4 of us at the Zone Leader's apartment. Have dinner and maybe some kind of dessert.

That is probably the coolest pumpkin I have ever seen!!!!  (Jared's talking about the pumpkin his sister and I made.  Here it is!)
Pac Man and the Ghost
 I'm so mad I didn't get to help!!! That is way cooollll. I don't even know how you did it. (Guess he didn't see the little toothpicks!) I miss making pumpkin seeds and everything.

So yeah, that's the news here. I spent 2 weeks in Charentsavan, and now I'm heading back. I spent a couple freezing nights, but now everything should be a bit better :p

LOve you MOMMMM!!!!!!!!

Elder Hammer :D


Anyways. Big news, I got transferred again after 2 weeks in Charentsavan. I'll be heading to the big city. I'll be serving in Kentron, or Center. This is the very center (hence the name) of Yerevan. So that should be way interesting. I'll be serving with Elder Strader, who has been there since I've been in country.

The new kids are coming, so I will no longer be the little one in the mission. I'm way excited. We have one Sister that's coming from Glendale. She speaks Western Armenian, so that will be a challenge for her when she arrives. It's almost a completely different language.

So this week.

Our water heater exploded again this week, which was not fun. This time was bigger and water started spraying over electrical cords and everything. It was a way stressful situation, plus we had no hot water again. As of right now, I can see my breath in our apartment, even in the middle of the day. 

I went on splits with the zone leaders, which was fun. Their apartment is falling apart though. I tried taking a shower, and then all of a sudden it exploded on me. The shower head went to full pressure and water started spraying out of the knobs. I tried turning the water off, but the handle wouldn't tighten to turn the shower off. So that was way fun. I don't have the best relationship with water in this country.

I really learned why it's called the Word of Wisdom this week. We ran into this one kid who was keeled over and could hardly breath. He couldn't hardly stand, two of his friends were carrying him. We tried asking him what was wrong but he just gasped and clutched his chest. His friend said he was at a birthday party and he downed an entire bottle of wine. We were certain he was going into shock from alcohol poisoning. The worst part was that his friends were just laughing at him. We were going to call an ambulance, but his friends took him off before we could.

Sunday I got food poisoning, and was confined to the bathroom for a good part of the night. The good news was that it was daylight savings time, so we got an extra hour of sleep.

So sometimes there might not be huge miracles, sometimes there are, but most often out here we get the small ones that just remind you that you're not alone in this work and that you will receive help. For instance, we were walking down the street and Elder Cook (my zone leader) said, "I need to talk to this guy right here". He went up to a man and asked him a definition of a word and then the man moved on. We were wondering why we had to stop that man when another person across the street called us over. He was just going to let us go because we were walking, but since we stopped, he called us over. He took a pamphlette and agreed to meet with us in a few days. It wasn't something huge, but it was something small that really made our day.

Anyways, next week should be amazing. I'll talk to you all then. :) Love you!

Elder Hammer

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Malatsia and the Zoo--Pictures

It's a Bear!
These are the pictures Jared sent us.  He said that they're all from his last area, Malatsia and the local zoo. Enjoy!

This guy brought bread over, but wanted water too. He just couldn't handle it and dropped his bread in the water. :p He got it later.
I don't know what kind of cat this is, but he stared at me the whole time I passed.
Hello :) from both of us.
I thought Maddie might like this picture of Simba.
I feel like this. Everrrryyyyy dayyyyy.
White tiger
Grocery store outside
We found this guy in our church

The entrance to it
Their baptismal font :)
Malatsia on my last night
The outside of our church
The inside of our church
The inside of the grocery store (one of about 7 aisles)
Me wearing a Russian KGB hat we have at our apartment
My last view of Yerevan with Sis and Masis in the background (Ararat)

Monday, October 24, 2011

First Transfer--Out of the Fire and into the Frying Pan...or Freezer

So here's the rest of the news from Armenia this week. Looks like there was a transfer to a colder place, both the weather and the people.  Hang in there, Jared! I still have one more post left to do with all the pictures.  I'm just having trouble loading them.  I'll post them soon!


So about the earthquake, I'm fine. We didn't even feel it much up here in Charentsavan (that story to come later) but down in Yerevan, they closed off Malatsia for a bit. It doesn't look like there was much damage at all. It looks like we only got an aftershock here.

View Larger Map
Scroll Out **A**Jared's First Area-Malatsia **B**Jared's Second Area-Charentsavan

Anyways, big news: I was given a sudden transfer call on Monday to end my training early and go to a small village called Charentsavan. The branch is pretty big here though. Around 70 people come every week. Which is amazing seeing as the village is so small. The branch president is way helpful when it comes to helping out the missionaries, of which there are 2 companionships here. But of course I'm sent from Malatsia (the hottest place in Armenia) to Charentsavan (which is the coldest location in Armenia) just in time for winter to set it. It is soooo cold here!!! It became about 400 times harder to get out of bed in the morning all of a sudden. I busted out the jacket and gloves for the first time as soon as we got here. The hills just around us already have snow on them and we should be getting a little here in a few weeks. I'm not excited because other missionaries said it stays in the solid negatives most of the winter. And it looks like I'll be staying here for most of winter. My companion has already been here 3 or 4 months and someone in the other companionship has been here since he was born 5 or 6 months ago. So I'm going to be settling in for the cold here. Sighhh. My new companion is named Elder Frye.

About service though. It looks like I'll get a bit tomorrow. I'm going on splits with the zone leader up to a farm to count chickens....Not what I had in mind. But looks like I'll be having fun at the farm tomorrow.

Also, thank the Daltons for me. I just got (and finished off) their package today :)

So probably the craziest week ever this week (I think I say that every week):

 On Monday we went off to Ejmiatsin, which translated means "Descent of the only begotten". It's the city which holds the capitol of the Armenian church. We got to go inside the school of the Ter-ters ("Lord-Lord's", literally translated, or "priests"). Then, we went inside the massive church which is the biggest church in Armenia. It was quite interesting. Inside they had places to light candles and there were a ton of historical paintings and artifacts. Way neat.

Wednesday I said goodbye to Elder Lush, but it's okay, we'll still see each other around.

Thursday I tried to take a shower in the morning, but the water was ice. So I just had to grin and bear it with purple skin. I came out and apparently our water heating system had exploded on the inside when Elder Frye tried to turn it on and it had started to pour water everywhere. Our kitchen was flooded. Sighhh... Someone in our branch thankfully though can fix water heating systems.

I've discovered that the people here hate us a lot more than in Malatsia. It was quite a shock. We were walking around one day when one drunk guy came up to me and told me to give him my tie. I told him I needed it so I couldn't. He then took out his knife and started brandishing it and repeated the question. I again told him I couldn't because I needed it. He then stumbled away muttering under his breath. Then the old ladies who were watching by the side of the street started muttering something about how we didn't represent Christ because we weren't even charitable enough to give away a tie. That kind of brought me down a little.

A couple 18 year old boys threw rocks at us. That also was not fun.

Sometimes the people are just a little crazy though. We were trying to watch the Joseph Smith movie with one of our members when another (slightly mentally unstable) member said "Hold on!" to us. He then put in one of his own DVDs and we started watching it. It was a Jehovah's Witness production about the Adam and Eve story. It was so doctrinally incorrect that we just had to stop it. Sighhh....

Anyways, despite all the craziness. I'm getting along fine. The pictures I'm sending are no longer up to date. I'll take more later and show you what Charentsavan is like. Though this place is a lot smaller and colder, I take comfort in reading the scriptures. I wouldn't have said that before my mission, but it seems like out here, every time I read the Book of Mormon, I find something I need at the right time.

I love you all. :) See yah next week.

News from Armenia

Even though this letter is 2 hours later than usual, I think this is my favorite email yet because now we know for sure that all is well in Armenia.  Yervan is 120 miles from the 7.2 earthquake that hit yesterday. 

 Hey Mom!

About the earthquake, yes I'm alright :) I didn't feel it, but everyone on the top floors of our building did because they all ran out at the same time we were, trying to get up all yelling "Earthquake!" and just going nuts in general. It was actually quite funny. We didn't get the main earthquake, but we got an aftershock in Yerevan. It wasn't too bad, but they closed the road to Malatsia, or so I was told by Elder Lush. We're hoping this will open up Turkey more to missionary work, just like the earthquake in Gyumri did for Armenia.

Anyways :) Good to hear everything is alright over in
Santa Monica. I really do miss the weather there. It is so freaking cold here that it's ridiculous. They sent me here just in time for winter. Not even fair.

But yeah, I'm not complaining. I'm still healthy and all for the most part. You'd be proud of me, though. I make meals, do dishes, clean toilets and bathtubs :D And I do laundry, though it's a pain in the rear to do here.

Anyways, love you Mom! And stay healthy. I love you so much. We just got the Liahona about the Book of Mormon and there was a section on the mothers of the 2,000. I thought of you :)

Elder Hammer

No News....Yet

Monday mornings we usually receive letters from Jared.  We're assuming because of the 7.2 earthquake in Eastern Turkey (about 120 miles from Yerevan, Armenia), we have not heard from Jared yet.  News reports from that area indicate that there was shaking in Armenia but that there was no reported damage. The Internet is already pretty sketchy in Armenia.  I'm sure this earthquake did not improve anything.  So as soon as we hear anything from Jared, we'll post again. Until then, keep the people of Turkey and Armenia in your prayers, as well as our favorite missionary. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Missionary Tag or Invisibility Cloak?

Many possible titles for this week's blog post came to mind : 1)  Liar, Liar Pants on Fire 2) Noah in Armenia 3) Respect Your Elders 4) 3 Brothers? 5) And You think Cockroaches are Bad?  Here's Jared's letter!


Well pictures aren't working this week for some reason. Which is a bummer because I went to the zoo here. It was really kinda cool. Oh well, I'll try again next week.
As for my first meal when I get back to the US, I think I would want a home cooked meal :) I brag about the food I ate at home all the time. In and Out can wait :) Maybe I'll go with Brody or something. (We were at In-n-out this week and were wondering what Jared might want for his first meal back in the states.  He has a year and half to decide!)

Anyways, so this week was interesting again, as is every week in Armenia. This week a couple Jehovah Witness missionaries came to our door and tried converting us. They started asking the deep questions like "Why do you think there are so many churches today?" and "Where do you suppose we came from?" So we answered them, and gave them a few of our lessons. They agreed to meet with us later on this week :p Two new investigators. We still don't know what their intentions were for meeting with us, but we like to consider them as investigators :p

So we had an interesting investigator this week. Let me tell you about him.  He explained about the Russian symbol for the sound "ch" which looks like a 4. He also told us he had turned 6 twice. (keep in mind his hands and arms are twitching nervously this whole time). He said he had met with the missionaries before and that he had the Book of Mormon. We asked him if he had read it and he said yes and he knew it was true. He had read it by putting it to his head and reading with his spiritual eyes. He informed us that the Noah from the ark was the same one that transported to the Americas and became the king during Nephite times. Now Noah resides in Yerevan. He's telepathic apparently, and can tell you your family history just by looking at you. (Oh Dad, you never told me that I had Indian, from India, blood in me.) He apparently found out that Thomas S. Monson, Hinckley, and the president of Russia are all 3 brothers of 11. He can teleport, and does, to Vega often. Pretty fun guy.

A blessing: We had run into some punk kids about a month ago and they kept us from teaching for about a half hour while they made fun of us and asked us stupid questions. This week, we ran into them again and they forcefully stopped us in the park. They grabbed me by my backpack and shoved Elder Lush backwards. Just then, someone who we both thought we knew came by and said hello and forcefully talked to the punks. It's way shameful here to go against something someone older than you tells you to do, so they backed off. We kept on walking and this one girl asked if she could borrow our phone real quick. She looked like she was in distress so we let her. We started talking to this old lady who was with her, when the punks started coming back. They stopped right by us and stared the whole time we were talking with the lady. Finally the lady was like "Can I help you?" The punks went off saying something about how they were pure Armenian and they had the pure church and that we were a lie and invading their country, defiling it. The old lady then went off and railed into them saying that she was Armenian Apostolic but that our church was called the Church of Jesus Christ and that all we wanted to do was teach about Christ and spread his love. And then she said something about how they poorly represented the Armenian people and what this people stands for, because they had poorly treated guests of their country. The lady using the phone finished and the old lady told us to go while she railed into them some more. Elder Lush and I both agree that we were protected in that situation. Things could have gotten really dirty if people hadn't come by and stopped the punks.  (I like this little old lady!!)

But anyways, it's funny, we figured out that our tags can turn us invisible. Whenever we walk on the streets, no one ever seems to throw a glance at us and ignores us. Sometimes they even run into us, by accident I'm sure. We are invisible of course. When we say "Hello" or "How are you?" the sound of our voice must be cloaked too. We tested this theory in church. Elder Lush leaned over and said to one of the sisters in our ward, "Hey Sister Arevik" which produced no response. He then repeated it three times. Then I leaned over to him and said "you still have your tag on, you're invisible" He then took his tag off and repeated the call. Sister Arevik looked over and said "Yes?" :) Theory proved.

Anyways, that was my week. We're headed for Ejmiatsin today which is the capitol of the Armenian Church. It should be way fun. We're going in normal clothes though of course. :p

Love you all and I'll send pictures next week!

Elder Hammer


So yeah, the mission definitely is not the easiest, but we have help out here for sure. It really is quite interesting what we run into out here.

I like how you freak out about the cockroaches :p It's probably the least of our problems with sanitation here. For example, the water, we changed our filters that week and the filters interesting color. And expiration dates on food, I don't think I've looked on one of them since I've been here. They would just depress and scare me :p But the cool thing is, is that we have our immune systems AND the spirit fighting germs in our body. :)

Yeah, we seem to have a problem with fire. Elder Lush was playing with matches in the bathroom (we use them for air fresheners) and he dropped one onto his pants. That was probably the funniest sound I heard coming out of a bathroom ever. He had to change clothes after that :p

It's funny, people often ask us here if we're Christian, usually after we tell them what church we're from. We show them our tag, the Book of Mormon with "Another testament of JESUS CHRIST" written on it, and other pamphlets with pictures of Christ on them and they still ask. Satan really works hard to cloud their vision.

Well Mom, you're my best friend too :) Don't get too discouraged about school. Whenever things get rough here, they tell us to count our blessings, and it helps every time. "My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh" -2 Nephi 4: 20-21
A blessing that I always say thanks for is the fact that I was born into this church and raised by parents who taught me correct morals and attitudes. I thank him for my mother who taught me how to love others, no matter what they do or say. :)

I love you, Mom :)


Elder Hammer

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cockroaches, Excuses, and Surge Protectors--Pictures

Hello everyone!  We're going to be adjusting the blog to make it a little easier to read.  Hopefully it won't take too long for me to change the rest of the blog.  Enjoy another letter from the other side of the world!

Hi there!
First off thanks for the stuff about the back. I'll try to work on that.  (After looking at that picture, do you wonder why back problems persist??)
About the pictures, I'm still working, but we were extra busy this week. I managed to get a few on though. 
There's the washing machine in the middle of our kitchen (dunno why).
There's the inside of the branch building with all 10 people there for general conference.
Then there's the piano. I'm working on the rest of the pictures and I'll get them to you soon.

About the cuisine here, we don't eat out much for financial reasons, but we've gone to a few places. One food that's really good is called a sharma. It's meat of some kind mixed with greens, peppers, etc. and wrapped up in a piece of lavash (kind of like a tortilla) and then filled with some kind of special sharma sauce. Way good. It's usually served with something called a lamajo,  which is a spread of dough covered with some kinda meat sauce and laced with a bit of lemon juice. Then you roll it up and eat it like a burrito. Way good.

This week, we waged war with the cockroaches in our bathroom. The bathtub is about two feet off the floor (again, I don't know why) and underneath was a collection of jars that collected mold and cockroaches. So we deep cleaned underneath there which took quite a while. I think we came out victorious though. There were no survivors. We found nearly 30 cockroaches underneath there, the biggest one was about the size of two ping pong balls put together. The smallest one was about the size your pinky fingernail.

The president of France came to Armenia this week, on the same day we needed to get our residence papers signed. So we had to walk for hours to the building we had to go to because all the streets in Yerevan were closed off. Traffic was miserable. So, in order to get our papers signed for our residence cards, we had to go into this sketchy building that was owned and operated by the KGB, and then walk into this sketchy looking office in a corner, where we signed on the backside of some of these official looking papers. Interesting :p but again, we were asked to take our name tags off.

We tried visiting one of our less actives this week. When we showed up at his door, we could see him through a large crack in his wall, just walking around fully dressed (this fact will be important later in the story) kind of just wandering around his house. When we knocked on the door he said "who is it?" and then as soon as we said "Yeretznair" He jumped behind the door of his bathroom and poked his head out from behind the door. He then said "Oh! I would love to answer the door but I'm just about to take a shower and I can't really get there right now." We could see him, and we were pretty sure he could see us looking at him. :p People make the funniest excuses for us. 

For another example, we had set up a meeting with a potential investigator the night before. 30 minutes beforehand we called him and said we were coming. Then 10 minutes before we said we were almost there. Then when we got there we called him and said we were here. He then told us that he had just left to go to Karabakh (The disputed area between Armenia and Azerbaijan) for 10 days. :p
Most people just tell us they're going to Russia for a year or so. I think we've had about 40 of our potential investigators go to Russia...Maybe that's why they have a stake up there....

Well we watched General Conference this weekend, which was amazing. We had to help our branch members with their General Conference though because it's obviously the Elder's responsibility to set up the TV and fast forward it for them and make sure it's facing the right way. They kept on interrupting us so often that we hadn't even gotten to the first talk when they were about halfway done. We tried using these old Russian surge protectors for the TV, but when we plugged it in, it popped and then the carpet caught on fire. So, we decided to go out and get a new surge protector.

Anyways, I was having a pretty bad day this week. Elder Lush was waging war with the cockroaches in the bathroom, so I took his mp3 player and plugged it into our speakers and sat right in front of them. I came across the MoTab singing #85, How Firm a Foundation. I just want to share a few lyrics:

Fear not, I am with thee, oh be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand

I had never known about the 7th verse before:

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!

This hymn really helped me this week. It made me understand (along with this most recent general conference) that the gap is widening between the church and the world. There are those that follow God and those that follow Satan. The grey area is disappearing. It makes me realize even more that we need to help those people who are on the middle or other side of that widening gap come over the the side that can only bring peace and happiness. Though all hell should endeavor to shake those souls, I will never forsake them, because I know that my God is on my side and will always give his children aid.

Anyways, I love you all and I'll see you next week!

Elder Hammer

Hey there :)

So, I hope you get a job soon. It really is better in life when there's something to do. :)

About the opposition, we get used to it :) We were handed this pamphlet that said, "BE CAREFUL of the following CULTS". The Mormons were number three on the list right after the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Satanists. :p They're told to oppose and even fight these "Invaders from the West" It was produced by the church and sponsored by the government. These people have quite a ways to go with democracy :p

I hope you feel better :/ Colds aren't that fun. I'm lucky not to have gotten too sick out here. We'll see how things go though.

Why the riots? Well, the people here don't like the way the boarder with Turkey and Azerbaijan is being handled, and it's getting worse know that a new president is going to take office soon.

Heyyyyy, I love you Mom. I actually had another dream where they were sending missionaries home all over the world, I was the only one from my mission, but a lot were being sent home all over the world because the church was going to war with some kind of evil nation and they needed more young men to raise good families and build up the LDS nation. It was kind of weird but neat because you were there at the airport and you gave me a bigggg hug. You were crying just as much as that day when you sent me off at the gate :) Anyways, thanks for that nice hug you sent me in my dreams :p And I hope you get my air hug I'm sending right now. It should get there just about the time you read this :p

Love you mommmmmm!!!!!!!

Elder Bear

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Police.....Again

So another week, another run-in with the police.  These letters are making me appreciate our legal system here a whole lot more than I used to.  Here's Jared!


Last week I was trying to write Maddie, but the internet was lost in the middle, I didn't get to half my letters. Apparently lightning struck a cable in northern Armenia and the internet for the whole country was lost.....sighh.....This country needs to catch up a bit.

I'll work on those pictures, but I have to be discrete because I'm cautioned about public pictures here.

Speaking about being careful with the law: We were just about to leave this morning when I heard talking in the hallway. I looked out and it was a police officer looking for our apartment. He came into our apartment w/o permission and asked for our visas and passports. Good thing we always carry them. He was nice though, but I doubt he would have been nice if we didn't have our papers. It was just kind of nerve wracking because he could have done anything he wanted and we couldn't say anything about it. The cops here have free reign from the government, as long as they get whatever the government needs done, done. He knew the previous missionaries though and liked them so we were good. We even got to tell him a bit about temples because he asked about our pictures on the walls.

This week we went to visit an investigator who lived a ways away and a flash storm came out of nowhere. We were both super soaked in our short sleeve shirts and were soon without feeling in our hands. It was kind of interesting though because the electrical wires here are rarely maintained so there were sparks and explosions everywhere which dropped balls of electricity into the streets from frays in the wires and stuff. We got to the persons house though, and it was quite humbling because he lived in a house that was about 3/4 the size of my room with a sink taking up half the space and a bed taking up most of the rest. It was just amazing because even though he lived in these poor conditions he was a way happy and excited man who "absolutely" wants to be baptized. He's even talking about how he wants to serve a mission. :) So good.

We pass by this one dog everyday who lives on the roofs of the garages and always barks at us one time before going back to his little corner. We decided to call him "Raf" short for Raffael (sounds like roof and ruff). :p we thought we were creative.

So this week we were caught under gunfire. Some kids thought it would be real funny to take their airsoft guns and open fire on the "Americans". Good things they're bad aims. Elder Lush just got hit once in the backpack. :p
(Is there anyone else who doesn't know what an air soft gun is?  Nope, it's not like a Nerf gun like I was hoping it would be.  It shoots plastic pellets from realistic looking weapons. Sounds painful  but not deadly.)

We went to a members house for someone who was really sick this week. Elder Lush gave her the choice and she asked if I would give the blessing. I was so nervous, the blessing was in scattered Armenian, but it was really interesting, because I was able to find words that I had hardly used and I was able to scrape out a decent blessing.

I was walking by a carnival here in Armenia and I saw one of those games with a claw where you move a joystick and try to pick up a stuffed animal. Except instead of animals, there were cigarettes and ladies pantyhose.....sighhhhh. These people need the gospel.

Well, we put in an extra effort this week to stay focused and the Lord blessed us for it. We were able to find 12 new investigators just this week, which is about twice the standard our mission president gave us. We're way excited to work with all of them.

Anyways, I love you all! Be excited you have running water and electricity :D They both give out here way often.

See ya next week!

Elder Hammer

Hey mom!!!

So about your school job, I just want to say something small. Sussana was having trouble coming to church because her job had her work on Sundays. We told her to pray and fast to find a new job (which is almost asking too much in this country) but surprisingly she found one! So just trust in the Lord and everything will always work out fine :)

Alah we've has trouble getting to church because there was another riot in downtown on Sunday and all the transportation was shut down. So we're working on that :p

As for the branch presidents  daughter, I guess we could try. I'm not so good at Armenian yet and mail takes a long time to transfer between here and America. Plus I may not be here much longer. I could leave in as little as 4 weeks. (We had thought it would be fun for Maddie to write to the Branch President's daughter.  Maybe later!).  

As for the lengths of the letters, they're just fine. I love hearing from my mama every week. :) Don't worry about that. Mothers here are really respected. Everyone gets up for women here on the marshutinees, especially if they have a child. I wish more people in America could adopt the respect for women that they have here. We always stress the importance of families and I can't help but put in my little bit about mothers :)

Love you MOM!!!

Elder Bear