Monday, April 30, 2012



About the candy here, it's hit and miss. The cheap stuff that everyone buys to be hospitable to guests is fine I guess, but the really good stuff comes from Russia. They have a couple really good brands that I've grown attached to. For the most part though, the stuff by the check-out line is all from America. They have Kit-Kats, Snickers, and Skittles, etc. It'll be a good day for Elder Hammer though when they start bringing Butterfingers over here. :)

You know, Turkey has been on the mind of everyone here this past week. This past Tuesday was the Genocide Memorial Day and we got a bit of rough comments this week. People take out their anger on anyone who tries to "change" their religion, not just the Turkish Muslims, and they don't understand that we're not changing anything, we're just adding to the knowledge they already have. 

We had some drunk guys cornered us last night and they really ripped into us. We got out before things got out of hand though. Sometimes it's hard to love the people that do that, but then you remember what these people have gone through and it becomes easier. 

Anyways, this week was pretty fun. We went to a couple places on Monday. We went to somewhere called Garni which is an ancient Pagen temple and then we also went to Geghart, which is an old Armenian church dug into a cave in the mountain. It was way cool to wander around the random tunnels and go into secret rooms with crosses etched into the wall and all sorts of cool stuff like that. It's even cooler to think that this chapel still functions as an active church for the Armenian Apostolic Church. 

This week was a week of ups and downs. We have one investigator who is the daughter of one of our members. She accepted everything this week and said she was ready to be baptized and then at the very end of the week, she told us she was moving back to her home town for at least a month if not more, :/ so we had to let her go.
We were teaching this one lady who was the aunt of one of our members and she was way amazing. She had a son pass away a year ago and she had seen in a dream basically everything that we had to teach in the plan of salvation. She saw her son standing with a glorified body dressed in white and he told her, "Mom, this body doesn't hurt. There's no pain anymore." She also saw that there was something after the Resurrection. She prayed one night to know if this Church was true and she had a dream of all of us missionaries standing in front of her all in rows leading up to heaven. It really was quite interesting working with her. We would teach her something and she'd stop us and be like, "Yes, I know, I saw this all in a dream not to long ago." We had to go quickly one night. In order for her to make her baptismal date she would have to have stopped any Word of Wisdom problems the very next day. So we told her to stop drinking coffee that day and we'd explain more later (We had found out that was the only problem she had). When we came over the next time she told us how she had stopped coffee all together, even though her relative said she could stop bit by bit if it was easier. She told her "No, if the missionaries said don't do it, then I'm stopping now." She had to get over some pretty serious headaches, but after that she quit her coffee habit. Just this last Saturday, we figured out she's from Ashtarak and has to move back there, so that was really sad for us, but still good to know that she can still get baptized up there.
The family I talked about last week is doing amazing as usual. But we found out they had a problem that is pretty common to Armenians. They don't have something called a zacks, which is a legal documentation of marriage. Most of the time, people only do a religious ceremony because the documentation costs money. Their family would have to first get a passport, which they can't get because they don't have an exact home (they're basically homeless), and then get the zacks, which in total would be about $150-$180, not including the price of a home or apartment. That money they really don't have. So we'll still work with them and invite them to church, but we're not allowed to baptize them until they get legal marriage documentation. So it was a pretty rough week.

We have one investigator who has worked with the missionaries a lot and we were over one day just talking. We had heard he worked as the valet for a strip club, so it wouldn't be a problem if he was only a driver, but as we were talking he told us exactly what he worked as. The verb ' varel ' means both to conduct and to drive and to manage. So he told the other elders he was a ' varogh ' Which they took to mean a driver, when in fact he said to us he was the ' varogh ' of the ' aghchikner ' , or, the manager of the 'girls'. So we're helping him get new work :p
But anyways, his little 4 year old son was there and we were all drinking some tea thing (herbal, of course) and every time the kid (Rrubo) would take a sip, he would say (loudly) "Sambareko!", which means absolutely nothing. It's just a word he made up :p So whenever we come over, I always greet him with an enthusiastic "Sambareko!!" :p

Saw an ambulance get in an accident this week. Everyone was alright, but it was still kind of weird seeing it. 

Rain, rain, go away....
My clothes are starting to turn orange :p

Anyways, I love you all :)

Elder Hammer
I asked Jared if there what were some weird foods that he has eaten on his mission.  Her is a quick part from his letter back to me:
So weird foods? Well the food isn't too weird, but some of the stuff they drink. I think I've mentioned Matsoon which is the danish equivalent for Umer. But they also drink this one drink that's mayonnaise which is boiled, and then they put a raw egg in it and load it with salt, and then top it off with diced vegetables, and let it sit for a while to ferment a little. I hate it. Thankfully I've had it only once :p  For the most part, the food is just amazing. I really like the food here. I'll have to make some of it when I get back.
We're counting on it!  
I wish I could explain what all the pictures are about but Jared did not include any explanations this week.  I'm assuming they are from his trip to Garni, the ancient pagan temple, and Geghart, the old Armenian church dug into a cave in the mountain.  I may not know what everything is, but I certainly recognize our favorite missionary!


Monday, April 23, 2012

You speak Armenian?

You know, we actually taught a lady who was a Yezidi convert to the church when I was in Malatsia. She was...different, but still a nice lady. I've had quite a few opportunities to teach Muslims though because of our proximity to Iran. Usually it doesn't go to far, either because of the consequences, or because it's just really hard for them to understand Christan beliefs. But it's an amazing experience every time. They are some of the nicest people ever.
So this week:
We celebrated the birthdays of our sisters in our district on Monday because both of their birthdays came up this past week. So that was fun. It was a surprise birthday party, the best kind :p
So the gas alarm went off at 3:00 in the morning on Tuesday, but after about 20 seconds, it stopped, so we opened the windows and went back to bed. Every night after that though, the alarm would go off, growing more frequent every night until Friday it would go off every 5 minutes starting at 3:00 in the morning. President Carter told us not to unplug it until we could get the gas people here to help us, so we just had to suffer through the night. On Friday we gave him an update on our situation and he thought the gas people had come on the first day we mentioned the problem, so he ordered us to get out of the apartment and not return until the gas people came. So we lugged our stuff all over Armenia that day, but thankfully the gas people came and it ended up just being a faulty alarm. So that was stupid. 
I got your package!!!!!! I was so happy :) Elder Hatch says thank you by the way. :))) It was pretty much amazing, and is about halfway gone now :p (yummmm....)
It also came on the same day as a package and two letters from Monica. I think the mail has been held up for a while because of Easter.
We were walking down the market one day when we pass one lady and she yells to her friend across the walkway "Hey, is this a religion or an organization?" and I turn around and say "A religion" with a smile on my face. She startled and her face turned white as she just kind of turned away saying "Oh...". I love it when people don't expect us to know Armenian :p
We have an investigator family right now. The mother has been smoking for 20 years because the Soviet doctor told her that it was the only way to help some cancerous lump in her throat. She also drinks quite a bit of coffee. She has been telling us for a while now though that after she reads the Book of Mormon, the desire just kind of leaves her, or she forgets that she "needs" a cigarette. Just the other day she said "I'm smoking one tomorrow, one the day after that, and then I'm done. I just don't need it anymore :)" It was really a miracle because when we first started, she told us she could never stop, or else her voice would be gone and she would have health problems again :)  I guess Heavenly Father is a better doctor than those old Soviet ones.
We also took them all to a baptism and Ruzana cried. She said she didn't know what happened, because she hasn't cried in years. She could tell it was something else telling her this was the path to healing.
Lots of thunder and lightning this week :)
I jumped onto a moving bus on Sunday :) I felt so Armenian.
So that was my week :) I love you all! :)))
Elder Hammer

A part from Jared's letter to me:

Hey mom! :)
So I'm going to put all the pictures on your email this time because I do yours first and I want to save the power on my camera. We're going to somewhere called Garni and Geghard which is an ancient Roman pagan temple and the other is an ancient Apostolic church. So it's going to be way fun. :) Besides that, not too much else happened this week. Just getting down to work and getting things done.
In my rush last week, I forgot to email Grandma, but I did this week, along with Grandma Chloe. So hopefully I'm not written off the inheritance :p Just kidding.
Tell grandma I love her though and I'm suuuuuper sorry. We were preparing birthday parties for the sisters in our district whose birthdays also happened to be last week.
Armen, nicknamed "Sticks" by the missionaries because he uses arm canes.  Super good member!

We gathered up dry plants for service this week, and then we burned them :) that's how Armenians do it.
(Jared has sent a lot of pictures of people burning things on his mission.  Our little pyromaniac!)

Just walkin' down the street and lo and behold...sheep.

Next 3 pictures: The birthday party :p

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Picture Post

Jared sent 3 batches of pictures to us this week.  Hope you enjoy!

Elder Frye, I, Vartuhi, and Levon. Levon was the previous branch president in Ashtarak. He  just turned 20.
A tradition they do for Easter. They typically only paint their eggs red to symbolize Christ's blood and they keep it in this grass stuff. If you want an egg, you take one and some one else does too and one person hits the top of the egg with his and the one that cracks is given to the person who didn't get his egg cracked :) I had a lot of eggs that weekend :p

The apartment complex in Ashtarak
Us cleaning up the water
 Karo, a member of the church and his son, Narek
Anna, Karo's wife and Narek

The church building in Ashtarak
Book of Mormon in many languages--Armenian is on the right I think!

View from the apartment
The blessings of service

Chapel in Ashtarak

Elder Frye and Levon
Me and Levon
The tiny apartment

The tiny apartment

       Me and Vartuhi, a spunky little member in Ashtarak.  She's crazy :p

Monday, April 16, 2012


Jared and Vartuhi
Jared sent a lot of pictures this week that I will upload later today.  Here's one of the pictures, though! Enjoy the letter!


You know, speaking of wards, I actually found in the Old Testament a mention of Moses' people being gathered up into congregations called wards. I thought that was pretty interesting :)

But yeah, with confrontations, I really don't like them. I often just walk away after they've had their fill because at that point they don't really want to talk, they just want to yell. Sometimes though I like making people think about why they have the feelings they do.  For instance, this week after I showed someone the Book of Mormon, he went into his prideful state of 'all knowing' about us Mormons. He told us, "Hey you Mormons are bad." So I said, "What bad thing have you seen about us?" or, "What bad thing have you heard about us?" and he said "Well what you say is bad" and I said, "What do we say that's bad?" and he paused, trapped in his words and couldn't think of anything. So he just started laughing and said, "Go preach in Turkey." I said, "Some of us are already there. We're all over the world." Then he said "Well go preach in China." I said "We're there, too." Then we both laughed together. After closing words, I was glad that we ended on a better note, even though he didn't want it. Some...past companions...have liked to argue with people until things get bad and it just never turns out well and is frankly really embarrassing. 

Anyways, I'm in Nork now :) Got transferred this week back to Yerevan. I'm now companions with Elder Hatch. He's from Utah and hasn't been to college yet, but plans on applying to UVU or Snow college. He's currently district leader over our district which includes Sister Tolman, Sister Arslanyan, the Armenian-American, and the APs. (Assistants to the President of the Mission) The branch we go to now is the Mission office as well, so that's kind of nice. Our area includes Nork, Nor Nork, and Avan (if you want to go on Google). The apartment here is wayyyy nice, almost as good as little America, but not quite. We have water all the time and that means flush toilets as well :) and really nice showers. 

But this week we watched Conference again in English. We didn't get through all of it though. About two talks into the Sunday Afternoon we heard Sister Bailey, who was by the door, say, "Oh my goodness!" We all looked out the door and saw the entire ground flooded with water. Apparently the sewer system had backed up in the bathrooms and was regurgitating water into the building. So we spent the rest of the 3 hours mopping up bad water as the plumbers came to fix it. It was kind of funny what the plumbers did to try and fix it. They apparently had to go outside and into the manhole to fix the problem, but the manhole had been paved over with concrete when they redid the road, so they took an electric screw driver and a crowbar to the pavement looking for the man hole. :p The road was destroyed. By the time we left, they still hadn't found it. 

The water shut off in Ashtarak for 36 hours this week. So we were stuck bucket showering with reserve water that we heated up in a tea water heater. That was less  than fun.
But I'm here now :) So everything is good.

We did service this week at a members house in Ashtarak the day before I left. We dug the ground up for them to start putting crops in their yard. It was pretty tough work because the soil was pretty dry, and at the end I looked at my hand and there was a giant blister, which promptly popped and started oozing everywhere ( :P imagery) I'll send a picture :p

Besides that though, we also watched conference in Armenian this week. So not much else went on. This week was pretty crazy, but I'll be able to send a ton of photos :)

Love you all :)

Elder Hammer
Two little notes from Jared's letter to me:
I'm in Nork, a little part of Yerevan. This place is filled with concrete buildings, probably more than Malatia. This place was hit the hardest by the Soviets.

But yeah, it's getting warmer now that I'm back in Yerevan. I'm in short sleeves now and it's only a tad cold in the morning. It should be getting real hot really soon.

Monday, April 9, 2012

You Know Your In Ashtarak When....

Earlier today, Jared told us he wouldn't be able to email us until tomorrow or Wednesday.  He sent us an email a few hours later saying that he was able to write after all!  So here is the letter!


So this week was a bit rough, most of the highlights being run-ins with the Armenian priests. That was less than fun. One got out of his car and asked what we were doing here and we said we were teaching about Christ. That really lit his beard on fire and yelled at us for a good 10 minutes saying we had no right to be in this country and that we should take our monkey business to another country like Iran or Turkey. We mentioned that we were already in Turkey, and then quickly put our shoes in our mouth as he went off again for another 5 minutes about how we were scum :)
On Saturday a priest drove up in his car and was about to yell at us, but we just walked away. He was all dressed for work with a giant blinged out cross around his neck (diamonds and everything), and I couldn't help but think of how many people could be fed if he sold his cross. 

But besides that... :)

I don't know how much of the Kiev Temple dedication celebration is online, but if it's there, look for the Armenian dance portion of it. A lot of my friends are in it and it's way neat (the best one of all is the dances I think). I really enjoy the dance they do and it's a great reflection of Armenian culture.
Here are some links to some of the celebration:
***From YouTube, posted by LDS Church News--I think the Armenians are about 3:50 into the video if I identified the costume correctly. I looked at the LDS Youth Website and they showed a young man in a costume and displayed an Armenian flag in the corner of the screen, indicating he was from Armenia: YouTube Video Link
***From the LDS Youth Website:   Kiev Temple Dedication Celebration Video ***
You know you're in Ashtarak when...

*You're walking to the store and you have to wait to cross the street until the cows pass...
*It's a dog-eat-dog world...literally... (don't ask)
*You tell people the church is by THE intersection...
*The town shuts down for Easter...and the day after when everyone has a hangover...
*Your taxi driver knows all of your members, personally, even though he's not a member...
*Your garbage man knows all of you members, personally, even though he's not a member...
*It takes 15 minutes to get from one end to the foot...

Fun fact: our branch president's son is in the Armenian Army band :) I thought that was pretty cool. He plays the Euphonium.

We did service this week at a member's house which was fun. She tried to feed us after and put matsoon on our plates...a lot. (Dad, matsoon IS umer). Remember all those times, Mom, that you said "Eat it! It'll prepare you for your mission!" came true.  I ate the whole plate. (Carl has stories from his mission about trying...interesting foods like Umer (or Ymer in Danish).  Wikipedia says Ymer is "...a Danish soured milk product. Link to Ymer/Umer.  If you know Jared, you know he is not a big experimenter when it comes to new foods.  Good job, Jared!!!  We trained you well!)
Anyways, I love you all! Pictures will come soon I swear! The internet is way slow here so it'll take until next Pday to upload all the pictures. But I'll get them to you, :)

Elder Hammer

No News is......No News

Here's the whole email we got today.

Hey, the internet is all closed today, so we're going to be doing
internet on Wednesday or Tuesday.

So we'll post more as soon as we hear from our favorite missionary!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Not Purple Rain, Orange Rain

Parts of a letter to Mom
...You know what makes me sad? Violet's moving to Turkey for work :((( and she said she probably wouldn't be able to come to church for a year or so.
 ...At least the church is over there too.  There are a lot of Armenians over here that are getting really angry the church is in Turkey. Even though they hate us, they don't think the Turkish people deserve our church. It's kind of funny the logic they have. 
...You know, it's almost lightning season here and I'm way excited. I love lightning so much. Back in Malatia, Lightning struck our building twice and shook the whole structure. It was so awsome and loud :p Elder Lush was mad because he was in the bathroom and couldn't see it. Up here in Ashtarak (ps, I got transfered) it rained, but then it started to hail while we were outside at night contacting. That was very NOT fun. We were both soaked to the bone. And apparently also, the rain is so dirty here that your suit will start to turn orange the more it gets rained on. I believe it, I saw Elder Lush's suit.  
Letter to Dad
 Don't you remember what the draft man said?
If you want to survive, then get out of bed!
You're in the Army now
Woah oh oh, you're in the Army, now.

My companion is dead.

Something like that anyways :p

Well, we had a transfer this week. President Carter called on Wednesday evening and said I would be going to Ashtarak, back with my old companion Elder Frye. That song was playing on the radio on the way up to Ashtarak. Kind of funny it should be that one :p We're not sure how long this transfer is going to last because a new missionary is coming on the 11th and the new group is coming on the 18th. Transfers are going to have to happen each of those days, so we'll see what happens. 

Ashtarak is....well....small. And the apartment matches the town. Water is shut off except for an hour in the morning and an hour at night, and you're lucky if it's warm. :p So Elder Frye takes a shower at night and I take one in the morning. Then we gather up as much water as we can in that time so we can do dishes and drink when we need. P-day is pretty crazy because we have to fill up the whole bathtub so we can use the water to wash our clothes.
The apartment is about the size of a dorm room (I have pictures but they have to wait because they don't have anti-virus here) and our beds are in the living room.

Anyways, the branch is pretty nice. There are only about 20 active members and I'm the piano player again (the piano is another story. Each key is so out of tune that the two strings on each key play two notes a half step apart) but the members are fun and really love the missionaries.

We met with a couple members and I showed them my pictures. They say Maddie is cute and that you guys are a very attractive pair. One member said that Dad is especially handsome and that he grays well. :)

So we get to watch conference on Tuesday....the entire day. So that should be fun. We're going to watch the Saturday sessions and the priesthood session. The Sunday sessions are waiting until next week I think. :)

So Easter is the same day here, but it is definitely not the same traditions. First off, they don't come to church. They spend the whole day at the burial sites of their dead ancestors to remember Christ's death. They don't search for eggs, but they spend hours and hours designing intricate pictures on eggs which turn out to be pretty amazing. And (parents with small children sensor this part) as far as the Easter Bunny goes, I don't think he exists here :p (Mom's Note:  When I searched for "Armenia" and "Easter Eggs"  I found an article and this picture.  Apparently last year there was even a shortage of these gorgeous eggs!  Here they are!) 
One of our members we met with said the Jehovah's Witnesses came to their door and said "Come and worship Christ's death with us this Sunday at our church." And our member said "Well, in our church we worship the living Christ". They said after that the Jehovah's Witnesses were at a loss for words, so they just quietly closed the door :p I love our members.

So Spring has arrived in Yerevan!! Too bad I'm in Ashtarak now though...On Saturday it started raining while we were contacting on the street, then it started to hail, then it began to hail and some rain started falling that turned into frost as it hit the ground. It was really weird. So we may have to endure another week or so. :p

Church is fun. In Malatia, we were interrupted every five minutes by a priest singing over a microphone across the street in the cathedral. Here in Ashtarak, we're interrupted every five minutes by a rooster crowing at the farm next door. :p

So that was my week :) Have a nice Easter!!

Elder Hammer