Monday, November 26, 2012

Merry Happy New Year?

Me eating jello with chopsticks because we were out of utensils. They're clean now...don't worry.

Christmas time is America :) Unfortunately, it's a bit later on here, plus they don't really seem to care about it here unfortunately. There are always more preparations for New Years than for Christmas. All the alcohol companies stock up the stores real well and advertise more than ever (People will buy quite a bit of alcohol to welcome the new year.), fireworks are on display for sale (of all sizes) and people will usually start gathering up enough food to have enough to last the seven days of the New Year. The way it works out, is that the New Year celebration usually tends to cover up Christmas. It's quite sad. I asked a few people last year what they did for Christmas celebrations; A few said they went to the church and burned a candle, several said they just spend it at home with their family, and several others didn't even know what it was. In any case, it looks like western culture is starting to invade Armenia, so Christmas-based advertisements seem to be creeping in.

At the grocery store today, we did start finding Christmas trees. They were, unfortunately, at the cheapest 36,000 dram, about 90 - 100 dollars. So who knows. Maybe we'll find a Charlie Brown Christmas tree somewhere.

As far as warm clothes, I'm still doing fine from last year :) So everything should be ready for this year.

Well this week was a bummer. I got sick starting on Monday and it took me out pretty bad, as soon as I got better Elder Christensen got sick :p So our work got knocked out for this week. We did have Thanksgiving though with our Zone this week, so that was really nice.

For Thanksgiving, we went to the office building bearing jello and mashed potatoes, and after about an hour of prep, we got eating...and eating, and eating. :p Turns out we only ate half the potatoes, only one Turkey and we hadn't even touched the soup. :) It was way good though. For dessert, we had homemade pumpkin pie, chocolate pie, fudge, and cookies. (All homemade. Pies don't exist here). After clean up, we went and watched 17 Miracles, just like last year :) Unfortunately, it didn't snow as we were watching like it did last year. Snow still hasn't hit Yerevan. Waiting....very impatiently :p

On Wednesday, we went to an 8 year old baptism. It was really strange, because you never see those in this country.
(Kids in our church can get baptized at 8. There aren't many young children in that country that are getting baptized apparently.) The church is still very new here. It was a really neat experience though, especially for the investigators we brought.

President Carter came to our branch this week, and I'm the one that has to translate now every week, all three hours. :p Thankfully I didn't do too bad, it's just a little exhausting.

Made taco soup this week :) It was pretty good. I made it up on the spot, because I thought it sounded good, especially with a cold.

Well, that was my week. Sorry it was short, but we were pretty sick :/ I'm doing better now though :)

Love you all!

Elder Hammer

The family of the baptized boy
Us around the table

The turkey :)

Oh yeah, the APs also made Tolma (traditional Armenian food. Meat, rice, etc wrapped in grape leaves) for Thanksgiving.

Me :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks in Armenia


Well, Thanksgiving is coming up again. It's always nice to celebrate Thanksgiving on a mission, because you tend to be more sensitive to things that matter most in your life. Like, God and his wondrous bounty he's granted us, His Son Jesus Christ and the Atonement he completed for us, for a loving family who keeps you going despite what others outside say to (or yell at) you. For an amazing sister that is turning out to be a very accomplished young lady, a mother who's love is only surpassed by Heavenly Father's, and a father who's guidance and strength has blessed me more than I've properly given thanks for. Those are just the things at the top of the list, after which would include things like a loving mission president, food [ :) ] , the opportunity to learn and grow out here, health, etc.

 This year, we're lucky to have actual turkey for Thanksgiving dinner :D We're in charge of the potatoes. Don't mess up! :p We'll also be bringing the Jello. Not actual jello brand, but a little known secret that Russian brand jello exists in this country. You should have seen Sister Stone's face when I mentioned jello exists in this country. I think I'll have to bring the package for her :p

So the weather is getting quite cold. I'm still waiting for it to snow though. I love the snow so much. I've only ever experienced two seasons of it. California sun is very nice, but I do like playing around in this curious white fluff they call snow. Soon though. The temperature is dropping quickly.

So the branch here is doing alright. The attendance is up about 15 people from the last time I was here. We get about 30 people coming every week, which is pretty good. We have to do a lot more less-active work though. Only about 5-10 % of the members actually come every week.

It was a sad week for our branch though. One of our long-time members and a close friend of mine personally passed away this week. Ashot, was the Elder's Quorum teacher and very active in helping us out with our missionary work. We went by his house on Saturday to deliver him a plate of cake as a thanks for the work he does, and his wife opened the door and told us he had passed away the previous night of a sudden heart attack. It was a really hard blow to me personally, and to the rest of the branch I'm sure. He was loved by many and there were quite a few people from the church country-wide that showed up for his burial. We couldn't go because he was being buried in another part of Yerevan out of our area, but we played the piano while people gathered at the church to head over to the grave yard. It was quite interesting though to see that though everyone was sad, they did know that it wasn't the end, and there was a special spirit there comforting everyone.

Well, sorry to end on such a sad note. Maybe I'll end by saying we had a lot of good service opportunities this week. Lots of old ladies carrying more than their weight in bags and people's cars breaking down. It's fun :) and fulfilling, to help those in need.

Elder Hammer

Brief part of Jared's letter to me:  Hey fun fact. This next Sunday, I'll have been on a mission a year and six months. Isn't that crazy? :) That's a long time. I guess that means Brody :D and Christian are about ready to start heading home. I'm sure they did great on their missions. 

All the next family pictures come from the Elders in Jared's district, including Abraham at the end.
Elder Christensen's family
Elder Woolley's family

Abraham's family


Monday, November 12, 2012


Ararat :)

Well, guesses for Monica?  I wrote them in a letter, but I can't remember what I wrote. :p So I guess I'll just say Detroit, Michigan for the states and Copenhagen, Denmark for the world (forgive me, Father, I have no idea how to spell that city right.) (Monica is going on a mission and wanted Jared to guess where she may go.The call is probably coming next week!)

Well, my companion is doing well. Learning and going forward as usual. :) The district is doing well as well. By the district, I mean just Elder Woolley and Abraham (Elder Hambardzumyan), because that's our whole district. Just us in Malatia.

We had a cool service story this morning. So we had a meeting to go to at the office at 11:00 this morning, so we left at 10:00 to get there on time. We waited for about 25 minutes and our bus wasn't showing up, so we started to get impatient. As soon as we saw our bus show up, there was this old man who's taxi broke down. I was torn because I didn't want to be late, but then it hit me. It didn't really matter. This was why I was in Armenia in the first place. So we went and helped this guy push start his car and ran to see if we could get the bus, but it had already passed. Just then though, the Taxi guy turned around and offered us to take us a little distance on the way to his work. So we jumped in and he dropped us off at the bus stop right in front of the bus that had passed us by :)

So, just a little faith. :) The Lord has his eye on us. All of us.

So the mission is going alright. It's been slow lately, but it looks like it's starting to pick back up :)
Georgia is doing great. A little while ago they opened up a brand new branch there in a different city, and it looks like there going to start sending sister missionaries up there soon.

We found two guys this week that are really amazing. They're a father and a son from Syria. Right now they're living as refuges in Armenia because of a civil war going on there. They only speak western Armenian, which is super hard to understand because I've been learning Eastern. For Armenians, it would be like the difference between American and British English, but for us, it's like the difference between English and Spanish. They are way awesome though. They already accept the Book of Mormon as the word of God and they know everything we say is true. It's way fun working with them because they just have a completely different culture than the rest of the Armenians.

Well that's me. Sorry this is short, but we have a ton of stuff to do. It seems like that's always the case with P-day :p Always on the rush.

Love you all!

Elder Hammer
PS: Happy birthday Dad!!!!!! <3 Love yah! Sending something in the mail today. Sorry it won't get there for another few weeks.

Made a fun soup with lentils, potatoes, cilantro, corn, etc. Super good :)
The soup
Cool sunset after rain

Monday, November 5, 2012

New York Storm

Us and Arus, the new member in our branch. She's an amazing 75 year old lady :)))

I have to admit, I'm not sad of the fact that daylight savings doesn't exist over here. I remember that Armenia changed it when I first got into country. It makes things a whole lot easier to deal with. Plus, people have trouble coming to things on time here, despite changes in time to mess them up more.

So I heard about that storm in New York from one of our members....and everyone else we talked to this week. It always seems like by the time news reaches this small country, everything gets twisted out of recognition and blown way out of proportion. I've heard everything from a tsunami that wiped out the city, water levels that have covered three story houses, the government closing off the island, people dying because gas couldn't reach the island (not sure what that has to do with people living or not), and even Obama himself dying in the storm. So I figure, well, I'll find out when I get home, which by that point it won't matter. Not that it would anyways. It's kind of funny what all doesn't 'matter' when you're out here on a mission.

Well, my trainee is doing fine :) He's a hard worker and is making progress every day. It's a little stressful coming from the MTC thinking you can just baptize the world and it's just a math formula which is obedience+hard work = baptisms (at least one a week). But he's adjusting really well and is very bold on the streets. The language mistakes happen (and are sometimes hilarious, such as "we are all mistakes" instead of "we all make mistakes") but those are supposed to happen and will get flattened out over time.

How do I feel about the culture and Yerevan in general now that I've been here over a year? Well, I think it's amazing. Yes the people have their faults as everyone does, but their peculiarities continue to amaze me. We have someone we're working with in our area who's trying to save up money for an operation to remove his liver cancer and disabled legs. His mother receives a little bit of money from her petty work, yet, just yesterday, she made us my favorite Armenian dish after having secretly found out what it was (she prepared a whole feast for us that day).

In terms of service, we helped out that family on Saturday. We pulled down the dead grape vines that were hanging over their garden and collected branches and other twigs for them to burn during the winter. It was fun and we got a ton of scrapes and scratches as medals of honor.

I have to admit, it didn't surprise me too much hearing about Russia and propaganda just starting. It's something we've had to deal with here in Armenia a lot. The Armenian Apostolic church (and therefore the government to some degree) has openly opposed the church, by name, but under the flag of their traditional religion rather that Soviet pride. Granted the Jehovah Witnesses get most of the flak, we still manage to get a large portion of it as well. It doesn't help that "Morm" means Tarantula in Armenian...We get that a lot.

Well that's pretty much my week. :) I love you all!

Elder Hammer