I'm finally here in Armenia!! I got assigned to serve in Gyumri, Armenia, which is up north. It's FREEZING COLD. I hate cold weather, snow, and ice, all of which is plentiful here. But the great thing is, none of that bothers me. I know that I am exactly where God needs me to be. And I love these people here. My second night here I found myself crammed into a taxi with my companion and four other Armenians. The drivers are psycho, everyone was shouting in Armenian, and I was laughing my head off because I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
I'm not allowed to use people's names over the Internet, for their own protection. So, if you ever wonder why I'm being vague, that's why.
My trainer is so awesome. His name is Elder M-----. He is such a great example of charity, dedication, and humility. I know that my assignment here, with him, was inspired. We are both committed to working hard, having fun, being obedient, and loving the people.
I have had the opportunity to teach already, and it is definitely a struggle. I can't really understand most of what other people are saying, and that's a little discouraging. But I pray for the Spirit to help me understand, and to be there as I speak. I have felt Heavenly Father's help as I try to help these people and focus on them. It's not about the language, it's about the people.
We have one lady that is going to be baptized next month! That is so exciting, because baptism opens the door to so many other blessings... essentially the Kingdom of God. We went to her house yesterday and took her to church with us.
There is a lot of poverty here. Most people live in run-down concrete buildings. But all the people at church seem happy. It goes to show that the Gospel can bring happiness where money or worldly possessions can't.
I know that I am doing exactly what God want me to be doing right now, and I am so happy to be able to bear my testimony to the people of Armenia, and to all of you that I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and by following, and doing as he would have us do, and by becoming what he would have us become, we can find joy in this life and eternal joy in the next.
My companion is exactly a year older than me, and his last name is the same as Mom's cousin Sandra's last name. He actually does kind of like metal haha. The DL is in the same town, with Elder Pttr from the MTC! We also have two sisters in Gyumri. That's it up here though, no one is in the villages or smaller towns. If they're baptized, we're putting them into covenants they can't keep because they can't get to church.
Dad and Mom, since I got here, God has blessed us incredibly with new investigators. We are REJOICING! But we had to do that before things started taking off. What a blessing and a miracle. We went from 2 investigators to 11 in three days. We are meeting the standards of excellence, and I think we may be one of the only ones. We are the only ones in our district. But I don't say that as a means of boasting. Rather, like Ammon, I'm boasting in the Lord. He really does guide us, if we are willing and worthy, to the elect who are prepared. We are blown away by this. It is such a tender mercy.
So a couple of "fun" things about Gyumri I forgot to mention last week... The sidewalks aren't paved, so they're covered in snow, but mainly ice, which is super uneven and kills your feet. Also, the dialect here is different, they call it Gyumri Barbar. So all the stuff I learned in the MTC has gone out the window... haha not really, it's not too bad, but there are some things that they say that are just completely different than the grammar we learned.
Also, I've managed to gain 10 pounds since leaving the MTC. That was a week and a half ago...
This week has been incredible! In the past few days we have found several new people to teach, and the work is just taking off. We started off with 2 people we were teaching when I first got here, and now we have over 10. I believe this is because my companion and I have great companionship unity. We both strive to be dilligent, obedient, and consecrated. We are also both committed to being happy. The happier we are, we've noticed, the better response we get from people on the street. We are trying to let our light shine. We really haven't done anything special to find these people... actually it just felt like they fell right into our lap as we were trying to do our best and talk to everyone. What a miracle and blessing it has been. I'm always trying to be grateful to the Lord and show Him that I recognize that these blessings are coming from Him, because I know that humility is one of the most important things in this work.
So, everyone has mistakes with the language... In Armenian, the only difference between "I know" and "I don't know" is the "ch" sound. So, I was trying to bear testimony that the Book of Mormon is true, but I said, "There are a lot of things I don't know, but one thing that I definitely don't know is that the Book of Mormon is true." Fortunately, my companion caught my mistake and corrected it.
I have such a testimony that as we work hard to do the best we can, God helps us through our challenges. It's been very hard to understand when people speak to me. But as I press forward with faith and optimism, I've noticed that everyday I can understand a little more. I have absolute confidence in the Lord to know that everything doesn't come to us at once, but as we show our faith in Him, He gives us what we need to get through the day.
This week has been a lot more difficult as far as the work goes. We've had people move away or lose interest, and most of the appointments we set this week fell through. It's been difficult to find new people to teach. But there was a silver lining--we had a baptism this week! That was exciting. The Spirit was strong, and one of our other investigators with a baptismal date was there. I talked with her about that, and she is excited to be baptized and begin a new life. I think that makes all the struggling worth it, when you can see the gospel changing lives. She has told us that before she met us, she used to get angry a lot, but now she turns to the Lord and reads the Book of Mormon. We want to help her value prayer more too, so she has that strength to rely on in times of need.
I know that through our struggles, we become stronger. We often don't understand our trials or weakness in the middle of our struggling, but if we remain faithful, and rely on the Lord for our strength, we will be able to look back and see where we have come.
So we had another lady be baptized this week! She is so amazing! Her faith is incredible.
We had a member of our Area Presidency come and visit us this week. He asked us to exercise faith in the Lord that if we spoke to everyone we could, with real hope and intent to be able to teach them instead of just getting contact information (which almost never works out), the Lord would bless us with more people to teach. He asked us to change our thoughts and attitudes to ones of hope. As we did this, having faith in his promise, we were immediately blessed with a phone call from a member, saying she had a neighbor that wanted to meet with us!
The Lord really does bless us for our faith. But we don't see the blessings until AFTER acting in faith.