Saturday, April 21, 2012

We are still here and happy in Armenia

To all of our friends and family:
Wow!  It has been awhile since we posted.  We have been so busy and that is good, but we feel we have neglected our friends!  So here goes some more news from half way around the world.
Reporting on some of the Humanitarian Service Projects the Church is doing here in Armenia:
They have what they call kindergarten here that is really a day care.  The children are taken here to stay all day long.  They take naps as you can see in their little beds that are like drawers.

When they get up after their naps, the beds are push under each other and then they have the large room for activities!

The sad thing about it is that they are tiny children.  This is not a kindergarten for 6 year olds, they start as babies.  It is like a daycare.  They stay all day and all Armenian children go to it.  Even though their mother’s don’t work.  It is sad to me.  They should be home with their mommies!   Isn't she adorable?

The Humanitarian service to these kindergartens is to help them upgrade the very poor conditions that they are in.  Some of the buildings where the children stay don't have refrigerators, or the bathrooms have no running water.  The kitchens are old and for the most part would be condemned in America.  As a Church we have gone in and paid to have them upgraded and they look so much better and are function-able with refrigerators, newly built rooms, bathrooms etc.

Some of the other things the Humanitarian directors do is provide neonatal kits to the few hospitals they have here in Armenia and in the remote villages.  They bring in trained nurses from the United States who train the doctors and nurses here in the hospitals to care for critically ill newborns, etc.  It will saves thousands of lives and the hospitals and clinics are so very grateful! 

We are excited about our dear friend Elder Avanesyan who is from here and serving as mission in the Kennewick Washington Mission! 

Here is a picture of my daughter Corina and son Nick with Elder Young from Houston, Texas and Elder Avanesyan (from Armenia) and my Dad and Mom.  Elder Avanesyan is in mom and dad's ward in Richland.  It was so fun for me to have him meet my family!  He and his companion eat dinner at my parent's home.  We just ate at his parent's home (they are in my branch here)!  Here is a picture of part of his family: 

Elder Avanesyan's brother Artak,(the a is pronounced as aw) his mother, Artak's girlfriend Tatavik, (a is aw sound and i is ee sound), his father, his brother Karen (a is aw sound and e is eh sound)  Sorry the picture is not great, forgot to use the flash.
We have been super busy lately.  We are working during the day at the office and then missionary work every night.  Go, Go and Go.  So happy to be doing this, wouldn't want to be doing anything else in our lives!!  Doing the Lord's work is so fulfilling. The other night the missionaries asked us to accompany them to an investigator's house just 20 minutes before they were to be there.  We are happy to help in anyway and so we went with them.

It turned out to be quite productive.  They felt that the evening went very well because we were there and thought it turned a different direction because of what we were able to share with them by what we said and testified to.  Now, that may be true but it truly was the Spirit that does the work.  It is the Spirit that reaches the hearts of the hearer, we are only instruments.

They family fed us, as do most Armenians.  They only put out something that looked like croissants (fresh from the oven) and some mint tea.  I was happy because I was too full to eat anything more than that.  Actually, it was very good.  I liked the mint tea.  I hadn't had herb tea before, and it was quite good.  Often they put out tons of pastry and I just didn't want to have to eat any that night.
We are just grateful to see and learn how willing they are to share, even when you know they can't afford much, and have little.  It is humbling!

On Saturday March 31 for our preparation day we were invited by the Humanitarian couple on a little trip to some historic sites here in Armenia.  It was fascinating to us and we want to share it with you:   We are going to take you on our little trip to a very interesting place:

This picture is a monastery of Geghard which is a unique architectural construction - being partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs.  We have to admit, it was very peaceful and serene there.

There is only one road that takes you to Geghard. Once you reach the end of the road you will see the monastery.
Above is the entrance to the Geghard Monastery. Below you can see the tables set up for those selling sweet breads and fruit leather etc.

They hand you a piece of their bread to try. (Elder Watkins is receiving a sample from a lady who wants him to buy her bread)  Nothing is ever packaged or covered.

Above is the loaf we bought. Isn't it decorative?  In the middle of the bread is some sort of sweet cream taste. You just tear off a piece and eat it.  It was very good.

To the right on the table where you can see fruit leather is what is called sweet sujukh (grape molasses covered strings of walnuts).  Isn't that an interesting way to eat walnuts?

Here is a string of apricots.

The Geghard complex has many things to see, most interesting are chambers carved from the mountain. The carved chambers are also known for the incredible acoustics. 

                     This monastery is called Geghard (which means “spear” in Armenian).
It was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator (whom we talked about in an earlier blog of ours), at the site of the sacred spring inside the cave.   Below is the spring. Many worshiped at this spring of water inside this cave.

The entrance into the Vestry. 
The Vestry was built in 1215.  There are four massive free-standing columns in the center and support a roof of stone.  There is a whole in the center to admit light.

Below is the Chapel
The Alter is behind the red curtain.  We were lucky that we managed to get a picture when the light shown through the window.
This picture is showing Christ being baptized by sprinkling and is above the baptismal laver (bowl)
This carving of the spear on the door is the namesake of this monastery.  This is a duplicate of the spear used to pierce the Saviors side and was allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and is stored amongst many other relics. 

The original (they claim) is maintained in a special location called Echmiadzin treasury.
    Elder Eyre in the choir loft. This room is carved out of a rock.  This loft is directly above the chapel. 
This is a hole to one side of this choir loft looking down into the chapel (see the table ).  The choir is out of sight, but you hear the music as if floating down from above.
 These are pictures all around the inside of the courtyard.  There are many individual residences for the monks.

 The right doorway is a tiny room (cell) where a monk would reside.  Monks lived, worked and prayed in the cells.  Some did not leave their small quarters until they died. The monks who lived here were originally hermits, they came to this hard-to-reach site to meditate and live apart from earthly desires.

This is what it looks like inside!  I can't imagine living here day and night until I die!
                     This was some monks home, quite spacious from the last one!
              Some of the monk residences could only be accessed by a ladder or a rope!
These are cross stones called Khachkar which shows Medieval Christian Armenian art.  They represent a memorial for the salvation of a soul of either a living or deceased person.

Below is a "wishing tree"  People make wishes while tying a scarf or some other item to this tree.
By the tree is a bridge and crossing the bridge to the other side and climbing a bit you can get this view of the monestary: 

From a beautiful day with clear blue skies, we found a fascinating journey in seeing the remains of ancient history and in understanding a different way of life for the people who once resided here.

We have to reflect upon the uniqueness of the Armenian people who have a legacy that pre-dates Christ's time.  They associate themselves with this legacy and history and take pride in the fact that they feel they can trace their lineage to Noah.  It stands to reason that they are descendants of Noah as Mount Ararat was right in the middle of Armenia in the ancient days and so Noah and his family settled in the surrounding countryside.  This knowledge plus the fact that they are proud of being the first nation to accept Christianity and can trace that back to about 301 A.D. gives them a heritage and identity that is not that much different than the Jews.  
We just want you all to know that we are enjoying our time here mainly because our testimonies are growing tremendously!  Also our ability to simplify sharing the gospel message to the Armenian people through translation is feeling more comfortable.  We know that what we as missionaries are teaching is what Heavenly Father wants to do teach because it is His true gospel and true Church here upon the earth.  We have watched others find happiness as they have received answers to their prayers about the truthfulness of what they are learning.  It is a thrill to watch.  Their hearts are lighter and they have a clearer view of their future and recognize where happiness lies. 
We have a greater appreciation on how to work through the spirit.  It is real. It is key to how successful we can be in the work because of the differentness of the language and the culture.  We are not communicating on that level.  While we are listening to the missionaries teach the investigators, we don’t understand what is being said back and forth and have had to rely on the Spirit to be prepared to respond to questions that they would like for us to input when asked.
The missionaries have told us that it makes a difference when we are there and the investigators like to hear what we have to say because we are older and are able to relate life’s experiences that apply to what is being taught.
We have often found that unknowingly we have given input that was exactly what needed to be said at that moment and yet we didn’t know then - not understanding the language.  It is great.  It is wonderful to feel the Spirit so often, day after day.
We are doing well and are happy.  We love all of  you - our friends and family!
Elder & Sister Eyre

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