We are getting ready for Christmas. We took the box down from the shelf, took out the Christmas tree, put the lights on and decorations - all in 10 minutes!!! Wow, what a breeze. Isn't it pretty?
It is a pretty tree because the lights have a very nice sequence that makes it fun to watch!! Last year at this time we had only been in country for a month and were still wide-eyed and trying to learn our job and exhausted. We didn't put up any tree or decorations, we didn't really remember that we were told there was a box on the top shelf in the closet! This year we did and it was fun!
What is Christmas without a train set! Elder Eyre found this set in an apartment a set of Elder's were moving out of. It wasn't theirs but had been left there from previous Elders. He just had to put it up in the Mission office. Did the other Elder's like it? Yeah! Do you ever grow out of liking trains?
But it didn't take long before a "little boy who would love it" request was made. It was put back in the box and "gifted" to him. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?
Elder Eyre and I were able to make a trip to Georgia to pick up the Senior Couple who has served there for 23 months and is returning home, along with 2 Elders who are also returning home. In the country of Georgia they speak Georgian, which is a very hard language to learn. Georgia has yet to have a Book of Mormon translated into that language, but there are miracles associated with that being done at this time. They just recently received missionary tracts that had been translated into Georgian and what a wonderful thing that is for the missionaries serving there.
Here are some pictures taken along the way and you can see that winter has started to set in here! I love the snow and so I thoroughly enjoyed this trip through what looked like a winter wonderland!
Notice the houses that are empty and unfinished in the next two pictures. That is very common all over Armenia for when Russia pulled out, they abandoned houses and factories that were being built, but were never finished. They were quite big compared to what the Armenians live in.
This sign shows how they let you know that you are leaving a town. At home it would mean the sign was no good!
It is easy to find meat to buy when you drive down the road. Sometimes, you can buy a live chicken or lamb and take it home to eat fresh by your own hand.
The first place we stopped at when we got there was at the apartment where the temporary senior couple will be staying. As you can see, we couldn't get up the stairs because of the water coming down in a heavy stream. Found out there was a leak in one of the apartments upstairs, no one was there and what a mess was left. We had to get out our umbrellas to get past this entrance! Sorry the picture is blurry!
In the last transfer, besides the two Elders from Georgia and the senior couple, there were 9 more from Armenia that left to return home. That makes 13 total, which is a lot for our mission. That brings us down by 1/3. But we also had 14 new missionaries arriving. That makes a record for this mission! We have been busy. The transfer effected all of the mission from one end to the other!!
The one sister second from left went home with this transfer. She will be sorely missed - she was a fantastic missionary!! The other three are exceptional missionaries as well and we sure do love them all! I was happy they came to decorate the Mission office. I would not have had time!!! They love it and so do we!!!
We (senior couples) do have maids that come and clean our apartments and that has been so nice. It gives us the opportunity to help someone who needs the money. I am not sure I want to come home and have to do it myself!!! This snowflake was hanging from the light fixture, left by our maid who made it for us!
Here is one of my very dear friends in our Branch - Asya who is has become very special to me. She is a sweet and very selfless and caring person. She doesn't have much and yet she gives much! One day she came into the office (she works across the hall on occasion at the Family History Center) and was so happy that she had found her father who had gone to America many years ago. She found him in the genealogy records. He had died years back but she finally found his name and could link him to the rest of the family as she does genealogy for her family. They have looked for years. She was so happy and so she gave me a gift - this beautiful doiley that was made by her mother.
This is typical activity in Elder Eyre's office. Missionaries coming to check for mail from home
This Christmas will go down as one of the best ever, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, we were able to see a sister that we have been working with for many months, get baptized on Dec. 25th.
Her husband is here with a big grin on his face! He was able to baptize her and that was a very special privilege for both of them. I love this lady so very much!!!!
To witness the workings of the Spirit as she put forth a particle of faith in believing and humbly praying for answers to her prayers as to the truthfulness of what is being taught, touched us very deeply. As she learned about and kept the commandments and then received the blessings that come from that we watched her life change, her heart changed. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings a greater purpose to our lives as we recognize why we are here on earth and the focus of eternal life. It was wonderful to watch her recognize how much her Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ loves her and because of His Atonement it means she can return to her Heavenly home again. Can you imagine how much it meant to them to learn about life after death - especially because their son was killed this year just two weeks before he was coming home from the mandatory military assignment that all young men have - and now she is learning about the temples and how they can be an eternal family!! This event made our Christmas day very special.
Secondly, we gave money to our children and grandchildren to be used to help others. The way in which they chose to do so was very exciting and heartwarming to us. We asked them to share with us those experiences and how they felt, as their gift to us. We all received a greater understanding of how the Christmas season can be much more meaningful when we serve and give to others, especially to those who carry heavy hearts and have meager means.
Christmas here is celebrated on January 6th. New Years is a huge celebration to these people as they prepare days and weeks ahead by not only cleaning house for guests but in preparing to serve to all of those friends, family and strangers who come to partake of the food they put out. At the stroke of midnight, the celebration begins - fireworks everywhere!!!!! Soon after, the visits begin, and it is not uncommon to be up the entire night entertaining those who drop by. We were invited to visit this sister who was just baptized and her husband on the evening of New Year's day. They hadn't been asleep the entire night before! Friends came and went all through the night. This celebration goes on for 6 days and then it is their Christmas - January 6th.
We love our mission here and all of the things that we have learned. Especially how much we have grown to love the Savior Jesus Christ, not only because of the nature of the missionary work that we assist in, but through our studies each day! We know He loves all of His children who have every lived upon this earth and because of that love, has provided an eternal plan for ALL of them. In the humble circumstances in which the Savior was born, we reverently celebrate and give thanks for all that He has done for mankind.
We wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope that your Christmas was as warm and memorable as ours was to us. We love you!
Elder & Sister Eyre