Zorov

March 26, 2012 – Gyumri, Week 9
Zorov

This week was what I would call “zorov” in Armenian. The Translation to the word could best be explained by an Armenian saying. “ I’m pulling the donkey out of the mud”. I felt like everything I did this week was painful. Usually I really enjoy the work. Especially when I look back on the week I feel a peace and joy in seeing how many miracles I see. It is not that I didn’t enjoy the work, rather I the people we have been working with have been in really difficult situations, so my companion and I have had to try and help them finically and physically from a spiritual aspect. It has taken a lot out of me, pondering and seeking the revelation that I need in order to teach them those things that will truly help them. It is a delicate thing talking about the physical and financial consequences of spiritual things because sometimes the Lord will give us physical and financial challenges to help us grow spiritually. But, we were able to help them. Now it is up to them to act on the truth.

That is the hardest part of missionary work, seeing people choose what they know to be the wrong. It is amazing to see the spirit work in people. When we teach we pray very hard that the spirit will teach them what they need to learn. We don’t know all of their needs, but the spirit can speak to their hearts if we speak the truth with conviction. When the spirit touches the heart the hear t is changed.

This week I heard something that was said very well, “with the spirit those things that would otherwise be a burden with it, become a delight” (F. Enzio Busche , ‘Unleashing the Dormint Spirit’). I have come to know that that is true. Some of the most difficult things that we do in life, like working, serving others, forgetting oneself, raising a family, etc are transformed into the most delightful experiences and accomplishments, through the power of Love, which can take it’s complete affect due to the Atonement and the Comforter

Today is my Birthday. I am one day older. I hope that I can become much more than a 21 year man. I hope that I can become loving brother, a wise friend and a powerful disciple of Christ.

I love you all and pray that you might be guided to learn those things which will bring you the most joy in this life and in the life to come.

Elder Cook

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Ծնունդ Þնորհավոր

April 4, 2012 – Gyumri, Week 10

Ծնունդ Þնորհավոր

This week was full of surprises. It started out with a surprise B-day party. I had no idea that anything was planned. I walked into Elder and Sister Griffiths’ home to see a sign “Ծնունդ Þնորհավոր” (Happy Birthday). They cooked an amazing stir fry and Sister Griffiths cooked an apple pie. I was amazed and grateful for such thought friends. Then we had a powerful District Meeting about our responsibility, as disciples of Christ, to open our mouths. We must share the truth with all, whether that is with eachother in the apartment, on the street with strangers or with family. We have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost who will give us words to speak. He will also carry those words to the peoples hearts and provide them with an opportunity to be enlightened by his influence. After that I went on exchanges with Elder Wahl. He is an amazing example. I have gained a great love and respect for him. We got transfer calls while on exhcnages. I was called to stay with Elder Connor and fill in for Elder Wahl for the next three weeks. Elder Wahl was called to serve in Arabkir, Yerevan. Elder Lush, Connor and I served as a tri-companionship for 4 days. Then Elder Lush got a native Armenian companion. Manvel. He is from Charentsavan. We were so excited to hear that he would be with us for a few days. He is such a great man. He is only 17, but he is very mature for his age.

Elder Connor went on exchanges with Elder Wolley (an elder who has been here for less than 6 months) while Elder Lush and I went to a meeting in Yerevan. Those two missionaries did some amazing work. Elder Connor always suprises me. He is an incredibily diligent worker and has a tremendeous endurance level.

There were some other suprises that aren’t so pleasant, but I don’t have any more time right now. I’ll finish on Friday. We had a meeting/council on Monday so our Preparation Day was moved to Friday.

Love Elder Cook

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Good Times

February 20, 2012 – Gyumri, Week 4
Good Times

There is a man whom I spoke of last week, the man who was very sensitive to the fruits of the Holy Ghost. He came to church on Sunday and after the sacrament meeting he pulled my companion and I to the side. He said, “Do you remember how you said that the Bible mentions the Book of Mormon?

I replied, “ Yes it’s in Ezekial”

He said, “ No it doesn’t matter, What I want ot say is that I had a dream after I prayed to know whether the Book of Mormon was true or not”

He told us about his experience. I was amazed. In my experience answers to our prayers usually come from recognizing the Spirit’s soft and gentle feelings. He testifies of truth, but he will not force us to learn so he speaks softly and his fruits are usually recognized when we are still and pondering. I had not taught anyone who had had a dream about it, but he did and he was humbled by the fact that God answered that prayer so powerfully. I too was amazed and so happy for him. He was excited. He had read the Book of Mormon but he had not prayed about it yet.

I was reading about one of the ancient prophets who lived before Christ. His name was Alma and he was teaching his sons some basic and yet very powerful principles. I’d like to share one that has helped me and I know that it will help anyone who ponders about it and applies it to their own life.

Alma 38: 5

5 And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your atrust in God even so much ye shall bebdelivered out of your trials, and your ctroubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

I heard a story that I think is worth sharing, for anyone who likes stories. The moral of this story can be applied in so many different ways.

It’s so good and makes so much sense.

There once was a rich man. He wasn’t the nicest of men as his money had made his heart cold and his vision as narrow as the next item he could possess. One day as he sleeps, he passes away. Upon realizing he is dead a fear comes upon him as he thinks of his cruelness and harshness towards other people while he was alive. He shortly meets a man who identifies himself as one of this man’s servants. He beckons for the man to follow until they arrive at a large mansion. The man gapes in amazement as it appears to be 10 times larger than anything he had possessed while he was alive. He becomes even more astounded as it becomes more and more apparent that everything that he had ever desired seems to be in this large home. Being an avid golfer, he now had his own golf course. He loved racing, and thus now he had not only his own racecar, but a set of racecars and a race track to go with it. The servant then informs him that if anything does not meet his satisfaction, all he had to do was say how he wanted it changed and it would be done. The man soon found out that this extended as far as the imagination would will it to go. There were women at this mansion as well and if he didn’t like something about them or the way they looked, he would change it. If he felt they needed bigger lips or a smaller waist, all he had to do was say it and it would be done. Almost immediately, it seemed, his every wish and desire was granted. And so the man lived in this state and 100 years went by. Well, after 100 years of this, it started to get kind of old. So he changed some more things and tried everything he could think of. He tried and lived the craziest things he could think of. His greatest fantasies, dreams and desires. Well another 100 years goes by and by this time, the man is really getting tired of this. The things that he did became less entertaining to him until he began to desparately look for something else to change, something else to do. One day he comes out to his front lawn where he finds the gardner changing something as the man had desired. He says to the gardner,

“Why don’t you work on something else. I think I’ll work out here in the garden a little. Get my hands dirty.”

“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t allow you to do that.”

A little surprised but not discouraged the man almost says to himself, “Well, alright. I suppose I’ll just go and work on one of the cars. Get a little greasy.”

Again the reply is the same, “I’m sorry sir, but you can’t do that either.”

Not a man of much patience, he shoots “Well I’m in charge aren’t I? I can do whatever I desire, right? I desire to do a little work of my own for once.”

But still, the servant does not even hesitate “I’m sorry but we can’t allow you to do that. We are here to serve and fill your every pleasure. You cannot work nor labor.”

Now thouroughly frustrated the man shouts “What is the meaning of this?! I would even go do to hell and shovel some coal into the fire! WHAT KIND OF HEAVEN IS THIS ANYWAYS?!”

“Sir” the servant solemnly replies “Who said this was heaven? You are in hell.”

Though exactly opposite of what the world seems to be shouting, selfishness and the adventure of serving oneself is the pathway paved to hell. If we look at the opposite of that, we begin to get a perspective on what heaven truly is. It is the selfless service of others. The scriptures teach us constantly about this. Charity, the pure love of Christ, is, as is written in1 Cor. 13 never faileth. Love overcometh all things. We see our prime example of course, in the life of the Savior. He, being chosen from the foundation of the world, came for the sole purpose of completing the most selfless act in the history of man. Through the selfless sacrifice of the Atonement, we are all able to return to the prescence of the Father. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”(Luke 9:24)

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The Seal of a Saint

February 13, 2012 – Gyumri, Week 3
The Seal of a Saint

I met a man this week who has tried very hard to be led by the spirit. He is very sensitive to the spirit. As I was talking to him about his family he told a story of the Earthquake that happened in the last 80’s. His wife’s sisters were both killed in the earthquake. This was a random story, but he felt the need to share it. About 25 minutes later we were talking about his reading. He has read the whole Book of Mormon. He says that he knows it is true and then he shared another random experience. He said that one day while he was reading he felt a presence, kind of a spirit walk by him. He said it didn’t scare him, he was at peace, but he didn’t understand what it was.

I sat back and pondered. I prayed to know what I needed to say. I didn’t want to give him “what I thought” I wanted to give him the answer. I began to think of any similar experiences that I had had or that I had heard about. Then while I was thinking a thought popped into my mind, that was not from me. It interupted my thought process. It was the story that he told 25 minutes earlier about his wife’s sisters. Then as I thought about his experience and his wife’s sisters the spirit filled me. I shared with him what I experienced and shared more with him about what happens in the temple. We are baptized for those who have never had the chance to be. He said that as I spoke about the temple he felt a warmth, the spirit. I invited him to pray about the experience and find out what his experience meant.

There are so many subtle events that have great meaning, yet we don’t take the time to learn from them. I was amazed to see how this man was so aware of his feelings and the spirit’s influence in his life. We too can and must do the same.

I heard about a talk that Elder Bednar gave at the Missionary Training Center a few months ago about becoming a saint. There is a point that we can reach, where we are more concerned about others than we are concerned about ourselves. This is actually what God desires for all of us and is the promise that we make at baptism.

Christ showed this throughout his life and even on the cross when we was worried about his salvation more then he was about his pain. He said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”

Elder Bednar also talked about a nurse that lived within his stake boundaries, when he was a stake president. The nurse was involved with car crash victims. She called President Bednar and asked him to come and identify the faces of the people involved in the crash. On the other side of the phone President Bednar overheard other nurses talking and learned that this nurse’s daughter was in the crash and had died. He was amazed that this women was more worried about the other mothers who’s children where involved in the crash. She invited President Bednar to the funeral, because she didn’t want President Bednar’s last impression of her daughter to be so gruesome. She wanted that image to be replaced with her well dressed and clean. Later that night after coming home she got call from some of the sick members of the ward. She had been assigned to make food for them, they were upset with her. She made food and dropped off the meal on the way to her daughters funeral.

We will find peace as we forget ourselves. I have found that we work miracles, not by focusing on how we can receive more blessing for ourselves, rather in focusing on how we can be a blessing for another. We are often the angels that God promises. We are often the only ones who will receive an impression to help another. This reminds me of three of Christ’s teachings concerning the subject:

(I am paraphrasing) 1)  He that loseth himself, for my sake shall find himself  2) Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me 3) Ye shall in nowise lose your reward.

This week I have seen that God will let us participate in miracles if we lose ourselfs in his work. We truely do find great peace and more solutions in our own life when we focus our thoughts on others. That is what God wants. He wants his children to worry about and take care of each other.

Love,
Elder Cook

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A Stone That Has Been Cut Out of the Mountain

January 25, 2012 – Charentsavan, Week 21
A Stone That Has Been Cut Out of the Mountain

This week I played a longer version of Backgammon. It is called “Nardi”. I also learned what they say for 1,2,3,4,5,6 doubles and so forth. They use turkish words for them. Many words that Armenians use are Turkish, Russian or Persian. They use a russian word for stoplight (svetafar), they use a persian word for “news” (khabar), and a turkish word for “pocket” (jeb). They don’t have an armenian word for shortcut, so they use the turkish word.

One of the branch members that we have been working with is going on a full-time mission. She, Armine, just got back from a “mini mission” with a sister who is serving with native armenians. Armine’s excitement and example has also inspired another one of our members to serve a mission. Her name is Maga and her young brothers will be following her lead.

Some more great news. Levon, the young man that lives in Ashtarak has really turned around. (You probably wouldn’t remember him, but jsut play along like you remember my letters from last year). About one year ago he was in-active. Since that time he has become the second counselor to the Branch President, he has helped us activate his mother and little brother. He has recieved the Melkizedek Priesthood. He has been serving as a Branch Presidnet for the last few months. He has resolved to go on a mission. He quit working to prepare. His father has quit his job and applied for more flexible work in order to be free to meet with the missionaries. Their family has made some major steps of faith to build the Lord’s Kingdom. It is amazing to see how much the Lord can do with us if we will just trust him.

I have been asked to train a new missionary in Gyumri. I will be serving in the same area that I served in 6 1/2 months ago. I am very excited. President Carter was suprised. It is very rare for a missionary to go back to serve in an area where she/he has already served. But the Lord revealed to them (President and his assistants) that my companion and I would need to do something in Gyumri, without any explaination as to why. I am excited to see what can be done in Gyumri. I had a good time in Gyumri with Elder Frye, but I feel that we will be able to build the branch much more powerfully, with what I have learned from serving here in Charentsavan.

Our mission is comprised of two countries and two languages. One of the missionaries serving in Georgia, Elder Redpath, has a twin brother. His brother just left the MTC and went to Bulgaria. Within the last few weeks his call was changed. He went with 3 other missionaries to Turkey. Turkey is officially open. We always dream about getting called to Turkey or Iran (by the way the “I” in Iran is pronouned like “ea” in eat). The reason why they didn’t call Armenian missionaries to Turkey is because Bulgaria is closer to the Capital City. When they open Iran, the first missionaries will probably be from Armenia. We are less than 200 km from the Iranian boarder. Our current zone encompasses land that runs along the Turkish boarder. The sisters serving in Artashat can often see the Turkish Boarder.

We ( Elder Larson and I) had one final meeting with Babken and another one of our members, Radik. Babken and Radik have been meeting together often. They talk much about the Gospel. So we sat with them and for the fifth time asked them to plan to visit the members. The spirit was their. It testified to them that what we were saying was needed and true. They accepted to pray to know which family/individual to focus on. They accepted and were excited.

Babken about 2 weeks ago was stuggling. He stopped reading his scriptures. He was really disappointed in the branch members, who come “i mi jaylots” (as if to merely pass time). He has since started to read and recieve some powerful revelations. He said the the spirit  came upon him and he felt that everything would work out in the branch. I hope that he can build the branch as much as I know he can. He is the first serious priesthood holder that I have seen in this branch besides our Branch President.
If we want to see miracles in our own lives and in the lives of the ones that we love, we need to start serving. Not just in good ways, but also and more so we must serve in the capacities that God wants us to serve. We know where God wants us to serve, only when we ask him. If we want to see his hand we must do his work. I know that He lives. He loves you and me. He listens and answers our prayers, the hard part is recognizing his voice. We already know that while serving others and reading his word he will serve us and speak clearly to us. The hard part is getting out of our comfort zone.

I have always tried to find the most effective and profitable route, whether that is a finincial or physical or spiritual route. The path that was given and shown to us by Jesus Christ is in reality the easier and more effective route. I know that we cannot find anything worth more than the power of God working with us and our fami. We can have all gold in the world and we wouldn’t have a fraction of the inheritance waiting for us. He doesn’t ask that we give him more than we are, however he won’t accept any less.
I know that when we forget ourselves and trust God a miracle happens and God reveals himself in the most subtle and yet most spectacular ways.

Bari Akhorzhak (bon apetit  – in Armenian)
Yerets Quk

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Lasting Change

January 9, 2012 – Charentsavan, Week 16
Lasting Change

My letter is after these two stories.
I hope you like them.
1. A four-year-old child, whose next door
neighbor was an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his
wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old
Gentleman’s’ yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his mother asked him what he had
said to the neighbor, the little boy just said, ‘Nothing, I just
Helped him cry.’

*********************************************

2. Teacher Debbie Moon’s first graders were
discussing a picture of a family. One little boy in the picture
had a different hair color than the other members. One of her
students suggested that he was adopted.
A little girl said, ‘I know all about
Adoption, I was adopted..’

‘What does it mean to be adopted?’, asked
another child.

‘It means’, said the girl, ‘that you grew
in your mommy’s heart instead of her tummy!’

 

*********************************************

3.An eye witness account from New York
City , on a cold day in December,
some years ago: A little boy,
about 10-years-old, was standing before a shoe store on the
roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering
With cold.

A lady approached the young boy and said,
‘My, but you’re in such deep thought staring in that window!’

‘I was asking God to give me a pair of
shoes,’ was the boy’s reply.

The lady took him by the hand, went into
the store, and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks
for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water
and a towel. He quickly brought them to her.

She took the little fellow to the back
part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed
his little feet, and dried them with the towel.

By this time, the clerk had returned with
the socks.. Placing a pair upon the boy’s feet, she purchased him
a pair of shoes..

She tied up the remaining pairs of socks
and gave them to him.. She patted him on the head and said, ‘No
doubt, you will be more comfortable now..’

As she turned to go, the astonished kid
caught her by the hand, and looking up into her face, with tears
in his eyes, asked her:
‘Are you God’s wife?’

 
These last two weeks have been very interesting. They have passed by so quickly and yet when I think about what actually happened a week earlier it feels like forever ago.
This last week people were still celebrating the New Year and Christmas, which are celebrated on Jan 1st and 6th. It is great to see that people can have an amazing Christmas experience without presents. I had the opportunity again, to see someone get baptized on Christmas.
The start of a new year is a great time to change (despite the fact that change should be a constant process =). I have found that change is more lasting and more quickly accomplished when it is done for another. I have started to make changes that are centered on others and on how the accomplished goal will affect God, my family and the people that I come in contact with.
We had the opportunity to sit down with the District Presidency (Like a Stake Presidency, but in the preparatory stages) at Zone Leader Counsel and discussed what they would have us do to get things started like Home and Visiting Teaching(HT&VT), Family Home Evening(FHE) and Daily Scripture Study going. There were many plans made, great ideas were formulated and then President Poghosyan paused and everything was quite. He said, ” I know that we have plans made, but I think that all of our problems will be solved if we do something more simple. I feel… that our members need to read Preach My Gospel this year.”
It was powerful. We saw and felt a powerful sensation. It was the presence and influence of revelation. We were their to witness and the receive a confirmation that President Poghosyan was receiving revelation from God to correctly lead the members of the church of Jesus Christ in Armenia. I saw one of the signs of God’s love, living and modern revelation. God truly does speak.
I know that God calls leaders and inspires them. They do receive the revelation needed to build the kingdom of God on the Earth. The Lord is the same yesterday today and forever, he will always call prophets to guide our families. He will call prophets until he comes to reign himself.
Babken was baptized on Dec 28th and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Jan 8th, 2012. I have seen God’s love while speaking with him. I have often seen Babken receive revelation for his family in our conversations. God speaks and loves us. He is the Father of our Spirits and his love is infinite. I know that we each can receive revelation, in other words guidance for the situation that we have been placed in.
When people don’t do their HT&VT. FHE and Daily Scripture Study it is not that they are incapable, it is that they haven’t become like Christ. If they become disciples of Christ they will do their HT how Christ would do their HT. I just have to say, the lack of HT&VT, FHE and Scripture study leads to an easily offended people, a weak testimony and a lack of blessing because they don’t have the spirit’s power in their lives. If you are not doing any of those three activities please start. I have seen too many people go apostate, get offended, or make blind judgements because these activities didn’t take place. They result in light. Where light is, darkness cannot abide.
Zder Nor Tari Shnorhavor,
Yerets Quk
Happy New Year,
Elder Cook

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God-Given Thoughts

 

Merry Christmas

December 19, 2011 – Charentsavan, Week 15
God-Given Thoughts

What an amazing week. Revelation used to be such a vague concept. I never realized what it could be like to be guided by the spirit so much.  I have been sick and so I have been sleeping through a chuck of my studies. This has made it hard to make the plans needed for our investigators. Despite our lack of time, we sit down to meet and find that almost immediately we know what they need. It happened in every single lesson this week and we had 29 meetings. We often don’t recognize that certain thoughts are not our own. God will often put certain desires/thoughts into our heart/minds. He will not force us to do anything, but he will guide us if we let him.

Most miracles do not occur in an instant; rather they take place over time.  As we  learn to recognize the small thoughts/desires that God puts into our heart, we can more quickly act on those god-given directions. God will, step by step, perform miracles in our lives if we seek to do what he would have us do. I can look back on my life and think of many experiences when I was successful, because things “fell into place” at the last minute. Those were miracles that occurred over the course of time. Those are usually the most important and hardest miracles to perform they require us to be diligent, be aware,  be full of hope and have an unwavering faith in God.
Branch President Armen, who is in wheel chair, has been sick for about a week. On Saturday he had come to the church to finish some work, when he started to get worse. He started to shiver intensely, so he sat heater. He could hardly move. We were waiting for one of his friends to arrive, when something told me to bring the other missionaries into the room, to say a prayer. A minute or so after the prayer the friend arrived. Armen seemed to have enough strength to move and right as we came outside he…ya…”spewed”. That was a miracle. That would have been a mess. As we drove towards his house he began to feel much better. He said something that I hadn’t thought about, “the prayer worked”.  He said that he was feeling much better. We helped him get into bed. We gave a blessing. By the time the blessing was over he had stopped shivering and he was asleep.  A small prayer and a blessing are not huge acts of service, but they resulted in a miracle.

Last week I spoke of a Babk. His wife was having some problems with her right arm and right leg. She was losing feeling in those limbs. They don’t have the means to take her to the doctor. Babk was stressed about the situation and hated that thought that he couldn’t provide for his family as he would like to.  He asked if we would give her a blessing. A blessing is a service given by holders of God’s authority and power. That authority and power is called the Priesthood. It is the same power and authority that Christ gave to his disciples in Luke 9:1. With that god-given right, the priesthood, a worthy man can heal the sick and perform other miracles. We explained to Babk’s wife what God will expect of her if she is healed. We explained that she will be healed according to her faith. Almost immediately after giving the blessing she began to gain feeling in her arm and leg. Now she feels normal and healthy. It was humbling to see how much God does help those who will but do the small and simple things. For example, Babk was willing to ask a simple question like, “will you give my wife a blessing?” and because he did something as simple as asking she was healed.

We began walking home Saturday night around 8:00pm. We hadn’t eaten all day and needed to finish some things at home. There was no-one around, but we happened to run into an investigator, who said that his mom (Galia) was home, waiting for us. We decided that we should go see his mom, we hadn’t seen her in a few days. Not soon after we arrived a young boy(Emanuel) and his mom (Ofilia) walked into Galia’s home. We came to find out that this young boy was different than most nine year olds. He has a great desire to know God. Ofilia spoke of how he always helps his family rely on God for help and solutions to their problems.  The next day we spoke to them about the steps that they would need to take to become a family who would live forever. Emanuel seems to be a normal nine year old, but he is very quick and attentive.

That young boy has worked miracles in his family. He has prepared them to learn about how Christ restored the same organization that existed in the primitive church. He desired to know God’s will and recognized the god-given thoughts/desires.
I know that it is through Christ that families were made possible. I don’t believe that. I know that. I know also that God answers prayers, very clearly. He answers us because he loves us.
Sometimes we might not understand the answers that we receive. I know that it can be hard to do what the Lord requires. However we can be sure that if God asks, then he must know something. I testify of the reality of Jesus Christ’s and our Heavenly Father’s Love. They did not set-up a plan that merely involved pain and suffering. If you follow those god-given thoughts and promptings we will know why God called his the Plan of Happiness. I know that we can perform miracles if we learn to recognize the god-given thoughts that we so often shrug off.
Merry Christmas,
Elder Cook

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