Saturday, May 29, 2010

What's in YOUR purse?

I have a friend who once told me that she cleans her purse out every night. Of course, she’s gotten married and had two kids since that time so she may have changed a bit, but she is one organized woman. I on the other hand, carry more of a bucket than a handbag, and it gets cleaned out, well, seldom.

So, when Women of Faith announced a contest for blog writers, with the topic “What’s in Your Purse and Why?” I knew right away that this would be fun. What’s the prize, you ask? The world’s smallest Bible, which hopefully, will fit quite nicely into my purse right next to the extra strength glasses I’ll need to read it.

Before I start there are two things you need to know. First off, I haven’t cleaned my purse out since my return from Armenia (though I did remove the hand sanitizer hanging on the outside.) The other thing you need to know is that I just took my purse off its resting spot – in other words – it hasn’t been edited. So, here goes.

Front pocket:

  • Miniature flashlight because you only allow yourself to get caught without one on a mission trip ONCE. In a pinch you can use your cell phone light (for about 30 seconds) but like I said, you’ll only do that once.
  • Key card to the workout center – it had to go back in once I returned home if I intended to ever workout again.
  • A single-use plastic luggage closure thinga-ma-job which will keep your luggage zipper zipped but can still be cut off by the security peeps without damage to your suitcase. I have yet to travel, since 9/11, where they haven’t broken my recently-purchased “TSA approved lock,” so I don’t bother locking anymore.
  • Nail clippers – because now the National Transportation Safety Board has come to the conclusion that we can’t really do damage to anyone with nail clippers and I need it to remove said luggage closures.

Inside pockets:

  • Business card holder which surprisingly enough has some of my business cards inside. They are handy to have around should someone want to say, do business with me, or just want my email address. Don’t leave home without them (oh wait, that’s my American Express card.)
  • A candy wrapper – not just any candy wrapper, but one that was wrapped around a piece of chocolate at a tea I was at in Armenia. The picture on the front of the wrapper portrays a beautiful little chubby-faced girl. I think she looks a lot like me.
  • Two Burger King gift cards – I keep these in my purse for the times I encounter homeless people. After reading Under the Overpass I can’t just walk by anymore so I like to have something to offer.
  • A piece of paper with everything written in Armenian. I have no idea why.
  • Two slips of paper (one with a list of prayer requests and one with an email address) Presumably, those were put there so I wouldn’t lose them. I guess that part of my plan worked.
  • My friend Leslie’s Business Card now that she is a pastor and has her own.
  • Dental Floss – incredibly handy for when things get stuck in your teeth. Enough said.
  • MNBTG Website Cards – because I think it’s a great website and I like to promote it, especially the Laugh section because I know one of the authors VERY well.
  • Lip color, lip gloss and lipstick because a girl can just never be too prepared to deal with the lip situation.
  • Miniature PINK Swiss Army knife which may have actually entered my purse after I returned home though I think it, too, would pass inspection at the airport.
  • Another Nail Clipper - I don’t think I really need two, however.
  • A little pill container – because the Girl Scout motto is “Be Prepared” (or at least it was when I was a Girl Scout.)

That’s it for the pockets; now to the deep hole in the middle:

  • My wallet. Every purse has to have a wallet but mine is especially small because I don’t like the extra weight a normal-sized one adds to my purse. Perhaps you can see why.
  • 12 Receipts from grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants, and the post office because there is never a trash can when you need one.
  • 3 Grocery Lists – see reason listed above.
  • Dirty Kleenex – because you can’t just leave those things lying around anywhere.
  • Last week’s Bible Study lesson – with prayer requests on the back. What can I say? I don’t clean this thing out very often.
  • Menu for the Nordstrom Café – I ate there last week and since I have this odd soy and dairy intolerance I kept the menu to peruse at home to see what I might want to have next time. And, by the way, they are o.k. with you keeping their menus.
  • Last week’s Church Bulletin – at least I think it’s from last week.
  • Directions to a friends’ house because I didn’t want to get lost.
  • My Air France Boarding Pass stub – I usually keep my stubs as proof that I got on the plane should Delta ever decide not to credit me for my Frequent Flyer miles. Where the other stubs have gone, I haven’t a clue, but fortunately I did get credited for all 12,692 miles.
  • A Tube of Borage Dry Skin Therapy Hand Cream. This is simply the best, and admittedly most expensive, hand cream I’ve ever found. I use it frequently and thus, it’s in my purse.
  • Cottonelle Flushable Moist Wipes. These are incredibly handy on a mission trip, or anywhere you go that may not have all the necessary accommodations in the restroom. And, in a pinch, they can be used for cleaning your hands and neck in a hot climate – which Armenia was not.
  • LOC Towelettes are always in my purse because, quite frankly, I spill a lot. These are made by Amway (or whatever they call themselves now) and are WAY more effective than Tide-to-Go.
  • A Larabar is on hand should I need some sustenance in a hurry. This is another mission trip leftover. It’s one of the few “power bars” I can eat due to the aforementioned soy and dairy intolerance (most include soy) and I never travel to a foreign country without food because sometimes the eating schedule is challenging. Or the food is. It can go either way.
  • My reading glasses because I don’t like it when the kids offer to hold the menu for me when my arms get too short.
  • Headphones supplied by Air France (far superior to the ones Delta gives away) for the purpose of watching the in-flight movie. Nice as they are, I still chose to read my book.
  • Oh my, yet another set of Nail Clippers. This is getting embarrassing.
  • Nail File – Again, Be Prepared comes to mind and clearly three nail clippers won’t do the job alone.
  • My Blackberry Holder which doesn’t actually hold my Blackberry. Instead I use it to hold coupons and such so they won’t clutter up my wallet. Usually my Blackberry is in my purse also but I had removed it prior to this exercise.
  • And last, but not least, three pens. Are two enough, three too many?

Well, if you made it to the bottom of this list, you are truly a dedicated reader. On the bright side, my purse is now cleaned out so, even though I was, moments ago, prepared for "Let's Make a Deal," this list is obsolete and my purse is about three pounds lighter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finally! - Pictures from Armenia

Well, in my last blog a week ago, I promised you pictures from my trip to Armenia. And now, at long last, here they are. Of course, I can't post all 100 pictures here but I thought I'd show you a few of the highlights.

Our first day in Armenia was spent trying to adapt to the 10-hour change in time zones and see some of the sights of Yerevan. Republic Square is the center of the city and was actually built during the Soviet reign of Armenia. It used to be called Lenin Square but, for obvious reasons, it was changed once Armenia gained their independence. It is said that a statue of Lenin has been replaced by a giant television screen somewhere on the square but I didn't see it. Of course, it's a very large square and we didn't walk every square inch of it. In fact, we never really got any closer than this pictures depicts.

The last stop of our walking tour was at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. Actually, I have since learned that the entire monument is called the Cascade and was built in the 1970's during the Soviet occupation of the country. Water jugs protrude out of the building on every level and at one point in time water would flow from one level to the next via these jugs. It would be interesting to see the Cascade when the water is turned on. The art museum is at the bottom of the monument, but I believe the entire structure is now owned by Gerard L. Cafesjian, an American born Armenian who actually lived a great part of his life in Minnesota working for West Publishing. Cafesjian's story is really kind of an interesting, Click here if you'd like to read it.

Below is the view of the capital city of Yerevan from the balcony of my first hotel room. I think I ended up in a total of four different rooms while I was in Armenia. Being as there were five of us, and I snore the loudest (no need for comments on this statement, I had my own room. I was worried about getting lonesome but I needn't have. Every morning, shortly after I'd get up someone from the team would end up at my door wanting to use my hair dryer, curling iron, or converter. I felt like the mom with the best Kool-aid on the block.

When I wrote my blog about our trip to Jermuk I mentioned the woman who invited me to her apartment to take pictures off her back porch. This is one of the views from that "photo shoot." The picture really does no justice to the view which actually took my breath away.

Over two years ago God put a big dream in my heart to go to Armenia to minister to women. When I gave my first talk on "Hearing God's Voice" I shared with the women about how that moment marked the culmination of that dream and I wanted to record it in pictures. They graciously smiled and let me take their picture. What choice did they have really? I was after all, the one with the camera . . . . and the microphone.

The view from the front door of the church in Jermuk. Too bad I didn't see all this snow before I left. I would have packed differently; perhaps more sweaters and less sandals.

These women came from across Armenia to attend the conference in Tsaghkadzor. I can't help but think that they are "world changers." God will use them to make a huge difference in Armenia, I have no doubt.

When we finished our conference in Tsaghkadzor we had just enough time to stop at the souvenir market. There was a whole lot of stuff that I could live without but my favorite purchase was an intricately carved replica of Noah's Ark (complete with animals) in front of Mt. Ararat. Truth be told, I'm sure I could have lived without it, also, but I bought it anyway.

Remember the blog I wrote about all the food at our dinner in Bjni? Well, this picture shows just SOME of the food we had that night. And the beautiful girls in the picture were our translators and host while we were in Armenia. Marine (second from the left) was my translator at the two small churches we visited. The first day she actually translated something to me as "blah, blah, blah," which totally threw me into a fit of hysterics. I will never let her live that one down.

Can you imagine hauling all this stone in from another region to build this Noravank Monastery? And, it's not like it was South Dakota with nary a hill in site, or that they had trucks to haul it all. Oh no, Henry Ford didn't show up for another 500 plus years. When I originally wrote about this place I said it was built in the 9th century. Apparently, I was misinformed. If you recall I had purchased the Italian version guidebook. Anyway, a little internet research shows it was built in the 13th century. But still, I have to wonder why they would carry in all this stone when there was stone in abundance all around them? Maybe in heaven one of the builders can explain their thinking to me.

This, the Khor Virap monastery, is the one very close to the base of Mt. Ararat and is significant in Armenian history because this is where St. Gregory the Illuminator was held for 13 years. Because of him, well really because of God's work through him, Armenia was declared a Christian country in 301 A.D.

I must have taken at least ten pictures of Mt. Ararat while I was in Armenia. One from my hotel room, one from the top of the Cafesijan Center for the Arts, and even one from the monastery near the base of the very mountain itself. But, the best picture, by far, is the one I took out the window of the airport cafe on the day we left Armenia. It is mind-boggling to know that somewhere on this mountain, Noah stepped off the ark onto dry land. You don't suppose he looked out across the land and said, "in a few thousand years, I think there's going to be an airport right over there"?

What an amazing opportunity this trip was for me. Some days I think I need to pinch myself to believe that God would really choose me to share His Word and His love to people across the globe. I am incredibly blessed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Love Paris in the Springtime . . . kind of.

Well, I promised you last week that I’d tell you about our day in Paris after I got home. Here it is one week since my arrival and nothing yet about Paris. I have no good excuse except to say that jet-lag has hit me a little harder than usual this time.

So, about the whole “Springtime in Paris” thing. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, especially if you happen to land there on one of the cold, cloudy, rainy, miserable days. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Paris, I did, but I would have enjoyed it way more had it been say 70° and sunny.

We arrived in Paris in the early afternoon, but by the time we got to our hotel it was around 3:00 p.m. The cab driver who brought us from the airport was pointing out historic sites along the way, even though his English, and our French, were equally deplorable. He showed us where Princess Diana was killed but the cab driver who took the rest of the team showed them a different spot. I’m not calling anyone a fibber, I’m just saying. This is our view from the cab of the Arc de Triomphe, the traffic, and the rain.

Our first order of business was to get lunch/dinner. We had already changed time zones by three hours so we were hungry for some kind of a meal even if we didn’t know what to call it. We walked a few blocks down the street to a Brassiere, which is apparently, something like a café. There is no such thing as a “quick” French meal so we just sat and enjoyed a little debriefing of our trip. The server asked us about dessert but we’d passed a French bakery on our way to dinner so we declined with the idea of stopping for pastries on our way back to our hotel. It seems the pastry shop didn’t serve coffee, or have tables, but there was a coffee shop next door that we were told would let you bring in your goodies and get some coffee to go with them. I didn’t really care what we did, as long as I didn’t have to stand outside in the rain. So, basically, we spent our first three hours in France working our way from one restaurant to the next. Not a bad gig, especially in Paris.

We went back to the hotel to add a few layers of clothing and determine the best way to tackle the city. One of our team members was sick so she opted out of the tour, leaving just four of us. We decided that the best plan was to find a cabbie that would drive us around, show us the major sites, and then drop us off at the Eiffel Tower. We asked for a cabbie that spoke English but apparently the request lost something in the translation. If he did know much English, he hid it well. Still, it beat walking in what felt to us like sub-zero temperatures.

I realized as we drove around that my camera was running out of battery power so my picture taking was somewhat limited. I tried to save what was left of my battery for pictures of the Eiffel Tower. It would just be wrong to go to Paris and come home without one picture of the famous icon. After we got dropped off at the Eiffel Tower we decided to get tickets to go up the elevator on the inside. This is where the rain and the cold, I believe, worked to our advantage. My son, who is an inter-continental pilot, tells me that every time he’s been to Paris, the line at the Eiffel Tower is two to three hours long. We, however, walked straight to the ticket window (after weaving our way through the barriers that are set up for the days when there actually is a line.) We had two choices; we could take the elevator to the second level (not to be confused with the second story) or, for a few more dollars, we could go to the very top. Though I hated to miss the thrill of going to the very top, we all determined that it would be just too cold to do so and thus, we settled on going to the second level, which, as it turns out, was plenty high enough to see everything I really needed, or wanted, to see. I suspect that if you go to the very top, you can probably see London, or possibly, New York.

In spite of the cold, nasty weather, I would still have to say, I loved Paris. I can even see why there is song about loving Paris in the springtime. It is a fun, beautiful, city and I hope I get to go back someday. And, say what you will about the Paris people but, I won’t soon forget the kind woman at the pharmacy who removed a wayward nail from my shoe. (Seriously, who manages to get a nail stuck straight up into their shoe while getting out of a cab?)

The warm shower that ended my day in Paris was second only to my own bed after arriving home the next day. Well, that, and being able to see my husband again after ten days apart. All in all, it was a great trip. Hopefully, I’ll get some Armenia pictures up in the next couple of days. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Five Minnesota Evangelists Discover Noah’s Ark

O.K., so we didn’t really discover Noah’s Ark; and we technically aren’t evangelists but we DID go to Mt. Ararat today. We actually visited two different monasteries, one at the base of Ararat.

I must say that today was the first day I wondered if I’d make it out of Armenia alive. As we headed south out of Yerevan we got into a traffic jam at a round-about that had me convinced that I would either die there or live there for the rest of my life. Armenians don’t like to give up their spot. We did eventually get through the traffic though and the rest of the drive was spectacular. The mountains reminded me of the Colorado Rockies and at one point we were in a gorge with huge vertical walls of rock on both sides. The falling rock warnings took on new meaning when we saw a boulder the size of the average house lying next to the road creating a bridge – useful only for giants - over the mountain stream.

Our first stop was at a monastery called Noravank. I bought a little book to bring home so I could read all about its history and tell you about it, but when I went to read it tonight I realized it’s all written in Italian. That’s helpful! At least there are some pretty pictures inside. But, I can tell you that this monastery was built in 900 A.D. out of stone that was imported from another region. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to get that stone through the gorge and up the mountain in the middle of nowhere. The chapel of the monastery had steps outside of it which provided the only way up to the sanctuary. We asked about the elevator but apparently they didn’t build elevators in 900 A.D. The steps were about 14” wide and quite steep. Only one of our team members, Marie, braved the climb and said it was beautiful inside. That’s nice. I’m not generally afraid of heights, and I actually came very close to climbing the steps, but then my brain kicked into gear; that, and the fact that I could hear both my mother’s and my husband’s voice saying “don’t even think about it, Nancy.”

We also went into a mausoleum where the former kings of Armenia are buried. I always feel bad in a mausoleum because there is no way to walk around without stepping on someone’s grave. I feel like I need to continually apologize to the dead for stepping on their final resting place. But, the acoustics in that place were second to none so three of us stood and sang the doxology, in harmony. Wow, if we could always sound that good, we’d probably be famous. Too bad we can’t carry that mausoleum around with us.

Our next stop was Khor Virap which is very near the base of Mt. Ararat. The story goes that this is where St. Gregory the Illuminator was thrown in the dungeon for 13 years amongst poisonous reptiles. Every day a widow brought him bread on which he sustained life. One day, the king of Armenia was on his death bed and St. Gregory was summoned to pray for him. After Gregory prayed, the king was healed and then declared Armenia a Christian nation.

Our time here ended with dinner at an Italian restaurant. I know when a lot of people travel to foreign countries they only want to eat food from that country. I’m not one of those people and thoroughly enjoyed my spaghetti tonight.

Tomorrow we fly to Paris, where sadly we have a 20 hour layover before our flight home. Rats, we’ll have to go do a little sightseeing there. Please note my dripping sarcasm. I most likely won’t have internet access while in Paris so this will end my posts until my feet hit the American soil I know and love.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bjni - Easier to Pronounce than Tsaghkadzor

Today was our last day of ministry here in Armenia. We were in a little village outside of Yerevan called Bjni. If I’m not mistaken it’s pronounced something like buh-juh-knee, but some of us just call it Benji.

The church in Bjni went all out to make it a special day for their women. First off, they cancelled their normal Sunday service so that they could have more time with us. It is HUGE that they would do that. On the other hand, the churches are 70% women so it only seems right. They had also put a lot of effort into decorating the church to make it look special, complete with fresh flowers, banners and organza. The Armenians are very hospitable and treat their guests like royalty.

There were a few men who helped today and all of them were dressed in suits. I think it would be very uncommon for them to come to church in anything less. Even one little 18 month old boy I met was in a suit. Actually it was more of a tuxedo complete with tails! So cute! One man who was helping with music managed to find the canned applause key on the keyboard and as our team was introduced he’d turn it up as each member stood. It cracked me up.

At the end of the six-hour “mini-conference” we spent about a half-hour or more of time praying for the women individually. Later we were told that it was very unusual for them to be so open and ask for prayer like that. What an incredible time.

After a great day of ministry we were invited to the pastor’s house for dinner. The quantity of food at an American Thanksgiving dinner pales in comparison to what the Armenians put out for their guests. When we arrived the table was already filled with meat trays, platters of cucumbers and tomatoes, three or four different salads, greens, pickles, olives, boiled eggs, anise leaves, parsley, cheese and lots and lots of lavash bread. THEN, they brought in barbecued chicken and pork with potatoes. They barbecue in an oven dug into the ground, which is where they also make their lavash bread. After the chicken and pork they brought in plates of cooked greens that they pick in the mountains. It looks kind of like cooked spinach but tastes a wee bit better. I didn’t have any tonight but it’s been served several times since our arrival. Next came two whole chickens that they had butchered from their yard. And just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be more food, they brought out blinis, which are kind of like a crepe with some kind of meat. They can also be filled with sweet fillings but tonight they had some kind of pork. They are quite good.

But wait, we aren’t through. Just before we called the paramedics to come and take us out on stretchers they brought out pastries and some kind of homemade dessert. And, don’t be thinking they’ve cleared the table off at all. Oh no; they just set the newly arriving plates on top of the ones already on the table. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. We weren’t done yet though. Next came two platters of fresh fruit! AND, after all of that there were trays of wrapped candies. It was like the dinner that wouldn’t end. Some of the team enjoyed thick Armenian coffee which is why they are still up with me tonight as I write this. All in all we were there for two and half hours! In addition to the great quantities of food, we enjoyed great conversation and learned so much about Armenia and the persecution the Christians have faced here.

Our last day here will be spent doing a bit our touring before we head home. It will be hard to leave, but I do look forward to being home again. If I could just drop over every few days and be home in time for a cucumber-free dinner, that would be perfect.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Kisses and Cucumbers

What do kisses and cucumbers have in common? They are both in plentiful supply here in Armenia. EVERY meal, with the exception of breakfast, includes a bowl of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. The other thing served at every Armenian meal is lavash bread. Lavash bread looks somewhat like a tortilla but tastes more like lefse, without the butter and sugar. In my opinion, you can wrap just about anything in bread and it’ll taste better, so that’s what I did with all those cucumbers and tomatoes. My friends will tell you that I’m not a huge fan of vegetables so the fact that I’m eating cucumbers and tomatoes at all is somewhat of a miracle. But hey, it’s a mission trip. We expect miracles.

We finished our leadership conference in Tsaghkadzor early this afternoon (now yesterday as I get ready to post this.) The worship team at the conference did such an awesome job. I’d be the first one to tell you that I think the worship team at my church is unbeatable, and I generally whine a little when I have to be away from my church on a Sunday. But, this team here in Armenia was every bit as good and they weren’t even singing in English! I love spending time in worship with people of a different culture. It usually dissolves me into tears when I picture every tribe and nation surrounding the throne of God singing praises to Him in one tongue that we can all understand. I do try to sing along part of the time hoping that as I mimic the words the others are singing, I’m not really mispronouncing them in a manner that turns them into a swear word. One word that seems to transcend every language is Hallelujah so when I hear that I can sing, sing, sing.

Our day ended with a time of prayer. Many of the women asked for prayer as they take the step to start a women’s ministry program in their own church. Our purpose, throughout this conference was to empower them to do just that so it was exciting to know that they were ready to begin such a ministry. But one of the last women I prayed with asked that I pray for her to be healed from depression. She literally sobbed in my arms as we prayed together. I know that she is safely in the arms of God as she struggles through this time in her life, and I have all the confidence in the world that He will pull her out of the valley she’s in, but in my humanness, it was hard to leave knowing that I wouldn’t be able to give her phone calls of encouragement or go out to coffee with her next week to see how she’s doing.

As for those kisses I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post; they were plentiful as we hugged the women good-bye. It was hard to leave these amazing women who are seeking to serve God and change their world. I will miss them.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Desperately Seeking Sleep

There is a day, during most every mission trip I’ve been on, when I hit a wall. I get so exhausted that I feel as though I have nothing left to give. That happened to me yesterday. Thus, there was no blog update last night. My one goal when we got back to the hotel was to climb into bed as quickly as possible. So, before I leave this morning I am taking a few minutes to write about our day.

Yesterday we packed up our bags and headed up into the mountains near Yerevan to a small village called Tsaghkadzor. As far as I can determine, it is next to impossible for an American to pronounce the name properly. As we drove in it reminded me of a little Swiss Village. Mind you, I’ve never seen a Swiss village, but this is what I imagine it looking like; simply a beautiful area.

A few of the women who were at our conference in Jermuk are also here in Tsaghkadzor. One of them seems to, as she puts it, “have a special love” for me. She is very sweet. When the team was introduced yesterday and it was my turn to stand up she waved at me from the back of the room. It was so cute and reminded me of how my dad used to wave at me from the audience during my elementary school programs. Of course, then I was humiliated, in a proud kind of way.

I learned a few important things yesterday. First of all, I learned that when you spill some of your breakfast on the tank top under your jacket, simply turning it around and wearing it backwards will suffice, and make it look like you just pulled it out of the suitcase.

I also learned that when you are really tired you can close your eyes in a way that makes it look like you are praying for the speaker, when in fact you are sleeping. Of course, if your mouth falls open, your head bobs, or you start to snore, you will be found out. And, it’s not advisable to do this while standing up. I will not divulge how I learned this information.

Most importantly, I learned that God is faithful. That in our weakness and fatigue He is strong. This morning I read Psalm 23 and this verse jumped out at me. Psalm 23:3 says “He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” And so, I go out today, knowing that He will give me strength for whatever is in store for this day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beyond Blessed

To say that I’m exhausted would be an understatement but it’s a good kind of exhaustion. We were up early today to start a two and a half hour drive to Jermuk – a little town northeast of Yerevan. We were tempted to catch up on our sleep during our drive but the countryside was so beautiful that we didn’t want to miss it. The mountains are peaked with snow, and we made some pretty tight hairpin turns as we weaved our way to our destination. We stopped once for water and I was trying to take a picture of the scenery when one of the merchants called for me to come into what appeared to be her apartment. I wasn’t quite sure why she wanted me to come in but I followed her knowing that the whole team was watching me and waiting for my return. (I put that part in for my mother – she worries.) When we got to the other side of her room I realized why she had beckoned me in. She had a deck in the back with a gorgeous view of the mountain and the river running right past her back door. I was so touched that she chose to share it with me.

Once we arrived in Jermuk we were told that the women here have never had any type of women’s conference before. They were so excited for our arrival and welcomed us in for tea, with more cookies and fruit than we could possibly eat. All of the women who served us were so very gracious.

When I walked into the worship center before we started I looked down and saw the handouts for my talk printed out in Armenian. I was so overwhelmed that God would use me to teach these women that I literally went in the bathroom and wept. (Well, I needed to use it anyway, so I figured I might as well get the weeping out of my system while I was there.)

Before we started the conference today I had a chance to go around the room, accompanied by my translator, and meet some of the participants. My husband always tells me that I can work a room like a politician but it was so much fun to meet the women. Armenians are a very kissy bunch and when they greet you they will usually kiss you on your cheek. At least the women do that; I’m not sure about the men. I think I was kissed more today than I’m generally kissed in a year. It would be impossible not to love them. What a sweet group of women. They all shared how grateful they are for us being here but, I knew even then that the blessing would be ours as much, if not more, than it would be theirs.

Two of us spoke this morning. Lisa spoke on Becoming a Woman of Destiny and I spoke on Hearing God’s Voice. During the break after our morning session we had the opportunity to spend some time ministering to the women. It was easy to see that Armenian women aren’t all that different from American women. Their hurts, concerns, fears, wishes, hopes and dreams are very much the same as the women I talk to back home. Women talked to me about how their children had walked away from God, or about how they wanted to be used by God in ministry, or their depression, or their marriages. I was so grateful that God gave me words when I didn’t have a clue what to say.

The day ended with Carol Lund, the director of Women’s Ministry for the Assemblies of God in Minnesota, speaking about the treasures that God puts in our lives followed by more time for prayer with the women. I feel beyond blessed as we head back to the Bed and Breakfast tonight. There is so much more I could share but I’m sure you’d get worn out reading it all and besides, these hairpin turns and pot holes are starting to affect my typing.

Tomorrow we head to Tsaghkadzor (just try to pronounce that) to start our retreat time there. If you are so led, I know our whole team would appreciate your prayers; especially Lisa, who is still waiting for her luggage to arrive.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Think it's Tuesday

I think it’s Tuesday. I always get a little confused when I change countries. But, according to our schedule, and my computer, it is indeed Tuesday. We spent today touring around Yerevan. At this current moment, my feet feel as though we walked every square inch of the city, but I’m fairly certain that we only saw a small bit of it.

Our first stop was a coffee shop/bookstore where we had an orientation brunch with our host. It was truly quite humbling to hear how excited the area churches are about us being here. One of the churches we’ll be speaking at has even cancelled their regular Sunday services to invest in their women! I think I even heard that the men are making dinner for us that night!

It demonstrates for me, once again, how much I take for granted in the United States. If I chose to, I could most likely find some type of Christian women’s conference or event to attend every weekend. I might have to leave the state of Minnesota, but I’m sure it could be done. That is not the case here in Armenia. It is a rare event, and a privilege for these women to be able to attend. That God would choose me to be a part of this blesses me more than I can express.

After our orientation, we visited a few shops, saw the Republic Square and eventually made our way around to the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. The art exhibit is housed in a building called the Cascade that was started during Soviet occupation and left unfinished for many years. It’s hard to describe this building. It basically fits into a hillside. Each layer (of which there are several) represent a time in Armenian history. If you’ve ever been to the Minneapolis airport you may have been on the extended escalator that takes you from the tunnel level, past the baggage level, up to the ticketing area. It’s a long escalator that basically “skips” a level on the way up. That is the approximate length of each escalator we took, and we rode on five of them. There were a total of seven, but five got us as far up as we needed to go. The other two escalators continued to take you to the top of the hill and they are used to connect one part of the city to the other. Once we reached the top we had a fabulous view of the city and of Mt. Ararat. Unfortunately, at the exact moment we got to the top it started to rain and hail.

As an interesting side note, Mr.Cafesjian is also part owner of D’amico and Sons restaurants and foods, and he owns the carousel at the Como zoo in St. Paul;.

We finished off the day with a traditional Armenia dinner at our host family’s home. The main dish was called dolma which consists of ground beef, rice, and spices wrapped in grape leaves. It was quite delicious.

And now, it’s time for bed. Tomorrow will be a long, but fulfilling day.

Oh, one more thing. I forgot the cable for my camera to upload pictures so you'll have to wait until my return home for a few photos. - Sorry, kind of, Pictures take a long time to load so maybe it's best.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Incredible Opportunity

As I write this blog, I’m sitting in the Paris airport waiting for a connecting flight to Yerevan, Armenia. I’m with a team of five women traveling together on a mission trip to do leadership training for the Armenian women.

As is my modus operandi, I was up late last night finishing up the packing, trying to figure out what kind of clothes I’d need, where I’d put my European converter, how much would my suitcase weigh, etc. I seem to travel quite a bit so you’d think I’d be good at packing by now, but not so much. As it turns out, the temperature today is 43° F. I am woefully unprepared for that temperature so hopefully it’ll be a little warmer once we get to Yerevan.

By the time I finally crawled into bed last night (well, technically it was early this morning) my mind was still racing when my body was supposed to be settling in for a few hours of sleep. I got to thinking about the incredible opportunities I’ve had to travel on mission trips. If you had told me ten years ago that in a few short years I would have visited Southeast Asia, Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa, Russia and now Armenia, I would have scoffed. Never in my wildest dreams would I believe God would call me to these amazing countries.

It was two and half years ago when God first called me to go to Armenia. When I told my husband, John, about God’s call he said, “Is it safe there?” Well, I had no idea. Truth be told I didn’t even know where Armenia was located. All I knew was that God had called me and I planned to go. When I contemplated this last night I realized that even if it wasn’t a “safe” area, I would still follow God’s call. This kind of thinking scares my mother. But seriously, how could I possibly say no to God? That doesn’t seem very smart. In the book of Isaiah the Lord promises that if we follow Him we will be His light and we’ll have His protection. Isaiah 58:8 says “. . . then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

As it turns out, Armenia is a fairly safe country. In fact, during our flight I read through the Team Manual (which I probably should have read sooner) and found out that Armenia officially accepted Christianity as its national religion in 301 AD, making it the first Christian nation. They celebrated 1700 years of Christianity in 2001. Imagine the history! It is even believed that two of Christ’s apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, planted churches in Armenia on their missionary journeys.

As for where Armenia is located; it’s an itty-bitty country located east of Turkey, north of Iran, west of Azerbaijan and south of Georgia. It also borders Mt. Ararat, which as you know, is where Noah’s Ark landed after the great flood.

As I mentioned earlier, while we are here, we’ll be doing leadership training and helping with some worship nights for women. I am so excited for what God is going to do. I will, hopefully, be blogging throughout the week so please check back to see what’s happening. In the meantime, the team and I would covet your prayers.