Friday, September 28, 2007

September 28, 2007 - Pictures

Robin holding one of the babies of a less active member's family we were visiting.

Robin with some of the women who own the goats.

Me and more goats. I DID get some flea bites and now
own a fresh bottle of 100% deet insect repellent!

Over looking the town we live in. Reminds me of a
song we've all heard, "This is My Town"

September 28, 2007 from John

Hello, Maa Ha Ba

Thought I would do a quick check in. Robin and I are well and enjoying our assignment. We are learning just a little Arabic each day (sway ya). The weather here is still hot in the low 90's. We expect it to change in about a month to the lower 70's. This tine of year is the Muslim 30 day fast called "Ramadan." They don't eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. If you are caught doing so in public, you go to local jail and pay a fine regardless of if you are Muslim or not. We make sure we get a break at our home at lunch time! We have found some wonderful people here who want to accomplish the same things we do in helping their people. We have also found some who are dishonest and out to get what ever they can. It's amazing what a crooked smile will tell you. The people out in the desert area villages are great. They want to feed you and talk forever, but we sometime must leave before they try and give us all the food they have. We will soon be the only two Americans in the town we live in. The other missionaries that are serving in northern Jordan are going home in a few months. We are used to the double take looks we get when we are out among the people. We are also aware of the anti-western feeling the Palestinian people have for us and we don't go near any Palestinian refugee villages. There is a history of western influenced aggression through Israel, that these people always keep in their minds. Israel is a subject you never bring up, even though Jordan is the most neutral of the middle eastern countries. This country is a melting pot for refugees and militant Muslims, due to its more free society and laws. King Abdullah is smart to stay neutral in middle eastern politics and have open door policies towards the US. With this he gets a lot of aid and trade benefits from us and our allies. We will try and partner with a recognized charitable organization to accomplish things that assist the people to become self sufficient and less reliant on aid. Things don't change much around the world when it comes to welfare. The people out in the country and desert villages who have nothing and work everyday are the ones who hardly have anything. They are the ones that accomplish the most and are most appreciative of the help. Many of those that live in the cities (but not all) are the ones that want you to just hand them things and not have to work for it. Over all, we enjoy the new associations we are having and have met many wonderful people we now call our friends. Just a note...IT IS AS DRY and AS ARID YOU SEE ON TV.....Well enough of humanitarian politics. Hope all is well with each of you and if you get a chance email us back. We appreciate all you do.

Keef Hal ik from Jordan

Keef HAL ik (How are you?)

It’s hard to believe we have been here in Jordan for three weeks. We have learned a lot and still have so much more to learn. We have been trying to get our home office organized. Going thru folders and getting familiar with all the Organizations and what has been done in this area. We have been going out every day to several areas visiting and getting to know the different leaders of the Organizations we might team up with. The other day we met with a Dr. Zaid, Vice Director of the King Abdullah University Hospital, which is the biggest hospital in Northern Jordan, a very impressive man. In fact, he is the most educated and sharp individual we have met with. What is most interesting and surprising is that he had attended BYU in Provo, Utah for several years soon after he got married. Imagine that? What are the chances of meeting a Jordanian here that went to BYU? We would really enjoy the opportunity to work with Dr. Zaid and the hospital. We will meet with him again soon. We went to our first Engagement Party. It’s a big deal. It’s like any big formal reception back in the states. It’s the custom for the groom’s family to throw a big party with dancing and loud music (and I mean loud!) So the groom can show off his “bride to be” and shower her with jewelry. Lots and lots of gold jewelry…. rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. It was fun to watch the groom try and put the earrings in his fiancĂ©e ears.

We had to laugh. He was getting so frustrated. The men here are usually in their mid 30’s before they get married and they usually marry someone in their early 20’s. They have to save up to impress a young ladies family. Most all the marriages are arranged between the parents with the help of extended family members. But all have to be in agreement. Even the Arabic men that are raised in the States or in Europe will come back and go through this procedure with the hope they can get their new bride back into the country they came from. And that is not easy. Many wives are left here for years waiting to get clearance to join their husbands. They are very proud people and want to keep their traditions alive. Many cousins marry each other. We have felt very welcome here. I think about you, Sarah, every time we are greeted by someone. The reeting here is always one kiss on the left check and then the right 2 or 3 kisses or whatever the person decides. Sometimes it seems like a hundred. But men don’t kiss woman and women don’t kiss men. I give a hand shake to the men but they always wait for me to extend my hand first. It is an honor for them if I shake their hand. Most women are very hesitant and some won’t shake a man’s hand except in the church.

We talked in church today and had one of the members translate it into Arabic. His name is Emad Abwi. But we call him Brother Emad. Good man. Everyone in Jordan is address by their first name. Even in a professional environment, it is Dr. Mohammad or Mr. Mohammad. (There are so many with that name) But the proper or formal way in Jordan, is addressing you through your oldest son. My name would be translated as, “Mother of Aaron ” or “Um thar Aaron”

This past week we went to one of the Catholic churches in one of the small mountains cities. We meet with Father Joseph and Mother Superior Maria. This is our second visit with them. We will be returning again this Wednesday and check on the possibilities to help them with the orphanage that they a building. They also operate a school that the Christian children of that community attend. We understand there is a big division between the Christians and Muslim since 9/11. Yes, even in this small city they have been greatly affected by 9/11. Father Joseph is a wonderful man and he works very hard to help all people. He has very little to work with. Dad is excited to go back and personally fix the play ground (garden, as they would say) that is in hambles. Fix the broken windows in the school before winter sets in. You should have seen his eyes gleam. I could read his thoughts. “Oh, I can fix this!” He is already making his list to put a “Humanitarian tool kit” together. I’m actually a little surprised that there isn’t something like that here already. But, I guess it is because it hasn’t been too long that Humanitarian missionaries, or I should say “Volunteers” have been allowed in this country. Since we are the Country Directors, we can change that.

We miss you all. It is always so wonderful to get your e-mails and read about what everyone is doing. We often reflect on the wonderful memories that we have. Those precious memories have carried us through those times when we have felt alone and misplaced. I certainly have a greater appreciation for my children, who left home to go to a far away land to serve the Lord and the people of that country. Thank you, thank you, for being our example. We have felt so blessed to feel you support and love as we are away from you. We continue to pray for you all and our thoughts are always with you.

Our quote for the week: We must not only give what we have; We must also give what we are. Desire-Joseph Mercier

Monday, September 24, 2007

Just Checking In

We have been busy and really enjoying ourselves. This is like a vacation after the weeks we had just before we left. We sure appreciate all the support from each of you. We don't have everyone's email addresses and wish you to forward this along to everyone. Sure do love you all...

Love Elder and Sister Cotton

Saturday, September 22, 2007

September 22, from John

Everyone, (Mostly my sons and son in laws)

Sure do love you and thought I would share some everyday events with you about driving here in Al Husn and northern Jordan. Lets start with driving. All the main roads are all torn up all the time. (Ben, this one is for you)... Just when you find a nice stretch of highway where you can get to really get going, you begin to think of police and speeding tickets (you see, I'm doing about 120 kilometers now) OUT of no where there is a *SPEED BUMP* across the entire road. No warning, no markers, no signs... just skid marks. These suckers are about 12 inches tall and not tapered!!! Who needs COPS when you got unannounced speed breakers? I hit one the other night coming back from a desert town at about *70 MPH*. I am a believer in Honda suspensions and straight momentum....

Now lets talk about traffic lights. The lights are strategically placed so when you stop, you can't see them turn green. No worry, because the car behind you can see the light and he will lay on his horn and give hand gestures when the light turns! I have a new game I play. I watch the traffic from the oncoming sides begin to slow down and I try to time the green light. So far I'm beating about 1 out of every 3 horns. Your mother gets kinda scared when an on coming driver tries to beat his yellow light and it turns red on his side. There are a lot of skid marks in the intersection. That's a dead give away, it's a quick turning light! I'm catching on!

Where there is a divided highway, don't miss your left turn exit, because there is a concrete barrier between the other side and you won't get a chance to turn around for about 10 miles. They make them just high enough that your car will bottom out just as you center it, leaving you straddled. We see cars all the time with 6+ people out pushing and pulling while cars go by blowing their horns.

Let's talk about painted lane lines. At least I thought that's what the were. Rather, I have come to know these are for centering your car over for quick lane maneuvering. Don't expect a blinker because most are broken and if he's in front of you, he's got you right where he wants you! I've come to know Everyone wants to be in front. The painted lane lines just mean you can get 4 cars in 2 lanes battling for the lead.....For Real!! If it's a one lane road then 3 cars all pull up to a light and it reminds me of when we were in high school drag racing down South Cobb Drive from light to light. Occasionally I find myself in the front line and enjoy pushing the Honda civic up to 6000 RPMs in between shifts to clear the mess behind me. Not much of a race when you're up against 20 year old Datsuns. Your Mom just says...JOHN !! and grins.

You don't have to worry about deer running out in front of you because they don't exist. In fact I don't think we have seen anything dead on the road. BUT look out for loose goats and stray sheep while your driving out away from the cities. They think they own the road. A ram goat *WILL * protect his flock and literally butt your car. Dodge Ram Pickup trucks got nothing on these guys!!! Well say hello to the police on the Watterson and be thankful for no unannounced speed breakers...
Love Dad

Friday, September 21, 2007

September 21, 2007 from Robin

Marr HA-ba (Hello) to you…. our dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well with all of you wonderful people. The shock of being here is slowly wearing off. It’s so interesting how ones perspective changes with time. I have little trouble now going down the streets smelling the smells and seeing whole skinned goats or sheep (striped of all their dignity) hanging from store to store. As we walk the streets of Al Husan, the small Jordanian town we live in, we also pass cages and cages of live chickens waiting to be freshly purchased and prepared for someone’s dinner The market stands are everywhere at this time of the year. Fresh produce lined up all along the highways. Now, I have to admit that this produce is not what you are use to seeing in the nice clean grocery stores or even the produce stands in the states. After we purchase our vegetables and fruits we take it home and give it a clorox bath. Then let it air dry. Safe to eat?

We are getting around fairly well now. We have traveled to other areas of Jordan this week visiting NGO’s (Non-profit Organizations). We were up northeast close to the Syria and Iraq borders earlier in the week. Yesterday, we traveled to the Jordan Valley (Waddie, as they put it) the area down along where the Jordan River runs separating Jordan and Palestine (Israel). The lowest point on earth, supposedly. A beautiful valley nestled among mountains! We stopped and visited Jacob’s Tel in a small community called Dayrala, meaning city of God. This is where, as tradition has it; Jacob and Esau meet for the first time since Jacob was given the birth right. While there, we had the opportunity to visit a Center that takes care and schools some of the younger poor children of that area. Such sweet little faces! They all wanted to shake the American’s hands. There were about 80 or so children between the ages of 3-5. When I looked into some of their eyes I couldn’t help but think of my sweet grandchildren back in the states. How very blessed we are! I’m so grateful that my grandchildren have such wonderful homes to live in. To have 2 loving parents who are in a position to can take care of them and bless their lives with so much.

We experienced our first “check point”. Road blocks set up, searching for terrorists. When they realized we were Americans, the soldiers nodded, smiled and let us go without any problems. We nodded back as we passed a camouflage jeep-like tank with a soldier manning a machine gun ready for action. A bit intimidating, don’t you think?

As I sit here and write I’m listening to two different sounds. (Remember Friday is the Sabbath day here in the Middle East.) In the distance I hear the chimes of the Catholic Church. And then the “call to pray” from the Mosques. It is such a stirring sound echoing from tower to tower. Today is starting the 2nd week of Ramadan. It has been a real learning experience for us concerning this culture. As I mention in my last letter there is no eating during the daylight hours. They fast for about a month. We were warned that if anyone if found eating in public during Ramadan, Muslin or not, they go to jail! We found out that a young man from our little branch was locked up for a day because he was caught either drinking or eating in public. So we hide in our apartment away from any windows to eat our meals. We are having a good time with this!

As we travel through this holy land of Jordan we are constantly amazed at where we are.

Sometimes it feels like we are going back in time. As we drive in our white Honda Civic we pass many small communities of Bedouin tents with small herds of sheep. Out in the middle of a dry barren field these people set up their tents made from large goat hair blankets. In the summer the weave is very open and when it rains it absorbs the moisture which closes the weave and locks out the rain or cold. Quite impressive! Some stay in the same area for months and some for years. Most of the permanent homes are made of concrete (bullet proof) and have flat roofs. It is the dream of every father to have his sons’ build a home on top of his. So, in many instances we see 3-5 levels of houses built on top of each other. The apartment we live in has this concept in mind. Our land lady is a widow and all her sons live somewhere else. She hopes one day that at least one of her sons will come back and live above her.

Everything here is the same color……the color of dirt, dry sandy dirt. The homes are the color of dirt. The ground is the color of dirt. There is very little green at this time of year. The only green is the trees. But the trees here are a very drab green. Every where you look you see olive trees. They are not very big trees. But yesterday while in the Jordan Valley we saw many very large olive trees that are said to date back to the time of Christ. Over 2 thousand years old. What an impressive sight!!!

We are enjoying the time we have together. It is such a blessing for us to work and learn together. There is so much to learn about this culture and these beautiful gracious people. We have been here a little less than 2 weeks now. It’s hard to believe. We are working on our Arabic. John is doing so well in trying to communicate with the people.

I’m also learning some words and phrases. Everyone is so encouraging and try to help us speak and pronounce the words. We have laughed a lot at each other. Arabic is not the easiest language to learn. I’m sot sure if I’ll ever be able to read it. It all looks like “chicken scratch” done in cursive.

We love you and pray for all of you. May you continually feel the presence of the Lord in your homes and families. And may you feel His love and direction guide your lives to experience success and much happiness throughout this week. “In SHA ala” (God willing)

With love from the Holy Land of Jordan,

Elder and Sister Cotton

September 21, 2007 from John

We love you and Hope that you enjoy our communications. Your mother is working on another email with more details. This one I wrote almost kilt me....Remember"'I'm show me a picture and just tell me you love" ....Love dad

By the way, I'll never complain about the US roads again and I always will know which way the wind blows from the looks of the cedar trees!!

Everyone, MARR Ha Ba (Hello)

Hope this finds all of you and your sweet wives well. We have been busy getting use to the country and the culture. We live in a small town in northern Jordan named AL Husn. The middle eastern people are as peculiar and customadic as we thought they were. We have come to find out that we as Americans are as as proud and arrogant as they think were are. Boy! I'm already a different thinker.

They have their customs and cultural lifestyles that only generations will change. We stepped back 800 years when it comes to customs and culture here. Our living conditions are very favorable, so we will not complain. We are getting into this NGO contacting and finding they know who we are and what we got and how they can get it !! Unfortunately some of the NGO are dishonest, Can you believe it !! Fortunately we have come across some that are the Salt of The Earth when it Comes to helping their communities. We are trying to partner with them as possible. I was called into the Branch Presidency of the North Jordan Branch (35 members). We keep a low profile and don't proselyte nor talk about the Church. The Mo Ha Ba rot, or secret police will start calling us in to ask why we aren't out giving things away, because they know what we are suppose to be doing. I guess it's like that in some of your areas. We have been blessed with visiting some of the sights that are recorded in the Old Testament. Yesterday we visited a NGO Day care in Day Ra la in the Jordan Valley, North of the Dead Sea. Historians here in Jordan say this city was once named Succoth where Jacob meet his brother twin Esau. (Remember Esau sold his birth right and Jacob became the firstborn.) Jacob had not seen his brother since. They made up with each other here in this village. We could see the river Jordan in the distance and Israel to our west. The "West Back" is not much to fight over, but the beautiful fertile Jordan valley is. They call it the "bread basket" of the middle east. Vegetables can be grown here all year long! attached some pictures so you can see mountains on both sides of the valley. This is also the area that the Israelites crossed over the Jordan going into the land of Canaan. I could just imagine the Israelites all lined up on this side of the river getting ready to cross over into their promised land. Please keep us up to date with your activities as possible. We enjoyed your friendship in the MTC and expect it to continue.

Sincerely John and Robin Cotton

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just Checking In

We love you and hope all is well. Yesterday we we near the Border to the north visiting a NGO and thought you would like to see the areas we work in. Your Mother will give you a full account later. She is the detail person. Me I'm just "just show me a picture" kind of guy and tell me you love me!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Your Jordan Missionaries

We attended our first Sacrament meeting in Jordan. Yes, it is Friday, but it is the Muslim observed “Holy Day” so here in the Middle East our Sabbath is Friday. We walk to church because most of the members do not have cars so they either walk, take a taxi or bus. We are very fortunate to have a car but we felt it would be better if we put ourselves in their shoes. Our little branch reminds us of the beginnings of the Carrolton Branch only in Arabic and some culture opportunities. We were asked to bare our testimony in church and had a translator help us. It was so sweet to look down at those humble members and feel their excitement of having new missionaries again. We have felt so welcomed and have been treated like royalty. We have visited many of the members over the last few days. Such humble people! One of the members, a sweet little sister about 60 years old, named Sister Sameer (everyone is addressed by their first name) lives in the oldest building in Erbid. I felt like I went back in time. We walked down a rock path that you could almost picture Christ himself would have waked down. We entered a small court like area through a wooded oval door. A lemon tree growing up through rock and dirt whose branches spread over the small area. We came to another door that took us into a one room house where she has lived almost her life. Very humble circumstances…. “The widows Mite”. She had prepared for our visit all day. She gave us probably every thing she had. I felt so humble watching her serve us with such pleasure. What a wonderful experience to see that kind of love and service in action.

Every day we hear the “call” to pray. As we look out over the city there are many towers with huge speakers announcing prayer 5 times throughout the day. This Thursday started the holiday called Ramadan which the Muslims fast all day from sun up to sun down every year which lasts for almost a month. No one can eat! We are told not to be seen eating during the day. Everything closes down in the afternoon so people start preparing the big meal when the fast ends for that day. Around 6:00 p.m. you don’t see any one outside. The streets are empty and businesses are closed….. they are all inside eating. About 8:30 p.m. the city comes alive again. I’ve never seen anything like it it’s one big street party. Everyone, including the women and children are all out in the streets till early in the morning. Then the next day repeats the same as the day before.

We are getting settled in our apartment and it’s feeling more like home. We have to use our water very sparingly. There is a big tank on the roof and it gets filled once a week. We also have to turn on a hot water switch when we want hot water to start the boiler to get hot water in the pipes. We buy our drinking water in big 5 gal jugs because the water is not safe to drink or cook with. It’s been interesting to adapt to our new culture. The market places are taking a while to get use too. Things are not very clean here and we have to be very careful in what we eat and how we prepare it. Brings back a lot of memories from the days we spent in Pakistan.

Well, I just wanted to share a few of our experiences here in Jordan. It’s late and we have another very busy day tomorrow. We are meeting with some of the NGO’s (Non Profit Organizations) that we will be working with. We will also be teaching an English class starting tomorrow. We are learning a lot and praying a lot.

We sure love you . We feel your support and love every day. The Lord has blessed us so much. We are all constantly having the opportunities to grow and learn through our individual experiences. Gratefully, we are not on our own! So......onward we go! You are the best!

Love Elder and Sister Cotton

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We are HERE!

WE are here,
After spending two days in Amman, we are in AL Husn. This city is approx 60 miles north of Amman. We found our apartment (pictures above) and mom is in the process of tearing it apart and cleaning to her standard. I am trying to learn where all the computer files are and how things work. We have another couple here (the Dews) who are helping us get acclimated where this area. The culture shock should hit about Friday! We miss you all and look forward to the emails. We hope all the birthdays and other events we have missed all went well. We love you all.....Dad

To all of you.....

As Dad said we are finally here and trying to settle in our apartment. It is very nice. We almost feel we are in a little palace looking out over the city. From the outside you walk into a steel rod iron front door that brings you into a foyer area with marble stairs going up to another foyer like area. Then there are two big heavy wooden doors that go into our apartment. One door goes into our office area off from the kitchen and the other goes into a big living room area with a large dinning room. Off from that is a large balcony. Each room has very large windows with bars over each window and heavy metal-like blinds that are attached outside each window to open and shut from the inside when needed. I feel like I'm in a fortress. From each of those rooms there are heavy wooden french doors that go into a wide long hall way that attaches the rest of the house. We have two large bedrooms with large windows like I described earlier. Two large bathrooms and a small laundry area. I even have a small washer machine. Yeah! The kitchen is very modern, bright and open with very nice cabinets with a lot of counter space. I did not expect to have such a nice place to live. We meet our land lady yesterday when we got here. Very nice. Doesn't speak any english but she invited us in and served us some 7-up. It is the custom here when you receive visitors you always serve them something. We are told that when we visit all the organizations that we will work with that we will be given something either to drink or eat. Sometimes it can be a problem because we can't always eat the food because of the sanitation situation and because of tea, coffee or some other drink we can't have. It offends them if they can't serve something to us so they will often run to the store to get a 7-up. When Dad went to the police station to register for our residence visa for Jordan a young officer offered him something to drink and Dad said 7-up so the policeman was gone awhile and returned with a can of 7-up from the corner store. It's the custom here to do what ever it takes to serve your guest! I thought of Sarah on her mission and all the food she was offered. Well, I'm going to have to do a lot of praying to stretch my stomach.
We had a wonderful time in Frankfort. We met the other missionaries serving in the Middle-east and the other humanitarian missionaries serving in the Central Eropean Areas. Every day we had training. Elder Oaks our Area authority was there several days and then one of his counselors the other days. We learn so much that our heads are still spinning. On Saturday we all went to the temple. It was so wonderful to have that opportunity.

We have really missed not being able to e-mail and call. While in Germany, for some reason we could not e-mail out but we could receive e-mail. Thank you to all who e-mailed!!!! It has finally hit me! I'm not just on a little trip. I'm here to stay for a while. I have thought of all of you so many times and pray that you all know how much we love you and appreciate what wonderful people you are. I've even sent some "Brain Waves" out to you since I couldn't e-mail. Hope you got them! Well, we need to get some work done and finish getting situated. You Kentucky folk we are 7 hrs into the future. You Washington folks we are 10 hrs. into the future. So it's morning for all of you now and it afternoon for us in Jordan. Just thought I'd tell you all that the future is bright I love you all so much.

To you, Walker................... Hope you had a Happy Birthday!
To you, Sarah and Adam...... Hope you had a Happy Anniversary!
And to you, Amie................. Happy Birthday Thursday

Remember who you are!

Love MOM

Tuesday, September 4, 2007