Friday, October 26, 2007

As -salamu Aleekum

October 26, 2007 Friday

As -salamu Aleekum,

What a week! It’s been a real roller-coaster ride all week. A lot of “highs” along with some “lows”; Some good …some not so good. It is times like this that causes me to reflect on the many blessings we have as Americans. The privileges we are entitled to, and the opportunities we can experience through righteous leadership. I can't really share the not so good, but I will share the good news-

The good news is that we have met so many good, good people in Government positions here that also in their spare time work in the NGO’s and often because of their experiences serve as a Director or President. We spent all day on Thursday with one of these good Government Officials. A wonderful and caring man! He introduced us to his 2nd wife. He is Muslim and they can have up to 4 wives. He only has 2 and has 14 children between them. We met about 6 of them when he took us to his house later that day. He told us we were like Jordanians, we have many children also. We like to show off the pictures of our family. They really enjoy looking at all the blonde hair! We met in his office early that morning and he took us all around the Jordan Valley which covers the areas that border with Syria and Israel (Palestine). At one point from where we stood, we could've thrown a stone and hit either of those countries. We felt so official going through all the “check points” along the way. When they saw who we were with, we went right through! It still amazes me seeing the jeep-like tanks and machine guns lined up along the roads. We had wonderful visits with many new NGO’s. We have a lot of promising projects with a variety of needs. Our main focus for this area will be to organize a “Water Project,” that would serve 25,000 families and give them safe, clean water. This will prove to be very beneficial. We are working hard to make this happen. We are also making evaluations into establishing other goat projects, a Bee project, a Literacy program and a Diaper factory. There will have to be some training and careful monitoring. But if we can help people help themselves and give them hope for a better future we will be accomplishing what we are here for. What a blessing to be part of bringing hope!!! After visiting and making some assessments it was getting late into the day and the next thing we knew we were winding up the mountains up to Umm Quays which we had visited a few weeks ago when we had the Single Adult conference for the Middle East. The Mayor was giving us a private dinning experience, overlooking the beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee with the mountains and valleys far below. We drove through a back private entrance of the Historical Ruins (Roman city that Christ had supposable came to several times) the restaurant is built up on the top of one of the cliffs overlooking the whole Wadi (valley). What a breathtaking site! We were not expecting such a feast and such treatment. We are constantly humbled by the generosity of these wonderful people. Tomorrow we are having 146 kerosene heaters delivered to give to the Latino Catholic Church in Al Husan, The Greek Orthodox Church in Erbid and the Greek Orthodox Church in Amman to distribute to their needy and poor. We are trying to build good relationships with the other Christians in this area and enjoy helping them serve their people. Very few homes have heat. So you know Dad, he is not one to wait around until the knock is at the door. He wants it ready and in operational condition when “Mr. Winter” is beating on the door. Sunday we will go to Ajlun again and try to finalize the inventory for the Orphanage. I am very excited about this project. We love working with Father Hugo Semone and Mother Superior Maria. The Father is from Argentina. I thought Aaron would appreciate hearing that! He speaks many languages and is such a humble man! We hope to get these children in their new home before winter hits. This is just a few of the projects we are working on. We are staying busy and trying to represent the Lord in a way that His gospel is recognize even though we can’t preach in “word” we have many opportunities to preach with “works.”

Church went well today. We had a good turn out, considering. Last Saturday we had a Branch picnic and rented a bus to take the members on the activity (only 1 family has a car). Having that time together and letting the members visit must have helped because today we had one of the best turn outs since we have been here. Primary still has its challenges. I am very humbled to think that here in our North Jordan Branch of the church we are the only *all* Arabic unit in all the world. That puts me on my knees!!!!

We love you and pray for you! Thank you for all your prayers and support.

Love, Your Jordan Missionaries

Saturday, October 20, 2007


October 19, 2007 Friday

AS-SA LAA MU ALEE KUM (Hello…. Peace be upon you)

Another week, already! We first want to say “THANK YOU” to all of you that write us. What a blessing to feel such support and encouragement. It’s been wonderful getting your e-mails; we look forward to them so much. It’s great to hear what’s going on in each of your lives. It sure helps us feel connected and not so far away. Isn’t e-mail great?

We have had a good week. We have had the opportunity to meet with some of the Government Officials this week. Introducing ourselves and letting them know we are here in this area and what we are doing. The president of one of the NGO’s that we have been working with wanted to take us to meet the Governor of Al Husan and the Director of Social Development. Then we went to meet the Governor of Irbid. We had wonderful visits and hope to be meeting with them again soon. Irbid is supposable one of the largest populated cities in Jordan. I always thought that Amman was bigger. Amman is much more modern and has many more different cultures residing there, but Erbid has more people living in the city and the outlining areas. When we drive in the downtown sections of Erbid it is quite the experience. We see all variations of life styles. A live goat may be tied up in front of one of the small market shops and the next minute you don’t see it and then it is dragged back in front of the shop, dead, ready for gutting and being prepared and skinned right there on the street. The next shop might be a beautiful clothing store. Then the next could be a “hole in the wall" hardware store or fresh produce market. No rhyme or reason to the set up. There are so many different little markets and shops all over the city with the people living on top or behind/beside their business. I really don’t know how they all stay in business. But it seems to be a real social gathering for the owners and their families. If they don’t have enough change they run over to the next business and see if they have any. When you get outside of the downtown area the houses are clustered together throughout the countryside. Some live in tents, some live in very poor circumstances and then others have nice homes. There are a few people that have become rich because of the war and have come here to live because things are much more settled here than Syria, Iraq or the other Arab countries. That’s comforting to know. We are still on an on-going alert and have a plan to evacuate at any given time. Irbid is not far from the village we live in. We have some of our members of the church that live there and have to take taxis or the bus to get to church in Al Husan. It’s a challenge.

Ramadan is over. There have been celebrations going on all over the country. It’s one big party. We go to bed listening to loud music playing and fireworks going off. Gun shots blasting in the air with yelping and howling! This is the time for many weddings also. Yesterday we came home and heard drums playing from one of the neighboring homes. I looked out our kitchen window (we live on the second story of our building) and saw a large group of men filing out of the gate in one massive force, dancing and chanting down the street with the women and children following. It is the wedding dance for the groom and all the males gathered for the wedding celebration. It was so fun to listen and watch them. It was so impressive to watch them dancing in rhythm and listen to them chant their songs. It reminds me of "line-dancing” but much more rhythmic and Jordanian.

------------------October 20, 2007-------------------

It’s Saturday morning and I’m trying to finish this up. Our alarm went off this morning. Now, we have two alarms that go off at different times. One at 5:00 am... a loud speaker chanting a long on-going chant over a loud speaker from the nearby Mosque and the other is the bus starting at 6:15 with 4 rapid honks and then one long held honk that seems to last for minutes with another 30 seconds later. So we pick which one we want to get up to. Our problem? We can’t turn them off!!!!! The horns go off every 15 minutes or so for the rest of the morning till about 9:00. We live by a bus stop that picks up and drops off the university students.

Yesterday at church (remember Friday is our Sabbath day) we had a Peace Corp worker come with her father, mother and brother that were visiting from the US. We had them over for dinner after church along with 2 other missionary couples that were visiting. It was enjoyable having them over for the day. For a pre-dinner meal we served them some Zatiar (a spice that resembles thyme), some Jordanian bread (which resembles Pita bread), and some olive oil used for dipping (olive oil made from the trees that are grown here). The Zatiar is placed in a small community bowl and the olive oil is place in a small bowl and the bread is placed on a large platter so each person can take one and tear it in bite-sized pieces. Then you dip the torn piece of bread in the oil then in the zatiar and EAT! You never second dip, that’s the rule!! Cut some cheese and serve some fresh fruit. The Jordanian way to serve a guest fruit is to bring it out on an individual plate with a knife and let them cut it themselves. Dad loves it! This week our landlady, Zooha invited us over for a wonderful Jordanian meal. She is Christian, Catholic, does not speak English, is about 65 years old and has been a widow for 6 years. Such a wonderful person! We have grown to love her! She takes care of us...we take care of her. She has 3 sons who have all graduated from Birmingham Alabama University in the States and 3 daughters who are also very well educated and speak English. None of her sons live close by, but all her daughters live around this area. We have been so blessed to have such good living conditions.

It’s time to get back to work! Always something to do... somewhere to go... and people to see! We love you all and pray that you are all blessed with the strength and energy to go accomplish your dreams and righteous goals with a strong desire to make a difference. You are all so wonderful and have blessed our lives so much!

Your Jordanians missionaries

“If you don’t stand for something…… You will fall for anything”

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Us at a 600BC Roman church and small city that is in the process of being restored. We had the privilege to tour how they were doing it and watched them dig. You ought to see the mosaic floor of tile they uncovered and even a stone coffin.

This is a picture of the prophet Elijah's town where he was born, Tisbee. Remember he was a Tisbite as recorded in Ist Kings 17. You can see into Israel in the background. This place was near the Village Ajlun where we had worked.

Robin painted a Disney picture of Pluto on the wall of the Orphanage in the kindergarten class room

John with some orphanage boys (my new friends) at Ajlun Latino Church after we just got done with a service project painting and fixing play ground equipment there

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ma Saa al Kheer, Good evening!

I’m a little later in writing this week. We just got back from the northern mountains of Jordan….. such beautiful country, with breath taking views, and wonderful historical sites. We were part of organizing a 4-day conference for the Young Single Adults in the Middle East. Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan were all represented. It was a wonderful experience being with these young people ranging from 18–30. We had several Americans that came that have been in Egypt going to school or working. They were a big help in helping us communicate with most of them only speaking Arabic. Many of the American students in Egypt are there because they are studying Arabic. It was good for all involved. On Friday we went to an area called Tishbe of Gilead, which is supposed to be the birth place of the prophet Elijah, the Thishbite.(Kings 17-2 Kings 2 and 2 Chr. 21:12-15) I just finished reading about him. It makes him come to life seeing the area.) Tishbe is an ancient village, it looks deserted, but there are still a small number of people living in some of the old ruins. Overlooking Tishbe are some old ruins of a large Christian church with beautiful hand carved stones and mosaic floors. This church site, called Mar Elias, was destroyed by an earthquake many hundreds of years ago and is said to be one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. On Saturday morning John and I were in charge of a service project. We decided to help one of the churches we have been working with as Humanitarian missionaries. It is an old Catholic Church that has an orphanage and school. It is in an area of Jordan called Ajlun. We started with fixing the many broken windows in the school, which would be a real problem since the cold weather will be here soon. They have no heat in the building and the children have to wear coats during school and most don’t have gloves to wear. But, we are working on getting some heaters for them through LDS Charities. The children have been playing in a concrete parking lot because the playground has been in shambles. We came in and fixed old broken swings and built new ones. Fixed an old beat-up merry-go-round and painted it with beautiful colorful colors. Found and brought in an old see-saw that we had welded and fixed up. Fixed the fences and took out barbwire that was all over it and painted all the poles in bright colors. Raked the dirt and evened out the deep ruts. Now, I have to add we had a hard time finding rakes. There is not much, I mean NO grass here to rake, but here is a lot of dirt and dust. Inside the kindergarten we painted cartoon character on the dull drab colorless walls. One of our missionary couples had some artistic family members visiting from the states and they came the day before to draw them on the walls so we could come in on Saturday to paint it. WOW, it looks great, so colorful and inviting. It is so wonderful to be a part of so much good, coming from so many different kinds of people and from so many different parts of the world. It was quite a sight to see. Especially seeing these young adults from different cultures coming together for the same cause.

Our next adventure was visiting Umm Qays one of the 10 Decapolis cities. This is a historical Roman city that Christ had visited many times. Still has the stone colonnaded main street running through the ruins. Within the city there stands a very large semi-circular theater- all the seats, and the stone seats actually had backs which also were carved out of stones with such beautiful stone carvings. Throughout the whole city there are beautiful detailed carvings with huge pillars and archways still standing in such magnificent glory. But the most breath-taking site of all was the view. As we stood on top of the mountain we overlooked the spectacular view of the Jordan valley, the Sea of Galilee, and the Golan Heights with the sunset starting to rest on the back drop of the mountains in the distance. It was a magnificent sight to behold. I felt such reverence standing there, witnessing such beauty and feeling the sacredness of this holy land of Jordan. Not far off where we stood was the spot that is recorded in Mark and Luke in the New Testament when Christ cast out a legion of devils, who then entered the swine and “the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea”). Well, enough of our history lesson for this week. It was a wonderful conference and everyone seemed to have a very good and rewarding time.

We had our first real authentic Jordanian Ramadan meal this week. We were invited to Al Hamra a community in the desert for a “break fast” by Abdulla Al Wash, president of one of the societies we are considering to work with. This meal is the evening meal that the Muslins break their fast. During Ramadan they don’t eat or drink during the day light hours. So by the time evening comes they are ready to feast! We were invited and introduced to members of the society. I’m sure they wanted the opportunity to show us what they do to serve the communities in that area in the hopes of partnering with them. There is a great need with their focus on aiding the handicapped. We weren’t sure what to expect. We had felt a little reluctant and apprehensive because of some past negative comments. Nothing to do with us, there had been some misunderstandings and miscommunication concerning another matter long before we got to Jordan. But we went…. praying in the hopes of clearing up the matter. As we were looking for the place, we saw Abou waving us down. He is a tall black man we had met a few weeks ago while at another society whom we had felt a friendship with immediately. We both felt relieved and very happy to see him. When we walked up and started meeting the other members we felt peace and felt good about being there. We were very welcome. It’s those feelings that you thank the Lord for!!!! When we got the invitation that morning I knew I would probably be the only woman there. I was! Women and children do not eat with the men; they stay back in one of the back rooms and wait to eat after the men finish what they want. We were invited into a small room that had two bare metal tables set up. On each table there were three very large round platters of rice piled up into a mound with meat (I think it was chicken) placed around the base of the rice. We all stood around the tables, left hand behind our backs, right hand ready to dig in. Now, can you picture this…. me, the only woman in the middle of all this, no spoon, no napkin just six big community platters with each having 4-5 men digging in, all at one time. I wished I had taken a picture! The rice is rolled up into a small sticky ball with the right hand (must be the right, has something to do with the customs) and then the thumb is used to flip the rice ball into your mouth. Now, I have to tell you, they did eventually bring me a big spoon to eat with. But I did try the hand thing. You would of been proud of me. Dad had a good time. You know him- He said he thought it was a great idea. It sure saves on the dishes!

We think of you all so often and pray that you are all well. We love hearing from you and thank you for supporting us through your emails. We feel so blessed. We are learning and growing with each experience and thank the Lord every day for His love and tender mercies in our lives and yours. Have a wonderful week! Have some fun!

Quote: “You won’t get any fun out of the things you haven’t done”

We love you all,

Love your Jordan Missionaries

Friday, October 5, 2007

Cottons from Jordan

Just thought I would write a short email and give a report of Robin and my activities this past week. We traveled over a portion of the northwestern side of Jordan. It is exciting to be in some of the areas of the country that the Bible talks about. This country looks just like you can imagine, dry desert. The one thing that I didn't know is that the entire northwest is mostly mountains. (pictures below) There are a lot of small town and villages but there is a surprising number of bedouin (pronounced, BED O WIN)- sheep and goat herders that still are nomadic and travel around the plains with their families. They live in one place for about 6 months or so then move on looking for grass and forage. We have seen some of the damage to buildings that occurred during the 1970 civil war here in Jordan between rival Muslims, Christians, and the government. Mostly we have seen a third world country that is slow to change due to traditions and culture. Just a light hearted report.... I like the way they PARK their old cars and trucks here. If you are driving and get to to destination, well you just stop and get out! I MEAN, you just stop and get out! I call it "if you can stop, you can park!!" Sometimes, they even leave you enough room to drive around. Be advised, I don't go into a small town or village during the busy part of the day, because there is always a traffic jam with horns and threats to match the confusion. Nobody drives in the lanes even though there are lines. You see it's important to straddle the line in case you can't decide which way you want to go. This happens a lot on single lane roads, so the sides of the roads are worn out from cars being run off the side to avoid a head on collision. I've developed a real nack for finding the wide parts of the road and laughing at the cars behind when they fail to look ahead. We have met some wonderful people who are really trying to make a difference with what they have. We've seen people do things with little or nothing that make us want to be better stewards and less wasteful. We're learning not to take anything for granted. Hope you and your families all are doing well.

October 5, 2007 from Robin

Mar ha ba,

Keef ha ik….how are you? My, how this week has flown by! Our weeks are so mixed up. With Friday being the Sabbath and the weekend starting with Thursday evening, and then Sunday being the beginning of another work week…. We don’t ever know what day it is. But we stay busy and keep going in one direction or another. We feel we are finally getting a little more comfortable with the NGO’s we are meeting with. We had a wonderful day yesterday visiting. The first Society we met with will be the head NGO of the Wheelchair container we are bringing in. In about 2 weeks we will have 250 wheel chairs delivered and they will be distributed among 15 other designated societies throughout the area. Each wheelchair has an individual waiting for it. Except, we keep a few on hand to have when the need arises. There are so many people here in Jordan that are crippled. When we walk along the streets we often pass people (it has mostly been men) with no legs at all. They use their arms and hands to pull themselves up and scoot along with flip-flops in their hands so the palm of their hands will be protected. It brings tears to
my eyes to see the conditions that some people have to live with. There is such a demand for wheelchairs. The church has a wonderful program all over the world to distribute wheelchairs to the needy. Each container that comes in has 250 wheelchairs with 5 different sizes. We are trying to get another Container project ready to submit and hope it will be here in December before Christmas.

As we walked to church today we were listening to the Catholic Church bells chime. It was a beautiful sound. I’ve never heard the bells ring with such melody. The morning was beautiful and sunny with just a hint of a cool breeze. It was beginning to feel a little like Fall. Yeah!!! We looked at each other and commented on how much we were going to miss sitting on our front porch in Kentucky and watching the leaves turn. But we are excited to be here. We continued to walk along in the street; Yes, we walk in the street, because the sidewalks are usually piled with dirt, rocks and are rutted up so bad that it is impossible to walk without breaking an ankle or something. We looked up and what do we see coming toward us? Goats! Lots and lots of goats! The herdsman was bringing them right down the middle of the street. It’s something you see everyday here. But, I must admit, for a while I wasn’t sure if they were going to let us share the road. As we passed Dad shouted out “Keef hal ik” and he answered back “Kway-is” which means “good”. We swapped smiles and walked on! Just another day in Jordan! We love it! We are looking forward to conference this weekend (Your weekend, ours will be over) Oh well! We are leaving tomorrow to go to Amman to The Center for Cultural and Educational Affairs under BYU. It is the umbrella that the church operates under here in the Middle East. Every year BYU students come to the Middle East to study or for other reasons and it is through this Center that they operate. We have a satellite there so we can get conference. We will stay with the Bradford’s who are the Center’s Directors. They will be leaving next month. We will miss them. Since we are 7-10 hours ahead of you, we will have our first session starting at 8 p.m. Saturday night, the 2nd session will start at midnight and the Priesthood session at 4:00 a.m. Sunday- We are excited … an all night broadcast! Yahoo !!! Then Sunday we do it all again unto the early morning hours of Monday. We will be think of all of you while we watch conference and eat our M &M’s. It’s family tradition! Got to keep those going. Now, I just have to go on an M&M hunt to find some. But if we can’t find any please eat a few for us, OK? I WILL be thinking of each and every one of you as I sit there. Send me some “Brain waves.”

Today in church Dad bore his testimony in Arabic. I was so impressed! He actually sounded like he knew what he was saying. He’s something else! We have been asked to help in our little Branch of the church here in Al Husan. Dad is working with the Branch President and I’m helping in Primary. It is very challenging. The Jordanians have a different mind set in how they raise their children (or at least in this area of Jordan). They allow them to run and play during the meetings or in any other place you might see them. We have to lock all the rooms while we are in sacrament meeting because they are allowed to roam throughout the building and the outdoors. During primary we have to have someone sit in front of the door so they don’t escape and wander off by themselves. They are very active, as you know children can be. The hard thing for me is I don’t speak Arabic, YET. Notice I said yet! I’m trying to learn. I have felt impressed to concentrate on the music. Music certainly is the universal language of the world! The children have had very little exposure to the primary songs. We don’t have them translated in Arabic yet. So it is a huge job finding the right words in Arabic and match it to the music. I am learning my first two songs in Arabic to help teach the children. I have NO musical ability! Today I sang the Popcorn song to them with all the motions. They loved it. They followed with the motions and said… “Arabee, Sister Robin. Arabee.” They wanted me to teach them it in Arabic. It is so frustrating! So I will work on that. Miracles? I’m praying for a miracle! I didn’t think I had much to share this time. It’s a good thing uh? We hope and pray that all is well with you. We absolutely love your emails. It helps us keep going! Thank you so much for all that you are. We’re so grateful for the prayers that are said in our behalf. We have felt the power that comes through them. It is such a blessing to feel the strength of the Lord as we strive to do what we can to serve these people in Jordan. We feel very humble in this undertaking and know without a doubt that the Lord is moving this work forward and we are trying to keep up. Keep praying! We sure love you! :-)

Your Jordan Missionaries

Quote for the week: Emily shared this with us from the Relief Society Broadcast. I wanted to pass it on. (we haven’t gotten it here yet)

“Don’t pray for the task equal to your ability, but pray for your abilities to equal your task.”
Pres. Thomas S. Monson