Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!


We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a joyful filled New Year. Dad and I have felt so many blessings this past year and constantly realize how truly blessed we are to have the children and grandchildren we have. As we reflect on the birth of the Savior and recognize the blessings that each of us have as a result of his life, I am humbled by His sacrifice to all of mankind. Our time here has greatly increased my appreciation for the love the Lord has for all His children all over the world. May we all feel His love in our lives as we strive to serve one another in all we do. I love this time of the year!

It is really very hard to believe Christmas is in just a few days. We just put up a small Christmas tree that was left here by one of the past missionaries. It has been so busy that we haven’t had much of a chance to do that. But we finally put one up, and now it seems a little more like Christmas around here. I pray you all are enjoying the holiday feeling of this special time of the year. Our Christmas gift is having Laura come. We are so excited to have some family here to share this season with in this holy land of Jordan. It has been very humbling to realize that we are not far from the birth place of the baby Jesus. The tradition here in the Middle East is that the Christ child was born in a cave. There is not an over abundance of wood or trees around here and the land is very rocky. Everything is made of stone or rock. As we have traveled around the country and have visited some of the historical sights and seen the ruins of the past civilizations, it is easy to understand how this tradition has come about. The stables were built in the side of the hills or mountains out of the rocks. The stables were often built as the foundation of the cities as it gradually went up the hill sides. This is where the residents or traveler would put their animals before they came into the city. Also, in many of the cities small shops and trading centers were set up the same way, to catch the people as they went in to town. It has been very interesting to see the culture and understand some of the traditions of these people. The scriptures have come alive to us as we begin to understand more and more about the traditions and culture of the people from the Old and New Testament area. In many ways some of the customs have not changed over time. The parables of the Olive trees have much more meaning and understanding as we have been able to witness this process. The Olive Tree pruning is very remarkable! The sheep, goats and the shepherd analogy has much more meaning as we daily see the lone shepherd on the hillsides watching his flock from sun up to sun down.

Not only is this the time of year that we as Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior it is a time that the Muslims have a big holiday called Eid. Many animals are being sacrificed during this time, sheep, cows and camels. Mostly sheep! I have never seen so many sheep in my life. All penned up in small temporary fenced in pens, waiting for someone to select them for their sacrificed offering. The custom is to sacrifice an animal of great worth. For some it may be a lamb, for others a cow and for the very rich, a camel. They slaughter the animal and keep a third of the meat for their own family, the other third is given to extended family and the last third to the poor of the community. The other day the phrase…”as a lamb led to the slaughter” was permanently printed in my memory. We watched a large sheep taken by two small boys each grabbing a front leg and leading it to the place of sacrifice. The sheep hobbled along, and then gently laid down as the older gentleman, took the blade of his knife and proceeded to finish the sheep for sacrifice. It happened so fast with no resistance from the sheep.

A few days ago were invited by one of the organizations we have worked with to visit one of the hospitals to give small gifts of flowers and candy to the patients. Very much the same custom we have at Christmas time to visit the less fortunate. We met the hospital administrator along with some businessmen and a reporter for the newspaper. We paraded in and out of the hospital rooms taking pictures. We felt very uncomfortable so we stayed back from the group and visited with the patients and enjoyed shaking or holding their hands and greeting them the best we could with our small bits of Arabic. I am constantly surprised at how these people treat us like we are someone of great importance. As we visited with many it touched my heart to see the condition some of them were in. One of the women grabbed my hand and said "Shookrun" over and over again- which means "thank you" she started to cry. All I could do was lean down and kiss her checks and tell her "Shookrun"!

We have had so many wonderful experiences these past few weeks. So many I can't begin to share. I wish I could express the feelings we have for these people. But I know that many of you know what I mean as you reflect on your own missions and how you loved the people that you served. I know why we do this... because we begin to learn to love as the Savior loves. As we became parents we understand some of this but as missionaries we begin to know it in a broader sense. We will be forever grateful for this opportunity and pray we can make a difference... somewhere... for someone here and there.

I know Dad wrote yesterday and sent some pictures. We also wanted to attach a few more with this email. As Dad said in his email we hope this finds you all well, happy and healthy. We pray for you and think of you often. We love you so much!

We also have been asked to include many of you on our weekly letters to our children we hope all is well for you and your families. May we all have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New year. WE LOVE YOU ALL!!

Your Jordan Missionaries

Overlooking the Sea of Gallilee

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mark, Keef Hal Lek,( How are you)

Hope this find you and your families well. Robin and I are fine and enjoying ourselves greatly. We are looking forward to have a wonderful Christmas in the Holy Land of Jordan. One of the things we are going to do is go to a mountain over looking Jerusalem from the Jordan side of the river and watch the lights of Jerusalem come on after a sunset. Even though the Muslims don't celebrate Christmas , they have a big holiday awaiting the new year. It is called EID Al Adha and they sacrifice a lot of sheep and goats. They keep half for their family and give the other half to the poor as a gift. Robin and I have seen thousands of sheep and goats being penned awaiting their fate for the holidays here in Jordan. As for us, we will have a good beef roast and some pie. (Even though, I have come to like the taste of sheep meat when we have eaten at some Jordanian homes). We have met some wonderful people and have come to realize that people all over the world can live in peace (if the news media will not tell us differently). We appreciate each of you and enjoy your letters.

We pray that you will have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

John and Robin Cotton

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Robin and I just got back from a day of wheel chair distribution to some charitable organizations in north Jordan. It has been a good day. Tomorrow we drive to Amman and pickup our area supervisors from Frankfort Germany who are here in the country for a review and somewhat of an audit. They are the Heisses from Utah. We are expecting to work them hard and show them what we are doing. Here are a few pictures I took today while we were working, and one of mother making a pie for the Heisses. As you can tell from the kitchen, she is in heaven. We have a nice upscale apartment here in Al Husn that reasonable compared to US standards... ($475 month).

Sure love you guys and look forward to us calling every now and then.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

MarHaBa, Keef Hal Leek?

MarHaBa, Keef Hal Leek?

Has it been a week already? The weeks are going by so fast. But some of the days seem to drag on forever. That doesn’t make any sense, does it? But I’m sure some of you know what I mean! We have had some good things happen this week. We were able to get most of the things done for the Orphanage this week. It was so humbling to watch the faces of the children and the Nuns as we delivered all the bunk beds and clothes cabinets. In Jordan none of the homes build closets in the bedrooms. You purchase separate clothing cabinets for the clothes. Of course many of the homes are only tents and shacks. It still amazes me how some of these people live and stay warm in those shabby homes with winter arriving in full force. Even the concrete homes stay so cold because of no built in heat. Most of the homes are heated with little propane heaters. Thank goodness the Orphanage was able to build in wall Water Heating Systems which they will only use a few hours a day. We also were able to furnish a large capacity washing machine, which isn’t that big compared to what we have in America. One side is a tub and the other side is the spinner. It reminds me of our portable compact washer machine we got for our apartment when we first got married, 37 years ago. There is no such thing as electric dryers here. Well, in Amman, but to the rest of Jordan, Amman isn’t even considered “Jordan”. The locals here make the statement… “There is Jordan and then there is Amman”, Amman is NOT Jordan. Oh well. It has been a wonderful experience working with the Orphanage. We have made good friends. I think the biggest thrill for the Nuns was when we brought in the kitchen appliances. A large gas stove with a large oven, refrigerator, but the highlight of it all seemed to be the chest freezer that we surprised them with. They were all so appreciative. The children were running from one thing to another. Full of smiles and eyes wide with wonder!!!

A few days ago we went and visited with a society in Aljun. A village settled in the mountainous area of Northern Jordan. We met in a very humble shop with a Muslin Man and his wife. The woman was dress in all black covered from head to toe. The only thing that was exposed were her eyes and hands, which is very common here in the more rural areas of Jordan. The women are totally covered. As we sat and talked with them through a translator it struck me with great emotion as I could see the kindness in her eyes, and as I looked down, the hard work in her hands. The biggest challenge is knowing what we can do to help these people help themselves. We are learning how to assess the areas and the circumstances, and get them to come up with some ideas of their own. From there, work on a plan together where they can feel a part of the
solution and sense some hope and success. Isn’t that such a gospel principle? We are beginning to feel a little smarter in our efforts to serve. The miracle in this work is seeing how the Lord works through us, as simple common people who can make a difference when the Lord is directing the moves!!!

Happy Nuns are always enjoyable to work with along with our interpreter Magdee.

Mom is a magnet for children. Where she goes they go.

It is interesting how different each day can be. One day we are working with the very poor in very humble circumstances. They next day or even later in the same day we are meeting with Judges and Parliament members. Presidents of Universities and Doctors or Hospital Administrators. All wanting to help make a difference in the lives of others. It is wonderful to be apart of something that brings so many different kinds of people together for the same cause. We have wanted to get the members of the church involved in giving service. Many have very little of their own and often don’t think of reaching beyond themselves because of that. But there are a few that think beyond their own circumstances, and are very caring and wanting to help their neighbors. So we had a project where we got heaters, and we got a container with blankets and coats and other much needed supplies and asked them to think of people they knew who were in need of these things. We have been able to go out with many of them and provide some immediate relief. It’s been a wonderful experience to watch these families give, and not only see the happiness of the receiver but the excitement and joy in the givers faces. It has increased the awareness to a higher level and it seems to be contagious with each act of service. The more you give the more you want to give. Another gospel principle! One of the families we went with took us to a small one room house where a mother and her children lived. The Father had abandoned them a few years earlier when he decided to marry his wife #2. In the Muslim culture a man can marry up to 4 wives. There are no laws to protect the woman and children if a man decides to totally leave them without any financial help. They are still married but... This mother works at one of the schools cleaning and after that she finds odd jobs to help support her little family. A hard life. My heart aches for so many of these good people.

Tomorrow we leave early to go to the Jordan Valley. We have another meeting with Mayor Rafa’ to work through some more details to get this Water project off and running! There are so many things to consider and learn. We have been communicating with the Water Specialist assigned to us through Salt Lake. He has been very helpful and supportive. In fact they have learned a lot from each other. You know your Dad. When he wants to know something…. he researches, studies, and asks a lot of questions. He has learned a lot about this particular Water Treatment system that we are proposing for this area. This kind of system has not been done through the Humanitarian Department in any other area throughout the world. This is a first! Less expensive with no drilling. This will be a “pattern” for other areas in the world. If it works and is successful we will be doing many more like it. This has been a good experience for Dad and a lot of work for us! I think this has been a little surprising to see the information and knowledge that Dad has acquired about this process in such a short amount of time. Oh well, time will tell.

We are so grateful for the experiences and the blessings of serving. We love you all so much. We pray for you & know that you are all in good hands…THE LORDS HANDS!

Love, Your Jordan Missionaries


Saturday, December 1, 2007

MarHa Ba

November 30 , 2007 Friday

MarHa Ba,

It has been another busy week. We have had a wonderful Zone conference with Elder Kopischke. What a privilege! We are so grateful to have the opportunity to be instructed and uplifted by one of the Lord’s servants. It has been a treat to get to visit again with the other country directors of Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. It is so beneficial to have these opportunities. We realize more and more what a choice opportunity that has been given to us to serve here in the Middle East. We still don’t know why *WE* are here, but we are trying very hard to “not get in the way of the Spirit”. The Lord is in charge! We just have to let Him lead the willing to follow... and be willing to WORK hard!

This week we had a young missionary return to Jordan. Elder Ibrahim returned from serving in Ghana which was split, and then he served in the newly formed Sierra Leone Mission. It was so nice to finally meet Ibrahim. He is just as good as the reports we have heard about him. Maybe better! It is such a rare thing to have a Jordanian serve a mission and complete it. His family has been members for many years and he had an older brother serve and return from a mission also who now is at BYU. The Tashmans are such a good family. Ibrahim did not speak much English when he left but he was put with several American companions and they helped him learn English. He said by the time he was out 8 months he was doing pretty well with the Language. Ibrahim is having difficulty speaking Arabic now. He constantly is talking in English. His father and mother just patiently listen to the "gibberish" and wait until their son realizes that they can't understand him and then Ibrahim starts over in Arabic! It reminds me so much of Aaron, Nathan, Sarah and Alan when they came home from each of their missions. It is such a humble thing to watch those missionaries come home with so much humility. As we talked with him he made a statement that struck me with such emotion. He said, "My mission doesn't end today. This is the day I start my mission to my people." He will make a BIG difference here in this small Branch in Northern Jordan. I will share with you some of the history of some missionaries that were called from this area, then you will see what an accomplishment that this is for a Jordanian to go and return. Years ago when many people were joining the church in Jordan for various reasons, (not the right reasons) there were about 4 or 5 young men called during the space of several years. They left for the USA, to the MTC, and then on to their assigned missions. None of them finished. They all left their missions and stayed in the USA and haven’t been back since. The last missionary that was sent in 2002 never made it to the MTC. He got off the plane in Chicago, changed his ticket and went into hiding. Now that was shortly after 9/11. The church reported it to the FBI and there was a huge nationwide search for a young Middle Eastern man somewhere in the USA. It was not a good situation. They finally found the young man and after much interrogation he was sent home to Jordan. The church has never allowed any more Middle Eastern missionaries to go to the USA. In fact, it is a very long process for the young Jordanian man to be approved for any mission. It has to go directly to the First Presidency because of the past experiences. This is why it is such an accomplishment for the Tashman brothers to even go and especially return.

On Monday mornings, we are teaching several English classes at a private school. Last week we arrived early for the 8 AM class and the Superintendent invited us to come to the "playground" which is a very large pavement area where the 400 youth gather in rows from oldest to youngest, all in their uniforms. While the students stood at attention we listened to them sing their national anthem. This was followed by another patriotic song in which we recognized the words "Arabee" (Arabic) and "elordon" (Jordon) sung over and over. Those little ones really sang the songs with zeal. I still can see their faces and their standing at attention in my mind. It was very impressive. When we first walked out on the steps in the front of the assembly, many of the children came running up to shake our hands and speak their little bits of English. The little girls wanted to kiss me as they do on both cheeks. I think it is something they go off to brag about to the others who weren't so lucky! They are always so happy to see Americans. We are such celebrities here. As we stood there watching their presentation I had the thought flash through my mind "Where else could we be having such opportunities?" We are truly blessed to be here and to have all the wonderful adventures we are having here in Jordan. What will we ever do when we return home and again and become the ordinary home town folk we really are? We are teaching a class of 7th grade girls in this school along with several administrators and teachers. The plan is to teach them and then leave teacher and student manuals with them so they can teach the classes themselves. They separate the boys from the girls once they reach the 5th grade. These girls are bright, wide eyed, and very eager. They were chosen to have “the Americans” teach them because they were selected as the “top” in their classes. We tried to keep them busy and active because the cold weather is here and there is no heat in the buildings in Jordan, so they were wearing their coats and some of them had hats on during the class. We were grateful when we could get in our car and turn the heat on!

We talked to a “Water Specialist” who just returned from Africa that the church has assigned to us for our water project. It constantly amazes me the level and the magnitude that the church works through. In a week and a half we will have some authorities coming from Frankfort Germany to audit our files and records for the 2007 year and check on the projects that Jordan is involved with. We also had to give an accounting to Elder Kopischke when we had an interview with him. The Lord is truly “guarding” and “guiding” this work.

We are grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord here in Jordan. We are truly blessed. We pray that you all are doing well and that this holiday season will bring you much joy and peace. It is a blessing to have you in our lives. We love you!

Your Jordan Missionaries

Quote repeat...
“Don’t get in the way of the spirit!”