Thursday, December 29, 2011

Missionary Christmas Party

I volunteered to prepare lunch for our missionary Christmas party. We planned to have a sandwich bar - I figured this would be pretty simple. Well, nothing is simple in Georgia! We left the apartment around 10 on Friday morning with my shopping list in hand and E. Reese had our 2 big shopping bags. A 20 minute walk, a metro ride, a looooong bus ride and 4 hours later we were finally back home with almost everything on the list! I got most of it prepared a head of time - here is my kitchen help on Saturday cutting the fruit for the salad. We played a couple of fun games. This is the draw the snowman when you roll the right numbers. We also had fun with the steal the candybar when you roll doubles game - with the twist that you had to put on a hat, scarf and gloves before you could steal it.

Of course no Christmas party is complete without the white elephant gifts. I opened a lovely crown (that we used for a wiseman in the Nativity) and a spongebob backpack. E. Reese chose a tie holder. There were some interesting gifts!

The luncheon was really good and we had lots of leftovers - so the Missionaries came over after church the next day and feasted again! Here is a picture of our missionarie acting goofy!

After lunch we had a good spiritual message and then watched the movie 'It's a Wonderful Life' and I have to agree - it truly is!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011


It's time for 3 of our missionaries to go back to their homes. It is a very sad, but happy time. E. Steele and Zuniga left Dec 19th and E. Nelson goes in the middle of January. So we took them out to dinner for a last goodbye and talked about their mission experiences - it was a fun evening. We are really going to miss these fine missionaries - they have served the Lord well.

Visit to Leala

Leala lives 3 hours away in Zestefoni where she takes care of her bedridden mother and mother-in-law. She has been a little down lately, so on Nov 21st we went to visit her to give her a blessing. We took Mzia, her good friend (and an interpreter!) and also bought some groceries. After 3 hours in an uncomfortable marshutka we arrived to a lovely lunch that she made for us. We ate and visited - we felt very welcomed - like honored guests. Pres. Reese gave her mother a blessing and you could tell it made her happy. He then gave Leala a beautiful blessing. There were tears in our eyes as she hugged us and expressed her gratitude. This is what she needed to be able to go on. Then her MIL wanted one - it was very sweet. Then a neice came over and she wanted one! After the blessing she said that she had a warm peaceful feeling and we talked about the Holy Ghost. Pres. Reese also explained that he held the same priesthood that Christ held when he was on the earth. It was a spiritual hour for us and the women in Leala's home - truly a wonderful visit. She is not able to come to church because of the distance and her obligations, but it was good to see her and let her know that we still cared for her and supported her. She called me on my birthday and all she knew how to say in English was 'Hello Sis Reese, this is Leala, Happy Birthday, Goodbye' It was my favorite b-day call! A few weeks later her mother passed away - so glad that we had made the long trip to see her and bless her mom before she died. It's hard to express the great joy that we felt after our visit with Leala - this is what being on a mission is all about - loving and blessing our Heavenly Fathers children.


Our first snow was on Nov. 7 th (my moms b-day!) - it was just a light dusting that only stayed on the hills. But it was really cold weather for the following couple of weeks and we figured we were in for a hard winter. I chose this picture because you can see my peppers and churchellas hanging in my kitchen window - you can also see the snow on the tree outside. Then after Thanksgiving we got a really good snow - it really came down hard for a long time. This is our neighbors balcony - see the snow on our internet cable wire coming from their house? I love the clothes on the line - I have racks that I set up inside my house for drying clothes.

We had heard that this was unusal weather and that it didn't get really cold till February. We thought we would just have to settle in for a long cold winter. But December has been snow and rain free. It's not 'warm' - but the sun comes out most days and it has not been to bad!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

13 Days of Partying

This year I turned 55 years old. Not a milestone birthday - like '50' or '75' but an enjoyable one for me! I started partying at our zone conference in Armenia on the 15th, where Sis. Carter gave me a scarf that she crocheted - she gave me my choice of about 10 colors and it will come as no surprise to all of you that I chose red! Of course everyone sang Happy Birthday to me and 4 other missionaries. The next day, the 16th we got a call from Elgouja inviting us to his home. His wife Denara had cooked a lovely dinner for my birthday. She is in my English group and I had said my birthday was on the 26th - well they got the 6 right! She had also made me some chortchellas (walnuts on a string dipped in grape sauce) out of red grapes that were delicious. Unfortunately I have no pictures - it was a surprise!
On Tuesday the 22nd the Women of Georgia invited me to their 'Canteen Kitchen' where they feed 50 elderly poor people everyday. They had the cooks stay late and teach me how to make Kingallis. First you roll the dough out into a 4 inch circle - really thin. Then you put a big spoonful of the meat mixture in the middle.

Very carefully you gather up the edges in small pleats till you can squish the top together. Then you twist it well so that it is sealed.

Here is a shot of my perfect Khingali - I am so proud! (if you can get 18-20 pleats - you can get married!) All the little dumplings are put into a pot of salted boiling water where they are cooked for 7-10 minutes. Then they are carefully scooped out, put on a plate and taken to the table where they are happily consumed!

After dinner they brought out a beautiful cake covered in fruit and sang Happy Birthday to me in English - quite an accomplishment for a group of Georgians - we were so excited we were all clapping!

Here I am cutting the cake - it was a lovely evening AND I got to take home the leftover cake and khingalis! We fried them for dinner the next day. I love these women!

Thursday the 24th was Thanksgiving - so we invited all the missionaries over for a turkey feast. They each brought part of the food so it was an interesting adventure. We had trouble even finding a turkey - it cost $70 at the store that caters to the Americans - but it was plump and yummy! Here is our spread - it was delicious!
Here's most of our happy group.

E. Reese made brownie cake for dessert and we put 5 candles on it for our group of birthday missionaries. Once again we sang Happy Birthday and I got to help blow out the candles. We then watched the movie '17 Miracles' about the Martin/Willie handcart companies - it was a really good movie.

So on my actual birthday, E. Reese made me pancakes in bed - I love to eat breakfast in bed - but it was more fun when the kids would sit on the bed and talk to me while I ate. It was a really cold day, so I opted to stay in the house all day and do mostly nothing!

On Sunday during Relief Society, they gave me some fun red flowers and chocolate and sang Happy Birthday again. I've enjoyed looking at my flowers all week. It was a great 13 days of partying - I love Georgia!!!

As we were driving around delivering wheel chairs, they pulled over to show us an old church. Inside E. Reese caught the rays of the sun coming through the window - beautiful!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

November 15th found us on the road to Vanadzor, Armenia in a marshutka with all our missionaries! We were going to a north zone conference for the mission. It was a 4 hour drive with a cold stop at the boarder. This was a special conference because Pres. Schwitzer - Europe East Area President - and his wife were there. He is a member of the second quorum of the Seventy. The meeting was inspiring with great messages from Pres. and Sis. Carter and Pres. and Sis. Schwitzer. One highlight was singing Happy Birthday to the 5 missionaries having birthdays - they were all from Georgia! The boys got ties that Pres. Carter has worn and I got a beautiful hand crocheted scarf from Sis. Carter. (This was the beginning of my 13 days of birthday celebrations!)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Saturday Nov. 19th we went with the Women of Georgia to the mountain villages around Dusheti to deliver wheel chairs. First we stopped in Dusheti and met with several people who came there to pick up their chairs. This is the mother of 5 year old twins - one of the boys is disabled and is so excited to get a wheel chair!

Next we all got into the big van - now the adventure begins! At one point we had 13 people and 2 big boxes with wheel chairs in here! As we got to different areas - the governor for that area would get in the van and show us where to go.

Because the people live so far from Dusheti, we would go to thier homes to deliver the chairs. Here is E. Reese with a man who had a stroke several years ago - his patient wife is so happy to have a chair for him. They know we are coming and their homes are spotless with a small bowl of fruit on the table.

This was my favorite delivery. We hiked down a hill to a small home - again spotlessly clean and neat. This lovely lady was laying in bed in the middle of the main room with 2 teenage daughters quietly looking on. You could tell that they lovingly took care of her. 8 years ago she fell out of a tree and lost the use of her legs. Now she will be able to get around in her home and on the patio.......

where we saw these bright red pepers hanging! Of course I needed a picture of them - the father saw us taking the picture and ran over and took down a strand to give to us. I've learned you can't say no - we just smiled and graciously took them. The next day we added one to an egg, potato meat scramble and WOW - they were hot!!!

Some of the homes we were not able to get to - so they would meet us on the road. Here is a young boy sitting on his sisters lap - she helps take care of him. The chair is being loaded into the trunk by mom and dad.

Of course no give away is complete without the 'Thank you' meal. There was a little woodstove in the cornor keeping us warm as they kept bringing in more and more yummy georgian food. We also had our 'Tamada' (toast master) singing our praises and telling stories. Then everyone around the table would give a toast. E. Reese gave a lovely little speech - he is getting quiet good at this.

It's hard to explain the joy and the heartache that is felt as we give a chair to a family that is not only tring to survive on next to nothing - but also has a disabled member to take care of. Their homes are so humble, most without running water and small outhouse bathrooms outside. I am amazed with how they survive and so grateful to be able to provide them with some help. They thank us - but we are the ones that are thankful to have a glimpse of what life is like for others.
We are truly rich - we have the gospel, good health, homes with heat and running water. What we all have in common is the love of family - so important here in Georgia and in the US!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Driving around the villages outside of Tbilisi - Elder Reese sees this man hearding turkeys. We just had to stop for a picture of the Turkeyherder! (can you imagine him going home to his wife and telling her that an American took a picture of him and the turkeys!)

On Sunday after church we went to the metro to deposit the tithing checks (there is a single teller bank in each metro!) and we saw this lady with her daughter and her 'pet' getting ready to go on the metro. We just had to get a picture - I'm thinking she's going to dinner and was asked to bring the chicken!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We are doing a humanitarian project with Misha. He is a diabetic and has his own NGO (non goverment organization) that helps diabetics in Georgia. He asked us if we would publish a book for diabetics that gives them information on living a healthy lifestyle. He was able to get a really good price on the publishing and here are the 1000 books he ordered. They are very nice and have a "Published by the Foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Georgia" at the end of the book in English and Georgian. On Monday the 14th Misha picked us up and we went to 3 different clinics to pass out the books. He had a box in the trunk and at the first stop he counts out 20 books and hands them to E. Reese. Only 20 books? Misha has called all the doctors that see diabetics and has a list of how many books they want - some want 50. I'm thinking this is going to take him a long time to pass out 1000 books 20 at a time! He is a kind and patient man.

We went to 3 clinics and it took us about 3 hours. The third doctor was one of the authors that contributed to the book. Here E. Reese has the book open to what she wrote.

The clinics were in old buildings and the doctors officies were small and cold with old desks and chairs. Doctors do not get paid much here - but the 3 we saw were very happy in their jobs.
Finally our container of wheel chairs made it to Tbilisi! The order for this project had gone in before we got here back in February. The church gives away a lot of wheel chairs through out the world - they are very needed. There are a lot of details that have to be worked out - so it takes awhile to get them. These literally came on a slow boat from China! On Nov. 11th we finally got them through customs and to this yard. Here is the container. It was so exciting to open it and see all the white boxes - each a wheel chair for someone in need. The boxes were seperated into sizes. I had my clipboard and did all the counting and checking off who got what.

E. Reese was helping in the truck.

At one point we stepped into the office, where it was warm to compare numbers - we worked out the problem and got all the wheelchairs devided up. I had 3 different groups taking the 290 chairs. One of the groups had his own sub-groups come in and that's where the numbers got off (yes, it was his mistake - not mine!) This is Levon, wonderful guy that got everything through cutoms and here in a timely manner - and of course, Mzia our interpreter.

Only 3 hours later, we are in the Women of Georgia's van, headed home with the last of their wheel chairs. It was a great day - I thought everything went really smoothly. Now the wheel chairs will be handed out to the people throughout Georgia. We will be going to see some of the distribution ceremonies over the next few weeks - this is the best part!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Saturday, November 5th, was a great day! A wonderful lady, Sister Edzita, was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are so happy for her and even happier for us, because we get to associate with her! Right after her baptism we had a Relief Society party. I had mentioned that I wanted to learn how to make chortchellas - so here we go. Another name for them is 'Georgian Snickers'. First you string the walnuts using a needle and thread.

A picture of myself, Dali (she is an investigator that comes to my english group) and Armina - who is the mastermind behind our project today!

OK - Leala did not really string any walnuts - but she loves being in all the pictures - here she is with Keti, who is filling out her papers to go on a mission.

Next, you take grape juice and add a lot of flour and cook it slowly on the stove. She had this huge wooden spoon and I felt like I was stirring a witches brew!

When it gets really thick, you lay the string of walnuts in the sauce and use the spoon to cover the nuts with more sauce. Then you slowly pull the nuts up and they are covered with the sauce. Then we strung them on a stick between two chairs where they hang for several days until they dry. We put the extra sauce in cups and ate it for dessert.

They also showed me how to make Tolma. You start with a grape leaf that has been soaked in water and add a meat mixture (hamburger, rice, onions and spices). Then you roll it up and stack it in a big pot. They are covered with water and boiled for about 30 minutes. We ate tolma and a yummy chicken salad and bread with our grape sauce and cookies for dessert.

It took us almost 3 hours from start to finish - but we had a great time. Here are Tamuna and Edzita - new friends. Our sisterhood was strengthened by this activity.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Being the only small branch in the entire country of Georgia has it's advantages. The last week in October we were visited by Elder Nuenschwander, his wife and Slava. E. Nuenschwander, a emeritus general authority, and his wife are now serving a church/branch history specialist mission for Eastern Europe and he is a Patriarch. Slava is the E. Europe's family history specialist. Slava trained our 2 family history people. E. Nuenschwander gave blessings to 5 members of our branch and I worked with him to set everything up and keep things going smoothly. Here he is with Elgouja and Denara. It was a joy to be there and see the people come out of the patriarchal blessings - they glowed! The missionaries were having a district meeting and E. Nuenschwander was able to

sit in for a little bit and then talk with the Elders. What was most amazing was the time we were able to spend in counsel and conversation with our guests. We learned a lot about doing church, branch, family and personal history. We showed them around Tbilisi and Mtskheta - all our favorite spots. His wife was delightful. Where else but Georgia would E Reese and I be able to recieve personnal counsel and advice from a General Authority for 2 days - unbelievably amazing - the Lord is truely blessing us in so many ways!