What a unique Christmas Day we had here in Jordan. This was our first Christmas away from our family in 42 years. Strangely, neither Reed nor I experienced any deep feelings of loss not being with friends and extended family Christmas Eve or Day. Maybe it’s because it didn’t really feel like Christmas. It is warm, few signs of Christ around, no music and no shopping, wrapping or cooking frenzy. We are grateful for the families and people we were able to spend Christmas with. I enjoyed being able to cook some of our family’s traditional Danish foods and Skype with all of our children and their families back in the states. Reed and I gave no gifts to each other, but I did get a pair of slippers for the cold floors of the apartment.

We had a meeting with District President Penrod, where we discussed the cultural challenges we will need to adapt to. There is no separation of church and state in Jordan. The Muslims value faithfulness and modesty, and they view all their dealings through the prism of Islam. There are many similarities with Mormon culture. We talked to him about potentially learning Arabic for some basic communication skills.

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We had a district conference with the Tolleys on Dec 23 to discuss the implementation of the new wheelchair program in January.

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Homemade Christmas specialties… Frickadella (Danish meatballs), Nana’s potato salad, pumpkin pie, apple pie, cheesecake, and of course divinity!

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2015-12-25 Servicemen

We had Christmas dinner with these 3 service men stationed in Jordan. Each are returned missionaries who have left their wives and children to work in the Embassy as language specialists. We are grateful for their service to our Country.

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We are trying to get everything organized, we inherited several binders from 2012 and we continue to try to update our contacts and keep all this new information straight.

2015-12-26 Kafa?2015-12-26 Lubna, Raad & Haya Kildani2015-12-27 Eating at Le Royal Hotel2015-12-27 Father Haddad, Reed & Sandi Phillips2015-12-27 Father Nabil Haddad

Father Nabil Haddad, founder and executive director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center. He will be working with us on developing some programs that include Christians and Muslims. He will be part of the family conference we are planning.

 

2015-12-27 Mohammad Al Ateeq Le Royal Hotel

Our contact at Le Royal Hotel for rooms and services for guests who are overflow from the apartment facilities here. For example, in February we have 12 people from Salt Lake coming to do some assessments and meetings. The hotel will host these people. Mohammed gave us a complimentary dinner at the Lebanese restaurant within the hotel, which can host 1000 people at a time.

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We are enjoying the food here so much that we’ve decided to go on a walk every morning. We are enjoying this time together. We hope to walk 3 days per week and study Arabic the other 3 days.

2015-12-27 Reed & Sandi eating at Le Royal Hotel

Here in Jordan, our Sabbath day is actually on Friday, which is a bit of an adjustment. This week we met with several strategic partners including AHS (discussed bel0w) and Salma Halaseh from the Marriott. We also  celebrated our 48th anniversary, and hosted some visitors at the center where we live. We attended Father Dabbour’s Greek Orthodox Christmas party where we were the guests of honor. There were over 500 children in attendance. Its nice to be able to observe the Christmas Holiday even in a place where Christians are in the minority.

2015-12-19 Who has the right-away?

Who has the right of way?

2015-12-19 Window shopping for a roast?

Window shopping for a roast

2015-12-19 Hospitality at Marriott

Hot chocolate at the Marriott

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Meeting with Salma Halaseh, strategic partner at Marriott

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Our friends, the Tolleys, serving in North Jordan, had 3 of their children visit for Christmas and we were excited to host them.

2015-12-14 Whoopee Cheerios

SO excited to find some Cheerios!

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Anniversary Dinner at Levant (Lebanese Food. Yummy!)

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Al Hussein Society (AHS)

  • Non-governmental organization (NGO)
  • The leading organization in Jordan that provides rehabilitation and educational services to persons with physical challenges
  • Offering  internationally accredited comprehensive rehabilitation/habilitation programs and training
  • Committed to promoting and safe-guarding the rights and laws of persons with disabilities
  • LDS Charities has been a strategic partner with AHS on wheelchair placement and decorating new guest rooms for visiting helpers. There has been discussion of outfitting a mobile rehab unit in the future
  • There is a high demand for prosthetics and they are produced at a lab at the AHS center in Amman and at the Mokito clinic. The actual cost of these supportive and/or corrective devices is $600-700 JD

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2015-12-18 Father Dabbour

Father Dabbour, Greek Orthodox Christmas Party

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Amman Map_Dec15

Plotting our stops for the day on Amman city map

Our first week on our own in Jordan has flown by! Though we were overwhelmed, we were excited for the opportunity to take on new tasks and start to develop our own style of working with the people here in Jordan. To make our blog entries more readable, we’ve decided to boil our experiences down into bulleted lists and photos with captions. Please leave us a comment if you’d like to know more about any specific thing. We are happy to see that there are actually people out there reading this thing! We miss you all!

  • Technology—Resolving issues with our PCs, MACs, Printers, Ethernet cables that go to nothing, etc.
  • Talked with friends, the Strongs, former service missionaries in Jordan
  • Jordanian directions and names are starting to sound less foreign
  • Parking is tough—paid lots and valets are helpful
  • Restaurants are surprisingly good. We hope to have lots of places picked out and tested for when people come to visit us
  • Logistics—banks, passports, photos, Ministry registrations, still need to register with police department. Everybody is always registering for something around here
  • We’d like to tour some of the sites in the area as time permits—Madaba, Mt. Nebo, John the Baptist baptismal site, Dead Sea, Jurish, castle at Ashlum and Petra. Visiting these sites will add breadth and depth to our calling.
  • This past week we visited City Mall, Mecca Mall and Galleria Mall. We got winter coats, spicy Jordanian fast food, and yummy pastries.
  • Sandi is practicing hymns to play in the Arabic branch. We were asked to give talks on the Sabbath (which is Friday here).
  • Attended a Humanitarian Action Conference (where most of the photos are from). Speakers were mostly PhD women who talked about what goes on “behind the veil”. Even in Jordan, 10-13% of marriages are arranged for girls under 18 by their parents. Much higher amongst refugees.
  • Had our Branch Christmas party. We are happy to know that the church still thrives, even in locations where its not expected to. Several families have invited us over to celebrate with them on Christmas morning.
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    McDonalds for lunch! Pretty tasty! Especially the fries.

We hope that by attending conferences like the one we did this past week will help us to better understand the Jordanian culture, make connections with humanitarian partners that will enable us to provide better aid and make a difference in peoples lives through sustainable measures. No small task!

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Getting closet organized

Cookies for branch party Dec 15

100 cookies for Branch party

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Madelia from Phillippines

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All set up in the office. Just like home!

Two-Year Humanitarian Service Assignment in the country of Jordan Begins!

When people are the busiest, they often have the least amount of time to record their experiences and write down their feelings. Our arrival week in Jordan, as country directors of Humanitarian Work and LDS Charities, was one such week.

We said goodbye to our children and their families at Thanksgiving weekend at our son Rick’s home. It was a sweet time of bonding, socializing and expressions of love. At the end of the day, five of sons and son-in-law placed their hands on each of our heads, and gave us a blessing prior to our mission departure. The thought of leaving for two years astounds me and frankly, is not pleasant at this point. Our 21 precious grandkids are each going to be seriously missed.

We then drove to California and stayed overnight at our son Roo’s home in Burbank. His family took us to the airport next day. Eleven air hours, a layover in Paris, and 9 time zone changes later, we were hovering over the capital of Jordan in a landing pattern. What on earth have I committed myself to? Nothing is glamorous about this assignment, but it’s a necessary one. I am here because, as someone once told me, “I Owe!” I owe the Lord for my loyal and gifted husband, for my beautiful, faithful family, for my blessed life in the USA, extraordinarily good health and for the promises and direction the Gospel has played in our families lives. Now is the time for us to help others who are so much less fortunate. Our goal is to relieve suffering.

After a few hours sleep, we were off and running with the Hammonds (Ron and Sandi, who we are replacing) on appointments with partners, dinners with friends and associates, Center tour, BYU Arabic studies student and teacher discussions, driving practice, key usage, currency use, and apartment orientation.

We hear loud Muslim prayers going on five times a day, pass fully covered Islamic women on the sidewalk, push our way through traffic of erratic drivers and few road rules, and experience new foods, tastes and smells. We must learn basics of a new language and culture in a short period of time.

Reed is doing well except we have huge problems with the Center computers and printers ‘talking’ to each other. We got our new phones and numbers set up but a lot still needs to be resolved. We had the IT guy for the American Embassy come over and spend nearly 3 hours helping us. He finally tossed his hands up in frustration and said, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here. Reed hasn’t given up yet though. We’ll talk to the Salt Lake “Desk” when he’s at the end of his options. (My prediction is that this will be very soon.)

We will do our part and work hard to make meaningful, sustainable things happen the best we can. What I will never like about the assignment is leaving so many of my loved ones behind and being so far away. We were integrated with many lives and will miss the calls, meetings, trips, activities, building projects, my Live-Right and Products Matter companies, helping with tending, and being an intimate part of the grandkids growing up.

After a layover in Paris, we continued onto Jordan and arrived safely and sleepily on Sunday evening November 29, 2015 8:30pm. Ride home was 45 minutes on roads that curved over and under, around and through. Stop signs are only a suggestion. After a late walk around the 10,000 sq foot Conference Center we were taken to our new apartment, which is located at one end of the Center. We have a well-appointed apartment with a high quality bed, linens and plenty of kitchen appliances and dishes. Cupboards were stocked with food awaiting our arrival. The Hammonds have been working ultra hard to get things in perfect readiness.

Address of the “Center” that will be our home for the next two years: 194 Princess Basma Street, Wadi Abdoun, Amman, 11183 Jordan. It is a beautiful area of the city and considered very safe.

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Lynn and Myrna Tolley are the other Jordan humanitarian workers and live in Husn City to the North. Once each week they come to the Center in Amman to have a couples meeting.

We participated with them in last Monday’s meeting and had more orientation. We are also enjoying the delicious fruits at the market.

Al Husein society wheelchair project director Annie. Recipients are sewing, making puppets and craft projects. Many staff and teachers are less abled. LDS Charities supports this huge effort.

Al Husein 1Al Husein 2Al Husein

Father Kildani….Food coupon project. Fifty-five families were given redeemable coupons to help them buy food of their choice. LDS Charities donated funds and distributed $30-$60 to each family for Christmas. Kildani is personally housing dozens of displaced Iraq families on his Church property in make-shift mobile home types of containers. At least the people have a roof over their heads in the cold weather. Most of the women we gave coupons to had children, but no husband.

Father KIldani

The Royal Hospital. Physical therapist Zaid is a retired general. He is needing wheelchairs for needy patients and may help us train people how to properly fit them. He and Reed hit it off well. Reed’s specialty is writing medical grants so he may be a good resource for Zaid.

It is disheartening to know that nearly 45 million people in the world need wheelchairs, but cannot obtain them. LDSC is able to reach some of these masses in Jordan, by working with good partners.

Secretary to Vice PM

Zaid Abdulla is the executive secretary to the vice prime minister of Jordan. He and his wife were gracious to spend their evening with us on her birthday.

All of these brief meetings and/or hosting of dinners throughout the week were planned so we could meet many of Hammonds’ major contacts and continue the Humanitarian work and relationships here without interruption.We have two Kia cars. One is small for maneuvering around traffic, and the other is a van for picking up people at the airport. Reed drives and Sandi navigates.

Met with banker to set up our accounts. She has a one-year old so I gave her a Baby Banana Brush. They will be strategic in preparing financial draws for our partners, which can be in the thousands of dollars. The Center has been dealing with cash for these partner distributions and all other expenses. We hope that during our time here, we can transition the Center to a paperless office and electronic accounting with most partners. We also met with our new phone carrier, paid the electric bill, went to our PO Box, visited RHAS, GUVS (partners), Diab & Boab (building managers), Fadia and Mr. Khatib (owners), Zakaria, Raad and Lubna and Forrest, and prepared and submitted financial reports one time through. These meetings were all in preparation for us taking over assignments for the country.

Schneller school has been provided with a clean water retrieval filtration system provided through funds of LDS Charities. They are awaiting government approval to turn on the system. We will meet with these principles again at the final ceremony next month, and close out the project. They teach, house and feed hundreds of refugees from Palestine and work with them to develop skills until they get reputable jobs—rather than the alternative—which is out on the streets involved in crime.

TV Studio Shot

Comfortable in a TV photo studio. Getting mug shots for permanent residency cards. Next week we register with the US Embassy so they can keep track of us with any alerts. We saved the ‘Center’ money by getting our international driver licenses ahead of time in the USA.

Dinner with the Al Deir family. He is the branch president of the Arabic speaking Branch and she is the chorister. I’ll be playing the organ/piano for their meetings on Friday which is our new Sabbath day in Jordan. This is causing me great fear and trembling. Did some practicing this morning, but I’m no Jan Clayton, or even a Heather/Annie/Kristin/Troy/Jennifer/Ryan/Brayden/Mary/Nancee (and all you other kids and grandkids that play the piano beautifully)–rather, I sound more like 1-year old Blake slamming on his toy piano keyboard. Dang. I really should have kept practicing when I was a kid. Lol. I’ll rely on my simplified hymnbook for the time being.

Orientation – this is the multi-page booklet/bible we’ll be referencing for “how to” care for the Center and LDSC partners. Sandi Hammond organized it well. Passing the owner’s manual from Sandi H. to Sandi P.

JDs

More practice on paying wtih JD’s (Jordanian Dinars). Bills come in 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, 20’s and 50’s only. No bigger bills. One Dinar = $1.4 USD.

Boxing Up food

LDS Charities helped buy food to box and distribute to 60 needy families in his parish and some Pakistani refugees. We will join them on December 24 to distribute and also support them Dec 18 for their Greek Orthodox Christmas celebration with 500 children!

Traffic

We delivered Hammonds with their eight suitcases and carry-ons to the airport Sunday evening; forty-five minute drive home with no wrong turns. Reed is an amazing, steady driver. No lines and no order to traffic but he made it.

Life Post-Hammonds:

Lots of IT challenges continue with our MACs, PCs, new phones, printers and faxes Roo helped us resolve 50% of the issues. Reed just called Salt Lake for more answers.  We got the top computer problem solver at Church headquarters in SLC. Most issues finally got resolved. At least Reed can have a good night’s sleep.

Jordan Xmas Tree

We decorated the Center and our apartment for Christmas! Wow, I was excited there were Christmas trees to be had in this Muslim (just 2% Christian) country. Reed also got his first Jordanian hair cut (from me, with ‘paper-cutting’ scissors). Still, it looks better than it did. We ran our first batches of wash and cooked meals at home the last few days. This afternoon we ventured out into heavy traffic and bought Reed a winter coat at City Mall. We are preparing to meet with the Church’s attorney and the Tolleys tomorrow (the other Jordanian couple), and have a pastry treat planned for their visits. It’s going to be another busy week. Got a reassuring email from the Hammonds, and a phone call from Brent & Margaret Strong (another retired “Jordanian” couple) that we’ll understand and be up to this enormous Country Director’s task as time goes on. We pray that we will.

Have a nice day. (atmna lk ywma tyba) اتمنى لك يوما طيبا

Our family all gathered for Thanksgiving the day before we were set to depart to Jordan. We all gathered at Ricky’s beautiful new house in Phoenix, AZ. Several of us were able to go through the Phoenix temple with Natalee for her endowment, which was a special day as well. We had a wonderful family-filled weekend, all 38 of us! We said our goodbye’s to each of our children’s families and then it was actually time to go!

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After our week at the MTC, we were fortunate to have about 2 weeks to prepare before leaving for Jordan. During this time, we were able to host a few different farewell events that allowed us to say goodbye to many of our long-time friends and neighbors in California, Utah and Idaho.

We want to thank you all for your attendance, well-wishes and support at these events. It was so wonderful to reconnect with all of you!

We were also thrilled to have all of our children’s families represented at our farewell in Idaho, and we loved hearing our grandchildren sing “Armies of Helaman” during the meeting.

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We were officially set apart as missionaries, and entered the MTC for missionary training on Monday, Nov 2nd for one week of intensive training. After sending off seven of our children to this same facility, it was exciting to finally experience the process ourselves! We took this photo by the famously large world map in the main foyer. We were placed in a “district” with two other senior couples, one going to Ghana and one going to the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, along with two single senior sisters.  We were lucky enough to stay with Spencer and Kristin in American Fork each night, and very much looked forward to eating breakfast and dinner with them.

Day 1 (Monday, Nov 2nd)
We were impressed at how organized and efficient things operate. Everyone is over-the-top happy. This was the largest group of senior missionaries they have had so far this year with 117 of us checking in. We had to get a polio booster—making it our 12th and final immunization. We were given our missionary badges, which we must wear daily until we actually arrive in Jordan.
Had a powerful talk on commitment and recognizing the Holy Ghost given by Elder David Bednar.

Day 2 (Tuesday, November 3rd)
Elder Richard Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife spoke to all 1500 elders and sisters. The days are long—up at 5am and returning home at 9pm. Singing songs at the MTC seems empowering. Many of the elders are only a few years older than J, our oldest grandson. We think of him as we study the movements of the Elders whisking through halls from class to class.

Day 3 (Wednesday, November 4th)
Practiced teaching investigators, which we got to do in English. Many of the younger missionaries are trying to teach in their new language and struggling. We got an A+ from our trainer—which she probably gave to everyone, and our investigator was golden to teach. Reed’s expertise is with scriptures. Sandi is more socially oriented. The focus is always on the blessings that the gospel can bring to families. We felt a good spirit as we customized the lesson to the needs of the investigator. Our trainer wants us to bear testimony, promise blessings, direct questions and get commitments…none of which we can do in Jordan, but it will still be useful at some point in our lives.

Day 4 (Thursday, November 5th)
Today we did more training with non-member couples. We met with them for 15 minutes, prepared a lesson for 30 minutes, and then taught them for 30 minutes. There was also a class for seniors on how to help out in wards and branches without “taking over.” Next was training in the gospel library functions. There is an undeniably strong spirit here at the MTC.

Day 5 (Friday, November 6th)
We turned in our access cards as today was our last day of training. We felt like we could really relate to the other dozens of senior missionaries, as we have gone through many similar stages of recent mission preparation. There is a myriad of things to do. This list is probably not exhaustive:
*Dejunking/arranging for our homes to be left OR selling homes; arrange for yard and house care; animals farmed out or adopted to others; clean out fridges, freezers, cupboards
*Final travel to and visits with children and grandchildren; legacy activities, letters, memory items prepared, open houses
*Preparing wills and trusts, safety deposit box, funeral arrangements
*Turning businesses over to others to run; retirement activities
*Personal banking arranged and accounts put in order
*Legal papers drawn up or updated; taxes, contributions, and voting arranged for; retirement funds activated; international driver license obtained
*Finding comfortable walking shoes and clothes with long enough skirts
*Arranging finances to leave for 1-2 year
*Learning about the cultures into which we are moving
*Getting immunizations (12 for us), doctor visits, procedures and tests so we know autopsies aren’t necessary; health care benefits/insurance arranged for foreign travel

We related deeply to many fellow senior missionaries on professional, family and church experience levels. Overall, it was an energizing week.

We ate dinner at Grand America on our way driving home to Idaho at the end of the week. We saw Elder Anderson of the Twelve, who came over to our table when he saw our name tags, and asked, “So did you complete your Green Beret training while in Provo this week?” We had a good laugh. I trust he was kidding?

We are honored to represent the Church and will give our full energy to doing what needs to be done to build bridges of understanding with Muslims In Jordan, as well as help the many Christians and others who find themselves in Refugee camps.

Friends and family in the California, Utah and Idaho areas are invited to attend any of the following open houses to bid us farewell before we depart to Jordan. Please contact us or Natalee if you have any questions.

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Opening our mission call surrounded by all of our children, spouses and grandkids. An emotional moment.

Reed and Sandra have been called to represent LDS Charities in the country of Jordan, leaving in November 2015. This blog will be updated with photos, videos and exerpts from e-mails so those of you who are interested can follow along with the adventure! Stay tuned for details about the upcoming farewell and open house. This blog will be kept up by Natalee, who will be serving as our communications specialist while we are in Jordan.

July 2015

July 2015