Apr 18, 2009

A Journey with Song - April 4th, 2009

Dear friends,

What a full week this has turned out to be. As we speak, it seems another tree or flower blossoms. Yesterday I was walking with a friend and we came upon wild lilacs. It is a beautiful time to be here, to see snow in some parts of the country, rain in others...to experience such a distinct shift in the seasons.

Today we had an excursion to the town of Spitak to visit Mother Teresa's orphanage there. I had never been and neither had the residents. We both wanted to meet the residents there and to give something to them... All of the residents (from our home and theirs) became friends quickly. It was a joy to watch friendships begin, to see another place that reaches out to the same people in this country, and to draw strength from shared joys and struggles. We face many of the same difficulties and so I found solace in that. Mother Teresa's orphanage opened right after the earthquake and the children who were handicapped by the earthquake have grown up and will stay in this place for their entire lives. They do not take new residents (I tried before opening Warm Hearth!) but perhaps as a result, it feels like a family there as well.

On our way over and through the snow-covered mountains, I again wished that you could have been there. Our residents were singing, befriending the driver, making jokes and pointing out gorges, lakes, mountains and villages to one another. I leaned my head back as they sang and drank in a few deep breaths of mountain air and told myself: Remember this. Never forget it. Remember this joy, their joy, your joy.

We have come so far. I couldn't help but think of our first long journey together from Kapan over snowy roads when we opened the home. I couldn't help but look back, knowing that we have been blessed to have made it thus far. I also couldn't help but look forward and wonder where we will still go together.

I hope that the way forward will bring a solution and healing for Anna and Sassoon. They remain in the clinic. It has been so long now. And while on some days, I know that they are there for good reasons, I also know that it is not *good* that they are there. And in this way, we are at an impasse with them. There is a chance that our training next week (a specialist from the Seattle area joins us tomorrow) will provide help for our staff to the extent that we can try to bring one of them home. But there is also a chance that we will not be able to.

When I visited them a few days ago, Sassoon asked me over and over to take him home. I told him I could not, over and over. He then went through a list of everyone he could think of who might be able to take him home and for each question, I had to say, "he/she cannot take you home." Finally, exhausted (as was I), he looked down and let out a huge sigh and said, "God will take me home." Oh.

I carry them in my heart, though, and ask that you carry them as well. It is too heavy to carry alone. And at each juncture, I hope that this will be the one that allows for some large change for them, that allows for them to be at home again...even if it is in a different home.

May it be so. Miracles have happened before.

Sincerely and with Gratitude, Natalie

Apr 18, 2009

Spring Newsletter

Dear friends,

I just returned from a trip to Armenia and wanted to thank each of your for your tireless support and courage. Please see the attached newsletter for the latest updates from our home, for a glimpse into the lives of our residents. And feel free to be in touch with ideas or questions. I welcome your input and enjoy corresponding with each of you.

Thank you for your time, for listening to our story, for being such an essential part of it.


Natalie Bryant Rizzieri

Apr 16, 2009

Back Home In Armenia - March 28th, 2009

Dear friends,

As I expected, it is the cusp of spring here in Armenia. Rain is falling gently outside. There is occasional thunder. And I'm on my way back to my room after a full day at Warm Hearth. How do I even begin?

Well, as you know, we have six new residents, who welcomed me like they had always known me, who are at peace, it seems, and living well with the others. I was shown every nook and cranny of our renovated 3rd floor....which is homey and warm and freshly painted. The garden ground was recently plowed and the trees there will soon break. Agappy, a new resident, was especially proud of the garden.

Oh, there is too much to tell.

All of our residents had displayed the best of their artwork and handicrafts around the house and I spent hours looking through sketchbooks, and fingering ceramics, and seeing what they have creatively done with the packing-styrofoam. The two work-rooms look like small art halls and the time and love spent in those rooms is evident.

I listened as the residents said a prayer before their meal. I smelled fresh khachapoori (an Armenian cheese pastry) and watched a community-assistant pull it out of the oven and serve it to the residents. I took all the shy smiles that Yulia gave me across the room, the chorus of "eat, eat" from each of the residents, coffee that Sargis (another new resident) made for me and proceeded to force me to drink it alone so that I could have a moment of peace, he said. :)

We ate together and laughed together. And had an afternoon dance-party in the living room after each resident had sung as many songs as they could conjure up, and recited as many poems as possible... You should have seen Davit dance, our newest resident who came to live with us off the street after his mother recently died. He would just jump up and down in one place, clapping his hands, beaming, and saying “opa” in a sing-songy voice Precious.

In the afternoon, there is a rest hour and each resident goes to his or her room. I took the opportunity to lay down upstairs as well to ward off some of the jet lag. As I fell asleep, I could hear the residents in the next room singing a soft lullaby (I learned later that they had sung it for me). I laid in such a warm bed, with a quilt made by one of you, surrounded, as it were, by you there and those I love here...and rested in the beauty of what we have done together.

I wish you could have been there. My hands are sticky from so much holding. Yours would be, too.

With love and gratitude, Natalie (for us all)

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