My Experience in Armenia

During summer 2011, the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) organized a three-week internship program in the motherland, Armenia, where God gave Man a second chance, and Lebanon.

At Garni
The group leader was our very enthusiastic Rev. Nishan Bakalian from the Armenian Martyrs' Congregational Church in Havertown, PA. Whenever we took a group photo, he would add, "Remember! It's a picture of me with some other people!"

Trad VBS in Lebanon
Rev. Shant Barsoumian, currently residing in Chicgo, Illinois, but who will soon be moving to a post in New Jersey, and Ms. Anahid Dolabjian from Toronto, Canada, assisted Rev. Nishan in leading the group. We were 21 participants in Armenia but only 9 came to Lebanon. Most of the participants came from different parts of the United States, one from Lebanon and one from Cyprus.

At a seminar at AMAA center,Yerevan
We always started our day with breakfast, then devotions, a time of reflection and a message brought to us by both pastors. It was a time of spiritual growth. The leaders were always there for us, giving us the tools that we need to come closer to Christ. One technique was to use memory verses which I carry on with me wherever I go. We attended some seminars as well: the AMAA staff presented themselves and their work there, Rev. Rene Levonian presented the history of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Armenia, Karabakh, and other places.

After a couple of days of visiting Yerevan, the group split into two: one group went to Pert, a city four-hours away from Yerevan, and another group went to Armavir, a city an hour away from Yerevan. There we served in the churches, helping out in the Vacation Bible School (VBS).

Personally, I went to Armavir. It was an experience full of shocking, unexpected events! The families welcomed us warmly. We mostly served and helped out in the VBS. During our spare time we went and spent time visiting with the locals, and wherever we could, we gave small donations.

At Armavir Church
It was amazing to see how happy they were while living in such simplicity. Our group was literally amazed. Compared to our lifestyles where we still complain that we don’t have the newest version of every gadget, they don’t even enjoy the simplest of comforts. I was utterly shocked when we went to visit a family from the Church who had a mentally challenged son. The father told us with a smile full of sadness, "The doctors weren't experienced enough to save my little boy."

I had never seen a VBS that active, joyful, and cheerful. Most of the kids came from broken families. They sang from all their heart, rejoicing in the Lord. This scene made me realize how urgent the call to spread the Gospel is!

I would like to share with you one other experience that I had during our visitations. We went to visit a "family". This family was mainly made up of a grandmother, her drunkard son and grandson. The house was exactly the size of two mini vans. The woman wanted to offer us the only thing she had that she could serve: a watermelon. The grandma was very cheerful at first, then she started to become sad, telling us the story of her life. She has absolutely no one! Maybe a sister or a brother in Russia, whom she hasn't seen for decades. Suddenly, someone started banging on the metal door with all his might. We were very scared but after a while we realized that it was her drunkard son. My friend and I got up instantly ready to act if the drunkard hit his mother. He came in all frustrated, pushing his mom away. He started threatening to kill, to slaughter his mother, his fist only centimeters away from her face. It was a really frightening scene, the girls in our group were crying, my friend and I were in total, absolute shock.
At Khor Virab with all the group
Afterwards, the man's son came in, feeling humiliated and ashamed of his father. After a while, he apologized to us and to his mother. It was one of the most touching scenes I had ever experienced in my life.

Similar events seem to the routine in our motherland, hence the imperative for such internships. This program was a life-changing experience for me, full of joy, sadness, tears, fear, excitement, and laughter. We were so much blessed by bringing joy to the ones in need. We were amazed by the faith that the people had, even in these poor circumstances they still feel that God hasn't abandoned them and still keeps His promise of a brighter future. That's the only hope that makes our people in Armenia still want to live their lives.

These experiences are examples of how much there is still to do in this world, how many people still need to hear the Gospel. I won't hide the fact that this experience planted a seed of ministry in me which I will be more than willing to develop in the coming years. After all, Christ commanded us to “go to people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19). Remember, it is a Command and not a Suggestion!

Vahé Jébéjian