8 July 2015 was the marvellous day when 20 interns from all around the world (USA, Canada, Greece, Syria and Australia) gathered in Armenia, under the leadership of Rev. Vatche Ekmekjian, to participate in the Summer Internship Program that was organized by AMAA (Armenian Missionary Association Of America). Though we didn’t know it at the time, the following weeks would shape our hearts and lives permanently and help fix our sights on furthering God’s kingdom wherever we went.
The theme was “God’s Work in Our Hearts”. Every morning, we started our day with worship and devotion, both of which were very inspirational to me. We ended each worship session with prayer, praying that He would be with us throughout this mission to show us His creation and work around us and in our hearts. For certain designated days, we met with local pastors who graciously opened up their churches to us, even if they were as small as one room. Another day, we fellowshipped and worshipped with youth who shared the hard facts with us about the difficulties of living in Armenia and the emotional, spiritual, and economical challenges the youth there face. On the same day, we also met the Armenia Representative of the AMAA, Harout Nercessian, who detailed to us AMAA’s mission in Armenia and all the projects they currently fund or operate.
We were invited to visit several of AMAA’s many mission centers and witness how the AMAA was contributing to uplifting and building up the lives of many impoverished Armenian children. Among the sites we visited were the newly-built Avedissian School, Shogh daycare center and Camp Sheen Shoghig in Hankavan.
I know for a fact that our group was most moved and affected by our time spent up at camp in Hankavan. During our three days there, we participated in a wealth of different activities; from sitting in on the children’s morning devotionals to teaching them new worship songs to playing a game of soccer with them on the field. None of us will forget how heartbroken we were when, as we were driving away from camp in our bus, we saw all the children and leaders sorrowfully waving goodbye to us from the soccer field. We truly felt that God was there and that He revealed himself to us through the adoring eyes, the loving hands, and the tender hearts of the children there.
Not ones to be kept down after such an emotional experience, we joyfully continued our journey around Armenia. We visited several Armenian Evangelical churches all around Armenia, from Armavir in the south to Vanadzor in the north. We were royally treated to the traditional Armenian hospitality and kindness by the respective congregations, often being offered delicious five-course meals and refreshments. For those who didn’t speak Armenian coming into the trip, they certainly learned a new word after all that food: gshdatsah (I am full).
Also, we got the unique opportunity to meet with some very needy families and share the love of God with them. We raised over $400 total out of our own funds to donate to families in Dilijan, Shiragamut, and the suburbs of Yerevan. Seeing how little those families had, yet how happy and upbeat they were, we realized how much we take for granted. The visits really lifted our spirits and made us appreciate all that we have.
We attended two Sunday services; one at the Evangelical Church of Armenia, pastored by our local “guide” and dear friend Badveli Hovig Hovsepian, as well as the Harav Aremtyan Taghamas church, where we got the chance to praise the Lord with the congregation. The worship was beautiful both times and both services were punctuated by moving testimonies from Anna Shanazari and Eliz Hovsepian from Burbank, CA, and Nayiri Papazian from Montréal, QC, Canada. Badveli Vatche Ekmejian, our leader, also delivered two powerful sermons during that time.
The most amazing part for me was at the end of each night where we did something we liked to call “Share The Day.” We would gather around and each would share his/her experiences, insights and emotions about that particular day and give thanks to the Lord for the wonderful time we had.
This was my third visit to Armenia, but this extraordinary trip was by far the best time I’ve ever spent there.