For many years Sister Elisabeth served the children at the Mission House of Anjar. With the recent release of the movie/documentary 'Map of Salvation', and with her presence during the launch of the movie in Beirut, we took this opportunity to get to better know Sister Elisabeth, one of the last missionaries, who served and lived among the Armenian children and in close connection with the Armenian Evangelical Church in Anjar.
(Interview conducted by Raffi)
Raffi- Can you tell us about your own background, and how you decided to become a missionary in Anjar?
Sister Elisabeth- Born in Thun/Switzerland, I grew up with one brother and three sisters. Happy childhood (without iPhone or TV !!), but beautiful nature around. Elementary and secondary school in our town. Working years. Then 1 1/2 year in England. The following ten years in Germany. There I met Pastor Meergans and his wife from Hilfsbund Mission. Through the Workcamp 1980, Anjar had a lasting place in my heart. Still, when asked to work in the Little Boys Building, God had to prepare body, soul and mind. It took three years.
Raffi- How many years did you work as a missionary in Anjar?
Sister Elisabeth- From 1983 - 2007 (First half in Little Boys' House, second in the Mission House)
Raffi- What are your best memories that you still cherish? Can you tell us some of your interesting stories?
Sister Elisabeth- Memories connected with the little boys: e.g. when in 1992 I was in AUB Hospital with Hepatitis and received drawings and little notes from the boys. Also, many people visiting me, and Mrs. Kardjian calling every evening wishing a good night. This is unforgettable! Or how boys cared for boys (see photo). Or how one of the boys was imitating teachers in the building. Then the other boys asked him to imitate sister; he looked at me and...... refused. Another boy came back from Christmas holiday and brought me a little present. When I opened, it contained a lipstick!!! Later I heard that he had asked his mother to buy one for me, for he said to her that sister hasn't got any. In the following time I used "rouge" at least on several Sundays. My turn for a chapel service one morning at church. From our neighbor I had asked a lamb to illustrate the biblical story. You would seldom have a hushed audience like those children. And the little lamb gave only a sound when I carried it out of the church.
Raffi- What was the most difficult aspect of the mission work in Lebanon and how were you able to overcome them?
Sister Elisabeth- Every new beginning is difficult. Anjar was more than a challenge to me. The first school year (1983/84) has been a struggle with the work (children and adults), language, culture, 'home alone' after 9.00 p.m. with a bunch of smart, active boys, who, after the second study time were up to all sorts of mischief, knowing very well my language problem!!!
Raffi- How strong is your connection with Lebanon, Anjar and your children who have become young men today?
Sister Elisabeth- Still considerably strong with quite a number of the now young men. We share by e-mail, apps, or use the phone, which is really amazing after they'd left the boarding some fifteen or twenty years ago.
Raffi- What is your prayer that you would like to share with us?
Sister Elisabeth- pray for more children in the boarding
- more Armenian financial support of Anjar boarding and school
- Pastor Hagop Akbasharian, his wife and all who work in Anjar boarding, school and church