This blogpost is written by Christian Manoukian. He has come all the way from USA to Lebanon and visited the Daily Vacation Bible Schools as well as participated in the Badaniatz youth camp as a leader. This post is about his experience while visiting the DVBS of the Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church.
(This was originally posted on his blog: http://missionstripblog.blogspot.ae/)
by Christian Manoukian
Christian here again. This time I am not tired, but my stomach is killing me. It's always something with me. I blame the Lebanese.
So, what a weird corny title, am I right? Friendship, seriously? You traveled thousands of miles across the world to make some friends? You could've done that here. I imagine people saying things like that.
But it's not just about surface-level friendship. The friends I am meeting and getting to know are friends I will hold dear for the rest of my life, even if I've only met them today. These are people that are a blessing to me and I'll never forget.
So who are these friends, and where did you meet them? Well I'm glad you asked.
Today was a true blessing for me. I was privileged to attend Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church's Day Vacation Bible School (VBS) here in Amanos, a primarily Armenian neighborhood here in the capital Beirut. I got to work with the kids and leaders
The friends I made today all are a part in the wonderful program being put on here to teach the young kids all about Christ and share the good news with them.
If I may, I'd like to highlight those who I met and why I appreciate each one of them.
I was first introduced to Haig, who is 21 years old and comes from Aleppo, Syria. He is one of the leaders here at the VBS, and it is easy to see why he was placed in such a position. He is well-spoken and eloquent, and he is incredibly light-hearted and humorous with whoever he meets, and that included me. Even though my Armenian isn't that amazing and his English isn't that amazing, we struck up quite the humorous conversation and were soon joking around and laughing like we had known each other for years. I watched him lead scripture readings and teaching songs to the kids, and I was very impressed by his patience with the children. He had a desire to see them learn and grow, and that is something that should be within each of us as believers of Christ. He is moving to Australia permanently soon with his family; Lebanon will miss the great man of God he is.
Next, I was introduced to Asadur, who is also 21 and comes from Syria. He is from the town of Kessab, a place that has produced many badvelis and leaders within the Armenian Evangelical church in the past. With that being said, he as well is studying to become a badveli (pastor). He has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and is currently working on his masters in Theology. With that being said, he is a thoughtful, inquisitive, kind-hearted soul with a true hospitable Middle Eastern spirit. He was with Haig when I was introduced to both of them, and they both helped make me feel truly at home when countless other times I've seen people shun the stranger at events like these. He made me feel like family, and for that I am grateful. So friendly was he that we ended up going to coffee later that day with George and another awesome young man named Njdeh. He is a great example to the children he helped lead today and I hope they look up to him and see someone they can aspire to be in the future.
Next I was actually introduced to the head leader of the church's VBS program. Her name is Hrout (Ruth), and since she is a woman and women don't like disclosing their age, especially to some guy who will write about it in their blog, I won't say her age. I was amazed by Hrout's remarkable patience with the kids, especially the YOUNG kids. Young kids are infamously hard to keep still and stay concentrated at VBS programs, as I'm sure many of you reading this know about. But Hrout, to her credit, had them singing beautiful songs and reading out long passages of scripture FROM MEMORY, IN UNISON. When you sit and watch that, it is an amazing sight that brings a smile to your face. You can't help but be awed by someone who has the poise and grace not only to orchestrate and run an entire VBS program with helpers and kids, but also to stay calm and patient AND be able to laugh and joke around at the same time. The Emmanuel Church's VBS program is certainly in the right hands.
Next, I met Mariana. She is 20 or 21 as well and comes from Aleppo, Syria. You can see her next to Haig in the first picture. She was one of the leaders for the group of youngest kids (usually the most difficult group, at least in the US). She had an amazing balance of humor and stern discipline; for example, one minute we were laughing after being introduced to each other in a funny way by George, and then a second later, she was sternly discipling one of the kids for not listening to one of the leaders. It's not easy to be able to switch modes that easily, but any good leader needs to have those qualities and she did. She seemed to put on that stern exterior for the kids but I caught her a couple of times laughing cheerfully and joking around with some of the Syrians, and that made me smile. It's good to be a chameleon like that, able to shift if the situation calls for it.
Next, I met Chris. He is one or two years younger than me, but we are the same height (what is new in my world?). He is from here in Lebanon, and he is one of those kids that no matter what he says, it is HILARIOUS. Time and time again, I found myself rolling around in laughter because of his humor and back-and-forth remarks with George. I also found out his VBS job specialty is taking kids to the bathroom, which is a necessary job that no one wants; bravo to him for doing it with a smile and zero complaints. Chris and his best friend George are a dynamic duo; you would love to be around them. You will hurt yourself from laughing too hard. He is a talented musician as well, and I hope that God continues to use his gifts to witness to others.
Lastly, later in the day, I was introduced to Njdeh. I didn't catch his age, nor do I have a picture of him, but I know one thing: he is studying Math here in Lebanon for his degree. My first thought was 'you're crazy', followed by the thought that if I was majoring in Math, where would the nearest balcony be I could throw myself off of (and believe me, there are many balconies in Beirut and the drivers will NOT stop, so its a guarantee you're dead). But in all seriousness, Njdeh proved to be just like the rest, a remarkably driven and humorous young man who sees himself working as a professor of math or some similar subject in the near future. If I'm not mistaken, he may already actually teach. He has a real passion for the badaniats (youth) as well, and he is one of the leaders of the famous Camp Kchag in the mountains outside of Beirut. He is a joy to talk with, and I enjoyed our time together immensely. Kchag, you are in good hands.
I am grateful to each and everyone I met today, and even if it was only briefly and/or I don't have a picture of them, I am thankful I worked alongside them at VBS and elsewhere today. Each of you have become lifelong friends. You not only helped me assimilate but showed me all the Fruits of the Spirit as well, which happens to be the theme of Emmanuel Church's VBS program this week.
How fitting then, that their leaders all act out in their daily lives the VERY SAME Fruits of the Spirit they are teaching about; that is what we as Christians should all aspire to, to not just read and memorize God's word, but to go and act it out in our daily lives.
Read on, my friends.
Love, Christian (Day 4)
P.S.--- And, and of course, I can't forget the children. What a joy they were to teach, play with, and be around. Truly, they blessed me more than I coud have ever hoped to have blessed them. Thanks, kids. Without further delay, here are some of the kids. Keep them in your prayers; I know I will.