Christian Manoukian came all the way from California (USA) to Beirut (Lebanon) to serve in vacation bible schools and in junior youth camp, as well as to visit the places where his parents used to live. In order to find out more about his mission in Lebanon, we had this interview with Christian.
(Interview conducted by Raffi)
Raffi- Tell us about yourself and your connection to Lebanon.
Christian- My name is Christian Manoukian. I'm 19 years old, and I live in Los Angeles, California. I attend Cal Poly Pomona as a Journalism major. My family is originally from Lebanon. My dad was born there, and lived there until heavy fighting in his neighborhood (Khalil Badawi) forced his family to flee to the U.S. when he was a teen. My family connections helped me in establishing my own connection to Lebanon as well.
Raffi- How did you decide to serve in Lebanon?
Christian- In 2015, I went to Armenia with the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) on a missions trip, and on that trip, I really had my eyes opened to the impact missions work can have to a particular community. It was a life-changing experience for me.
After I arrived back home, I knew that God was calling me to more missions work. The next location was immediately clear to me: the land of my parents and their parents before them, Lebanon.
I knew that the current situation in Lebanon, whether it be political problems or increasing sectarian tensions, was wearing down on the people of the country. I told myself that there is no better opportunity than now to travel there and serve God and pour out my love to the people there and really be God's light in an increasingly dark world.
Raffi- Where did you visit and serve in Lebanon?
Christian- My mornings consisted of visiting different Vacation Bible Schools (summer schools, I'm not sure what the correct term is) and doing a variety of things there. I would help lead kids in worship, tell them stories, play with them, take pictures of the event, observe and take notes to later publish in my daily blog. During my stay in Lebanon, I visited Emmanuel and Marash churches, as well as Karagheusian and Trad social centers.
I also served as a leader at Camp Kchag for badaniats hamakoumar.
Raffi- What was your impression of Lebanon and the churches here and what changed in your perspective after experiencing Lebanon first hand?
Christian- As a country, I loved Lebanon. It was wildly different than the environment I'm used to living in, and it was very interesting to experience a new culture first-hand.
As far as the churches go, I loved visiting each individual church and getting to know each individual group. Each church is at once both connected and unique. What I mean by that is although everyone within the Armenian church community knows each other and are very close with each other, each individual church has a unique group of badaniats and chanitz and an individual dynamic that makes them who they are.
I was very impressed with the church unity and I absolutely loved seeing everyone from different churches reuniting and embracing when they would see each other. When I was included in these embraces, it really made me feel as if I was part of a huge family I never even knew I belonged to.
Raffi- What are some of the things that surprised you?
Christian- Referring back to the previous question, I was pleasantly surprised with how unified the church community in Lebanon is. In Los Angeles, there are many Armenian churches, but since we are all so spread out over the city, we don't often see each other or interact with each other. It was very refreshing to constantly see friendly faces while attending various events or even just wandering around Beirut. It is something I will very much miss about Lebanon.
Another thing that caught me off guard was the amount of kids who've grown up in real hardship. I lost count of how many kids I met who've lost a parent (or both) already, or are working at a very young age to provide for their family or save up for the future, or are in abusive relationships or families. It was really startling and at the same time encouraging to see the way each badanee has overcome their individual trials and have become stronger in their faith.
Raffi- Is there something that you want to say?
Christian- I was very moved by my time spent with the people of Lebanon. It has left lifelong memories in my heart and mind, and I in turn left my heart there. This missions trip was just the first; I plan on returning and doing more work in this country. I will be back!
In upcoming posts we will share Christian's photos as well as his reflections about the places he visited.