Interview with Johannes and Inger About Their Visit to Lebanon

During the Summer, Johannes and Inger came to Lebanon to live here in Beirut within the Armenian community in Bourj-Hammoud, where many Syrian refugees have been living from the time the Syrian crisis started. In order to know more about them, their stay and their impression of Lebanon, we had this interview with them. Read on...

(Interview conducted by Raffi)

Raffi- Could you introduce yourselves and what kind of studies you pursue in Denmark? 
Johannes & Inger-
    •    Johannes 24 years old, studying a ‘Proffesion-BA’ in Christianity, communication and culture
    •    Inger, 22 years old, studying to teach the subjects Danish and Music. 
We got married a year ago, now we live in greater Copenhagen, originally we are both from the more southern part of Denmark. We are a part of ‘Apostelkirken’ (name of our church), a congregation with Danish, English and Farsi speaking members. 

Raffi- What are the reasons for your visit to Lebanon?
Johannes & Inger- Four years ago, we went to Lebanon for a week with the youth group of our church, supported by the Danish Armenian Mission. We met with different local youth groups, churches, and Armenians in general while staying at KHCAG. We enjoyed our visit back then and it encouraged us to go to Lebanon a second time, but for a bit longer (a month). Also we kept in touch with the Danish Armenian Mission, which also encouraged us to go. For us, it was a wonderful opportunity to experience and be a part of another culture, country and Christian fellowship. Furthermore, we wanted to strengthen the ties between Denmark and the Armenians in Lebanon, on behalf of the Danish Armenian Mission. 

Raffi- Where did you stay and serve in Lebanon?
Johannes & Inger- During our time in Lebanon, we stayed at the CAHL center in Bourj Hammoud. This was a nice location, making it easy to experience the Armenian community and its everyday life, also it was a walking distance to Nor Marash, where we participated in the summer school for one and a half week, playing, singing, and so on with the kids. We participated in the general assembly of The Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAECNE). It gave us some very detailed insights about the challenges of the church, the Armenians and the Middle East in general. At the end of our stay, we visited the teen-camp at KCHAG, a real pleasure to both leaders and teens. In between all this, we attended youth groups, Sunday services, social/cultural activities and a couple of tourist attractions as well.  


Raffi- What were your impressions of Lebanon and the churches here and what changed in your perspective after experiencing Lebanon first hand?
Johannes & Inger- It’s always hard to know what to expect, when you go to another country, however, we had our thoughts and ideas. First of all, we wondered how the ‘refugee-crisis/Syrian war’ affected the country as a whole, it’s hard to imagine how to handle refugees in such big numbers. Even tough the challenge is huge; we were very impressed of how well it seems to work out after all. From a foreigners perspective it seems that the different Lebanese community including the Armenians has a way of integrating the refugees into their communities. We experienced this at first hand in plenty, as we spoke to several Armenians originally from Syria now staying in Beirut, as part of the community. 
Another thing, it surprised us how much the evangelical Church, its members, pastors, organization, and so on, were similar to the church we know from back home. A few differences of course, but all in all we felt familiar with the form of the services. 
Jesus is the same everywhere, but never the less the similarities surprised us. 
A third thing we learned is how complex the situation in Syria the neighbor country is. In the West, we used to get at least a somewhat manifold picture of the situation, but the complexity really got to us as we spoke to those who experience this at first hand - really eye-opening. 
Finally, one thing we had it right all from the start: The weather! We expected it to be way too hot, and it was. But as second-time visitors we knew what we were going in to, we were prepared. 

Raffi- What are the memories and lessons that you would take with you to Denmark?
Johannes & Inger- We will remember first of all the great hospitality and gentleness of the Armenians community. Everywhere we went we were being taken care of. And even more important to the purpose of our stay, people really wanted to share their stories and get to know us. As mentioned above, the stories from especially Syria made an impression on us, but also the will power to make things work under challenging circumstances is a characteristic of the people we meet, which we will remember. All in all the different relationships we made during our stay is of great value to us – and we are thanking God for this opportunity. We wish you all, the best – and looking forward to hopefully see you all again sometime. 
God bless. 

Daily Vacation Bible School in Nor-Marash Church

Daily Vacation Bible School in Nor-Marash Church

Touring in Lebanon

Touring in Lebanon

Interview With Christian Manoukian, A Man On A Mission

Christian Manoukian

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.

An Interview with Badveli Jirayr Ghazarian

Badveli-Jirayr-Ghazarian

Badveli Jirayr Ghazarian is one of the newly graduated students from Near East School of Theology (NEST), and is now pastoring the flock of the Armenian Evangelical churches in the region of Kessab, whose inhabitants went through traumatic experiences, leaving their beloved fields and lands during one frightful night. It's only recently that the Kessabtsis have returned to Kessab and Armenians have started rebuilding what has been ruthlessly destroyed. In order to know badveli Jirayr better and about his decision to become a pastor in this part of the world, and in order to further understand the spiritual conditions of our brothers and sisters in Kessab, we're sharing with you this interview. (We pray that Aleppo and all of Syria would find peace and to keep the hearts and minds of the Syrians safe).

(Interview conducted by Raffi)

Raffi- Can you first tell us about your decision in becoming a full-time minister of the Gospel?
Badveli Jirayr- The decision of becoming a full-time minister in the Armenian Evangelical Church was not an easy decision rather I have always felt that it is arduous, demanding and herculean. I say this, because I have always watched our pastors at a distance doing tons of things, engaging in many meetings, and having to be literally very present in the surrounding community. 

This decision took a lot of time, prayer and one-on-one meetings with spiritually-oriented people striving for a better community of faith. The end result was a deep decision to serve God. The church is a given to do that and I think it is one of the most amazing platforms to serve God. I presented my desire to the church, and the church with wide arms embraced me, supported me to study more deeply the word of God. In the process there were a lot of struggles, questions, meetings with close friends, but eventually I understood it this way: God is inviting me to something bigger than I think. So, this is the short version of the story.

Raffi- What is your most difficult task as a pastor, living in the war conditions?
Badveli Jirayr- Living in war conditions, one of the most difficult task of a pastor, is to really know the true need(s) of the people. The question I ask myself is : What do they need today or tomorrow ? What is the priority? Sometimes, the answers to these questions are linked to financials. War conditions need a light heart but it is as important to have a categorized budget to reach our people who are really in need. 

But, finances are not the end. 

Your question requires a deeper thought, a deeper spiritually-oriented answer. Sometimes we spend too much time thinking about what we should do for our congregations or people living in our area. Moreover, I think the main task of the church isn't fetching materialistic stuff but, as the story of Acts 3 goes; once Peter and John go to the temple and on the way they meet a lame person who asks them for money. They realize they do not have money to give, but they have something more valuable that the whole world doesn't have. They have the healing word of Christ. So, they decide to share this amazing healing word in the midst of a request presented by the lame.  

The text of Acts 3: 6-10 goes like this : “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him."

So, the most difficult task for a pastor living in war conditions is to give the healing Word to the people. A Word the makes the lame walk, the blind see and the puzzled gain momentum of their thought.  And that.... Is not an easy task at all... 

Raffi- Have the Kessabtsis returned to their home?
Badveli Jirayr- The Majority of Kessabtsis have returned to their homes. One of the main reasons for this return is the relationship of the Kessabtsi with the very soil of Kessab. Kessabtsis have a phenomenal attachment with the land they work with. The process of plantation and waiting for the crops to grow is an unexplainable attachment. Once a Kessabtsi is detached from the soil he touches, this means he/she is really dying inside. 

Before the return, many have expressed this in the following way: "If I just get back and have a nap under the tree near my house, it would be more than enough for me to survive".

So, the majority are now here and they are restoring the fields of apples, peaches and other types of vegetation.

Raffi- How is the spiritual condition of the Kessabtsis?
Badveli Jirayr- This is a very hard question to answer. On one hand because God is the only being, that knows people and their world of deeps; yet on the other hand this is somehow linked to the environment and the conditions surrounding Kessabtsis.

The terror experience in March 2014, the sudden drop of the Syrian economic condition and the "illness" of the plantation (from which the main source of income is derived)  after the liberation of Kessab, it felt like people lost hope of a living God who intervenes in History. 

Questions of theodicy arose in a spectacular way. "Why didn't God do something to stop the flow of terrorists?", "Why did God allow such an evil to happen?", "What did we do to God?", "Is God really there?". I remember a badanee asking me: "Why didn't God stop all the machine guns and the artillery of the terrorists?", "Why didn't he break all the guns that were used to attack us?"

It was first very hard for us as a church to tackle all these questions that were targeted to God, but slammed in our face. It took time to explain and remind our people that the God whom Christians pray to, is a crucified, menaced, mocked, and a God who chose the cross. It took time through bible studies, discussions, and one on one talks that God is not responsible for all this evil and that human beings are. We choose to kill, lie, steal, hurt others. The church does not believe in a God from whom evil things spring out. On the contrary, God is good all the time.

So, it is taking time to adapt to a new spiritual understanding of God. Otherwise, Kessabtis thank God for his goodness every day.

Raffi- How is the communication and coordination between the churches of Kessab, mainly the Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Catholic churches?
Badveli Jirayr- The communication and the coordination of the 3 churches of Kessab are actually very good. The priests and I meet very often and we try to be present at almost everything the churches organize. Now, we have decided to meet once a month, talk a little bit and I hope we can arrange prayer meetings together too. 

But, communication is very easy and we may say that many informal meetings happen over a coffee, phone calls, and short talks if we happen to see each other on the streets or in any organized event.

Raffi- Despite the alarming conditions, the church planned and organized a DVBS. Can you tell us how you successfully organized the DVBS?
Badveli Jirayr- Concerning the alarming conditions surrounding the country, it was risky yet extremely important for us to give a taste of joy, friendship, fun and faith to the kids of Kessab. These kids till today (after two years of the March 2014 event), still see in some place the traces of war. By traces of war I mean, the burnt hotel in the center, the spray graffitis of the many terrorist groups in their school surroundings, walls and sometimes in their homes. They see this because every family had a different priority as in where to start their renovation. Some left their homes to be renovated after a year which means the traces remained there.

So, having in mind all this, we had to do something to color the psyche, spirit and mind of every kid. We had to add some love, fun, joy and a biblical curriculum. 

Of course with the help of some friends and the Kordzatir, we were able to charge a symbolic sum so that they also keep their dignity and morals up. During the process, we had many problems, which one of them again was financial, (the price of fuel got 40% up), but we did trust our God in His provision and continued the work He started through us. 

We had 92 kids, coming every day to this school and we had 15 leaders who volunteered to help out after engaging in seminars organized by the church. 

We trusted God and we had a tough yet amazing time. We learned and grew in His service too. We got introduced to new kids and spent time with them on a daily basis. We are no more strangers but we have little friends now. 

I may close this With Isaiah 54:13 " All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace." 

Our hope is that these kids felt the peace that Christ offers to the world.

Kessab-1
Kessab-2
Kessab-3
Kessab-4
Kessab-5
On the left, Badveli Jirayr and Houry Ghazarian On the right and top, the volunteers of Kessab

On the left, Badveli Jirayr and Houry Ghazarian
On the right and top, the volunteers of Kessab

An Interview with Sister Elisabeth Kaeser

Sister Elisabeth visiting the Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church in November 2011

Sister Elisabeth visiting the Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church in November 2011

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

Friends since 1990

Friends since 1990

At the end of lands of Anjar (October 1995)

At the end of lands of Anjar (October 1995)

Washroom

Washroom

Cleaning

Cleaning

KG's

KG's

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Christmas

Christmas

Interview With Rev. Raffi Messerlian Regarding His Participation in the Board Meeting of the World Christian Endeavour Union

In 2014, Rev. Raffi Messerlian was elected as a member of the World Christian Endeavour Union (WCEU) and in the Summer of 2015, the Board of WCEU held their meeting in Germany.

In order to further explain to our readers about the connection of the Armenian Chrisitan Endeavour Societies of Lebanon and Syria with the WCEU we conducted this interview.

(interview conducted by Mr. R. Chilingirian)

Raffi - What is the relationship of the Armenian Krisdoneyagan Chanits (Christian Endeavour) with the World Christian Endeavor Union? Can you give us a brief history?
Rev. Raffi - As the Christian Endeavour Body of Lebanon and Syria we have created connections with the World Christian Endeavour Union, and during the years the relationship has fluctuated due to various reasons including the wars in Lebanon.
Our Armenian Evangelical Churches had adopted the Christian Endeavour work among our youth, and we have created junior and youth Christian Endeavour Societies within our Armenian Evangelical Churches in Cilicia (currently Turkey)
Our Armenian Evangelical Christian Endeavour Societies in Lebanon and Syria have a special standing within the WCEU, since we are not independent youth organisations but are part of the local church, hence our motto: "For Christ and For the Church".

Raffi- Did anyone in the CE executive meeting know about the CE existence in the Armenian Evangelical Churches of Lebanon and Syria?
Rev. Raffi- Yes there were various members of the WCEU, who had heard about us, and they asked me several questions regarding our work, and I gave a presentation about our youth groups and youth-related work and services and camps in both Lebanon and Syria. The president of the WCEU showed interest in our work here in Lebanon and he would like to give us a visit within next year in 2016.

Raffi- What were the main topics discussed during the CE executive meeting in Germany?
Rev. Raffi- The Executive Body's meeting was held in Germany in a very nice campsite. There were several delegations present during the meeting. There were 2 main important topics:

  1. The general executive Mr. Andreas Rudolf will be retiring in 2017 and we decided to ask the national Christian Endeavour Societies to send their nominees for the general executive position. During this meeting there were several question raised and discussed, one of which is to know and announce the role and responsibilities of the general executive. All the world Christian Endeavour Societies will be receiving an official letter regarding this subject matter.
  2. The financial situation is getting tough and we have to come up with means to close the gap between our inflows and outflows. Hence, after extensive discussions during the meeting, we decided to ask all the national Christian Endeavour Societies to help the WCEU financially.

Raffi- How do you see the future of the relationship with the World Christian Endeavour Union?
Rev. Raffi- I think that this connection with the WCEU should be revitalised and in 2018 there is a convention that is going to be held in San Diego. We need to select a few of our members to participate in this convention.

Rev. Raffi sitting in the middle next to Andreas Rudolf, general secretary of WCEU

Interview with Noelle Marie (Badeer) Petersen on the Launching of Her New Book

The Armenian Evangelical Church in Lebanon has had visionary founders, one of whom is Augustine Bedeer. He was instrumental in founding the CMC hospital (now the headquarters of UAECNE), and the Kchag Summer Campsite (now going through renovation and rebuilding).
The granddaughter of Henry Bedeer (brother of Augustine Bedeer) has taken the initiative to assemble her family's story and has turned it into a book on the occasion of the Armenian Genocide Centennial. Her name is Noelle Marie (Badeer) Petersen, whom we met online by happenstance through our Chanitz blog. We requested to have an interview, and she gladly accepted.
In the book entitled "Survived How & Why", you will find amazing survival story of Hripsime Agnoghian Kassarjian from the genocide, relocation of the Badeer family to Lebanon and then their emigration to USA.
(Interview conducted by Raffi Chilingirian)




Raffi- What instigated you in the first place to think about writing this book?
Noelle and her husband
Noelle- When I lost my paternal grandparents, it felt like losing friends, like losing personal history. I became
motivated to share with my nieces and nephews, born and yet to be born, the wonderful people that they would never have a chance to know personally. We have a proud, glorious history as part of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and our family history marries it to our life now in America.
I never had a chance to meet my greatgrandmother, Hripsime (Agnoghian) Kassarjian. She was an amazing woman who was persuaded by her local church (in Omaha, Nebraska, at that time) to write a short book of her experiences during war, being orphaned, and surviving the Armenian Genocide. After reading her little book for the first time as an adult, it was clear to me that someone needed to digitize the book so it could be preserved and shared with future generations. After I started on her book, the project grew quickly to include photos and other short biographies!

Raffi- What are the stages that you passed through from initial phases of thinking about writing this book to actually publishing it?
Noelle- I think most people set out to ‘write a book’ and this book sort of just happened to me. It started out with “Survived: How & Why?” by Hripsime, and it grew into photos and other family stories that just couldn’t lay dormant in an old trunk any longer. My parents have all the old documents and photos going back to the 1900’s. After I decided to add a photo gallery to the book, I purchased a scanner and got busy! About 500 photos in, I realized the project was getting bigger than I ever intended it to … and I loved it. The next stage was to round out my written content to equal the number of photos that I wanted to include. I went back to the trunk and searched out other interesting items such as the short autobiography that my Grandpa Henry Sarkis Badeer wrote about his life, and the family history project that was done back in 1997. All of these documents were retyped into a digital format and then matched with photos, page by page.
Because I didn’t have the software to finish the layout of the book myself, I enlisted the help of my sisterinlaw, Hannah Badeer, who is both a photographer and graphic designer. She made beautiful, professional pages out of my work! We reviewed and revised the draft several times, consulting family members for missing details and proofreading.
We added color photos to the end of the book, along with information about the present members of the family. We
ended up with about 69 pages in all.
What started out as one simply project evolved into a spiral bound book that I later self published and made available in physical and digital format to family and friends.

Raffi- What problems did you face while working on this book?
Noelle- The main problem I faced was identifying people in photographs that I never met personally. With my grandparents gone, I relied heavily on the help of my Uncle Gilbert Badeer, and my Dad (Daniel Badeer) to help me with this task. We went through over 200 pictures together putting names to faces! I couldn’t have done this without their help.
The secondary problem I faced was dealing with relatives who didn’t care much for the project, or making a contribution. I was surprised to find that some of the extended family had no interest in sharing stories or memories for others to learn from and enjoy. It was disappointing, and probably part of the reason that it took me about a year and half from starting
the project to bringing home the first printed draft.

Raffi- What is one interesting story that you found out that you didn't know previously?
Noelle- I never realized that my greatgrandmother (Hripsime Agnoghian Kassarjian) was orphaned and separated from her brother as a child. Her brother’s story, included in her little book, is remarkable. Luder Agnoghian was one of many children that we separated from their parents, and exiled in separate directions. He was rescued by several different families and lived with Bedouins until he found himself in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Luder and Hripsime were reunited there after forty years of separation, fearing the other had died. As he said, God sent an angel to save him!

Raffi- What is the feedback that you received?
Noelle- It is difficult to report feedback when you send a book away to be read. I’m sure some people who have read it never took the time to write back to me. Those who have read it have told me that they love seeing photos with stories, and that the book is much more conversational and approachable than most family history books. I didn’t worry about charts and
trees so much as telling each person’s individual story. Isn’t that what families are made of? Individual stories?

Hripsime (Agnoghian) Kassarjian and her brother, Luder Agnoghian when they were re-united after forty years!

Photo taken around 1980, on the left is Noelle's mom, Deb (Ridge) Badeer, Hripsime, and her daughter (Noelle's grandma) Marie (Kassarjian) Badeer. Marie is holding Noelle's sister, Leah


Interviewing Liza Barsoumian about the Daily Vacation Bible School of 2015

The Daily Vacation Bible School is one of the primary outreaching and evangelising ministries of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in general and the Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church in particular. Why? Well, simply it's a unique ministry where we as a church can reach out beyond our neighbourhood of Amanos area and invite children who attend other schools during academic year.
In order to gain further knowledge about the DVBS, we had this quick interview with Ms. Liza Barsoumian who is leading this year's summer school for the third year now.

(Interview by Raffi)


Liza Barsoumian with the DVBS children
Raffi - What will the children learn this year, regarding Christian principles?
Liza - Daily Vacation Bible School is one of the most successful forms of outreach for children. Every child needs to hear about God, not only once, but multiple times. This year Children will learn the basic concept of praising God for His power, providence, love, authority and greatness.

Raffi - How many children have registered in DVBS?
Liza - More than 150 Children

Raffi - The number of children registering has increased, what do you think are the reasons?
Liza - Children’s ministry is fun, rewarding and an opportunity to make a long-lasting impact on children and their families. Daily Vacation Bible School is simply fun and children love it. When children have fun, they are more likely to pay attention, learn and invite their friends. We make sure that our Vacation Bible School is worth attending through its organized and prepared activities.

Promotion is vital to any successful program, and it can turn a simple event into a significant outreach program. Vacation bible school needs special promotion, for that reason we used posters, fliers, announcements and reminders. Social media is significant as well in promoting an important program as Vacation Bible School, so we created facebook page dedicated to our DVBS to share lots of pictures of our fun and exciting activities and children being part of that excitement.

Raffi - How did you choose your teachers and helpers?
Liza - There are certain characteristics leaders of DVBS need to have, and they are chosen accordingly:
  • Good relationship with God
  • Biblical knowledge
  • Loves Children
  • Teachable
  • Team player
  • Cooperative
  • Responsible
  • Ready to learn
  • Dependable

Raffi - Other institutions and NGOs are organizing DVBS programs, what do you think is the importance for the church to initiate a DVBS?
Liza - There are many institutions and NGOs organizing summer school activities for children and not DVBS programs. As the name and the title indicates ,the major difference between these institutions and our churches is on what they focus on, while other institutions focus on creating fun, recreational activities for children, our churches focus on biblical priorities. DVBS is an outreach ministry focusing on Jesus and helping children to have loving and good relationship with Him and eventually becoming mature adults of faith.

Raffi - What kind of difficulties are you facing this year?
Liza - This year we are facing two major difficulties:
  • Transportation
    More children are deprived from the opportunity of attending DVBS and be part of this great ministry.
  • Number of leaders
    This year we are blessed with more than 150 children, and only 14 leaders. More work, dedication and readiness are expected from the leaders.

Raffi - What are the various aspects that will help to have a successful DVBS?
Liza - Daily Vacation Bible School is one of the most important outreach programs for children as said earlier, it is designed to provide fun time of learning about God and enjoy stories from the Bible, singing, crafts, games, and making good relationship with friends and leaders. In order to make DVBS effective and successful, different aspects are needed:
  • Responsible Leaders and volunteers
  • Enough budget to plan different activities
  • Good advertisement
  • Transportation
  • Parents’ Support
  • Church ( Pastor, Elders , Executive Committee ) Support







An Interview with Badveli Sevag Trashian on the Occasion of His Installation as the Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church

In 2014, the Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church of Nor Amanos bid farewell to Rev. Hovannes Svajian and his family, who have relocated to Montreal Canada and are serving in the sister church, the Armenian Evangelical Church of Laval. Today, we have a new pastor, badveli Sevag Trashian, who has previously served as pastor of the Armenian Evangelical churches in the Kessab region of Syria. In order to get to know badveli Sevag, we asked him a few questions about him and his ministry, and we've come up with this interview that we share with you.

(Interview conducted by Raffi Chilingirian)

Badveli Sevag Trashian in the church office


Raffi - Can you tell our readers about yourself (years of service, education, faith)? 
Badv. Sevag -

Education
I did my primary and secondary education at Souren Khanamirian Armenian College. As a pre-Theology student I finished my degree in Education specializing in Teaching English with a Teaching Diploma from Haigazian University in 2002. After my bachelors degree from Haigazian University I was enrolled in the Masters of Divinity program at the Near East School of Theology completing it in 2005.

Faith
In 1994 I started attending the Junior Youth group at the Armenian Evangelical Church
Nor Marash. My interest in God started developing as I experienced the love and care of God through the leaders at the youth group who had exemplary faith and enthusiasm in serving Jesus Christ. At one of the Youth meetings I took a decision to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. In 1996 I passed on to the young adults group at the church and there my enthusiasm to serve the Lord grew in me. I could not see myself doing anything else but being involved in full time ministry as I was finishing my school education.
Our God works in mysterious ways accomplishing his will through us who are willing to submit to his will. We have to humbly trust him our lives our churches our ministry and be faithful in answering his call.


Years of service
After my graduation from the Near East School of Theology in 2005 I started my full time ministry on July the 2nd 2005 at The Armenian Evangelical Holy Trinity Church Kessab Syria. I served there the local Kaladouran Church too until the 1st f December 2014. In the spring of 2011 I became the pastor of the rest of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Kessab region, namely Keorkuneh and Ekizolouk churches. Currently I am the pastor of The Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church of Nor Amanos Lebanon after serving the field in Kessab for nine and a half years.




Raffi - Why did you choose to become a pastor? 
Badv. Sevag - After joining the junior youth group at the Armenian Evangelical Church in Nor Marash Lebanon I had great passion to serve the Lord full time. I could not see myself in any other field. I attended that year summer of 1995 the joint Youth camp in Kessab where there were over 150 young people from the different regions of the world. The topic of the camp was
"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."Mathew 9:37-38
I was immediately taken by this verse and thought about it and prayed that if this was a call for me to apply for full time service and ministry. The Lord guided me after this camp until I was accepted by the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East to study theology for the purpose of becoming a pastor after graduation.



Raffi - What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church? 
Badv. Sevag - The Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church is an active church within the Armenian community in Nor Amanos. It has had throughout the years, since its founding in 1970s a great impact and influence on its surrounding through the dedication enthusiasm and service of its members and leaders. I thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to serve at the Emmanuel church. I would redefine the words strengths and weaknesses as ongoing fruitful ministries and areas where more work can be done.
We as a church have successful ministries with children namely DVBS and Sunday school, with teens through our junior youth group and with young adults through our Young adults group. Of course more work and outreach can be done through these groups. However they are already a blessing to the children teens and young people who attend these programs.
Our Ladies group is also dynamic providing support and service to the different church activities and is a place where mothers and young ladies and elderly get spiritual nourishment through the worship services they attend.
It is a blessing for us at the Emmanuel church that we have devoted , talented and enthusiastic leaders. Some serve in the different committees of church for certain periods of time while others are leading the different groups.
It is a blessing and a great opportunity for us to be situated within the Armenian community in Nor Amanos. It also puts a great responsibility on us to have a good witness and an impact.
We can do more in increasing church attendance on Sundays by visiting our parishioners and by encouraging those who attend to be active in bringing their family members and their immediate friends to church.
We can do more in encouraging young people to attend church on Sundays.
We can do more in reaching out to the Armenian community in which we live. Specially the young people teens and youth.

We can do more in the field of social work by reaching out to the different needs and challenges of our people.
We can do more in preparing leaders from the new generation equipping them with proper training.



Raffi - 4- On which aspect of the ministry will you concentrate on for and through the Armenian Evangelical Emmanuel Church? 
Badv. Sevag - As the scriptures say the church is like a Family and The body of Christ meaning there is diversity within the Church. Every branch or part, age group , within the Church in my opinion is important and contributes to the witness and the ministry of the church. My pastoral calling and service will be to oversee and to work closely with all with the Lord’s help and guidance by encouraging empowering each so that they reach their assigned goals. My focus will be also to encourage our people to be more involved in the different ministries of the church. To go beyond attendance into active presence and service. I believe that the Lord will lead us this year through the different ministries at our church and will entrust us with new ministries if we are faithful with the few that we already have.

An Interview with Haig Kherlopian (USA), on his initiative to raise funds for Syria

While we are seeing the destruction of Syria and the killing of innocent civilians, Christians in general and the Armenians in specific have quickly joined hands in sending food and help to the Syrian people. While collective efforts are much needed, individuals have also taken initiative in helping relieve some of the challenges facing the Syria people. Haig Kherlopian, the pastoral intern in Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church in Havertown, Pennsylvania, USA, has partnered with AMAA to raise funds for Syria, by running the marathon. In order to understand the reasons and to get to know Haig further, we conducted with him this interesting interview.

(Interview by Raffi)

Raffi - Who came up with the initiative to fund raise for Syria through the marathon run? 
Haig - I was looking at different charities that were sponsoring the Philadelphia Marathon, but none of the organizations spoke to me either because I was not passionate about them or they were organization that funded research that had too much overhead costs. So I contacted the Armenian Missionary Association and talked to them about running for one of their missions’ projects. Syria relief was the one that made the most sense. My father is originally from Homs, Syria. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Raffi - Who was supportive to you?
Haig - My church community was the biggest support group. I am a pastoral intern at the Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church in Havertown, Pennsylvania. They supported me with their encouragement and prayers for my health. They gave financially to the cause and continue to pray for the region. My friends also helped out a lot. Many non-Armenian friends gave contributions. The great thing about this fundraiser was that it was a lot of smaller contributions with different types of people supporting the event.

Raffi - Did you find people appreciative or negative? What was your reaction to both?
Haig  - For the most part people were appreciative. People like donating to causes that have an immediate impact. When I was telling them that it would help bring food and water to people in need, they were glad that their giving would be put to use on something that was tangible.  The reality is many Americans are ignorant on the details of what is happening in the Middle East. With the presidential election, Hurricane Sandy, and the Petraeus affair taking up the news headlines in recent months, it was good to remind people of what is still happening in Syria.
Raffi - How did you prepare for this run?
Haig - While I was studying in Seminary, I did two half marathons. They were necessary steps to take before running the full marathon. On my day off, which is Mondays, I would do a long run at a nearby state park. I listened to audio books and/or Christian progressive rock music during my long runs because I can get bored easily. Whenever I had time in my schedule during the week, I would go on shorter runs, which was usually after work.

Raffi - What kind of difficulties did you face before and during the run?
Haig - People talk about hitting a wall when running a marathon. I hit the wall close to Mile 24. My legs cramped up when I stopped for the last water station. I ran a really slow couple of miles at the end and it hurt my finish time. It was also difficult to ignore all the people running pass me. I did my best not to run their race, but stay true to my pace.

Raffi - How did you feel after finishing?
Haig - My goal was to just finish, so I felt good that I was able to scratch the Marathon off my To Do List.  Whatever energy I had after the race was used to focus on Youth Group in the evening. My thoughts and feelings were on 1st Corinthians which is what we are studying for Youth Group. 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 was on my mind towards the last five miles of the race, it motivated me to finish.

Raffi - What will happen with the raised funds?
Haig - The funds will be given to Armenians in Syria through the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). They will provide provisions and help keep Armenian schools operational. Donations went straight to the AMAA.

Renovation Work in Kchag, An Interview with Mr. Garbis Deyirmenjian



It was several years ago that KCHAG (the Christian Endevour Summer Campsite) was returned to its rightful owner, the Armenian Evangelical Church, in the conditions that you see in the above photoshoot, with doors and windows shut, church building worn out, the cross removed and the site used by local and foreign militaries. 
Unders these dire circumstances, the Kchag Construction and Development Committee, decided to revive the campsite to become a lighthouse again for the young men and women to find Christ again. 
In order to find out more about the renovation work, we had an interview with Mr. Garbis Deyirmenjian, one of the members of the Kchag Construction and Development Committee.

(Interview conducted by Raffi)

Raffi - In our last interview with you in 2010, you mentioned that Bezjian was being renovated. Now that this is thankfully achieved, what are the parts that the Kchag Committee is aiming to restore and renovate?
Garbis - For the time being the Church is being renovated and it is expected to have the opening in the beginning of this summer. We are using the church since 2002 without a major renovation, and it was really in a bad position when we got Kchag back. As announced last summer, our brothers in Netherlands took the initiative to share with us the major cost. The most important issue for us is to worship God again in this chapel and to let people know Christ in Kchag as it was for many years for a lot of people.
The next step is the main construction project, which was announced in July 2011 during the dedication of the "Kassarjian" building. We are in the process of getting the construction permit, and getting it in a short time and without complications can be called an "achievement" in Lebanon.


Raffi - You had also mentioned that you'll be endeavoring a fundraising plan to find donors. Can you tell us about this experience both locally and globally?

Garbis - The fundraising is in process. We are very happy that there are people who have a great heart for Kchag, for the youth and for Lebanon. So far we have around 8 donors, who have donated for certain projects in KCHAG, which will be executed after getting the main construction permit. The donors are from different parts of the world; USA, Europe, Australia and Lebanon.


Raffi - What kind of problems have you faced and are there any problems that you are facing today?

Garbis - We always have problems and try to solve them with God's help and through our efforts. They are legal issues for getting permit for construction, problems related to the legal situation of the existing buildings, the shortage of water in the area and having a good janitor. Also to have more donors and funds in order to complete the major part of the project through planned phases.

Raffi - What are the plans for Kchag Café this year?
Garbis - Kchag Café could be planned in a different way this year, it is Kchag Khenamagal's project. It could be different since the church is being renovated this year and it will not be good to do the Kchag Café in-front of the church anymore. We can plan for it in a different way and with a different concept.

Raffi - What is next for Kchag and the upcoming challenges?
Garbis - To start the main construction, by building 4 new dorms and the dining hall. To plant new pine trees since some of them will be removed during the construction and some of them are already damaged because of natural issues.

Raffi - In the end, what would you like to say to our readers?
Garbis - Thank you for your prayers and support. We ask you to continue your support and let's find more donors to continue the construction. Still we need many people to donate dorms, for other facilities and public areas.







Photos provided by Garbis Deyirmenjian