Mission Armenia: My First Week
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 9
Frankfurt to Vienna
It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep does for the body! After 38 hours without sleep, I was grateful for the hotel bed. The Lord blessed me with a full eight hours of sleep, and at 7:00 a.m., I packed, had breakfast, and headed to the airport for another long day.
Paying attention to our body and mind allows us to recognize what we need. As I’m writing this I’m in a coffee shop at the airport, giving myself time to rest, reflect, and to turn my attention toward the needs of pastors and leaders that I will see in a couple of days.
Tomorrow will be a day for me to reflect on the condition of my soul, ensuring it finds rest and renewal before I minister to others. Hopefully, you are being intentional to care for your soul, as well.
Keep praying for me. And, continue to pray that God will provide refreshment to the souls of these incredible pastors and leaders in Armenia and Eastern Europe.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 10
Vienna to Yerevan
I arrived in Yerevan at 4:00 a.m. The flight from Vienna to Armenia was only about three hours. I don’t sleep well on an airplane, so I’m tired -- but excited.
In the taxi from the airport to my hotel, I felt as if I was returning home. That may seem strange since Armenia is far from my home. But there is something that binds my heart with these people. I would go as far as saying -- it’s a God thing.
After resting, I walked to Republic Square. The streets were filled with people enjoying the weather and sights of this ancient city. Two young men walking in front of me approached a woman with her child in a stroller at the foot of some steps. They both lifted the stroller and carried it up the stairs, laughing and smiling. What a picture of kindness. The mother thanked them, and they went on their way.
It caused me to think: How often do we -- in our hurry to get somewhere -- miss an opportunity to extend a loving act of kindness?
After an enjoyable meal (without a doubt the BEST cabbage salad I’ve ever tasted), I returned to my hotel, enjoying the beauty of this city and its people. I’m looking forward to being with pastors and leaders tomorrow.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. And thank you for your prayers.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 11
The Mother Cathedral, Yerevan, Armenia
At noon, Hasmik and her husband Hovo picked me up at my hotel. It was good to see her and meet her husband. And, it was especially nice to see their adorable daughter, Christina.
Hasmik is a wonderful interpreter, fully capable of helping me negotiate the challenges of language.
We went to the church to meet with Pastor Natalia. As typical, our first meeting (and all meetings) included food. Wonderful fresh Armenian foods. I’ve been privileged to meet with Pastor Natalia each month via Zoom. To see her growth and development is a wonderful experience.
Then, I had the opportunity to tour the Mother Cathedral and some other ancient landmarks that speak to the ancient ties of Christianity to this marvelous country. There’s something about seeing the landmarks carved out of stone that help me remember my faith is possible because of those who have preceded me.
Armenia’s struggles are real. They have been for centuries. Persecution is a real part of their history, even to this day. These dear people have given — and continue to give — so much, even their lives to proclaim the Gospel to their people.
For me, these ancient churches and artifacts are a humbling experience. My faith that I take for granted is costly. Lord, help me to be bold in my faith. May I never take lightly the richness of your love — expressed in the dedication of your servants who have gone before me.
We returned to the church in time to minister to the pastors, leaders, and congregants of Pastor Natalia’s church. The worship was vibrant. It was such a blessing to see how receptive the people were to the teaching of the Word.
May God grow the seed that was planted in the hearts of these dear men and women.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 12
Geghard Monastery, Yerevan, Armenia
Today I was honored to speak at Pastor Natalia’s church. These Armenians know how to worship! They are not timid when it comes to expressing their love for God. Their warm acceptance for the teaching of God’s Word is a true indication of their desire to grow spiritually.
After the morning service, lunch was served. The worship team members joined the pastors around the table. We ate, laughed, ate, listened, ate, shared stories, ate… and did I mention: We ate?
I was thoroughly impressed with the worship team members' questions. It was a privilege to share with them something dear to my heart. To see their sincere desire to engage others in worship and to hear their questions that revealed a proper attitude towards worship was inspiring.
That afternoon, we traveled to Geghard where I was given a tour of another historic monastery in a beautiful mountainous region of Armenia. This site was where early Christians hid in caves from their persecutors. As I observed the “crossroad crosses” hand-carved in the stones, I was once again humbled. It was a deeply moving experience for me.
On the return journey to Yerevan, we stopped to see the only pagan landmark left in Armenia. It dates back to approximately 65 BC.
The next stop was to have dinner. Hasmik, Hovo, Christina, Pastor Natalia, and I sat in an outdoor restaurant where we were treated with fresh salads, cheeses, meats, and breads.
“How is it possible to love the Azerberjanis?” The question was prompted by our discussion at the ancient monastery. It wasn’t a casual question. It was an inquiry that surfaced because of the recent — and current — pain Armenians are experiencing.
Knowing that we are to love our enemies and learning how to do so, while defending what’s right, is a tension we all live with. It was a conversation that we had in the beautiful star-filled night over a meal in a remote area of Armenia.
The question still remains with them — and me. Lord, loving our enemies is not easy. There are times we simply do not know how to do this. Teach us to love, as you love. Forgive us when hate trumps love. Remind us of your love for us.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 13
Hasmik, Hovo (John), and Pastor Natalia picked me up from my hotel at noon. We went to Khor Virap, where St. Gregory the Illuminator was ordered by King T’rdat to be placed in a deep pit in the castle dungeon at Artashat. Gregory had refused to place a wreath at the foot of a pagan statue in honour of the goddess Anahit.
Miraculously, he survived for 13 years and was instrumental in the king’s conversion to Christianity in 301 AD.
These historical sites help me appreciate the sacrifice of men and women who were willing to suffer for the cause of their faith. Today, Armenia is under conflict — again — by those who desire to destroy Christianity. Pray for the people of Armenia!
After the tour, we returned to Pastor Natalia’s church for a meal. We sat around the table, laughed, talked, and shared the warmth of wonderful fellowship. The language barrier may have left us confused at times, but there was never any misunderstanding of our hearts — brothers and sisters united in Christ.
I had an hour to rest and prepare my heart to minister to pastors and leaders who were coming to the church at 6 pm. We had a wonderful time teaching and interacting with each other. Although we may be separated by many miles and have different customs, the challenges ministers face are universally common.
What a timely reminder that even shepherds need a Shepherd!
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 14
Yerevan, Armenia -- Artashat, Armenia
It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent seven days on this mission to Armenia. My time in Yerevan has been great.
One of the young men at Pastor Natalia’s church asked me to answer two questions for him:
What do I like most about Armenia?
What do I dislike most?
I immediately replied to the first question: The people! They are warm, friendly, considerate, helpful, and they love to laugh.
The second question was difficult to answer. Finally, I said: Perhaps one thing I dislike is how many Armenians smoke. I smell cigarette smoke quite often.
He said that most visitors complain about the way Armenians drive. And boy, do they drive! I told Hovo the Armenian government could save some money by not painting lines on the streets. No Armenian driver pays attention to them.
They swerve in and out, use their horns to signal, and continue moving even if cars in front of them are stopped. But somehow they manage. It’s different but exciting.
Today, I travel to Artashat. Edik and Lilit will pick me up. Edik is the man who hosted me the last time I was in Artashat. I’m so looking forward to seeing him and his family.
Lilit is my interpreter, and she serves as our office manager for Armenia. I speak with Lilit often via Zoom. She translates my writings into the Armenian language. It will be good to see her in person.
Tomorrow, I will be speaking at a conference with pastors and church leaders.
Thanks for traveling with me. I appreciate your prayers.