Mission Armenia: My Second Week
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 15
Artashat Day 1
Today I began ministry with pastors and leaders at a conference in Artashat. As I walked into the church we headed up the stairs to a room with a large table filled with (you guessed it) food!
What a delight it was to see a number of pastors and leaders from Belarus. They have been in this region for several days, ministering to people in small villages in the. mountain regions of Armenia. It was like a homecoming reunion.
Pastor Eduard, Gennady, Alec & Galina, Helen (my Russian interpreter), and so many other friends from Belarus. Then, there were many of my Armenian friends, pastors I had the privilege of meeting two years ago when I was here.
Pastor Daniel opened the conference with a wonderful time of worship. As I watched the audience my heart was deeply moved. These dear brothers and sisters are so vibrant in their faith in the midst of such conflict and struggle.
I spoke to them (and me) about the necessity of caring for our souls. It was obvious that God had arranged the topic. These men and women received the word with grateful hearts.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 16
Artashat Day 2
This is day two of the conference with Pastors and Leaders. I’m continuing my teaching on the importance of caring for our souls.
The ministry is being well received. The most wonderful time of the teaching moments for me is the question and answer times. It allows opportunities to clarify as well as entertain questions people have about me, my family, how the church in America is doing, what our challenges are, etc.
We have laughed, cried, and prayed together. The bond of love is strong. Wish you could be here with me.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 17
Artashat Day 3
This is the third day of our conference. Today’s topic is: Turning Back to The Heart of Worship. After five minutes of worship with this congregation, I began to believe they have more to teach me than I have to teach them. What a wonderful worship experience!
As I’ve thought about this, I recognize that often sufferings have a way of realigning our focus on God. Desperate times draw us to God. I see the joy these people have -- despite the conflict of their nation. The financial challenges they face day-to-day are real. But, they are alive to God.
We had wonderful interactions with the pastors, worship leaders, musicians, and singers today. Such great questions and discussion. There was such a strong awareness of God’s presence throughout the day.
At noon we broke for lunch at Pastor Khachik’s home. The Belarusian pastors joined us. Also, Bishop Igor from Russia was with us. What a delightful man of God! He lives in the Siberian region of Russia. I was honored when he asked if I would speak at a Pastor’s Conference next June. I told him I would pray and see if that is something God would desire.
Pastor Khachik is a wonderful man of God as well. He has such a pastor’s heart and cares deeply for his people. His wife Gailina was so generous in hosting this group.
Speaking of hosts, I’ve been blessed to stay at the home of Edik and Gohar and their family. Their children are wonderful. Arthur teaches college and has been very helpful to me in traversing the language barrier. He’s their oldest son. I also met Miriam, Arthur’s fiancee. She is delightful. She’s studying to become a doctor.
Varduhi is their oldest daughter who is in medical school. A tender-hearted young woman filled with compassion. Then there is Angelina and Sara. I can’t believe how these two beautiful children have grown since I last saw them two years ago. They are delightful.
Edk’s mother, Vard living with them as well. She is delightful, full of energy, and is determined to teach me Armenian! I think she’s losing.
I’m at home with this family. The love is strong between us. We have laughed, cried, hugged, and -- did I mention -- shared luscious Armenian food together.
God bless them for taking such good care of me.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 18
Artashat Youth Ministry and Other Ministry Opportunities
I slept in until 7:30 am this morning. I enjoyed a quiet morning and had a wonderful conversation with two young men from Russia who are guests at Edik and Gohar’s house. They are relatives of Edik and Gohar who have been taking day trips to various places in Armenia. These two men are active in ministry in Russia. It was wonderful to listen and share with them.
Armenia is a beautiful country. So much history and the landscape is beautiful. Mt. Ararat is seen from my home here in Artashat.
Tonight I got to enjoy a wonderful time of ministry with the youth of the Living Faith Church in Artashat. I reminded them of Paul’s words to young Timothy: “Guard that which is entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit.” The faith we have -- and proclaimed -- was entrusted to us by those who have gone before us.
It was a wonderful experience to see these young people receive the message -- and to receive the support of the older generation, as mothers and fathers prayed for the next generation of church leaders.
One of my objectives on this trip is to pay attention to some specific needs that God may want us to assist with.
Musical Outreach in Armenia
I met with Pastor Daniel (the son of Pastor Khachik) and worship leader at Living Faith Church in Artashat. This man is gifted musically and has a compassionate heart. The Bishop of the region asked him to serve as pastor of a small village church in Vedi, not too far from Artashat.
They desire to bring some musical events to the area where they can provide clothing and food to this community. Many of the mountainous areas of Armenia (like Vedi) have lost family members due to the war. Essential things we take for granted are difficult to come by for these people.
Pastor Daniel has a passion to see these people reached with the gospel of Jesus in tangible ways like providing wonderful music (which attracts Armenians), while being the hands and feet of Jesus in practical ways.
Pastor Khachik’s Home Repairs
Another need is for major repairs to Pastor Khachik’s home. They have discovered much water damage, which is eroding the foundation of his home. He has been doing the work himself. I observed first-hand how much work he has already done. The costs for materials have been substantial. He has worked when funds were available, and his family have lived in two rooms of the house while the work is completed.
Recently a gift was given to provide all the necessary materials to complete the project. But Pastor Khachik works late in the evening, early in the morning, and is still responsible to pastor and care for the people of his church and community.
I see how tired he is. I asked him if he could find workers to do the work for him, and he told me the men of his church help as they can. But much of their time is spent having to work to support their own families. I asked how much would it take to hire the work to be finished. He thought for a moment, then said: “I think we could finish all of this for $2,500 US dollars.”
He was not aware that a number of our friends had contributed toward my Armenian mission. Because of the faithfulness of our friends who have supported this trip, I was able to let Pastor Khachik know that those funds would be available to him before I leave Armenia.
He wept. “You don’t know what this means to my family and me,” he said. “Please tell everyone who has helped, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Yerevan Children’s Ministry
Pastor Natalia’s church in Yerevan is doing children’s ministry outreaches in nearby villages. She told me the last outreach they had planned for 40 children to attend, and nearly double that amount came.
They have a wonderful presentation that attracts children (and parents). They are able to provide gifts for the children and share the gospel with them. I asked them what the cost for each outreach was, and they told me it was about 5,000 dram per child (approximately $10 US). This provided the children with literature, gifts, and toys. They also provide clothing and food items for the children’s families.
The church funds what it can and makes it go as far as possible.
Many of these children are now attending the church and learning to grow in Jesus.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 19
God Is Working in Armenia!
Today I worshiped with the people at Living Faith Church in Artashat. This is the church that has hosted our Pastor-Leaders Conference.
The heartfelt worship from these people is amazing. The music was vibrant and you could tell their musical gifts were offered to the Lord. Pastor Danel is a gifted worship leader and very sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
At the 11 am service I spoke about the need to revere the holy things of God (2 Samuel 6:1-11). It was wonderful to see the people openly respond; many acknowledging how they have not revered God and others as they should. It was a wonderful service, and God’s presence was very tangible.
At the 4 pm service, I shared how every Shepherd needs a Shepherd (Psalm 23). On the previous Thursday, I had spoken to the worship leaders about how music can be used to “serve the Word.” Just prior to me speaking I asked Pastor Daniel: “Would you softly play the keyboards as I read the Scripture.”
He improvised sounds as I read the text. It was as if there was a gentle stream flowing through the congregation. Again, the people were so receptive. So many people commented that as the Scripture was read -- accompanied by the music -- it engulfed them like a blanket. What a wonderful teaching moment.
We concluded the service by praying for our pastors and leaders. It was a wonderful sight to see these men and women of God being blessed, touched, and prayed for by the congregation.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 20
This morning I met with Helen (my Russian interpreter). She was with the Belarusian group of pastors who joined us for our conference here in Artashat.
Helen is a wonderful lady and assists us so much in our ministry (she also interprets for my wife, Vicki when she’s attending to her outreach projects in Belarus). We were able to attend to a little business related to our ministry in Belarus and Russia. It’s exciting to see how we are consistently extending HOPE to the pastor/leaders in these Russian-speaking countries.
At noon, Pastor Daniel and Lilit picked me up and we headed to Vedi, a town approximately 15 kilometers from Artashat. The church in this community was without a pastor. As an outreach of Living Faith Church in Artashat, Daniel (who is worship leader at Living Faith) has been appointed as pastor of the church in Vedi.
This young man continues to balance his responsibilities as worship leader in Artashat and manages traveling the distance to Vedi to pastor and lead this church, as well. He is an extraordinary young man, gifted and very sensitive to God’s Spirit.
Greeting us at the church was one of the young women of the church -- along with her beautiful daughter. Pastor Daniel told me this young woman is leading their prayer ministry.
After returning to Edik and Ohar’s home, we were treated to another warm, lucious Armenian meal, with soup and salads, meats, cheeses, and tasteful delights of which I can’t pronounce the names.
Around 4 pm, Lilit and I took a walk through Artashat. She pointed out several sights and we talked about our continued expansion in Armenia. Lilit is not only one of my interpreters, she faithfully handles a lot of the arrangements and communications for me here in Armenia while I’m back home in America.
I am so blessed to have her as part of our team. We talked a little business and had a wonderful conversation about the things of the LORD. She has such a tender heart toward the LORD and she is a gifted interpreter.
It was a wonderful day, filled with warmth, love, and new friendships.
#MissionArmenia Travel Log - September 21
A Little Sightseeing
Today Edik, Lordis, and Lilit took me sightseeing! We traveled south toward the Azerbaijan border. As I looked at the hills just a few hundred yards from where we were, I realized that this area is under conflict. Armenian soldiers are on the front lines, battling to remain free.
On the west side of our journey, we were several hundred yards from the Turkish border, which is also closed. This beautiful land of Armenia is sandwiched between two powerful countries that seek to destroy them.
My heart aches for these precious Armenian people. Please keep them in your prayers.
First stop: Armeni 1
The mountain regions of Armenia have a lot of caves. Archaeologists have been working at Armeni 1, a large cave site, for several years. This was fascinating to me. They have discovered artifacts that date back to 5 to 6 thousand years BC. Other discoveries of wine storage, sacrificial sites, human skulls, pottery, etc, reveal that this area in medieval times was a major trade route, connecting the east and west. However, it wasn’t just merchandise that people bartered. Many foreign gods and religious practices were also introduced.
his site reveals a chamber where human sacrifices were offered. The guide explained that in one particular area of the cave, there was a large storage area for wine, which was connected to the sacrifices. In this chamber, they also discovered bodies that were cut in half. The thought is that human sacrifices were cut in half; one-half to burn to the gods, and the other half to be buried with respect.
Second Stop: Noravank
The next stop on our journey was at Noravank (new temple). This beautiful monastery sits high on a hill, surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is a beautiful place. Dating back to 1333, this sacred site reminds me of how our Christian faith has come with a significant cost. I noticed so many gravesites of priests who were buried there. The scenery is spectacular.
We stopped at a lovely pond that had an outdoor restaurant. Again, I was treated with Armenian hospitality which includes luscious foods. We sat outdoors, enjoyed the breeze, and had a great time laughing and talking.
Third Stop: St. Hovhannes Karapaet
After an incredible lunch, we went to St. Hovhannes Karapaet. This little monastery is in the middle of nowhere! We traveled down a dirt road, passed cows and horses, and wound ourselves down a deep ravine. Then, suddenly, there it was: a small chapel. Most of it is in ruin. Records show that it was originally constructed in 1301.
After a full day of driving on Armenia roads (bumpy, sometimes paved, sometimes not), it was time to return to Edik and Gohar’s home. An early morning flight requires that we leave Artashat for the airport at 2 am.
One back, Gohar and her family members had prepared dinner. We laughed, talked, and had friends who had stopped by to tell me goodbye and tell me how much they will miss me. I’ll miss them too.
It’s hard to believe that this trip has gone so fast. We have experienced incredible ministry and friendship. My heart is full of joy and thanksgiving for all God has done — and is doing for these wonderful people. I’ll miss them. And, I’m already wanting to return.
Thanks for joining me on the journey.