This past week I was honored to speak at a pastor’s conference in Armenia. Pastors and church leaders throughout Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia, and Russia gathered for a time of refreshment and encouragement.
These men and women faithfully serve God under great hardships. It’s difficult for me when I recognize how much freedom we have in North America to serve God and the Church, while observing the challenges of these men and women. However, experiencing the joy these brothers and sisters radiate, despite their adverse circumstances, is evidence of their deep love for God and for others.
The times of worship were saturated with God’s presence. Their hearts were filled with joy and open to God. Although there was great music, these worship moments were not a concert or an entertainment experience. It was obvious that worship for them is essential to find strength to serve. My heart overflowed with the joyful and heartfelt expressions of worship to God.
Their hospitality was overwhelming. I was served luscious foods, tea, and Armenian coffee (Starbucks doesn’t even come close)! Each private meeting held with pastors, I was served with gracious love and acceptance.
Their love to God — and to others — is authentic. Although I had three wonderful interpreters (Lilit, Hasmik, and Astrik), it wasn’t necessary that we understood each other's language. Our hearts communicated with each other.
The family I stayed with (Eddik, Ohar, and their children) were wonderful. Often, Eddik and I would sit at the table when my interpreter was not available. We would point, laugh, and nod or shrug our shoulders. Our hearts were filled with love toward each other. When I said goodbye, we hugged and wept. I had met a new brother who loves God — and me!
Although I am on my way back to America, I will not forget my brothers and sisters in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia, and Russia. Should God permit, I long to see them again. The invitation has been extended for me to return. And, I believe this will happen.
[I will be communicating periodically on the development of our ministry in this region of the world. If you are interested in receiving updates, click HERE to join our "Discover Hope Updates" email list].
I’m writing this blog on the plane. I’m still basking in the warm glow of the rich fellowship I was blessed to receive. I thought of how Paul must have felt toward the Thessalonians. Although he was separated from them, his heart remained deeply connected with them. And so it is with me.
Please pray with me for our brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe.
“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…”
- 1 Thessalonians 1:2–5 (NRSV).
Thank you for your prayers. And, thank you that you have joined me on this journey.