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    September 27, 2013

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I don’t generally think of myself as that different from the people in my church. Sure, they are mostly Armenian, and I am your typical Anglo-American. When it comes down to the day-in and day-out behavior though, I think I act pretty similarly to my friends at ACFOC.

This trip was the first time that I felt a little bit like an outsider looking in. Not because I felt unwelcome or excluded, but because being surrounded in an entirely different country makes the distinctions between Armenian and American stand out all that much more. Plus, not being able to navigate the language very well pretty much necessitates more observations than participation.

There were a few key things I noticed over these last couple of weeks. For starters, Armenians in Armenia are different. They are different than the “OC Armenians,” they are different than the “Glendale Armenians.” It was a pleasure for me, and for those on our team to truly get to know these Armenians. We got to see this people’s good points, as witnessed the stereotypes we had in our minds breakdown. Another thing I noticed, the food was REALLY good. This might get me in trouble, but I personally think that the food in Armenia was…better. The fruits, vegetables, and nuts were out of this world, which probably contributed to the overall effect.

Most prominently in my mind, however was something that really came to light for me today.  Armenia is a country filled with people who are, what I can truly identify as, long suffering. Today, since it is our last day in Armenia, we spent the day touring and doing some last minute shopping. We visited Garni & Gerhard. After a brief stop at the local shopping market, Shant & I also went on to visit the Scriptorium (where old manuscripts and books are on display). Gerhard was definitely the highlight of this day for most of us. This amazing church was painstakingly chiseled out of solid rock over a 30 year period while the Armenians there tried to hold their ground against the muslims who were attacking them in that region. During our time at Gerhard, we were blessed to be following a German tour group who had hired Armenian singers to perform in the atrium of Gerhard. As the singers performed “Der Voghormia,” I was moved to tears being in a place where despite so much opposition, the Christians had stood their ground and held to their trust in their heavenly protector. Images of the people we met throughout the trip came flooding into my mind. Christians who are living day-to-day in the hopes that they will have the food they need and yet are filled with joy; tiny children with severe deformities, yet singing and laughing; missionaries, pastors, and church members who passionately seek to bring physical and spiritual support at the cost of their own comforts.

As an “outsider,” I have much to learn from the Armenians today, as well as from the Armenians who have suffered, and held to their belief in Christ throughout the centuries. I often wonder why God allows godly people to suffer. As the sounds of “Der voghormia” floated through Gerhard, my heart was echoing the cry, “Lord have mercy. Lord bring some light and relief to the pain and suffering in the lives of so many.” At the same time, I thank God for these amazing examples for my own faith. I can’t help but wonder how I would stand under the same situations. In some small way, I hope that the work we did in Armenia acted as a glimpse of God’s mercy in these peoples’ lives.

As we get ready to make the long trek back to the United States, I think that seeing how we have been, and how we will be a part of carrying God’s mercy to those in Armenia and around us is in the forefront of our minds. We do not want to forget the people we’ve met and the things we’ve seen. Most importantly, I think we all want to allow God to continue to use these experiences to shape us and to motivate us to be available for His purposes.

Thank you to those of you who read, prayed, and supported us. You were also a part of carrying God’s mercy throughout Armenia. We can’t wait to see you again and share more stories, photos, and videos of our adventures.



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