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    September 23, 2013

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Today our group of 14 joined ARDA (Armenia Relief and Development Association) in visiting some of their beneficiaries. Our group split in two with each group taking on four families. My (Avo’s) group included Shant, Jenn, Marett, and Tony. Our guide, a physician, Dr. Syuzzana Voskanyan, took us to the poorest homes I have ever seen. The first a space reserved for the building’s refuse now converted to a home where a family of 14 reside. We also visited 3 other homes, two of them a very shabby (not chic), brick and mortar abodes. Both with leaky roofs, one with a visibly bad case of black mold. The last home, if we could call it that, was simply a diesel truck container. Narrow but not very long, it housed a family within which one 19 year-old son needed dialysis three times a week.

For the first time, our intention was not to evangelize, as all of these families were believers. So we went in hopes of encouraging them, but found ourselves dumbfounded by what we saw. A common thread ran through all four families. Joy and Peace, where there was seemingly nothing in which to rejoice. I feel my words in this entry fall far too short in expressing what we witnessed. The smiles, the peace, the hugs, the love, the kindness, the gentleness, the hospitality (a great sacrifice when you only have food for the day), the gratitude, the lack of entitlement. I had never seen anything like it before. I do not easily see it in myself. I’ve read about it in the bible. I’ve heard pastor’s preach on it; but there it was, living proof. Never once did they look at us with the implication “what would you know about our strife coming from your cushy lives in America?” though I thought of it myself often. Giants in the faith, they live in anonymity in the outskirts of Yerevan.

When we asked how we could pray for them, every single one of them would respond, for greater faith “for if we have faith we have everything.” These aren’t just pretty words, I believe they were speaking from experience. Dzaghig, the mother in the first home we visited, put her two index fingers side by side as she very profoundly sounded “strife and joy run parallel in our lives.” This coming from a woman who said their family has gone days without food. As many as four days. The world is not worthy of her. The world is not worthy of any of them.

I have everything. I live a comfortable life in Orange County, with a beautiful wife that I could never deserve. I have parents, siblings, and friends who love me beyond measure. I have a 50 inch tv which I complain is breaking. Two cars in the garage. Temperature to my liking with the touch of a finger. A fridge full of food that goes bad on a weekly basis. I have gadgets that I claim not to be able to live without. I go to church and serve. I read books to add knowledge to my faith. Then why is it that where I need peace I find confusion, and where I need joy I find fear and guilt?

by Avo Adourian

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