As I write this on Monday, October 1, 2018, I think how fast this week went by. It is our last night in Armenia. Tomorrow noon, we head back to Lebanon. Tonight, I look back to this seven-day adventure that was full of Grace, Joy and Lessons Learned; and appreciate how many beautiful people we have met, wonderful places we have visited and many lessons that have made us, me, stronger. I cannot thank God enough for this gift called sabbatical offered to me, by a little but a mighty in love, pastoral charge in rural Ontario, called The Elgin-Portland Pastoral Charge.
Coming to Armenia, the place of my heritage where the language of my heart is spoken everywhere, makes me say it even more confidently, God’s Grace is sufficient not just to me, but for all the world. If anyone had told me back on February 1, 2013, the first day that I started serving this pastoral charge that I will go back to Lebanon, after 35 years of exodus and visit Armenia for the first time in my life, I would not have believed them – That is how God works – Beyond our imagination.
It is true when people told us, when we first arrived in Armenia, “One week is not enough”, but as I told them, “This is an appetizer, we hope to come back in the future many times”. So, Sunday, September 30, ended up being a day of running around and purchasing things that people had asked of us in Lebanon to bring back for them. Gary and I realized that we are going to have a problem to take everything people wanted, as we had come with one suitcase and two carry on bags. We started searching for a suitcase to purchase. Who knew how hard it is to find a suitcase to purchase in Armenia? We found out the hard way. After looking for a luggage store for about two hours or so, we found one at an indoor flea market. Some of the things that we take for granted in North America, like buying luggage at a snap of our fingers, we had to search for one, for what felt like an eternity.
Today, our driver was Aramayis, yes, another kind, and respectful driver. We got word from Davit this a.m. that he has his right hand and arm in a cast, as he broke a few of his right-hand’s bones while taking the extension of their dinning room table away the night before, after having a large family gathering. Not only did this cost him over $150.00 U.S. for medical care, this also meant he needed to take a break from driving, as much as possible. How can someone stop driving when the bread and butter for the family comes from driving? As a Canadian I feel so fortunate to have medical care available for us day and night; and my heart breaks for Davit and many others like him found in Armenia, Lebanon and many parts of the world.
We made our day through the different shopping requirements, but most memorable of all, we started our day by visiting the Genocide Memorial “Tsitsernakaberd”, which stands tall with the eternal fire burning in the middle of it all. There were no words to speak, but in the silence of walking the path to arrive at the monument, one passes by many evergreen trees that are planted by different people, groups, government delegates and charitable organizations who recognize the Armenian Genocide and have visited this site. These trees remind every visitor that Armenians are not erased from the face of this earth, like Turkey had aimed to do; but Armenians and Armenia are evergreen and ever blooming one century at a time. (This year, October 20-21 marks the 2800 Anniversary of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia – some people call Yerevan, “Older than Rome”.)
Our Sunday concluded with a wonderful dinner with my cousin and her family at an Italian Restaurant, La Piazza. When we arrived at the Northern Avenue District (Houysesayin Boghoda), I thought we were on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but so much grander. What a place… But more than the place, being with my cousin and her family once again was a Joy, but surpassing that joy was having my cousin surprise me with a friend from Concordia University, in Montreal, who lives with his amazing wife and kids in Armenia. We could not believe that the last time we had seen each other was late 80’s. How time flies!
After supper, Gary and I took a walk around town and enjoyed the Republic Square. A beautiful city square with fountains, and little cafes. A beautiful musical water presentation takes place at sunset. I was told this was once known as the Lenin Square during the U.S.S.R. era. It is hard to believe that there is music, light, laughter and love at a place that once used to promote dictatorship and tyranny. We loved the atmosphere and met people who were also originally from Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon, my birthplace and now live in Paris and others who live in Windsor, Ontario. What are the chances!
Monday morning, today, October 1, 2018, I was invited to attend the breakfast that was put in place for all the Armenian Evangelical Ordained Ministers visiting Armenia from around the world for the Centennial Anniversary of the AMAA (Armenian Missionary Association of America). I was honoured that an old colleague, who is the organizer of this week-long events invited me – I went, and Gary stayed behind to rest, pack and get us ready to head back to Lebanon tomorrow. I met a retired minister and his wife whom, I have only known by name and now we were sitting right across each other and breaking bread. He was kind and gracious to me. He simply asked me why am I not working with the Armenian Evangelical Churches, “as there is a great shortage of ordained ministers”, and my reply to him was simple and truthful, “The A.E.C. did not want to ordain me and to this day, they do not ordain women” I continued to say, “I am also not looking for a new place to serve”. He agreed with a heartache and said, “You are right there are many A. E. leaders who do not want to see women ordained and I do not understand why”, and he reiterated, that this must change. It is the painful truth that this is not only within the Armenian Evangelical Churches, however, many denominations are stuck within the patriarchal way of life and forget the fact that God uses ALL CREATION for God’s Purpose and Glory, if we ONLY adhere to the Holy One with our ego put to death.
The rest of this last day in Armenia was hectic and chaotic, but concluded with a beautiful dinner at Lavash, the restaurant we had wanted to go when we first arrived in Armenia seven days ago, this time we made reservations. What an experience. Loved the food, the atmosphere, the employees; it was an A+ experience. After dinner we were picked up by Davit, with his right arm in a cast who took us to his home where we met his mom, wife, baby girl, brother and a friend. How amazing it was to be with “family” that we had never met before.
Once again, I am so grateful for this visit to Armenia. For all the beautiful places we visited and the generous people we met. For now, I pray for the safety of this country, and wish her a growth that comes through Integrity, Truth and Respect. I Hope to return to visit my Mother-Land in the future and discover new places that tell a story of Love, Perseverance and Grace.
Signing off for the last time for this 2018 Sabbatical Armenia Trip…
Monday, October 1, 2018, 10:40 p.m. Five-Dove Bed & Breakfast Davitashen, Armenia