It has been a great privilege for the GCS team to serve and minister for the first time in Armenia from 14th to 21st September 2015. In the photo above you can see Mount Ararat in the background, where, according to the Book of Genesis, Noah’s Ark came to rest. Mount Ararat is located in the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey between Doğubeyazıt and Iğdır, near the border with Iran, Armenia and Nakhchivan exclave of Azerbaijan, between the Aras and Murat Rivers.
The mission trip included the following six elements:
ONE: Bible teaching to small groups
In Armenia it is very important to get to know a person before inviting them to preach in their church. So before preaching anywhere we would gather at the home of a local believer for a time of fellowship with the leadership of the church for food, conversation, to share about the ministry, and to share a word of Scripture.
TWO: Evangelism training sessions
We provided several hours of evangelism training in Artashat and Yerevan. The training was well attended, and it was good to see these events attended by church leaders as well. It was evident that there is a real hunger for sound Biblical teaching, and local leaders are keen for us to return next year to provide a week long school of evangelism. We are aiming for spring 2016.
THREE: Street Evangelism
A small number of us were able go out each evening to reach out to people with the Gospel one-to-one. Evenings were a lot cooler. This was an important exercise to show the local believers how to fish for souls. It was interesting to learn that they have never seen any other foreign preachers put into practice what they preach, which was quite a compliment. They loved our money tracts, and are already getting to work on the translation.
FOUR: Evangelistic meetings
It was a thrill to see people responding to the Gospel for the first time at each of these meetings, and there were many people that recommitted their lives to Christ as well.
FIVE: Meeting Christian Leaders
Local organizers where very keen for us to meet up with as many local leaders as possible so that more churches would want to get involved in making the most of our ministry on our return visit. Each of the meetings was very fruitful, and we were told that our next visit will be a significant campaign with many more churches getting involved.
SIX: GCS Armenia:
We have identified 5 people that are very keen to help us establish a GCS team and base in Armenia. There was so much enthusiasm for our ministry that we felt that many more people would be keen to get involved as well. Two of the people that we identified are Pastors that were so taken with the teaching and passion that they asked if they could be involved, which was quite humbling. They are very keen to prepare for our return visit, and Tamara and Ruzanna have already set to work on the mammoth task of translating slides, teaching, tracts, notes, etc.
The contact with the believers in Yerevan came about as a result of a ministry partner from the Lord’s Army and Romanian Orthodox community in Romania. A great deal of effort has gone into the planning of this first mission trip by Victor’s contact, Ruzanna and several local Pastors: Vahan and Khachik. The week was carefully structured to help us build relationships with local leaders from different denominational backgrounds; provide practical training in evangelism and discipleship to believers, and to preach the Gospel at a series of events.
While a lot has been planned, the ministry is quite small in terms of numbers as the evangelical Christian community is quiet small, and so it is very much a personal work in getting to know the believers in Armenia, and sharing the Gospel with Armenian people. During this time we have had the chance to learn something about the Armenian culture, which will help us explore effective ways of sharing the Gospel with them.
Armenia has quite a striking history of Christianity, because soon after many Christians were martyred for their faith, Armenia became the world’s first officially Christian nation in 301 A.D. under King Tiridates – who was converted under the witness of St. Gregory the Illuminator.
The GCS team went to see the dungeon where Gregory was held captive, near to Mount Ararat. Armenians also became the first Christians to take up arms to defend their right to worship God, less than 10 years after becoming a Christian nation when they were attacked by the Roman Empire. It was only a little later in 313 A.D. that Constantine granted freedom to Christians in the Roman Empire (in the Edict of Milan). Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire only in 380 A.D. (Edict of Thessalonica).
Armenia has endured centuries of invasions, persecutions, and political fragmentation, with the more commonly known 1915-1922 genocide of 1.5 Million Armenians at the hands of the Turkish. The team arranged a key visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial complex dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, built in 1967 on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd in Yerevan. It was disturbing to read the historical accounts and graphic photographs of the systematic extermination of the Armenians. The images were an upsetting reminder of mankind’s propensity for evil. This is something that King Solomon would have observed, which is why he described this human trait as “rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked” (Proverbs 2:14). While this may describe much of the world around us, followers of Jesus have a refreshingly different way to handle life. The Apostle Paul challenged us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Christ-centred actions such as living morally (Romans 12:17), making peace (Romans 12:18), and treating our enemies with care (Romans 12:20) will affect the world for good. Well,we were so moved to read how it was foreign protestant missionaries that saved thousands of Armenian orphans through this dark time of human history, proving yet again how a despairing world needs caring Christians. If each of us were to live as a reflection of God’s love, perhaps there would be a lot less suffering in the world. Please pray for Armenia as it continues to endeavour to come to terms with the legacy of the Armenian Genocide.
The current population of Armenia in 2015 is estimated at 2.989 million people, consisting of Armenian 98.1%, Yezidi (Kurd) 1.1%, other 0.7%. Country statistics reveal that the religion of Armenia is broken down as follows: Armenian Apostolic 92.6%, Evangelical 1%, other 2.4%, none 1.1%, unspecified 2.9%. While the vast percentage of the population of the country would call themselves Christian, it is evident that nominalism is widespread – hence so many people do not have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Sadly, the Priests from the Apostolic Churches have a huge influence over the nation and have caused many to believe that evangelical Christians are a strange sect like Jehovah’s Witnesses, which makes some evangelism methods very difficult.
During the week our team stopped along the roadside to share the Gospel with one man selling ‘Tan’, which is an Armenian Yogurt Drink. We asked the man if he was a Christian, and in a very miserable way he told us, while puffing away on his cigarette that he was baptised at the age of 4 years and so he felt he was a Christian. However, he had never repented of his sins, and through the conversation we learned that he was not a Christian at all. We shared the Gospel with him, and had the chance to pray for him – however he still looked very lost and far from God. We do pray that the man makes it to heaven. Vahan told me that this is a typical response from the Armenian people that they witness to.
Please pray that people across Armenia would start to hear the Gospel message, and find a real relationship with Jesus and be released from their spiritual prisons. Pray that Armenian believers would recapture the joy of salvation and the urgency to spread the Gospel to the unsaved. Pray for Armenia as it begins to hear the true Gospel through those that preach it.
God bless you and keep on keeping on…
Director of Operations