Monday, April 18, 2016

Armenia?? Where’s that?

I left home early Friday AM (11 Mar) from BHM on a strange adventure.   In Charlotte, NC I united with 4 other team mates, before joining up with one more at JFK. The five of us endured the 10-hour flight to Moscow, and then another 3-hours to Yerevan, Armenia without a hitch.

Once in Armenia Local Cru (New Life) staff Tigran Galstyans grabbed us at the airpot and hauled us to Tsaghkadzor, he and his wife Lusine’s home town, about an hour from Yerevan where most of our ministry was done.

Sunday AM we attended their congregation in nearby Hzardan.  Our AIA leader Paul Newman gave the sermon from the first part of 1 Thess.  We introduced ourselves to the congregation and were warmly welcomed.  Despite the language barrier, and slightly different styles, we loved being with these warm spirit-filled Believers.

On Monday, I gave a talk at a Conference in the Aremenian Institue of Physcial Culture on Recovery from Training, About 60 faculty and graduate students attended.  Our translator, Dr. Syusanna (first name), a physician, did a terrific job and the Armenian attendees seemed eager to ask questions and make comments during and after the talk.  their enthusiasm and engagement provided much enjoyment!

After a break, Dr. Gary Wilkerson (UT Chattanooga) and I gave an interactive seminar on teaching and evaluating students.  This was purposefully highly interactive, and again the Armenians asked numerous questions and made comments.  This group is NOT shy about asking questions.

On Thurs. I spoke about “Exercise in the Heat” to a group similar to the first audience.  Once again, we tried to connect with the faculty and students, but the language barrier made this extremely difficult.  Although there were two translators (Dr. Syusanna  and Sylvot is a translator in training), and a few Armenians spoke some English, it was still difficult to communicate, which I feel is the chief barrier to deepening connections there.  One team member ( Nick T) was of Armenian descent and spoke some Armenian.  This is a tremendous advantage in connecting and more effort should be considered on recruiting team members with this in mind.

On Saturday, we met with the Institute Rector and a large number of his professors at a dinner at “Florence” a very nice local restaurant.  The dinner lasted about 3 hours and as the evening wore on, our relationship with the Armenians seemed to be strengthened considerably.  The National Director of New Life, Mr. Vardan Blbuyans, was able to make considerable headway with the Rector who agreed to allow New Life to have access to faculty and students which seemed to be a major breakthrough.

My focus was on ministry to the youngest AIA team members.  The hour drive to and from Yerevan gave us a great opportunity to chat.  We bonded quickly, mostly around humor, and we had many great conversations.  For me this was the highlight of the trip, and likely my greatest impact personally.

I was very encouraged by the enthusiasm, energy, Spiritual maturity, and potential of the 3 young team members.   I do expect great spiritual outcomes from this group.  I endeavored to recruit Nick T to become a professor, as he has the gifts and inclination and speaks some Armenian.

Unfortunately, I was never able to adapt to the new Time Zone (+10 hours ahead of AL).  Getting old is tough!

Armenia proved to be a tough and expensive trip.  But what better investment than 3 energetic young Christians and a country of 3 million souls?

Armenia?  Where’s that?
Of all the countries I have visited, I knew less about Armenia than any other.

Strange eh?
Well what do YOU know about it?

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