It is amazing when a group of people get together and they have one commonality – Christ’s saving grace. The villagers of Spitak and Stepanavan opened their hearts and arms to us.
It is amazing when a group of people get together and they have one commonality – Christ’s saving grace. The villagers of Spitak and Stepanavan opened their hearts and arms to us.
Apologies to those who have been faithfully reading about our days in Armenia. Day 3 – Saturday, Sep 17 was a blessed but long day. I don’t want another day to go by without writing a few words and once we are back home I will continue to post about our experiences.
Saturday had been reserved for our trip to Spitak for a baptismal service. Our trip to Spitak was an adventure it self. Dad and I had the impression that the baptismal service was scheduled for 1 p.m. but we forgot that we were dealing with missions in Armenia. Nothing is organized in the sense that we know in Canada. Rather then heading to Spitak first thing in the morning we instead drove around picking up last minute things for the day. Our first stop was to pick up a video camera from a friend of Arayik’s who’s been very successful by Armenian standards as a mime and children’s entertainer. From there we picked up Arayik’s family where we found out that two of his three children and his niece were to be baptised. This is truly a blessing.
Once we were on the way we stopped by a large grocery which is comparable to large American grocery chain stores. I was amazed at the bounty they have unfortunately few can afford the luxuries. Many borrow money to buy food to serve us but there is no way we can refuse what is put in front of us. Armenian’s are very hospitable and refusing to drink or eat is an insult. We bought enough chicken to feed everyone that was to be part of the baptismal service.
The road to Spitak is very mountainous and the fields are dry due to the lack of rain this summer. The countryside is quiet similar to what you would see in North America except for the fact that the history behind the churches and areas are so much older and more significant then anything that we have. On the way we had one more stop and that way to get petrol, that in itself is an adventure. It took almost 30 minutes to fill that tank. Yup, you heard correctly 30 minutes.
Once again we were on our way it has been such a blessing getting to know Arayik’s family. His wife and children are warm and loving. They are filled with God’s love. The 2 hour trip passed quickly as we laughed, shared stories and compared languages.
In Spitak we stopped at sister Sveta’s home (sister and brother as used for all believers here) while Arayik continued to Stephanavan to pick up a van full of believers. The round trip to Stephanavan is 2 houts. Sister Sveta is originally from Georgia, her husband was a missionary as well who died years ago in a work related accident. She raised two young boys on her own. She is a beautiful woman filled with the Holy Spirit.
|left: Nellie (Arayik’s wife) and Sister Sveta from Spitak|
While Arayik was picking up people in Stepanavan a van that would never make it out of a junk yard came to pick us up. When the doors opened the van was filled and yet they made room for 5 more. There were 19 of us in a 12 passenger van. There were a couple standing and a few sitting on each other.
But as before there was laughter during the trip to the baptismal site. Everyone was excited and chatting away. We drove up and down one strip of ‘highway’ looking for the right place to stop by the river.
Most of the villages including Spitak have lost their men to large cities and to Russia, these men are looking for work. The men that have remained are young boys, men who have just finished their military service and very old men. There is a very obvious gap. Young men here are so much more mature then men their age in North America. They have a maturity that comes with responsibility.
The young men finally found a spot by the river that had a picnic table and a clearing that would allow them to build a fire to cook the chicken. We unloaded the van and the men started to collect wood for the fire while the women prepared things for the baptismal service. It was another one hour before Arayik arrived with the rest of the group from Stepanavan. By this time is was almost 5ish. My poor dad. For those who know him you must be chuckling. Can’t you just see him glancing at his watch and pacing. I had to keep reminding him that we were in Armenia and things were just different here.
The time passed quickly as dad and I were embraced by the community of believers that were gathered for the baptismal service. I was blessed by their generosity and love.
I need to close now as they are waiting for me to get going my solemn word that no matter what time I arrive tonight I will catch up with my posts.
To be continued…
Our second stop for the day was to visit a woman that is a relative as well (just not sure as to the connection) that while my grandpa Hovsepian was alive used to write to her. My mom took over the correspondence 16 years ago when grandpa died.
Her name is Takouhie Charchian and she used to be a doctor back in the day. Now she is not well mentally and physically. She lives in a dilapidated building with cement stairs leading to her home which are held up purely by angels. There are a dozen or so large containers piled in the front room used to catch water that leaks into the house each time it rains. Her home is tidy and clean but falling down around her. Please pray for Takouhie.
I don’t know how to explain this but when I travel I am not drawn to churches of any kind. I’ve always felt that these buildings took away from the purpose of worship. Too much extravagance. I am sure many of you are aghast at what I am saying. From the outside this massive building looks sterile, no greenery to soften the landscape. Upon entering the building rather then feeling a oneness with God I felt a cold chill down my back. I looked around at those seated and they stared blankly at the image of Mary holding baby Jesus. As they exited the building they would turn and face the alter and crossing themselves walk backwards out. This is done so that they do not turn their backs to the alter at anytime.
My day started off with a bang. Literally! I was woken from
the dead a deep sleep by an annoying sound. The phone. I rolled out of bed and didn’t take into account how low the bed was, so I land on my behind. I scrambled to my feet and stumbled in the pitch black trying to remember where I’d seen the phone the night before. On the desk? Nope! On the night table? Nope! Oh wait, there was another night table on the other side of the bed and that’s where the phone is. Stubbed my toe on the bed in the process of lunging for the phone.
“Are you awake?”
Dad replies, “Well, you are now, you’re talking with me.”
Sigh… this is my doing I told him that I probably would be awake early since I am every other day. I didn’t take into account the change in time and that I would only fall asleep at 4 a.m. local time. So dad called at 7 a.m. to let me know that he was up and whenever I was ready we’d head for breakfast.
A quick shower and I was ready to face the day. Don’t let me fool you my brain was in a fog for the first half of the day.
Breakfast was very typical of Armenia – bread, local meats (yes, my favorite too – basterma), local cheeses and lots of fresh fruit. I’ve already picked up on the fact that women do not smile very readily. Dad tried to explain it by saying that they have horrible working and living conditions. I am on a mission. I will be kind and friendly to everyone I come into contact with. I want to make them feel special, make them feel loved. I started at breakfast by greeting one of the girls working in the dining room. She seemed surprised when I greeted her with “Paree louis” (good morning). As I sit in the lobby writing this entry the same girl is still working. I greet her, “Vonce ek?” (how are you in Eastern Armenian) she replies with a smile. I speak with her for a few minutes and find out that a typical day for her starts at 8 a.m. and finishes at 10 p.m., it’s 11:36 p.m. and she is still serving guests. She has stayed behind to look after a group of guests. This is a tough place to live. Long days and no days off.
After breakfast we met with Arayik, our local missionary, he is such a servant of the Lord. He has given his life to the Lord’s work. We chatted for a while catching up on local happenings and passing along your greetings. Arayik will be our guide during our stay. I am looking forward to getting to know him and his Armenia.
Our first stop was The Armenian Brotherhood Church of Yerevan to visit with Pastor Hovhaness Halladjian, Pastor Hovhaness started this church 13 years ago. Here is a pastor who knows what it means to be a servant and shepherd. He speaks Armenian, Greek, English and Turkish. If you understand Armenian you can listen to his sermons and his singing on his church website. Dad will be teaching at their Christian Leadership Center on Saturday, Sep 24 and will also be preaching on Sunday, Sep 25. We had great fellowship over a tasty meal of kebab.
|left to right: Arayik, dad and Hovhaness|
|left to right: dad, me, Hovhaness and Dadik (Grandma in Armenian)|
Unfortunately, we needed to leave but knowing we would be back made it easier. Our next stop was at the Bible Society office in Yerevan. Dad wanted bought New Testaments to give to all who are getting baptised on Saturday, Sep 17 in Spitak.
|left to right: Susannah the Bible Society representative in Yerevan, Arayik and dad|
It was 3 p.m. and Arayik’s wife Nellie was waiting for us. We quickly headed to the van and headed for their apartment. But no one had planned for a flat tire. We thank God it happened in the city today and not on Saturday while driving to Spitak. After the garage replaced the flat with the spare we were once again on our way to meet Nellie and the children.
|Getting our flat repaired|
Nellie is a woman filled with the holy spirit. She is true help-mate to Arayik. Together they visit and minister in villages. Nellie is someone I wish I could get to know better then our time permits. When she speaks I cannot look away from her. Her face reflects the peace in her heart. Her voice is soft almost a whisper yet when she speaks she commands your attention. Arayaik and Nellie have 3 grown children. Their only daughter is an accomplished singer who sang for us an Armenian ballad.
|left to right: Leia, dad, me, Arayik, Nellie|
We had to take our leave our family was expecting us at 7 p.m. After a quick stop at our hotel we went back to the center of Yerevan, to the apartment of my dad’s cousin Dikranouhi. Her apartment is steps away from Yerevan’s Opera House.
Food. Food. Food. Armenians are known for their hospitality. Within minutes of your arrival food and drink is placed in front of you. Dikranouhi was so excited to finally meet the little girl in the picture she has of me where I am sitting on my dad’s shoulders. Hey! I was a year old and at the time I could still sit on dad’s shoulders.
I could hear the table groaning under the weight of the food. I dared not look away without Dikranouhi putting some food on my plate. That is also very typical of Armenians here. Guests get their food served by the hostess, it’s an honor. And I was honored. Very honored. This hospitality is missing in North America. I want to bring that back with me. This is a tradition that I want to pass on to my children.
|left to right: Vahag, Dikranouhi, Marianne
Dikranouhi is my dad’s cousin and Vahag is her son and Marianne her daughter-in-law
|left to right: Sonia, Hovig, dad and me
Hovig is dad’s cousin (Dikranouhi’s sister) and Sonia is his youngest daughter
It was after 11 p.m. when our taxi finally dropped us off at our hotel. I look forward to Monday evening when all the Hovsepians will be getting together for dinner. There will be approximately 20 of us.
Tomorrow we will be meeting Arayik in the morning and continuing our visits.
Our journey started on Tuesday, Sep 13 at 7:30 p.m. when we left the house, in torrential rain, for the airport. Due to the weather we were delayed over an hour which started our race against time.
The flight to Paris was smooth and uneventful, dad and I slept off and on most of the way. We flew high and fast trying to make up for lost time. Many of the passengers were hoping to make their connecting flights. We arrived in Paris in the midst of an agent strike. The gate was not ready, we waited for the stairs to be brought to the plane, slowly we made our way out of the plane and down the stairs to the tarmac where we took a shuttle to the terminal. At the terminal we raced toward our gate, up escalators, down hallways and then took a train. Once off the train we had to go through security again, another hold-up. Once through security we speed walked to our gate where due to a delay of our connecting flight we were right on time to board.
The flight was a noisy one – well put a plane full of Armenians from all around the world together and what do you expect? SILENCE?!?! Not on your life! There were Armenians from Canada, Brazil, Argentina, France and Armenia. Each one spoke with a different accent and depending on where they were from either Eastern or Western Armenian. At one point I couldn’t hear my own thoughts they were so loud.
Our journey ended with us arriving safely in Yerevan around 10:30 p.m. local time where we quickly obtained our Visas and our luggage.
My dad’s cousin, Hovig, was waiting for us with another relative. They drove us to our hotel, Hotel Regineh, in Yerevan. Giving us a quick tour of the city on the way. My first impression is that this is a city that hasn’t found it’s identity yet. We drove through the ‘Vegas strip’ where you find casinos next to one another, further along you see the historical buildings and then a little further you realize that the buildings have not been updated in over 50 years.
Tomorrow morning we will have breakfast with Arayig, the missionary that we support, to go over our schedule for the next 11 days.
We also plan to have a great big get together of all the Hovsepians and the extended family. This is my first trip to Armenia and I am very excited about meeting my family.
Took a couple of pictures but I think you’ll forgive me if I don’t post them tonight I’ll have some for you soon. Well I’m off to see if I can actually sleep. Dad and I thank you for your prayers and know that without them we would not be here right now.
We’ve made it through security without any problems. Our Air France flight will be boarding at 9:55 pm and God willing we will take off around 10:40 pm.
I will log in once we arrive at our hotel (Hotel Regineh) in Yerevan tomorrow Wednesday, Sep 14 at 1 p.m. EST. which will be 10 p.m. local time.
Thank you to all who called, emailed and texted to wish us a safe journey. Dad and I are very grateful for all your prayers and support.
Today at church just before the sermon the church elders called my dad and me forward to pray over us and our upcoming trip. It is so important and means so much to us that we have our church family’s support. We have great prayer warriors in our church and I am very grateful for them.
Thank you to all who are praying for us and have us in your thoughts.
|Left to right: Me, Pastor Joseph, Elder Eugen Dobrowolskj, Elder Emil Lantos and Elder Shubroto Shikddar|
Over the years I have had to learn to trust in God and leave my anxiety at his feet. What began as an exercise to heal myself turned into a journey to find what others thought about anxiety and capturing what I was learning into a collection of fret busters that I turn to time and time again to remind myself that God is all omnipotent.
I want to share 10 Fret Busters with you today in the hope that it will touch your heart and be useful to you as well.
Fret Buster #1:
“Believe that you are in His heart and that your interests are in His hands. Have faith in His wisdom to guide, in His love to direct, in His power to sustain, in His faithfulness to fulfill every promise that now relates to your best welfare and happiness. Only believe in God — that all things in His disposal of you and in His transactions with you are working together for your present and eternal good.” — Octavius Winslow
Fret Buster #2:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” — John 14:27 NIV
Fret Buster #3:
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” — Corrie Ten Boom
Fret Buster #4:
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25 NIV
Fret Buster #5:
“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.” — Henry Ward Beecher
Fret Buster #6:
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” — Charles Spurgeon
Fret Buster #7:
“The Lord replied , “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” — Exodus 33:14 NIV
Fret Buster #8:
“As you walk through the valley of the unknown, you will find the footprints of Jesus both in front of you and beside you.” — Charles Stanley
Fret Buster #9:
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” — Jeremiah 32:27 NIV
Fret Buster #10:
“I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the Lord is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient.” — Hudson Taylor
No restaurant can begin to compete with the lavish attention and extraordinary dishes Armenians create in their kitchens. The table often groans under courses served at the same time, and it is considered an affront to refuse to taste everything, the cook often considering it a bad reflection of her culinary skills.
My mother, my aunts and my grandmothers are/were amazing cooks. Each one has a speciality all her own. Come the holidays there are specific dishes I will ask from each one.
Recipes get passed down from generation to generation. My paternal nene (Turkish for grandma) used to say, “a pinch of this, a handful of that, and a coffee cup of the other”. On my part, it’s all been trial and error as I’ve learned to cook. Now I have a tough time giving someone one of my recipes, each time I make something it’s a little different. My kids call my style of cooking ‘a la Ruth’.
Here are a few of my favorite Armenian dishes.
Lahmajoun, also known as “Armenian Pizza”, is a thin flat bread that is traditionally topped with ground lamb or beef that has been cooked with tomatoes, herbs and spices. It was a treat when I was a kid. My mom would serve this on special occasions and whenever we had guests over.
Anoushabour is the traditional Armenian “Sweet Soup” that is served at the conclusion of an Armenian Christmas or New Year’s meal. Since childhood I have looked forward to this dessert every Christmas when we visit my aunts. My family knows that all I want for Christmas is a plate of Anoushabour. Two of my moraks (maternal aunties) have given me their recipes and assure me it is very easy to make. But don’t you agree that it always tastes better when someone else makes your favorite dish.
The dish is, in all probability, even older than the Christian feast day. Made simply of wheat berries, boiled down until their natural starches have been broken down and turned nearly to mush, sugar (a gift from the Tigris and Euphrates valley) and dried fruit (raisins usually), it’s not hard to imagine that it is a product of some of the world’s most ancient cookery.
Manti is an Armenian ‘dumpling’, little balls of ground lamb or beef wrapped in a dough to form a tiny little canoe. The meat peeks out giving you a hint of what is to come. The traditional way to serve it is in chicken broth topped with yogurt and sprinkled with sumac. I can taste it right now. Yum! When I was a young girl I would help my mom by pinching the dough into boat shapes.
Technically pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are not considered a dish. But a typical Armenian gathering is everyone sitting around the table, nimbly cracking and eating seeds. Eat! Spit! Be merry!
|Basterma or Bastourma|
This is the most popular Armenian deli meat. Serve Basterma thinly sliced on a mezze platter or cook with eggs. You really need to wrap leftover Basterma well, as the wonderful aroma of chaimen will quickly permeate your refrigerator. Ummmm, eat too much of Basterma and the smell of chaimen will start to ooze out of your pores.
There was a bakery across the street from our church (where Cafe Republic is located now) and on occasion mom would go in and buy this long flat bread. Sometimes it would still be warm from the oven.
My nene’s dolma was the best. Dolma is spiced meat and rice wrapped in grape leaves, served with yogurt mixed with grated fresh garlic. I remember sneaking into my nene’s kitchen and lifting the pot lid and stealing a Dolma to eat while they were cooling. The grape leaves came from her garden.
I’m going to end this post with my favorite dessert. It’s called Tulumba, although it’s not as common as the Baklava it is actually just another dessert with syrup. Tulumba is a dessert in the Turkish, the Greek, and the Bulgarian cuisine consisting of fried batter soaked in syrup.
Let me see if I can even come close to helping you imagine how this little delicacy tastes. As you sink your teeth into the fried sweet you first encounter the crispy outer layer then the syrup oozes out of the center unto your tongue. It melts in your mouth and leaves a delicious stickiness on your your fingers. Finger licking good!
Now if I only knew where I could get some to take care of this craving.
I hope you have enjoyed this culinary journey.