On Thursday evening, May 31, the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut was the site of a banquet in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). Organized by the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAECNE), the event brought together over 220 people, including Armenian Evangelical ministers from the U.S., Australia, Iraq, Syria and Egypt, Haigazian University trustees, AMAA board members, the Bishop Shahe Panossian, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Prelacy of Lebanon, a representative of the Armenian Catholic Church, the Ambassador of Armenia in Lebanon, the mayor of Bourj Hammoud, heads of the three Armenian political parties in Lebanon, representatives of a variety of organizations and unions, and many guests.
The program opened with a word of welcome from the Vice-Chair of Haigazian University’s trustees, Mr. John Sagherian, followed by the opening prayer offered by Rev. Nishan Bakalian.
AMAA President Dr. Nazareth Darakjian in turn offered the Association’s greetings, recalling the importance of 1918 for the Armenian people, who had barely survived the massacres, who had declared the independence of the first Armenian republic, while at the same time in the United States, a group of Armenian Evangelicals were founding the AMAA in order to reach out to the decimated and demoralized survivors of the Genocide. The AMAA worked at rebuilding the educational institutions and churches of the Armenian people, and in 1988 established that same effort in the homeland, following the earthquake there. Therefore, as Darakjian put it, the year 2018 is a year to celebrate the centennial of the rebirth of the Armenian people at every level. Mentioning the AMAA’s work in the U.S., the Near East and Armenia through schools and universities, spiritual activities, camps, relief and social work, he pointed to all of these as ways for children especially to know the great love of God. The newly-established Centennial Fund is AMAA’s way of preparing to meet the continuing challenges and opportunities ahead.
The banquet attendees were treated to the lovely voice of Central High School and Haigazian University graduate Alice Ipradjian, who sang, “Savior, Thy Dying Love” and “Doun im hayreni”.
Taking the podium, Zaven Khanjian, Executive Director/CEO of the AMAA, expressed how the AMAA was a part of the strengthening and rebuilding of Armenia following its 1991 independence, also extending to Artsakh and the needs there. This multi-faceted service was rendered without complaint and without much fanfare, whether in Armenia or in the Middle East and other places of the Diaspora where Armenians had established themselves. The widow, the orphan, the ill, the adult and the elderly, all were the target of the AMAA’s work. For those suffering and struggling communities in places of unrest in the Middle East, the wounded or grieving in border villages in Armenia, the AMAA strives not just to encourage, but to help them to develop and grow, through education and spiritual enlightenment. The Association’s efforts to spread the gospel in word and deed is founded on their conviction that the Christian faith has always been the key to the progress of the Armenian people in principles of honesty, accountability, transparency and responsibility.
As the crowd enjoyed dinner and conversation around the tables, guitarist Raffi Mandalian and his ensemble filled the banquet hall with an eclectic mix of adaptations of Armenian folk tunes along with jazz and popular standards.
The event included the screening of a short documentary film about the AMAA, with testimonies and location footage of the worldwide scope of its work, entitled “A Legacy of Faith, Love and Service”.
Dr. Hasmig Baran, current Trustee Chair of Haigazian University, joined Mr. Khanjian on the stage to present the AMAA award of appreciation to outgoing HU Chair Dr. Ani Darakjian for her eight years of service ending early this year. Dr. Ani Darakjian was surprised and touched by this gesture, and wished her successor the best.
Concluding the evening’s program, Rev. Megrditch Karagoezian, President of the UAECNE, presented a plaque recognizing the pivotal role the AMAA has played in the Christian testimony of the churches in the Middle East. He offered a benediction and prayer of thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon the church, after which AMAA and UAECNE heads gathered together to cut the anniversary cake.
These AMAA centennial activities in Lebanon also had the aim to financially help Armenian Evangelical schools in Lebanon, and all funds received were designated for that purpose. In commemoration of the centennial, each banquet attendee received a 112-page bilingual color booklet with detailed information on the rich history and current ministries of the AMAA.
Celebratory Worship Service in Beirut Marks the AMAA’s 100th Anniversary
The Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAECNE) organized a special worship service in thanks to God for the Armenian Missionary Association’s (AMAA) hundredth anniversary, held on Sunday, June 3, 2018, at the First Armenian Evangelical Church in Beirut.
Present in the church sanctuary were representatives from His Holiness Aram I Catholicos, from Maronite Patriarch Rai, from the Arab Evangelical churches, from the Near East School of Theology, from the Armenian Embassy in Lebanon, along with the Deputy Minister of Education and Sciences of the Republic of Armenia. Joining these were pastors and laypersons from America, Australia, Egypt, Iraq and Syria, along with many Lebanese Armenians.
Pastor of the First Armenian Evangelical Church, the Rev. Hrayr Cholakian, gave the call to worship and invited the congregation to sing the Doxology. Raffi Mnassa and Lilit Hovhannesian, eleventh-grade students from the Shamlian-Tatigian Armenian Evangelical Secondary School read Psalm 96 responsively, after which a joint student chorus from Armenian Evangelical school chorus, conducted by Nectar Palazian, sang “Count Your Blessings,” “Alleluia, Halleluia” (in English) and “Abril Grgin,” with Maria Parseghian accompanying on piano.
Greeting the worshipers on behalf of the UAECNE was the Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, Central Committee chair, who noted that the AMAA’s beneficent contribution is felt throughout the Union, in churches, schools and ministries, despite the fact that it does not always broadcast about its work. He commended how the AMAA has looked beyond the pain of loss to the creation of means of moving beyond difficulties, relying on the power of Christ’s good news.
AMAA Executive Director Zaven Khanjian described how the Christian message of salvation must include also following Christ’s example of sacrifice, love, respect and caring. He paid homage to the heroic founders of the first Armenian republic, as well as to the youth of Yerevan’s Republic Square who engaged in a struggle for a brighter and more just homeland without using force. Similarly, he lauded those who in the Middle East struggle for education, enlightenment and the preservation of human rights. In light of the AMAA’s centennial, praising God for his faithfulness, he expressed the commitment to continue assisting the church in its multifaceted, historic mission.
The Armenian Evangelical “Armiss” Choir, directed by Rev. Nishan Bakalian and accompanied by Miss Mathilde-Sandra Cholakian, sang “Yerginke Mer Asdghazart” (J. Khanjian/N. Balabanian), with a solo by Gacia Danaoghlian and flute by Laury Bilalian.
AMAA Board President Dr. Nazareth Darakjian, employing Psalm 23 as a guide, described the founders of the AMAA, thousands of miles from their homeland, turning their attention to the Armenian nation, a traumatized people wondering where their “good Shepherd” and his “green pastures” were. Through the humanitarian work of many non-Armenians, as well as the AMAA, thousands of children in the Middle East were saved and had the opportunity to learn and grow, to worship and work. This he described as the mission of the church: to reach out beyond its borders and aid those affected by war, to help the refugee, rebuild the church, educate the young, and imprint Christ’s love in their hearts.
The gospel reading from Matthew 25.31-40 was read by the Rev. Dr. Krikor Youmshakian, President of the Armenian Missionary Association of Australia. The Armiss Choir sang Handel’s “Great Lord God, Thy Kingdom Shall Endure.”
Rev. Megrditch Karagoezian, President of the UAECNE, preached the sermon on the “Unhindered Work of the Gospel.” Only three years after the horrors of the Genocide, the Armenian people needed a helper. As one of those helpers, he stated that the AMAA presented God at work in Armenian history. “Yet,” he continued, “There is an invisible and unknowable part of God’s work, to which the scripture reading attests. The one who offers help to another cannot know the full effect the good we do will have in the years and generations to come; only God in his goodness can know that.”
Following the congregational hymn, “When All Thy Mercies, O My God,” Rev. Haroutune Selimian, Community Head of the Syrian Armenian Protestant Community, offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the AMAA, beseeching God to give it the strength to continue its service in the homeland and the Diaspora. The Armiss Choir sang Gomidas’ sharagan “Krisdos ee metch” and the Missirian’s “Hayr Mer,” and the service concluded with Rev. Karagoezian’s benediction.
Having had this opportunity to reflect and offer gratitude to God for the AMAA, the worshipers departed with the challenge to commit themselves to continuing in faith and service in Christ’s name.