Today is Christmas in Armenia!
The land where Noah's Ark came to rest after the flood in Genesis, Armenia has long been a land of second chances. See how today, Armenia is getting a second chance after the fall of communism, and how World Vision is helping through child sponsorship and more.
It’s Christmas Day in Armenia today. In the fourth century, the Catholic Church established December 25 as Christmas, but the Armenian Apostolic and Evangelical Churches adhere to an older Christmas Day.
I will be joining my Armenian friends by celebrating Christmas in my heart today along with them. Why not celebrate a second time? Especially as Armenia is truly a land of second chances.
Armenia was a Soviet republic from 1922 to 1991. During that time, religion in the oldest Christian country in the world was banned. Communism was anti-church. Church property was confiscated. Monasteries were closed. Clergymen were arrested, and some were killed.
In 1988, Armenia suffered a catastrophic earthquake in Gyumri, a place that had thrived with industry. The earthquake killed 25,000 people and left 50,000 more homeless.
Armenia was crushed. Or so it would seem.
In Yerevan, the capital city, you don’t have to look far to see where the country summons it strength. Even at a distance, it’s a breathtaking sight: Mt. Ararat, the national symbol of Armenia and its spiritual home.
But today, after ping-ponging back and forth between nations, even Armenia’s mountain doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to Turkey.
That doesn’t stop Armenians from loving their mountain. After all, it is the mountain where Noah’s ark came to rest in Genesis 8:4 on the seventeenth day of the seventh month. Noah, too, was a man of second chances.
World Vision began work in Armenia when the country needed us most—in 1988 after the terrible earthquake. Today, more than 20,000 Armenian children are sponsored by our donors.
I’ve traveled to Armenia twice, and it’s one of my favorite countries in the world. The first time was to report on sponsorship for World Vision magazine. You can read that article here.
I was blown away by sponsorship in Armenia. As photographer Jon Warren and I were driving through Gyumri, still scarred by the earthquake, the sponsorship staff we were with stopped the car at a home. “Is this where our story is?” I asked. “No,” he answered. “I just need to drop off a birthday card.”
When he came back to the car, I said, “It’s Saturday. How nice of you to deliver that card.” He looked surprised. “I had to deliver it,” he said. “It’s her birthday today.” This place was special.
In Armenia, I saw the worst poverty I’d ever witnessed. We visited a family that lived in a container left behind from relief supplies that came in 1988 after the earthquake. Three homeless families had moved in.
The container was split into three small rooms. There was no heat. No bathroom. No windows. I was stunned. It was so awful that I momentarily forgot my manners. I began asking questions without introducing myself or asking their names. Jon gently reminded me to begin at the beginning.
By the time I left Armenia, I was enchanted. I was able to travel there again a few years ago to work with World Vision communications staff from all over Eastern Europe. I walked with them up the 572 steps, called the Cascade, in Yerevan. I did not turn around until I reached the top.
When I did, there it was: Mt. Ararat, as if waiting for my return—my second visit. A visit to a place that represents second chances: God’s second chance for us, a country’s second chance after communism, second chances for children through World Vision sponsorship, and a second chance for me to remember how people can overcome anything if they keep their eyes fixed on God.
On February 25th, a group of bloggers – including Benjamin L. Corey and Matthew Paul Turner – will be joining us in Armenia to witness the impact of sponsorship first-hand! Follow along as we write live from Yerevan and Gyumri here on our blog.
Give a second chance to a child in need today. Sponsor a child in Armenia!