Archives for the month of: August, 2009

Ambassador Armen Martirosyan, center, with AMAA executive director Andy Torigian, right, and field director Dikran Youmshakian.

Ambassador Armen Martirosyan, center, with AMAA executive director Andy Torigian, right, and field director Dikran Youmshakian.

On Monday, July 27, His Eminence Ambassador Armen Martirosyan gave a farewell visit to the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA).  He was received by both the Executive Director Andy Torigian and Field Director Dikran Youmshakian.  During his service in New York, Mr. Martirosyan had established a cordial relationship and friendship with AMAA and its representatives.

Mr. Martirosyan was assigned to the honorable post of Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations on June 12, 2003.  He carried out his responsibilities faithfully and fervently.  Along with his busy schedule at the UN, he always made time for the community and became heavily involved in Armenian community life in the United States.  He cooperated with all Armenian organizations and churches.  He made himself available to most Armenian functions in the tri-state area, personally attending and thus receiving a special welcome wherever he went.  Prior to his assignment to the United Nations, Mr. Martirosyan served Armenia as its Deputy Foreign Minister and as a two-term member of the National Assembly.  Mr. Martirosyan is married to Anahit and the couple have two children:  Vahan, age 15 and Davit, age 9.

Mr. Martirosyan will move to Germany as he has been assigned to another prestigious post of serving as the Armenian Ambassador in that key country in Europe.

During his farewell visit, Mr. Martirosyan thanked the AMAA for their cordial friendship and for the support AMAA had provided, helping the Embassy secure health care coverage for the staff.  AMAA continues to support both embassies on the East Coast assisting in providing health coverage to the staff.

AMAA thanks the Ambassador for his unique service and wishes him God’s choicest blessings, as he moves to Germany.

by Elizabeth Edds Kougasian

New York, NY – A much anticipated tradition for AMAA supporters on the East Coast is the Annual Spring Concert to benefit children of Armenia and Karabagh.  This year’s concert, held on the afternoon of Sunday, May 31, 2009 was widely heralded as one of its most successful.  The program artfully combined three elements: European classical music, contemporary Argentinean songs and outstanding selections from the Armenian repertoire.

Elbiz Baghdikian, Chairperson of the AMAA Summer Camp and Christmas Committee which organized the concert, greeted guests and shared some background on the summer camps program which extends summer activities to over 10.000 children.  Peter Kougasian also welcomed guests in his dual capacity as an AMAA Vic President and as Moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York where the concert took place.  Rev. Dr. Peter Doghramji, pastor of the New York Church delivered an Invocation at the beginning of the concert.

Concert1

The audience was privileged to hear the world –wide debut of the SIMA Trio:  Ani Kalayjian, violoncello;  Sofya Melikyan, piano; and Sami Merdinian, violin.  Joining them was Mezzo- Soprano, Solange Merdianian.  These four musicians, all accomplished as soloists in their own right, collaborated to produce a thoughtful program that was perfectly executed.

The reverent spirit of the Invocation was maintained in the opening number, Erbarme dich, Mein Gott (Have Mercy Lord) from the St. Mathew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach.  A trio of Gomidas folk tunes followed.

Ms. Merdinian demonstrated her prowess as an interpreter of song moving effortlessly between shifting moods.  In her dramatic rendition of the plaintive lullaby Oror the lyrics were underscored by the whispering tones of the Trio accompaniment. Shifting gears, Ms. Merdinian delivered Shogher Jan with its melodic passages that danced in the listener’s imagination.   The more somber Akh Maral Jan closed this section of Armenian art songs.

The next piece, Haydn’s Trio in C Major No. 21 showcased the artistry of the Sima Trio’s performance.  Their precise attacks, phrasing and sensitive balance were a pleasure.  Many performers have commented on the outstanding acoustics possessed by the Sanctuary in the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York.  Even with a full house the Trio’s interpretation of Haydn’s familiar themes and rang through the hall with clarity and conviction.

After intermission, the audience was treated to works of 20th Century Argentinean composer Carlos Guastavino.  A prolific composer with over 500 works to his credit, he is best known for his songs for piano and voice and has been referred to by some as “the Schubert of the Pampas.  The first piece, Pueblito, mi pueblo (Little town, my town) with its evocative longing for a far away home seemed to resonate especially with the predominately Armenian audience.

The concert concluded with a Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano by Arno Babadjanian, a highly regarded composer in the former Soviet Union whose works are not widely known in America.  His gift for music was noticed by Aram Khachaturian who recommended enrolling the young Arno in a proper musical training program.  At the tender age of seven, Babadjanian enrolled in the Yerevan State Musical Conservatory.  A colleague of Rostropovich and Shostakovich, Babadjanian was a concert pianist, teacher and ethnomusicologist in addition to being a composer.  The Babadjanian piece the Sima Trio chose to play was physically demanding and emotionally charged with rich tonal textures and intense dynamics building to a brilliant climax.

Showing their versatility the Sima Trio thrilled the audience with a jazzy encore by composer Astor Piazolla called Prima Vera Portena.  The performers received a spontaneous standing ovation, and at the ensuing reception graciously received countless expressions of appreciation and gratitude from the delighted members of the audience.

The mission of the AMAA always reminds us about devotion to God, Christianity, and the motherland. There is a wide variety of services to be of help to the socially vulnerable population of Armenia.

Nowadays more than 1,200 children are without parental care, spending their unguided childhood in various specialized institutions. The UN Children Foundation’s survey shows that 400 of those children are abandoned by their parents and the other 800 have weak and insignificant social and emotional contacts with their families. In other words, these children are either abandoned or one step away from being abandoned. Unfortunately this phenomenon has become a very obvious problem in Armenian society.

The Yerevan Child Care and Protection Boarding School #1 houses some 80 of these vulnerable children whose families are unable or unwilling to care for them. Some of the children are orphans.

On April 1, 2009 a group of AMAA Armenia Yerevan office employees, on their own, visited this boarding school. They raised funds among themselves to reach out and offer several hours of happiness to the children of this boarding school.

In the school auditorium where, after words of greeting, the AMAA choir “Erg-Ergots” offered a mini-concert of spiritual and national songs. The children were especially impressed by the spiritual songs and many of them asked for the lyrics to be able to learn them. Before the second part of the concert, ECA’s Director of Christian Education, Rev. Albert Paityan, entertained the children with stories and riddles. The second part of the concert consisted of lively national songs to which the children and the employees danced national dances with great excitement and joy.

After the end of the concert, when it was time for dinner, the long queue of children went to the dinning hall where a lovely surprise was waiting for them. The AMAA employees served the children pizza. After the dinner, the AMAA staff offered the children gifts of stationary and school supplies.

The event concluded with photo opportunities which both the children and the employees enjoyed.

This visit was a great source of joy for the children of the boarding school. Even more striking was the joy felt by the AMAA employees who once again enjoyed the blessing of reaching out and giving to those less fortunate. It encourages our hearts to see our own employees in Armenia caring enough to sacrifice of themselves to make a difference in children’s lives.

Mark Geragos, Esq. & Dr. Peter Balakian

Mark Geragos, Esq. & Dr. Peter Balakian

La Canada—The beautiful estate home and gardens of Mark and Paulette Geragos was the site of an al frescoe dinner evening which included a reading by author Dr. Peter Balakian of the newly translated epic personal memoirs of his Great Uncle, Archbishop Grigoris Balakian— “Armenian Golgotha.”

Dr. Balakian also read excerpts from the two new chapters included in the 10th Anniversary edition of “Black Dog of Fate”—inspired in 2005 by his poignant visit to Der Zor, Syria —the “final resting place” of many of our massacred ancestor’s bones. During this same period, Dr. Balakian was invited to participate in Haigazian University’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in Beirut.

Haigazian University Women’s Auxiliary President Joyce Stein welcomed and thanked the gathering of over 150 for their support and encouragement of Haigazian University and Dr. Balakian’s latest books. Host and Master of Ceremonies Mark Geragos was introduced by Auxiliary member, Joyce Abdulian.

The audience was spellbound as Balakian read excerpts from both books. A short question and answer period followed. The Geragos’ invited everyone into their home for the book signing.

Brussels, Belgium

(L to R) Rev. Sarkis Pachaian of the Armenian Evangelical Church of Brussels, Rev. Joel Mikaelian, President of the Armenian Evangelical Union of France, Fred Simonian, AMAA Board Member, Andy Torigian, Executive Director of the AMAA, next to the newly purchased property and building on their left.

In 1989, the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) established the Armenian Evangelical Fellowship of Brussels, Belgium, to meet the spiritual needs of the local Armenians as well as immigrants from Anatolia, Turkey.  The fellowship was later organized as a church with the support of the AMAA and was placed under the care of the Armenian Evangelical Union of France.  Mr. Sarkis Pachaian, a young Christian from Turkey, was identified as a potential leader.  He was encouraged to attend a Seminary in order to take charge of the pastoral leadership of the congregation.  He graduated in 1991.

The Armenian Evangelical Church of Brussels was officially founded on May 28, 1991, and was sponsored by the AMAA and the Armenian Evangelical Union of France.  The church did not own a sanctuary.  Worship services were held first in homes and later in rented church buildings.  As of 1990, Armenians from Armenia emigrated to Belgium, thus opening new doors for ministry.  A fellowship for Armenian-speaking immigrants was established.  Soon the ministry in Belgium spread to seven areas including Brussels, Liege, Antwerp, Mechelen, Hasselt and also in neighboring countries with large Armenian-immigrant communities.  The church strives to spread the good news of the Gospel to Armenians who are in need of the Word of God.  In April of 2001, Rev. Sarkis Pachaian was ordained and now is the minister of the Armenian Evangelical Church of Brussels.  He has capable assistants and lay leaders who help in the ministry of Belgium.  With the expansion of the work in Belgium and areas in Holland and Germany, it was necessary to have a permanent facility in Brussels.  For the last two years, both the church and AMAA strived to find an adequate property.  We thank God that one such property was identified in Brussels.  An old chapel in Brussels was located on Rue Du Heysel, 20, Brussels, Belgium.  Andy Torigian, Executive Director of the AMAA, traveled to Brussels and consummated the purchase of this property in June of 2009.  Funding for the purchase was provided by the AMAA.

The building needs renovation and rooms for Sunday School and youth activities at a cost of over 250,000 Euros.  To fund this project, the church has embarked on a special Fundraising Campaign to the local community and they also appeal to all concerned Christians worldwide.  Donations to support the ministry in Belgium will be appreciated and can be channeled through the AMAA.  Those who are interested can contact the AMAA office at 201-265-2607.

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