Nothing is more fulfilling than to witness young Armenian men and women travel to Armenia and work together.
Twenty-two such men and women from different areas of the United States did so this year through the AMAA Summer Internship Program. They volunteered their time and talent and went to Armenia to serve and renew their connection to their roots. The program was organized by the AMAA Internship Committee, chaired by Mr. Vahram Aynilian representing the AMAA Board. Months ahead of the scheduled trip the committee worked hard to put in place a relevant program to benefit both the interns and the homeland. Announcement was made to the public through the churches and the AMAA News. Twenty-two youth ages 18 and above applied from Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey.
On June 28, the interns traveled to New Jersey and were treated for dinner by the Aynilians at their home in Alpine. The following day they spent a day at the AMAA Headquarters. They were introduced to the work carried on from AMAA Headquarters and were given an overview of the plan in Armenia: Spend few days in Yerevan for a crash course on Armenia’s history, spiritual life in Armenia, and AMAA and its activities in Armenia and around the world. Then travel to Ijevan, a city in the north, to serve.
The group left for Armenia on June 30. They arrived in Yerevan and were housed at the newly renovated headquarters on Baghramian Street. Accommodations in Armenia were very modest as some had to use their sleeping bags. The interns did not mind and were even more excited about the work. They had paid for their own travel. AMAA was responsible for the accommodations. In Yerevan, the interns had four lectures with speakers from Yerevan, Vanatzor and the U.S. as follows: Professor Kegham Hagopian, Armenia’s history; Rev. Samuel Kirakosyan, Pastor of the Church in Vanatzor, spiritual life in Armenia; Rev. Rene Leonian, AMAA representative, on AMAA mission programs in Armenia; and Jeanmarie Papelian, Esq., AMAA Vice President, AMAA general ministries and her experience with the AMAA as a young professional.
There was no time to waste. In the afternoons, the interns had an opportunity to visit major historical sites including Echmiadzin, Khor Virab, Garni, Geghant and Lake Sevan. Most touching was the visit to the genocide memorial monument in Dzidzernagapert, where the interns remembered the darkest side of human history – a million and a half of their ancestors deported and brutally massacred.
On Saturday, July 4, the interns visited Sheen-Shoghig Camp in Hankavan and had fun time with the 200 children at camp. They ate together, played together, took pictures and forged a connection with their little brothers and sisters.
Saturday evening the group traveled to Ijevan, the destined area of service. The interns put their talents to work with one group involved in a church building renovation project and the others leading a Vacation Bible School.
The Evangelical Church in Ijevan was organized in 1996. Worship was held in a small house. The Pastor is Rev. Albert Paidian who is an ordained minister and who also serves as the Director of the Armenian Evangelical Christian Education Ministries in Armenia and Karabagh. Five years ago, the AMAA purchased a movie theater to be used as the house of worship for the Evangelical Church in Ijevan. The building was old and needed much renovation. With a contribution from the Lucile Paul family of Fresno, the entrance and the lobby was renovated three years ago. The hall inside however needed much improvement. The interns removed the huge movie screen, patched and painted the walls, and expanded the stage. On the second floor a large activity room was renovated. The walls were patched and painted and new lighting fixtures were installed. In seven days, working together for long hours, they were able to fulfill their task. The movie theater is now a church with a huge cross that the interns built and hung over the pulpit.
A group of interns traveled about half an hour each day to help lead a day camp for children in the village of Azadamoud. Azadamoud, near Ijevan, is only five kms from the border with Azerbaijan, and is an area that experienced direct bombing from the Azeri side during the Karabagh war. Seventy children participated in the day camp program, with a full day of activities including Bible Stories, singing, arts and crafts, sports and other games. They were also provided lunch.
During their stay in Armenia, the interns participated in two Sunday worship services and two youth activities in Yerevan and Ijevan. AMAA Field Director Mr. Dikran Youmshakian, who was in charge of this program, preached on two Sundays. The interns participated with their songs and testimonies.
Along with the Field Director, the group had three other capable leaders – Raffi Kaldjian from Los Angeles, Vicken Keshishian from Philadelphia, and David Shahbazian from Kingston, NY. Raffi was in charge of supervising the interns; Vicken and David were in charge of the construction. The group worked together harmoniously, serving and interacting with the people in Ijevan.
The interns returned to Yerevan on July 12. They spent two more days in Yerevan before they returned to the United States. The departure was sad, but the excitement and the benefits of working together stayed with them. They served and learned much from their experience. They connected with Armenia and their heritage, they appreciated the hospitality of our people in Armenia, and most of all, shared the love of God. They now will share this unique experience with their friends and relatives, creating more enthusiasm about this program.
The AMAA Internship Program Committee will soon meet to plan for next year. More applicants are anticipated for the program. Those who are interested to participate in this unique pilgrimage to our homeland Armenia can contact the AMAA at 31 West Century Road, Paramus, NJ or call 201-265-2604 or visit AMAA’s website, AMAA.ORG