By Haley Surmeian
James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Our day started with a few songs of worship followed by the testimony from two members of the youth group from the local church. The first one, Hripsime, discussed how the economic problems of Armenia have challenged her faith. As we had learned the day before, youth unemployment is 43%. Just think about it: almost half of the youth of Armenia don’t have jobs. I can see how that fact would make someone want to just lose faith. But God calls us to count on Him in times of trouble, and that was Hripsime’s prayer: that she would follow the Holy Spirit that is working in her heart and not get distracted by her mind telling her to give up.
The second youth member, Gor, talked about a different economic issue: once youth become educated they often leave Armenia to find better opportunities elsewhere. He was happy that we were here in Yerevan, because having tourism means that there is something special to be seen, but an emigration rate of close to 6% per year is a cause for concern. Gor’s prayer was that people could find a future here in Armenia. It was very interesting to hear some of the challenges that Armenian youth is facing firsthand, and the fact that they were so open to sharing everything was really touching.
Our next stop was to Vernisaj, the open air market. Walking past all of the different stands and trying to bargain with some of the vendors was a really fun cultural experience. Then we got on the bus to go visit Garni and Geghart. On our way we stopped at the Arc of Charents to eat our lunches and the view there was absolutely amazing. You could see for miles, and a picture just couldn’t capture all of the beauty. The same goes for Garni and Geghart. It was just incredible to see God’s beauty all around us. There is so much history at these places too. The sanctuary, Geghart, had been linked to the apostle Thaddeus, who is one of the reasons that Armenia became Christian. I was a little disappointed to see church ruins at Garni, because it means only the pagan temple had been rebuilt and not the church. In any case, I still very much enjoyed our visits there.
After dinner, we went to go see an Armenian music show featuring the Van Project at the top of the Cascade. Listening to all of the performers made me really happy. They were all so incredibly talented and all of the songs they played all had cultural significance. I thought back to the morning: even with so much unemployment and emigration problems, Armenians can all still gather around and celebrate their culture together. It reminded me of Isaiah 40:8. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Even if all that we have is taken away, we will always have Him on our side, which is all that really matters anyway. And, if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
Haley Surmeian, 18
Orange County, California