by Christian Manoukian
Sure, it was great. And of course no one can argue that it was beautiful. But I want to talk about something far more significant and meaningful that happened to a group of us boys a little later on in the day.
A group of five of us were heading back to AMAA headquarters after all purchasing Armenia National Team soccer jerseys (a right of passage for every Armenian teenage male who visits the country). We had just hailed an infamous Yerevan taxi to take us back, and after stuffing four people into a 3-person backseat, we headed home.
As the ride progressed, our driver inquired the usual things people ask when there is a group of people all wearing matching tee shirts in their taxi speaking English. Where are we from? What do we do? How do we like Armenia? We answered all his questions in due time, but as we were driving along, we happened to see Badveli Vatche himself sitting on a park bench outside the public square. At that exact same moment, the taxi driver was explaining that the work situation in Armenia wasn’t even as close to as bad as people made it seem. Everyone could find work and joyfully support their family, he claimed. Only lazy people who sat around wasting their time claimed that there was no work to be found. As he said so, he motioned toward a certain person on a certain park bench who was apparently “wasting their time.” That person just so happened to be the Badveli. The whole car burst into hysterical, perhaps nervous laughter. “That’s my dad!” Ari exclaimed with the rest of us. Immediately, the taxi driver changed his story, insisting Ari’s dad had not been the target of his accusations, but the damage had already been done.
Looking past the humor and irony of the situation, this man’s words struck a deeper chord within me. I am a firm believer in hard work bearing good fruit, and what this man said echoed my own beliefs. Not only did it echo my own beliefs, but that of Christ’s. We believe in working diligently to further the kingdom of God, no matter our situation or the situation of those we serve. Those who sit around, pretending to serve, but in reality not doing anything to further God’s kingdom, are the ones griping and complaining that Christianity is losing followers and that our religion is failing. Those who truly work hard see so much growth and beauty in Christianity. As we have toured the villages, meeting many people in terrible situations, I have noticed one thing above all else: these people are so content and happy with their lot in life. They gladly welcomed us into their homes, gave us food and drink we did not deserve to take from them, and made us feel like family. As we all worked hard to spread the gospel to them, we saw God’s love and grace flowing through them. How encouraging it was to see these people smiling, laughing, and praying with us.
This is a reminder that our spiritual world and well-being is what you make of it. As the taxi driver told us, if you work hard, you will grow and serve more and in turn impact people in ways you never thought you could. If you don’t, you become stuck in mediocrity and cease doing anything positive for Christ. From my experience, I humbly suggest that we all choose the first.
Christian Manoukian, 18