I don’t think I’m alone in my opinion that the outreach to Armenia in August was everything I had hoped it would be and, of course, more. From the moment we set out to OR Tambo it felt as though I had stepped into a space of joy and love. That bubble followed us around for the rest of the trip, and looking back that was definitely one of the things that defined our journey.
Hylton and his team are wonderful people, and I’m sure the connections we made will be life-long. What was especially significant about meeting them at the airport was that it seemed as though we had already known each other for years. The friendships made there feel God-orchestrated. In fact, the whole thing feels God-orchestrated.
The insufferable heat and the fact that having running water was never a certainty were made bearable by the welcoming nature of the Armenian people. They are incredibly hospitable and their kindness radiates from them in smiles, sweets and surch (what they call coffee).
I don’t suppose any of this is the point though.
The point is that everywhere we looked and everything we did seemed to be coated in God’s presence. He seemed to be everywhere; in what we said, in how we acted and where we went. It wasn’t that we talked about him all the time – that’s not what it was about. We weren’t sent to Armenia to talk about God, or about Jesus or Holy Spirit. I realise now that we went there to express them.
We spent our weekends in the town of Artashat and when we weren’t ministering in the churches there, we were walking the streets in search of ice-cream or food and then, by some coincidence (or shall I say, God’s intervention) we’d be praying with people on the street, in their shops and once, even in a restaurant. It must have looked strange to the people around us – in fact, two policemen came in on the girls praying around a woman in the restaurant and they looked quite concerned – but it didn’t feel strange. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. In the end we hugged the policemen, and they did smile a little bit so I consider it a victory.
During the week we took a bus and headed over to Lake Sevan for a youth camp. I guess the Armenians define ‘youth’ as any age between 16 and fifties because there were some ‘older’ people on the camp too. Not that it stopped them from having a blast, I might add.
The camp was amazing. We spent our mornings and evenings in a sort of church service/message that then flowed into a time of worship and prayer. It was incredible how we were able to gently approach these people and then let God take control of the conversation. It was sometimes difficult, because we often needed translators to translate from English to Armenian or vice-versa, but we did it. There are few things more rewarding than watching people touched by the Holy Spirit.
It was particularly special for me, because I’ve never seen myself as someone very influential in the ‘Christian world’. But my definition of influential was warped, because influence doesn’t have to be something big and bold like writing books or speaking at conferences (these are good things, don’t get me wrong). Influence can be something as small as giving the right word to someone at the right moment and letting God take that and let it grow. And God’s moments weren’t just in ‘church’; they were all over the show – at meal times, chatting as a group of friends at the lake, walking in the street, in someone’s home or late night conversations on the porch of the chalets we stayed in.
I don’t have a favourite moment, but two things really stood out for me. The first was my baptism in Lake Sevan. I don’t think I need to explain how breathtaking that was – I don’t have the words to do so anyway. Needless to say, we washed away the old TK in the ‘sweet’ waters of Lake Sevan and the new TK is alive and well and ready for action.
A second highlight was probably when Tondi (one of the guys with us on the team) arranged an alter-call. There was a brief moment after he’d called anyone up who wanted to give their lives to the Lord, when it felt like Heaven was holding its breath as we waited. And then one by one people started coming forward.
Now that, that was amazing. In the end I think there were thirteen people that came forward, maybe more. Isn’t that incredible? Thirteen more people that were giving their lives to God. Thirteen more souls on our side.
It was a beautiful, intense moment and I know that Jesus was celebrating that victory right along with us.
I could honestly go on and on about our trip. I think everyone in our team grew so much in our understanding of the spiritual gifts we’ve been blessed with and our understanding of God, but also what it means to just love people. It doesn’t take much, and God makes it so easy.
In the end it’s not about what we say to try and convince someone that God is real, it’s about how we express Him – through love and through joy. That’s what this trip showed me, anyway.