Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last Day!

In 24 hours, God willing, we will be sitting on a plane bound for Paris, on the first leg of our long trip home. We've had an incredible mission trip these past three weeks and our hearts and minds are packed tight with memories, prayer requests, praise reports, concerns and joys. Even though we know that God has used us--and the support that so many of you equipped us with--we also recognize that we leave behind countless needs that we would not be able to meet even we stayed for a year. We're humbled to have been able to play a small role in encouraging some families and churches during our stay, and we were encouraged and blessed by these encounters, too.
Yesterday (Tuesday) was our slowing-down day. In the morning, we met one last time with one of the faithful workers here and urged her to continue her outreach ministry despite the challenges or setbacks she may face. It's always inspiring when individuals remain committed to serving the Lord even under difficult circumstances.
We then took a couple of hours to behave like tourists; after some shawarma (something we rarely eat at home, even though there are plenty of Middle Eastern restaurants in Montreal), we walked around the Kentron District (basically the commercial centre of Yerevan, where our hotel is located) and took photos of architecture, passers-by and each other. It was nice to look around with a different perspective and have the chance to observe small details.
In the evening we made one last visit to a family we've connected with over the past couple of years and enjoyed supper and fellowship together. It's always interesting to discuss various issues about life, faith, culture, etc. with people who have grown up and live in a different environment than our own (there were also two visitors from Russia present). We can learn a lot from each other!
The rest of our last day will be spent packing (we've already printed our boarding passes!) and tying up any loose ends before going to bed fairly early. We need to be up by 5 a.m. as we fly out at 8:40. We'll have a 7-hour layover in Paris, which will make our journey drag a bit, but we should be home Thursday evening (Montreal time). Your prayers for our trip are greatly appreciated!
Thanks for following our blog these past three weeks! God bless you. :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Last Visits for Mission: Armenia 2014

In some ways it feels like we've been in Armenia for just three days instead of three weeks; at the same time, we've had what seems like three months' worth of experiences! We have a couple of meetings planned for today and then we'll be wrapping up our mission trip for this year and getting ready (and rested, hopefully) for our journey home.
Yesterday (Monday), we visited two homes in Abovyan, a town about 16km northeast of Yerevan. The first family we met was that of a local pastor, Armen, who currently holds meetings in his home. His congregation is actually larger than what fits in his home so they are trying to see whether they can find a larger meeting place for their services and Bible studies. During our visit, a dear lady we met last year, Marianoush, came over because she knew we were there and she wanted to see us again. Last year she had shared a prayer request with us about her youngest daughter, two at the time, who needed surgery. She had the little one with her yesterday and we saw the scars on her leg and foot where she'd been operated to try to straighten her limbs. Unfortunately, she will require another procedure. Please pray for this little girl (we can't remember her name right now). It was lovely to see how she played with the pastor's niece, also three years old, during our visit.
Afterward, we visited the home of Artur, a painter who amazes us with his latest masterpieces each year we visit. We were delighted to also see his mother and his two teenagers: 16-year-old Aida, also an artist, and 18-year-old Narek, a multi-medal-winning boxer who won bronze at the 2014 Youth Olympics. There was much to celebrate in this home, including the recent hatching of five tiny canaries!
Later in the day, we had two last visits with local friends and relatives, trying to grab a few more precious moments with these loved ones before we leave. We're grateful for the fellowship we've enjoyed and will miss our friends here. Thankfully, nowadays we have things like Facebook and Skype to stay in touch!
We'll likely only post one more update before we leave Yerevan, but we'll try to write more after our return to Montreal. God bless you!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Third and Last Sunday in Armenia

Yesterday (Sunday), Pastor Joseph spoke at a church in Charentsavan, a village about 45 minutes outside of Yerevan. Although we plan to make several more visits, that was his last "official" duty. Today and tomorrow, we'll be squeezing in last-minute visitations before wrapping everything up and preparing for our trip home on Thursday morning.
In Charentsavan, Pastor Joseph spoke to the congregation--made up mainly of women--on Ephesians 5:13-26, focussing on the fruit of the Spirit that is produced in our lives when we are committed to following and obeying Christ. The response was very positive and several members chatted with the pastor after the service. We were also invited to join some of the church leaders in the office for a light lunch before we returned to Yerevan.
From there, we dropped by the Vernissage (basically a large flea market where you can buy souvenirs, antiques and art from locals) for a bit of shopping and then returned to the hotel.
In less than an hour, we'll be heading out for three or four home visits. We have been inspired by these opportunities to reach out to people where they are and have been talking about ways we can do similar ministry back in Montreal.
Again, thank you for your continued prayers. We have been encouraged by the loving support from our friends and family back home and around the world!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Another Unusual Baptismal Service

Greetings, friends! It's Sunday morning in Yerevan and, before we go to church in Charentsavan, where Pastor Joseph has his last official speaking engagement, we just want to share with you about yesterday's baptismal service.
We had expected eight people to be baptized but, due to pressure from outside sources, four of them backed out. Still, we were happy to make the trip to Sayat Nova to baptize three women--one of them just 15 years old--and a man. In the absence of a traditional baptismal venue, we opted for the small pool in the courtyard of the home of one the women. We had visited her last year so knew what to expect, but it was still a challenge to coordinate how to proceed.
After Pastor Joseph shared some Scripture verses, encouraged those being baptized to share their personal testimonies, and prayed for them, the group quickly changed and then climbed into the pool. Because of the shallowness of the water, Pastor Joseph could not dip them backwards as he normally does so each one crouched down and then dipped forward. There were many smiles as each one did their best to get wet!
After the baptisms, we celebrated the occasion together over fruit and coffee. We also enjoyed seeing two toddlers--the four-year-old handicapped girl we mentioned a few days ago as well as the two-year-old granddaughter of our hostess--happily playing with the resident kittens. We were saddened to later hear that the two-year-old was abandoned by her parents when she was barely 40 days old and left to the care of her loving grandmother.
As we prepared to return to the hotel, we were invited to someone's home for supper and enjoyed some more fellowship before we called it a day and rested up for today's activities.
It's amazing how quickly the last two-and-a-half weeks have gone by! We have just a few days left before we head home. We will miss our brothers and sisters here but look forward to reuniting with our family and church family back home.
Thank you for your continued prayers!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Visits and More Visits...

Friday was another full day for us. With Arayik and Samuel, we drove to a suburb of Yerevan called Davitashen and visited three families who live near each other. These were all Christian families but each one shared unique challenges that we were able to pray with them about.
At one of the homes, we met several siblings and their families who are caring for their aging father, Rasmik. This gentleman greeted us with a booming voice, firm handshake and warm smile despite the fact that a physical handicap has him relying on crutches and a delapitated wheelchair.
We were humbled to be able to offer some support to these families and to pray for them all in turn.
In the evening, we participated in the regular Friday night home Bible study at Anahit and Haik's home and Pastor Joseph led a discussion based on the first several verses of Ephesians 2. Afterward, a young former pastor who had joined us spontaneously started singing a hymn and others joined in. We were pleasantly surprised when Nelli moved to the piano and began accompanying the group. She later played and sang another hymn. It was great fellowship!
One of the unexpected "missions" that Pastor Joseph has encountered during this trip is the need to exhort and encourage local pastors and church leaders. Some of the same church issues we face in North America are present in Armenia and several people have to turned to Pastor Joseph's many years of experience for guidance and insight.
This morning we are preparing for a baptismal service in the town of Sayat Nova. By the time most of you read this, the service will be over, but we ask you to pray for those being baptized, that they will grow strong in their faith and plug into a fellowship of believers who will encourage and support them.
Please be sure to check out our Facebook photo album to see our latest pictures!

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Mixed Bag of Experiences

Thank you all so much for following our blog and mission trip activities with interest, and for the encouraging comments you've been leaving for us on Facebook. Knowing that people care about what's happening here in Armenia keeps us going.

Thursday was an interesting day for us. We encountered the most heart-rending situation of our trip thus far, and then had the opportunity to see a completely different part of Armenia that was almost "fun". . .a real contrast.

In the morning we joined Arayik and Nelli to visit Seta, an elderly lady who has been on her death-bed for the past 10 months, and her daughter-in-law Arpig. It was very difficult to visit Seta's room and witness her physical condition. Her body has been reduced to skin and bones--and that skin is covered in wounds, some of them open. Her own children have abandoned her and her daughter-in-law selflessly cares for her day and night, while also raising two young adult children. Pastor Joseph spoke to Seta about eternal life and making peace with God and, with barely audible words, she did profess faith in Jesus and prayed for forgiveness of her sins, surrending her life to Christ. Our prayer is that she will not suffer much longer. We also prayed with Arpig and tried to encourage her in her faith, which she says is the only thing that keeps her going in these trying circumstances.

A couple of hours later, we met with Emma, a journalist we met on a previous mission trip after she contacted us to say that she had been given Pastor Joseph's book, God's Workshop, and wanted to talk to him. Emma took us to one of her favourite places: an exotic park and restaurant called Jambo. Here we saw many interesting animals (such as monkeys, parrots, lemurs, arctic foxes, horses, rabbits, etc.) It was refreshing to walk through beautiful greenery and be reminded of God's creativity. Afterward we stopped at a restaurant called Old Jrvezh, which looked a bit like it could be a ranch in Texas! We enjoyed catching up with her and Pastor Joseph encouraged her to continue growing in her relationship with Christ.

Later in the evening, we met with relatives on a quiet pedestrian-only street and chatted over ice cream and coffee, a nice wind-down to our day.
We've even had some interesting encounters in our hotel. This morning Pastor Joseph gave the Greek version of our tract, What Are You Searching for?, to an employee who grew up in Greece. She and her sister both work here and we've enjoyed chatting with them during our stay. Also, the last couple of mornings, the same gentleman has been sitting near us during breakfast. This morning we learned that he is a Columbian who works for Red Cross and is based in Moscow. We exchanged some of our experiences and gave him our business card.
Please continue to pray for us as we begin to slowly wrap things up for this trip. We have five full days left, besides next Wednesday, which will be our day for packing and making preparations for the long journey home. It's amazing to think that a week from now we'll be back home, God willing!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Seven Days to Go

It's hard to believe that there is only a week left to our mission trip! The last two weeks have been busy and full and very inspiring. We've encountered heart-breaking situations and been blessed by heart-warming testimonies.

Tuesday was a bit of a day off for us -- we needed to recharge our batteries -- but we did visit relatives in the evening.

Wednesday was very busy again as we did three visitations. In the morning we visited a ministry partner's family and Pastor Joseph had the opportunity to chat with and encourage the 21-year-old daughter. Afterward, we visited a family in Getap, three generations of women we've met on previous mission trips. The grandmother, mother and two young daughters experienced a terrible trauma about four years ago and have been on the difficult road of recovery since then. The little girl is physically handicapped due to developmental issues around the time of her birth but she is happy and energetic and very bright. Her 15-year-old sister recently surrendered her life to Christ and will be baptized this Saturday.

The most singificant part of our visit was the opportunity to encourage her grandmother, who is still grieving over the condition of her youngest grandchild. Pastor Joseph urged her to surrender her burden to the Lord so that she could experience joy and peace and be a better support to her family. Before we left, she said that she did want to give her life to Christ and Pastor Joseph prayed with her.

In the evening, we visited a local pastor's family and had great fellowship as we discussed matters of life and faith. We enjoyed meeting his daughter, son-in-law and three little granddaughters.

Thursday will be another day of visitations. We're still coordinating meetings and visits but we know that we have a home Bible study on Friday night and then a baptismal service on Saturday, which will bring together several people from different towns and villages. Stay tuned for more updates!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday's Missions

Monday was one of our busiest days so far on our mission trip. In the morning, we visited yet another widow, Astrig, and were pleased to see that she was much improved since our visit last year. While we were glad to learn that she had been able to have surgery in both eyes to regain her vision, it was upsetting to hear that she had been tricked into paying more than she could ever afford for what had been promised to be free treatment.

In any case, she was very much encouraged by our visit and we were blessed to be able to offer her some support.

From Astrig's home we drove across town to visit a family consisting of a young single mother (with a newborn son and a preteen daughter) and her father. The family is struggling financially and the father has many doubts about God and religion, but the young woman's faith and strength was impressive. We sat in their backyard--where they grow peaches, apples, plums, hazelnuts, walnuts, and more--and had great conversations while we sampled their homegrown goodies. Before we left, the young woman asked Pastor Joseph to pray for her baby, Michael. She had hoped to be baptized during our visit this year but couldn't because of her many responsibilities. We hope she will be able to be baptized in the near future.

After a brief rest in the afternoon, we headed to the home of a family that partners with us in sharing the gospel in Armenia. Several other families joined us for supper and fellowship. Throughout the evening, there were many interesting discussions about the interpretation of certain biblical passages (Pastor Joseph was able to offer explanations by referring to the original Greek texts) as well as conversations about the Christian life in general. Ann-Margret also had the opportunity to interview the National Leader of Campus Crusade in Armenia for a Christianity Today article she's working on about Armenia.

The day ended late for us but it was fulfilling! The next couple of days will be less busy but we plan to do a few more visits. With just nine days to go before we return home, we have to start carefully scheduling our remaining activities (such as one more baptism). Your continued prayers are appreciated! Please pray that the heat (Yerevan is forecast to hit 99F/37C for the next three days) and fatigue don't hinder our work here. Thank you!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday, August 23

On Sunday morning, we went to a home in a suburb of Yerevan where they hold a weekly Bible study. The large livingroom was full and we learned that sometimes even more people attend. After a time of worship, Pastor Joseph was asked to lead the group in a Bible study. He spoke about the Christian's walk and then invited those present to participate by asking any questions they may have.

We had another church service to go to a couple of hours later, where Pastor Joseph was to speak, but first we stopped at the home of a woman who was baptized during our mission trip last year. We couldn't stay long but we were able to meet another lady who wants to be baptized this year and we discussed some arrangements. We're looking forward to finalizing the details of the baptism, which are a little complicated because people from several different villages and towns need to be brought together to one location.

We then made our way to Zeytun for the second church service and Pastor Joseph addressed the question, "Who Is a Christian?" It was nice to see some familiar faces from our visit to this church last year. After the service, we stayed for about an hour and enjoyed fellowship and fresh fruit while the church leaders discussed topics such as church growth.

At both meetings, there were many questions raised; for example, about infant baptism, life after death, and other topics people are struggling with. Clearly, no matter where we go -- in North America or in Armenia -- people are searching for answers.

Please continue to pray for us and for the people we meet each day. We truly appreciate your interest in and support of this work. God bless you!

We'll update our Facebook photo album this morning, too. If any of you are not able to view these photos for some reason, please let us know. You can find our contact information on our website.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Catching Up

After a couple of quiet days, it's finally time to update our mission trip blog. Our photo album is pretty much up to date (though we still want to post videos at some point) and you can have a look at it here: Mission: Armenia 2014.

On Thursday, we decided to slow things down a little and didn't do much more than get together with a couple of our local friends (two separate meetings) with whom we partner in sharing the gospel in Armenia. It was great to catch up with them and get a better feel for where things are at with the church at large here.

Friday ended up being a day off for Pastor Joseph and me, mainly because I had to call in sick with a head/chest cold and knew I'd be pretty useless. We did run a couple of errands and respond to emails but, otherwise, did our best to rest up and prepare ourselves for the busy weekend coming up.

This morning I woke up feeling somewhat better and my health improved as the day went on, despite the intense heat today (the high was 36C!) We spent part of the day visiting three elderly ladies in different parts of the city and we pray that we were able to offer them some encouragement. Our new friend Samuel (whom we met last year when we were here) really touched our hearts when he gave his phone number to one of the widows (they had never met before) and said that she should feel free to call him whenever she needed something done around the house or had an emergency; he didn't live far and would be glad to help her out. What a great example of selflessness and of obedience to the Scriptural teaching of taking care of widows and orphans.

After a brief rest upon returning to the hotel, Pastor Joseph and I split up again. I've spent the afternoon with Lilit Mantashyan (our Joseph Hovsepian Ministries team member and translator) and her mother Anna, and I'll be sleeping over tonight because tomorrow we'll go together to a Bible study where Pastor Joseph will meet us and be the guest speaker. Afterward, we will be going to another church service where Pastor Joseph will speak.

We only have tentative plans after that but we hope to do several more visitations and we are in the process of organizing one more baptismal service.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Update from Pastor Joseph

Back in Yerevan... Here is a little report from Pastor Joseph about his activities on Monday and Tuesday, and our Wednesday road trip, in his own words!


I met with Arayik over an early breakfast for about an hour and a half. Then I met with a young journalist we had got to know two years ago after she contacted us because she had received and read my book, God's Workshop (in Armenian). The same morning I met with an other young lady who has been working hard distributing our tracts and books, and keeping in touch with us throughout the year regarding requests from pastors and individuals for our material.

In the afternoon, I had a very long meeting with church leaders and a pastor about church and ministry matters in Armenia. After sharing supper with them, I returned to the hotel very late and went to bed.


After sharing breakfast with Arayik again, we picked up a gentleman who came with us to a village where we visited a large family. On the way, I was able to witness to him and speak about eternal life and salvation. Even though he is surrounded by believers, he has not understood life after death and having a personal relationship with God. Upon our arrival in the village, I faced the same situation with his brother who had not been able to understand why we should be saved. After explaining to him about the human heart and condition, I encouraged him to pray and ask God to help him see the need for salvation. In the meantime, other family members joined us and heard the gospel.

I returned to Yerevan and rested for about an hour and then was picked up to visit another Christian family in the city. We had lunch together and then a Bible study, during which I was able to clarify some words that seemed unclear in either Armenian or English; I referred to the original Greek to explain the terms in question.

Later in the afternoon, a brother who produces yogurt, cheese, etc. took me to his dairy farm and showed me around. He even introduced me to his bull! I learned how the dairy products are made, too.


Early in the morning, after a quick breakfast, Arayik and I picked up Felix, one of the young men who had been baptized on Sunday, and headed to Vanadzor to join the group from Horom. During the drive there, I had the opportunity for two hours to disciple him and talk to him about his new life as a believer. While we talked, he shared an amazing testimony with me. When he decided to be baptized, his wife was angry and challenged him about going to church when they needed money and food. She thought he was a fool to want to get involved in spiritual things. He decided to come to church and be baptized anyway. He returned home to an angry wife who said, "Look in the fridge. There is nothing to eat." He said that his old self would have reacted badly but he told her that God would provide.

A few minutes later, they saw a small van stop in front of their house and then leave. They went outside and found a big basket full of vegetables, fruits and other food.

The following day, Felix came to Yerevan for a job but it didn't work out and so he was returning now with us to his home. When I heard about his situation, I was ready to help him with a donation. He started weeping because of the way God was providing for him again. I talked to him about our body being the temple of the Lord and pointed out his smoking habit. I explained to him that there are some things he should remember: Smoking would destroy his body and his habit would be a bad testimony of the change in his life. Also, it would affect his family and his finances. After a quiet pause, I heard a noise and turned around. He was crushing his cigarettes and said, "You are absolutely right!" He promised he would not smoke again. He acknowledged he might suffer for a few days but he knew God would help him.

He decided to join us for the road trip and return to Yerevan with us later to continue looking for work.

We met the group from Horom in Vanadzor, another small village. There, we met a woman named Aida who needed a lift to another village. She got into our van because the other buses were full. On the way, I started talking about life and spirituality. She said that, during the communist regime, she had become an atheist and she still had problems believing that there is a God. She said she was happy to have met me and that nothing happened by chance but everything has a purpose. She repeated this a couple of times so I asked her, "If there is no God, who created the purpose for everything?" I told her that every heart has a God-shaped vaccuum or hole and she agreed that she had one, too. Eventually, she said that she would like to have that emptiness filled with God. I gave her a tract and asked her to pray the prayer at the end of it, and I also gave her one of my books. She said she would begin attending church. Please pray for Aida.

After dropping her off, we continued on to Dilijan, the third largest city in Armenia. We were surprised to see how lush and green this area was. It reminded us of Canada or Switzerland. We spent some time there and gathered as a large group (there were about 45 of us) for worship and I shared a message, encouraging the people to reach out into their communities and to support their pastor.

Our next stop was Sevana Lich (Lake Sevan), the largest lake in Armenia and the Caucasus region. The children and youth were able to swim for a while and we had lunch there. Before we left, I had another opportunity to share a few words with the men, while Ann-Margret spoke to the ladies.

At that point, we decided to return to Yerevan instead of continuing with the group who had two more stops before they were to return to Horom.

Stay tuned for more news. We will also be updating our photo album soon.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Adventures in Horom - Part 2

It's taking long to upload photos but I was finally able to update our Facebook photo album to include yesterday's photos. Please check again tomorrow for today's photos. In the meantime...

SO MUCH happened today that I could write pages and pages about it all. I'll try to keep it brief, though. In the morning, Pastor Tigran, his son Timothy and I went to see a lady from the Horom church who, along with her friend Suzanne, bakes fresh lavash (mainly for their families) in their own little production centre -- a room off Suzanne's home where the dough is prepared and then another building that houses a special fire pit for flash-baking the flat bread. It was fascinating to watch these women's hands working quickly and efficiently and to see this delicious bread made in such poor conditions. I was able to take video of the process and look forward to sharing that with you.

After being loaded up with lavash to take home with us, we got ready for a trip to Gyumri, the second-largest city in Armenia, one that was devastated by the 1988 earthquake. Among my photos are two buildings in particular that I want to share later -- one a half-collapsed commercial building with huge chunks of the structure dangling precariously with no barriers around it and another that used to be a five-star eleven-storey hotel. All that is left is the skeleton of the first five or so floors.

In Gyumri, we first visited the parents of Valya, Pastor Tigran's wife, and we had the pleasure of hearing the "duduk" (a small traditional Armenian flute) played by Vahe, the young man who drove us to Gyumri. I will later share a video of that, too!

Afterward, we visited a family of young people who had lost both their parents many years ago, when the eldest girl was just 12 and the youngest was just a few years old. Three siblings took care of each other, with some help from relatives and friends, but the little boy became sick and he continues to grow worse. He is 17 years old but looks no older than 10 because his little body, somewhat deformed, just can't grow. Sadly, the doctors give him only a few more years to live. It was heartbreaking to see the hardships these young people have endured but it was also heartwarming to see the selfless love and care they have for each other. The two elder siblings are both recently married and their spouses also help as a bigger family.

We explored Gyumri a little and then had a bite to eat before heading back to Horom. After a nap (I was so exhausted and overheated that I slept for well over an hour!) we paid a quick visit to Pastor Tigran's mother and his brother's family and then went to see a woman who is battling an illness that has caused a severe injury to her spine and left her alarmingly thin. I was honoured to be able to offer her (as well as the young siblings we'd seen earlier) a gift on behalf of Joseph Hovsepian Ministries.

We ended the day with a simple spaghetti dinner (a big relief after being served fruit throughout the day) and tea made from leaves from the Muradyan's garden (yum!) and I am ready to call it a day. Whew!

I have not been able to speak to Pastor Joseph since we split up yesterday so I'm not sure what his activities were today but we'll try to report on that soon.

THANK YOU all so much for your continued prayers. We are seeing the results everywhere we go here. And the people we've been able to reach out to in Armenia -- especially in Horom -- are very grateful for your support and prayers. Believe me when I say they are in no way taking any of it for granted. They are wonderful, humble people.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Adventures in Horom - Part I

Today was our day to visit Horom and it was unforgettable. As I'd mentioned before, I'll be staying here for three nights but Pastor Joseph is back in Yerevan. He'll do two days of ministry with Arayik and then return to Horom with a group on Wednesday, not only to pick me up but for us to enjoy an outing and fellowship with a few dozen villagers. Of course, I'll be able to give more detailed reports about my time in Horom than what's happening in Yerevan but I'll try to get updates from Dad somehow and fill you in.

In the meantime, a brief report on today's activities...

After the two-hour drive from Yerevan to Horom, we started the day with worship in the newly renovated church. The contrast between the ramshackle building we saw last year and where we worshiped today is truly remarkable. And the church members are nearly giddy with joy over this miracle they have experienced. They prayed for 12 years for someone to come along and help them--no doubt learning about trust and patience in the process--and then, without even the subtlest of hints from the church's pastor or members,  our team decided to take on the project. What an honour to share in these people's joy!

I should mention that today was the first day I sat in church and listened to a cow mooing outside. There was one tied behind the next-door store. I can only assume the store sells fresh milk! :)

After the service, we all drove about 10 minutes to reach the site for the baptismal service. Five had asked for baptism but two had to cancel (one had a sick baby and the other was ready to go into labour). Interestingly enough, two others who had recently made commitments to follow Christ took their place. There were three young men and two women who were baptized. But this was no ordinary baptism...

Someone in town who has a small pool in their backyard agreed to let the church use the yard for the baptismal service. Now, we're not talking about your typical North American pool. This cement pool, dug right into the ground, was probably not more than 10 x 15 feet and only about waist or chest deep. Rather than have those being baptized enter and leave the pool one by one, Pastor Joseph had them all stand in the pool together and then step out as they took turns being baptized.

After the baptisms, as some of us stood around talking, an elderly lady approached Pastor Joseph and challenged him with a question, stating that she was an atheist. By the end of their conversation, she seemed much less cynical and even suggested that she might become a believer yet -- perhaps she was a lost sheep (her words).

On our way back to the church, where we were going to have communion, Pastor Tigran asked if we could stop to visit a family in need of encouragement. When we walked through the metal gates (the homes here are generally walled and gated), my mouth nearly fell open. Instead of a house, there were two metal, rusty trailers. In fact, one wasn't even a trailer. It was basically a container with a door and a couple of windows. In this container lives a lovely single mother and her three preteens. They have almost nothing in their home, which is basically one room and a bit of a nook when you first walk in. And yet this threadbare home was immaculately clean and tidy, the children were scrubbed and groomed (and so charming!) and the mother was unassuming and soft-spoken. We were able to offer her a donation and I'm pretty sure I noticed one of her daughters rubbing tears out of her eyes.

When we exited the trailer/container, I couldn't take it anymore and started to cry. This dear woman, whose husband left her several years ago, used to receive help from her father but he is now ill and can't help. She is alone and in dire straits and yet she simply smiled graciously and didn't complain about her lot. Please pray for this woman and her children.

After the communion service, we regrouped at Pastor Tigran's home for supper and fellowship, after which the Yerevan group returned to the city. I've been taking it easy this evening and visiting with Pastor Tigran's family, slowly opening up and definitely practicing my Armenian! The window in my room opens up to the side garden where there are five new beehives. Now and then I can hear them busily buzzing. Earlier in the evening I heard another cow lowing and a rooster give a half-hearted cock-a-doodle. It's so interesting to hear country noises!

We have a few tentative plans for the next couple of days but I'll know more in the morning. Stay tuned for more news from Armenia! Those of you who are enthusiastically following our posts: THANK YOU! I can't begin to tell you how much it means to us that so many people care. God bless you!

I really wanted to share some photos from today but I'm having trouble uploading them. I will try again tomorrow or else post them after I'm back in Yerevan. Thanks for understanding! I'm just glad I have a wifi thingy so I can get online and post this update. :)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

And So We Begin

Good morning! It's 10:30 a.m. in Yerevan and I'm just checking in to give a little report about yesterday's activities.

In the afternoon, we visited an elderly lady named Sveta, along with her family. We were very blessed by our time there. Sveta told us that she prays daily and constantly for our ministry, which was a great encouragement to us. She also shared a few beautiful and affirming poems she's written about Pastor Joseph. We were later able to pray for her and her loved ones.

Later in the evening, Pastor Joseph led a Bible study in a home. The passages we focused on were Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23 and also Luke 13:22-24. We talked about the challenge of walking the narrow road and living holy lives. Two of the young women present asked very poignant questions on the topic and we had a great discussion.

Here are a couple of photos from our visits. You can see more in our Facebook photo album, which will be updated regularly.

We'll be doing a bit more visiting today but our next big event is our visit to Horom tomorrow morning, where we will finally see the renovated church building and reconnect with the precious people we met last year. We are taking with us a suitcase full of clothing, medication, reading glasses, and tracts as well as a communion set we are donating to the church. We will attend their worship service and then Pastor Joseph will baptize four people from the village.

I will be staying in Horom for a few more days while Pastor Joseph returns to Yerevan to do ministry there. We will regroup in Horom on Wednesday and enjoy some fellowship before leaving.

Pastor Joseph and I thank you for your interest and prayers for this ministry and mission trip. We ask you to please continue praying for us. Thank you!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Day 2 . . . or something like that

Warm greetings from warm (actually, quite hot) Armenia!

We left Montreal on August 12 and today is the 15th, so it's our fourth day on the road but really only our second full day in Yerevan and our first day of ministry. The journey from our home to our accommodations here took over 24 hours and we spent part of the next day looking for a new place to stay (the first was simply not going to work for us) and settling in and trying to get some rest.

Today, we're glad to finally be starting what we came here to do! In less than an hour, Arayik Sardaryan, the missionary our church supports and a dear brother who partners with us and brings us to the areas we might be able to help, will pick us up and take us to visit an elderly lady who had been hospitalized for several days and just went home yesterday. She is a faithful servant of the Lord who courageously hands out -- from the front window of her home -- gospel tracts and two devotional books written by Pastor Joseph Hovsepian. We hope to be an encouragement to her this afternoon but I'm pretty sure she will be the one to bless us!

Afterward we will participate in a small group Bible study in a home. We look forward to sharing warm fellowship with others who love the Lord.

We are not 100% sure yet of what we'll be doing tomorrow (likely some more visits) but on Sunday morning we will make our way to Horom, the village I have shared about before. More about that soon!

Once again, we are very grateful for everyone's loving and faithful support, whether through prayers, encouraging messages, financial donations or other gifts. May God bless you all!

At this point, I don't yet have any photos worth sharing but I will take some this evening and will start posting photos and more detailed reports in the next day or so. Actually, I'll just share one photo, the view from my hotel room window, which shows the arched passage that leads to our hotel and the buildings across the street. We're located in the very busy Republic Square section of downtown Yerevan, near several government buildings, a concert hall, the national gallery, and many little shops and eateries.

More from me later!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

We're Almost Ready!

In less than two days, we'll be packed and ready to head to the airport for our long trip to Armenia. Our flight is scheduled to take off from Montreal at 5 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Tuesday and we're supposed to land in Yerevan at 8 p.m. (Armenia time) on Wednesday. That's 1 p.m. Eastern Time. About 20 hours later! Our journey will include a seven-hour layover in Paris, which is why it's so long. But we know God will be with us all the way.

Since we don't have anything to report yet, I thought I'd share a link to a recent post on my personal blog, where you'll find some interesting facts about Armenia and Armenians. If you can't even locate Armenia on a map, this might be for you!

Click here to see the article.

I'll be back pretty soon to fill you in on our Mission: Armenia 2014 adventures. Stay tuned!

Here's another interesting fact: The colours in the image above represent the Armenian flag!

- Ann-Margret

Saturday, August 2, 2014

2014 - Catching Up

We haven't updated our blog since last summer's mission trip but we've been posting regular reports on our Facebook page. As we prepare to return to Armenia on August 12, we thought it was time to reactivate this blog and bring you all up to date on what Joseph Hovsepian Ministries has been doing.

We sent out a newsletter in the spring, which covers some of our main projects since last summer. You can download and read the PDF here.

As you'll see in the newsletter, the highlight of our year has been the rebuilding of a small church in Horom, a village that's a couple of hours from Yerevan. A building that was in a shambles last summer now has a secure roof and proper flooring, solid doors and windows, a few new rooms (interior walls were built), lighting (electricity was connected), fresh landscaping, new tables and chairs and even new hymnbooks. The congregation in Horom joyfully celebrated this renewal with a dedication service on Sunday, July 27.

You can view all the photos of this transformation in our Facebook photo album about Horom.
One of the blessings we never anticipated as a result of this project is that several families gained employment from the construction work and earned income that will help them live for several months. Praise the Lord!

We (Pastor Joseph Hovsepian and his daughter Ann-Margret) leave Montreal on August 12 and will return, God willing, on September 4. Please pray that the Lord will guide and strengthen us in the daily tasks He gives us to do while we are there, whether it is preaching, baptizing, praying with individuals, comforting families or lending a helping hand.

Please stay tuned for further praise reports and prayer requests!