[This picture is of the wonderful women I had the privilege of serving with in Artavaz and Pyunik village]
I remember the day: June 16, 2003.
I was 24, and Nick was 26. We had left our jobs, sold everything, moved out of our apartment, and packed a few possessions and our ENTIRE lives into 12 suitcases.
That was the day we left for Armenia, beginning our first commitment to live and work for three years.
I was very hesitant. I was very scared. I remember taking off from our last stop in America, watching the sweet American soil that I love slowly disappear as the clouds began to drown out my last look at MY country.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to travel. I had left my country countless times, and was always very happy to do so. However, on this flight, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of dread. This time, I knew I wouldn’t be returning home in two weeks.
I didn’t know WHEN I would return.
Chicago to Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. to Vienna
Vienna to Yerevan
36 long hours of travel and waiting.
I remember vividly my first descent into Armenia. It was 5 am and completely dark. I mean, COMPLETELY dark. Usually, I love to look at the beautiful clusters of city lights that mean that we are finally leaving the skies and setting foot into civilization again.
But, when I landed in Armenia, I hardly saw ANY lights. I saw one light here, two lights there. I remember feeling a bit of panic. This is Yerevan? This is a capital of an entire nation? Where, in the world, am I moving to?
Those first few months were horrible. I remember waking up every morning and looking out over the city from our balcony and just WISHING I could go back to America, back to my job, back to everything familiar.
I remember being so completely frustrated with trying to get my tongue to do gymnastics in order to make Armenian sounds and to learn this language. Why in the world was I spending all this time learning a language that only 9 million people in the ENTIRE world speak? Couldn’t I put this time and effort into learning something more useful???
Fastforward: September 10, 2010
I am standing in one of those villages that I’m sure I passed over on my initial descent into Armenia. There are very few lights. The main road is completely broken apart and filled with the waste of the neighborhood’s sheep and cows that pass by.
I look up into the sky, and I THANK GOD, that I am here – in an Armenian village, sitting with their women and children, breathing deep and letting my clothing absorb that special village scent. In my mind, I find myself just saying quiet thank yous to God in my heart and mind
Thank you that I was able to learn this language; that I can sit and talk with every single person I come in contact with.
Thank you that I am in a place where I don’t just have to hear a news story or see a video that show needy people. I can DO something about it.
Thank you for this wonderful team of 12 Armenian women who have left the major cities and who are with me, serving this village.
They gave of their personal, limited money to pay for all of their expenses to come and serve.
They left their children and families behind and gave three days to come and serve the most needy in their nation.
We, Armenians and two Americans, have come to serve and love these women. We want to meet their needs, be with them, and expose them to the love of God.
We went into their fields and dug and picked potatoes out of the ground. We brought in three families’ Fall harvests.
We went and deep cleaned an elderly, sick woman’s home. Her best crystal was finally able to shine again, and she could live in a place that she was no longer ashamed of.
We sang songs, played games and taught lessons from the Bible to a group of children that were STARVING to do something other than run through the fields or help with chores.
We had cake, tea and coffee with the women of the village who just wanted to come together to learn and experience God’s love.
My prayer is that we did something during our three days there that truly brightened or changed a life.
But, my prayer is also that each one of us who came, American and Armenian, will be changed through our acts of service.
I came to Armenia to help; to make a difference.
I hope, and believe, that something that we have done here has made a difference.
But, as I look back on the last seven years spent in Armenia, I realize that the biggest change has occurred in me. I am not the same person that boarded that plane in Chicago on June 16, 2003.
Thank God that as we serve others, He changes us.
I treasure that last seven years in Armenia. I will never be the same.