On Saturday, February 20, 2021, 455 women gathered virtually from 30 different cities across the world including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, Boston, Chicago, Yerevan, Beirut, Abu Dhabi, Toronto and more for the Armenian Evangelical Women's Fellowship (AEWF) First Virtual Conference. The conference was organized by our two AEWF groups, the Eastern Region, chaired by Christine Momjian, and Western Region, chaired by Alina M. Balabanian.
While in-person conferences and fellowship are so important, one of the positive consequences of the virtual format is the ability to gather effortlessly and instantaneously with many like-minded women from all around the world. During a Zoom poll icebreaker activity, we learned that for 46% of the participants, this was their first time attending an AEWF conference. As I scrolled through the 20 pages of Zoom participants, I was filled with emotion as I saw women of all ages exchanging greetings and witnessed friends reunite in this time of loneliness.
This year has been extremely challenging for many of us. From struggles stemming from the COVID-19 global pandemic, to the 44-day Artsakh war, the economic crisis and explosion in Lebanon, and the loss of loved ones, we have all been shaken. The theme, Persevere: Fixing Your Eyes Upon Jesus, was fitting for such a challenging time. West Coast Chair Alina Balabanian reminded us, “Scripture clearly teaches that we have a God who sees, who hears, who knows the pain we are each going through, and He is actively working for the good of His people. He does not make mistakes.”
Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith and the three speakers at this year’s conference shared how they each experienced hardship and how only Jesus Christ provided ultimate peace.
Jennifer Abadjian shared her experience with many years of what seemed like unanswered prayers. As humans, we cling to the idea that we have control over aspects of our lives; Jennifer explained how the concept of control can lead us to be angry and disappointed in our situation instead of understanding that God uses the challenging situations in our lives to bring us closer to Him. She said, “God had a bigger plan than my own comfort.” What allowed Jennifer to overcome her hardship was having a firm belief that the Lord is both in control and that He is good. What also helped Jennifer was memorizing scripture and meditating on it, being willing to share her burdens with her church, and letting the Lord be her counselor above anyone else, because people are fallible, but our God is perfect.
Vartouhi Jizmejian shared her experience with sickness and disease. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer, and years later, she too was diagnosed with cancer. Her husband was then diagnosed with cancer for a second time. Vartouhi spoke about how the pain overwhelmed her until she stopped and asked God, “What do I do?” He responded, “Be still and know that I am God.” She leaned upon Proverbs 3:5-6, knowing that she must trust in the Lord with all her heart, lean not on her own understanding, and in all ways submit to the Lord and He will make her path straight. She felt as though Jesus was inside of her, strengthening her and giving her hope. In the hospital with her husband, Jesus poured out of her as she reached out to others in the hospital giving her help, support and sharing God’s love with confidence. In 2017, Vartouhi’s son Ara was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and in April 2018 joined his Savior in heaven. Badveli Ara spent his life in service to God, ministering to youth, and making this world a better place. Vartouhi’s pain was unimaginable, but she knew that her Lord’s will was perfect, and she prayed, “Lord, may your will be done. I accept and surrender to you.” Her peace came through her complete surrender.
Janine Sagherian spoke about “running” her race for Christ. Her key to endurance is having a person to pick you up and push you along. Also, in order to run a race, we must remove our heavy weights and the things that hinder us. Janine used untangling our headphones as a metaphor for being tangled in sin, which causes us to miss out on things in life that God has to offer. Satan doesn’t have to destroy us with a devastating sin, but he just has to distract us enough to take our eyes off the “prize” that is Jesus. Winning the ultimate race is experiencing the joy of being in Christ’s presence in heaven.
Overall, the conference was filled with inspiration, hope and renewed purpose for living our lives, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, and acting for the advancement of His kingdom.
The entire committee worked very hard to execute a perfectly planned event, which had not only never been done before, but also was a technological feat. Thank you to Alina M. Balabanian (West), Mary Ann Janigian (East), Cynthia Ketenjian (West), Mariam Alexanian Lavoie (East), Christine Momjian (East), Candice Nahigian (West) and Noelle Nightingale (West) for countless hours of preparation and effort to bring us all together and to glorify Christ. Also, thank you to Cynthia, Rachel, and Timothy Ketenjian who led three beautiful worship songs.
We must always remember that God is not hiding; if you seek Him, you will find Him, and He will carry you through your most difficult times because He loves you.
- Taylor Phillips Avetisyan