From June 30th to July 10th, the Evangelical Church of Armenia hosted a global youth conference that brought about 150 Armenians ages 18-32 from France, Syria, North America, Russia, Lebanon, and Armenia together for a celebration of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Evangelical Church sponsored by the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). Twenty young adults (some of whom had never been to Armenia before) from AEUNA churches in Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto, New Jersey, Belmont, and Detroit, led by Christine Kutlu (AMAA), James Boyadjian (AEYF-ER), and Aram Bashian (AEUNA) attended.
The ten-day itinerary started with a celebratory event at the Opera House that included a special recital by the Armenian philharmonic orchestra.
We stayed at the Ibis hotel conveniently located in the heart of downtown Yerevan. We had the chance to buy souvenirs at Vernisage, took photos at Cascade, sampled street food, and attended a play celebrating the life of Rev. Aharon Shirajian who provided shelter to thousands of orphans in post-genocide Aleppo. We also enjoyed a few meals at the recently renovated AMAA headquarters that included a fun dinner & watermelon with a live DJ who kept the youth on their feet.
Other excursions included a trip to the Matenadaran, a boat tour of Lake Sevan, and visits to Sevanavank, Khor Virap, Amberd, and a special meeting with His Holiness Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians at Etchmiadzin. We were treated to some delicious dinners at restaurants in Yerevan, fresh fish on Lake Sevan, paid our respects to fallen heroes at Yerablur (the cemetery dedicated to soldiers), and a fun photo op at Tareri Purak (Armenian alphabet carved in stone).
We spent an unforgettable 4 days and 3 nights at AMAA’s Camp Shogh in Hankavan, where the theme verse was from Hebrews 12:1 and was further explored through three thoughtful lectures by Mrs. Kayane Messerlian, Aram Bashian, and Rev. Datev Basmajian. A series of engaging workshops broke participants into countries to discuss personal and national faith issues with the goal to spark dialogue about what can change to help our churches thrive in the future. Each day included small group Bible studies, powerful worship sessions, fun games, and engaging evening events. Each day closed with a time of group prayer guided by Rev. Massis Akopjan.
On the final day of camp, the games committee led by Armand created 16 fun challenges that teams of 8-12 had 11/2 hours to try and complete with points and a prize for 1st place. That evening we gathered outside under the stars to enjoy an outdoor program consisting of singing, dance, khorovatz, and a bonfire.
The conference closed with a semi-formal dinner full of dancing, great food, and a chance to honor all the AMAA employees and organizers. As the night came to an end, everyone tried to fight back tears realizing it was almost time to go home. We left for the airport at 2am through a lobby packed full of new friends who didn’t want to sleep before wishing us safe travels. Everyone agreed this wasn’t ‘good bye,’ just ‘see you soon.’
- Aram Bashian