It was not planned this way. But we know, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
The year 2020 was the 25th anniversary of the Armenian Missionary Association of America’s (AMAA) entry to Artsakh. A thoughtful celebration was planned in Shushi and Stepanakert for September 2020. A few good people made early reservations to join the AMAA’s family in special worship services, an official inauguration at Camp Bedrosian, cultural events, a theatrical presentation and a formal banquet in none other than Shushi.
But God had other plans for my people.
A year of unprecedented affliction is behind us, the memory of which brings chills to the soul of every Armenian around the globe. COVID-19, crisis in Syria, the horrifying August 4 explosion in Beirut, are all painful memories which will haunt us for a long time.
The calamitous end of the 44-day war in Artsakh, however, was a game changer. A nation is mourning the martyrdom of thousands of its youngest and brightest defending a homeland for which generations of forebears had sacrificed their lives. A nation is mourning thousands of heartbroken mothers, widows and children, whose family trees bear the pain of axed branches by the chronic and heinous assault of a century past, ironically by the same perpetrator. A nation is mourning the loss of vast territories of historic land, punctuated by innumerable monuments of its opulent Christian heritage.
The challenges ahead are monstrous as the political and institutional leadership in Armenia struggle to carve a course to the future, amidst a mountainous pile of uncertainties.
Answers are sought for the failure of 30 years of defense and diplomatic institutional buildup. Amidst an atmosphere of dread and worry, popular sentiment in Armenia and the Diaspora struggles to reckon with the new reality on the ground, measure future expectations and devise a new path forward.
God has the answer for all trouble. When the disciples panicked in the sinking ship and woke Jesus up to save them, He said, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26), and there was a great calm.
By November 10, the date of ending all hostilities, the AMAA had a mandate. Encourage and assist the return of the resettled population of Artsakh to their homes, and immediately resume all AMAA operations in Artsakh proper. AMAA representatives in Armenia and Artsakh were on top of a task efficiently accomplished. Within days, the offices of AMAA and Evangelical Church of Armenia in Stepanakert were open. The staff was back on duty, and by December 1, 2020, AMAA institutions in Askeran, Martakert and Stepanakert were in full motion.
Historic Armenian land is home to an unalienable presence of Christian and national heritage. Most of the land is forcibly devoid of its indigenous population. The land might identify its history while people identify the land. If Christian and Armenian Artsakh is to be saved and preserved, it should be fully repopulated.
In the coming years, while the concerned and engaged political leadership strives to win Artsakh’s right of self-determination, the AMAA, with unmatched faith, determination and goodwill, will fervently support and sustain the population, embrace the land, develop and flourish it and pursue the happiness of its people.
For 25 years, AMAA’s spiritual, educational and humanitarian programs and services have touched lives in Artsakh, one child at a time. The post-war needs have multiplied our efforts launching multiple new services and programs to alleviate the pain and trauma and help raise a new, creative and innovative generation. It is a testimony of God’s love reflected on the people of the Christian Armenian enclave. It is also a tribute to those, who having heard the loss of decades long remarkable legacy of service in Shushi to the stomping feet of invaders, lovingly asked, “Can we rebuild in Stepanakert?”
Yes! We can rebuild and we shall.