DOUGLASTON, NY—Over 50 participants of the Salt & Light youth group gathered at the St. Sarkis church hall on November 14 for an inspiring and engaging evening. The focus of the event centered around the importance of gratitude and giving.
The event began with the participants enjoying pizza while catching up with one another. Der Nareg then captured the attention of our Salt & Light youth with a relevant reading of a short passage from the Gospel of Luke. The discussion highlighted Jesus’ miracle of healing 10 misfortunate lepers that were suffering and isolated from their communities and Jesus’ blessing of the sole leper who subsequently returned to give thanks and praise God.
Der Nareg explained the relevance of this parable in three ways. First, he related the social stigma experienced by the lepers to the uncertainty, fear and isolation experienced during the pandemic and the 2020 Artsakh War. Second, Der Nareg emphasized the importance of practicing gratitude for all of our blessings – not just during the holiday season. Finally, Der Nareg emphasized that gratitude requires not just feeling thankful, but also expressing our gratitude through actions. Der Nareg asked participants to count their blessings, to think and pray for those who are less fortunate and to take actions to ease their pain. He encouraged all to “be the 10 percent,” drawing parallels to the one of 10 lepers who returned to thank Jesus.
Guest speaker Ani Tchaghlasian connected with the youth through her explanation of the plight of Artsakh refugees since the 2020 war and Hamazkayin’s “Children of Artsakh” program. Tchaghlasian discussed the positive impact of the program’s use of art therapy to help the refugee children of Artsakh, many of whom are orphaned, to deal with their traumas and crises. The program employs psychologists, as well as teachers who are themselves refugees, thereby also providing steady income to these displaced teachers. Tchaghlasian shared photos and stories about these awe-inspiring Artsakh youth that resonated with the Salt & Light participants, who realized that their Artsakh sisters and brothers are just like them – but much less fortunate, courageously rebuilding their lives in the homeland after losing everything.
Salt & Light pledged to provide support and give back to our valiant brothers and sisters in Artsakh. Der Nareg pointed out that $20 donated by every Salt & Light participant would pay the salary of a “Children of Artsakh” program teacher for close to a year. The Salt & Light group pledged to raise funds, send art supplies and create artwork for our Artsakh brothers and sisters.
Embracing the spirit of giving with their actions, the Salt & Light youth enthusiastically honored their pledge! They were so moved by Tchaghlasian’s presentation that they generously raised $2,000 for the “Children of Artsakh” program, which will fund two teachers for nearly a year. But the youth wanted to do more to connect with their orphaned brothers and sisters of Artsakh. They decided to make colorful bracelets with crosses to express their love and kinship with their brothers and sisters of Artsakh. During Sunday’s church service, with the Salt & Light youth gathered around him, Der Nareg blessed these bracelets with a prayer that God protect, give hope and salvation to those that wear them.