By Elise Kalfayan
PARAMUS, NJ – “Empowering AMAA’s Global Mission,” the theme of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) 103rd Annual Meeting Banquet, is inspired by and dedicated to faithful, hardworking and effective partners of the AMAA in Canada, Australia and France. The Armenian Missionary Association of Canada (AMAC), the Armenian Missionary Association of Australia and Hope for Armenia (Espoir pour l’Arménie) of France will be represented, and each organization will be featured in a video presentation at the banquet, to be held Saturday, October 22, 2022, in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
As the AMAA’s global mission expanded over the past half-century, Armenian Evangelicals around the world were inspired by its impact. The construction and renovation of churches and schools, humanitarian needs and fellowship brought willing partners to this work. “District Committees” established themselves in three countries to partner with the AMAA on specific projects.
In 1982, representatives of the four Armenian Evangelical churches in Canada met with AMAA senior leaders with the goal of creating a Canadian Charitable Association. Present at that first meeting was Mihran Jizmejian, a pillar of the AMAC. He served in various roles for the next 40 years, including chair, president and executive director, also proving to be a very effective fundraiser.
“We received our official status in 1984, and just a few years later the 1988 Armenia earthquake struck. We worked day and night to raise funds for renovation efforts and send clothing and supplies,” recalls Jizmejian. Current AMAC president Raffi Shnorhokian credits Jizmejian for bringing the Armenian Evangelical churches in Canada together and raising awareness of AMAA projects.
“One of the biggest projects we took on last year was a fundraising campaign to help needy families in Lebanon and the school in Anjar,” said Shnorhokian. “I and a few others went to Lebanon to meet with the pastors and community, hear their needs, pray with them, and present them with the funds we had raised. We heard how our contributions are making a difference in people’s lives.” Shnorhokian says his goal is to make AMAC a well-known brand among Armenians in Canada. “The organization deserves support from the whole Armenian community. We want people to come to Christ and this is the first step in bringing them together. We are small compared to AMAA, so we want to make sure whatever we do is very specific, and people can see the impact.” AMAC is completely volunteer-run, and 100 percent of donations go to missions.
In 1999, AMAA leadership met with the Armenian Evangelical community in Sydney, Australia. The first Armenian Missionary Association of Australia Board was established in 2001. Rev. Dr. Krikor Youmshajekian was appointed President/CEO and has led the organization up to the present. AMA Australia is small but mighty: the current board consists of six members. Starting in 2001 with a $12,360 budget, it has organized many programs with the AMAA, and as of June 2022 total funds raised for missions surpassed $2.5 million.
“Partnerships have cemented the AMA Australia’s position within the community and have opened our work up to more donors and supporters,” notes Rev. Youmshajekian. “One Armenian Evangelical family has consistently supported us and also sponsors 20 children in Armenia and students in Lebanon, making up a large proportion of the total 80 youth we sponsor. Another donor has funded refurbishment of the Central High School Science Lab in Beirut and established a $500,000 scholarship fund for top students there.” AMA Australia benefactors have traveled to Armenia and Artsakh to participate in AMAA projects.
“AMA Australia benefactors have responded generously and consistently. Australia has a much smaller Armenian community than other parts of the world, and other Armenian charitable organizations have struggled here, but we’ve proved successful despite challenges,” continues Youmshajekian. “Despite being a small and far-off branch of the larger AMAA organization, we have firmly made our mark in benefiting the Armenian community. I see a bright future for AMA Australia. There’s plenty of unharnessed potential that needs to be brought into our organization. God has brought us thus far and we are sure that He will continue to be with us as we move forward and do our best to provide our service and mission.”
Hope for Armenia was established in 1989 by the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches of France upon the initiation of its president, the late Rev. Daniel Sahagian, to provide material and spiritual aid to the victims of the earthquake in Armenia (December 7, 1988). It has worked to improve the daily lives of Armenians ever since. Rev. Dr. René Léonian was the first president, succeeded by Boros Haladjian, Rev. Gilbert Léonian and Serge Kurkdjian, the current president. The Armenian Evangelical Church’s 175th anniversary events in Yerevan in July 2022 included a banquet celebrating Hope for Armenia’s work and thanking AMAA officers and staff for their vital work in advancing joint projects.
From its beginning, Hope for Armenia worked with the AMAA to build development projects. Kurkdjian writes, “Our goal is to be as useful and as efficient as possible. To do this, we must remain in contact with Armenia and its needs, even be in anticipation. Our presence in the field is essential. We regularly send work teams to Armenia to assess current projects and reflect on future projects.”
Hope for Armenia’s latest collaboration with the AMAA is the opening of an Education Day Center for children in Stepanakert. Kurkdjian notes, “We launched a fundraising campaign, and the AMAA supported our project by providing us with the premises. The Day Center will open in September 2023 and will also teach Christian education as well as French.” Hope for Armenia’s support comes from Armenian Evangelical Churches in France, other church unions and a range of individual supporters. “French Christians of all denominations regularly show their interest and support for Armenia. The transparency of our actions gives us a good reputation among our peers and donors. We base our actions on the foundation of Faith and dedication.”
“Each of these organizations, and their visionary leaders, have expanded AMAA’s horizon, outreach and blessings. Thousands of our fellow Armenians, with the love of God shared with them and in their hearts, have lived a better life and acquired a better future because of the good works of AMA Canada, AMA Australia, and Hope for Armenia,” declared AMAA CEO/executive director Zaven Khanjian. “The AMAA gives thanks to God for these mission partners, who are helping us build, educate, shelter, provide and inspire the people of our nation. We look forward to honoring their contributions at our 103rd Annual Meeting Banquet.”