Against the Tide

You need to have courage to swim against the tide.
Pope Francis

zaven khanjian.jpgBy Zaven Khanjian, AMAA Executive Director/CEO

Growing up in the Middle East, recollection of my conscious life mostly reveals a constant single direction of human migration to the West. It is true that our lives revolved around our insular communities and the notable migrating currents were from within. Not surprisingly, I discovered later in life that currents of indigenous Middle Eastern masses of other faiths and ethnicities also joined the constant Westward migration flow. Communities of (Greater) Syrian origin punctuate landmarks both in Europe and in North and South America.

Oppression, tyranny and persecution of minorities in the Ottoman Empire had long led to a smaller degree of flight to the West. A further splash deep in the history of mankind clearly reveals the constant flow of civilizations from their cradle in the Middle East toward the promising land of opportunities and safer new found territories of the West.

The realized promise of an independent Armenia did not change the direction of the flow. On the contrary, since independence, the Homeland has been one third depopulated losing 48,000 more people to the tide of exodus in 2016 alone ( ANI Armenian Research Center).

Pursuing a better life, education, freedom or escaping from persecution, tyranny or discrimination, the flow is a going with the tide. Natural, justified and far-sighted it may be, but with the tide.

On Sunday, January 29, 2017, a service, sponsored jointly by the Armenian Missionary Association of America and the Common Global Ministries Board of the United Church of Christ, the successor body of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, commissioned Philadelphia-born Rev. Nishan Bakalian, Pastor of the Armenian Martyrs Congregational Church since 2007 ?, and Maria Bakalian as Missionaries to Beirut, Lebanon. On Tuesday, January 31, the Missionary couple left for the Middle East.

On Monday, January 30, 2017, Jerusalem-born Samuel Chekijian, a successful businessman, longtime resident of Boston, Massachusetts, and member of the Armenian Memorial Church in Watertown, passed away in his self-built residence in Yerevan. He had resettled in Armenia and extensively invested in the Homeland.

What do Rev. and Mrs. Bakalian and Mr. Chekijian have in common?

They all meaningfully exemplify a move against the tide.

The world we know today is undergoing a great deal of distress. Whether personal, ethnic, religious or regional anxiety, sorrow or physical and mental suffering, there is ample pain around that calls for attention and attendance. Driven by the fear of physical violence, discouraged by the lack of opportunities, disillusioned by shattered dreams and unrealized promises, hope is at the risk of extinction. Enter the courageous few, filled with the spirit of the greatest healer, Jesus Christ, His eternal love, ever enduring mercy, unlimited compassion and ultimate sacrifice, ready to move against the tide, injects hope, radiates love, reaches out, creates opportunities and provides comfort and peace.

The Bakalians set sail to a region plagued with violence, uncertainty, economic spiral, turmoil and poverty, a region daunted with fear, intolerance and anguish. Armed with love, knowledge and compassion, they will teach, mentor and advise. They will heal, encourage and sow hope.

Sam loved the Homeland, invested in Armenia, embarked on an ambitious construction project and built a uniquely luxurious residential complex. He created employment and supported families. He loved his Creator, worshiped at the Evangelical Church of Armenia and graciously funded the renovation of the Church Hall at Baghramyan. Sam loved Armenia’s children and generously supported the Avedisian School.

Moving against the tide takes courage, involves risk taking and demands ample sacrifices. It is the hard and narrow road but one which leads to happiness experienced only by the few.

AMAA’s Centennial Campaign also embodies vehicles, endorses missions, empowers imagination, encourages ‘homecoming’ and enables potential moves against the tide. The AMAA’s Centennial Campaign does not build empires or raise monuments. It builds and re-builds lives and resurrects hope.

Please keep Rev. and Mrs. Bakalian and Mr. Chekijian’s loved ones in your prayers and partner with us to push back the tide and make our world and our Homeland a better place worthy of His glory.