AMAA 103ʳᵈ Annual Meeting Banquet Celebrated In Grand Style
By Florence Avakian
Reaching a century of growth and great achievement is considered a climactic milestone, but exceeding the 100 degree mark is a remarkable triumph. On Saturday evening, October 22, the Armenian Missionary Association of America held its 103rd Annual Meeting Banquet with close to 225 in attendance from all over the world.
At this auspicious event, entitled “Empowering AMAA’s Global Mission,” this organization which serves as the missionary arm of the Armenian Evangelical Church internationally, and is thriving in 24 countries, honored its partners in three countries – Canada, Australia, and France.
Representing the association’s fellowship which promotes education, churches, humanitarian and youth programs, and camps for Armenians worldwide, the banquet tables were symbolically decorated with globes sitting atop an ornamental dish of fall fowers.
A warm welcome was shared by longtime AMAA officials and activists Vahram and Lucienne Aynilian in English, Armenian and French. “We stand on the shoulders of our courageous people and heroic history,” they said to loud applause.
Rev. Joseph Garabedian, dedicated pastor of the Armenian Presbyterian Church in Paramus, NJ, where the 103rd Annual Meeting had taken place during the weekend, voiced a stirring invocation, after which award-winning singer and actress Ani Djirdjirian sang the American and Armenian national anthems acapella, with many in the audience joining in.
Relaying a message from the AMAA President, Dr. Nazareth Darakjian, Mr. Khanjian reminded the audience that “our last meeting was ﬁve years ago due to the pandemic and other diffculties that beset the AMAA, Armenia, Artsakh, Lebanon and Syria during this period.” “In the interim, the AMAA has helped our fallen and disabled soldiers with spiritual and humanitarian assistance as we did to aid the suffering during and after the earthquake with its many victims, including the orphans,” he said with emphasis.
The AMAA will always “help and rebuild. If we stand united, we will always succeed,” Mr. Khanjian stated forcefully to sustained applause.
Among the special guests in the audience were the Vicar of the Armenian Prelacy (eastern) the Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, Tufenkjian Foundation representative Dr. Antranig Kasparian, Armenian’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mher Margaryan, and Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States Lilit Makunts who in a brief address spoke of the exemplary role of the AMAA in Armenia, as well as Armenia’s progress in the last four years.
Also present were Armenian activists Hagop and Ica Kouyoumdjian, Tekeyan official Hagop Vartivarian, AAHPO President Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence Najarian, with members Shoghag Hovanessian, and Seta Nalbandian, Armenian Radio Hour of NJ Director Vartan and Adrine Abdo with members Seta, Aren, and Diran Jebejian, the latter who photographed the event.
Following a sumptuous dinner, the representatives of the Canadian, Australian and French AMAA partners took center stage, detailing the growth and virtues of their organizations, with lengthy videos and leaders speaking of their vibrant activities.
Mihran Jizmejian, AMAC former President/CEO and Current Chair in Canada spoke of the birth of the Armenian Missionary Organization of Canada in 1984 with a group of dedicated founders including Reverends Abraham Jizmejian, Ardashes Kerbabian, Hovhannes Agnerian, Yessayi Sarmazian, Jirair Bezdikian, Alice Marandjian, Sonia Matossian, Dr. George Ajemian, Messer Anton Torunian, Karekian Sagherian, Papken Tountaian, Hagop Basmadjian, Souren Hadjian Sarkis Hanenian, Mihran Jizmejian, Antibas Lousararian, Puzant Danaian and Hagop Kaakahjian.
Four Armenian Evangelical churches were established in Canada – Toronto, Cambridge, and two in Montreal, following lengthy discussions with AMAA’s Executive Director Rev. Dr. Guiragos Chopourian, and Rev. Dr. Movses B. Janbazian in 1982. Mihran Jizmejian with wife Vartuhi, served 40 stellar years, including Chair, President, an Executive Director.
Continuing AMAC projects include Child Sponsorship in Armenia, Artsakh, and Lebanon, relief programs in Artsakh, Lebanon, the Armenian Evangelical School in Anjar, Lebanon, in Askeran, Artsakh and the Vanadzor Shogh Center in Armenia.
Joseph and Joyce Stein, AMAA Board and Committee members, paid tribute to Rev. Dr. Krikor Youmshajekian, AMA Australia President/CEO, and spoke of their first meeting with Rev. Krikor in the 1990’s on their annual visits to Lebanon and Syria at the urging of Joyce’s father Stephen Philibosian “who wanted us to see the many projects he supported for many years.”
In their appreciative remarks, Joseph and Joyce Stein (Philibosian) continued, “we are here tonight to honor Rev. Krikor and Datevig for their years of bringing the Australian Armenian population into the limelight with the founding and growth of the Uniting Church and to thank them for their Christian leadership.”
Created in 2001 through the longtime efforts of the late Rev. Dr. Movses Janbazian, the ﬁrst inductees included Hovhannes Soghomonian, Barkev Ishkhanian, Sevag Chelebian, Lucy Aroyan, Lena Bomoushakian, Arpi Giragossian, and Rev. Krikor Youmshajekian as President and CEO.
The Australian chapter’s projects include student support programs in Armenia, Artsakh and Lebanon, emergency support and refurbishment of schools in Syria, Lebanon, Armenia and Artsakh, Shogh Centers in Armenia and Artsakh, summer camps, humanitarian and medical needs, scholarship assistance and spiritual literature, an underground shelter in a border Village in Armenia and emergency relief aid for natural disasters in Australia.
HOPE FOR ARMENIA IN FRANCE
Harout Nercessian, former AMAA Armenia Representative, and Hope for Armenia President Serge Kurkdjian whose remarks in French were translated, recounted that the Armenian Evangelical churches in France established Hope For Armenia at the initiation of its President, the late Rev. Daniel Sahagian to provide material and spiritual help to the Armenian earthquake victims in1988.
The first president was Rev. Dr. René Léonian, followed by Boros Haladjian, Rev. Gilbert Léonian, and the current President Serge Kurkdjian. The group has been instrumental in providing economic aid to Armenia with food, fuel and spiritual guidance during those dark times.
Serge Kurkdjian provided a 26-year collaboration with the leadership of Hope For Armenia,
“tirelessly organizing trips to Armenia and meticulously organizing many creative projects, including camps for the children and domiciles for the elderly.
Injecting light humor in a joyous evening, the culinary expertise of the French cuisine was emphasized. “We the people of France love to eat, and we Armenians introduced them to our own food of course, with wine, showing our love of God, and our creative menus.”
Hope For Armenia’s latest program with the AMAA involves the opening of an Education Day Center for children in Stepanakert, Artsakh, The Center in AMAA-provided premises, will open in September 2023, with the teaching of Christian education and the French language.
Lovely art gifts from the AMAA were presented to the representatives of the Canadian, Australian and French partners made by Vasken Brutyan from Armenia. Each artwork, different in composition, utilizes fragments from manuscripts of the Gandzasar School, from architectural and crosstown motifs, as well as passages from the prayers of St. Gregory of Narek.
The Hope for Armenia French representatives also presented AMAA Executive Director/CEO a beautifully framed Hayr Mer written by the orphans of Armenia.
INSPIRING REMARKS ON CURRENT EMERGENCY IN ARMENIA AND ARTSAKH
AMAA Executive Director/CEO Zaven Khanjian in his inspiring remarks, remembered and expressed appreciation for all the individuals who made the evening possible, including the AMAA staff in Paramus, Glendale, Yerevan and Artsakh, as well as the many guests who came from many corners of the world “to bring us the warm, colorful and boundless spirit of love, care and attention in support of our mission and goals.”
Noting the current difficult times, he emotionally stated, “never in the past 35 years has the prospect of a free and independent Artsakh been so dim and remote. Never in the history of the living generation of Armenians has the concern about the homeland been so great and serious.”
He recounted the “threats, assault, land grab, occupation, execution of unarmed POWs, incitement and promotion of hatred which have all gone through with impunity. Armenia has only received toothless condemnation from friends near and far. In this existential battle of survival, we are the sole guarantors of our destiny,” he stressed.
Expressing hope, he reminded all that “we have endured such periods in history. Borne the pain and resurrected. Our resilience and persistence have prevailed. Our homeland is our yoke and we should all be engaged in a battle to defend, support and sustain it.”
FUTURE PROJECTS IN ARMENIA AND ARTSAKH
Mr. Khanjian informed the audience that “in the next few months “we will build two new kindergartens in Artsakh, half a dozen new homes, a tech center at the Avedisian School in Yerevan. We shall embark on a major development of the youth camp in Hankavan, pour the foundation of the resurrected Camp Armen in Tuzla, Turkey, and inaugurate the new AMAA Center and soup kitchen in Bert, Tavush Marz.”
He again stated strongly, “we are good in building, educating, and spreading the Word. Those are our weapons. We shall use them,” he declared to a standing ovation.
Among the acclaimed performers of the event were noted violinist from Armenia, Diana Vasilyan who performed during the reception preceding the banquet, award-winning Armenian-American singer, actress and TV performer Ani Djirdjirian who had the crowd jumping during several of her stage performances, and the nimble footed, beautifully costumed dancers of the Sushi Dance Ensemble under the direction of Artistic Director and Choreographer Seta Paskalian-Kantardjian.
The momentous occasion closed with a devotional closing prayer and benediction by Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, Acting President of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East and President of Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebanon.
The AMAA 103rd Annual Banquet Committee members included, Co-Chairs, Vahram and Lucienne Aynilian, Raffi and Lorri Aynilian, VJ and Simonè Aynilian, Hrag and Taline Chalian, Ida Gueyikian, Shant and Nary Gueyikian, Berjouhy Barsoumian Gulesserian, Nurhan and Celeste Helvacian, Vicki Shoghag Hovanessian, Zaven and Sona Khanjian, Gregory and Tamara Krikorian, Christine Kutlu, Seta Nalbandian, Magda Poulos, Nancy Rivera, Jennifer Telfeyan-LaRoe, Marie Viducich, and Kathy Voskian.
The AMAA would like to thank all involved in making this 103rd Annual Meeting Banquet a Grand Success!