Bishop Ward and Nara Melkonyan, missionary in Armenia, talk about the NC Conference’s long partnership with the people of Armenia through Project AGAPE.
BISHOP WARD: Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ. May God protect you.
This is a wonderful greeting offered in the Armenian Church. Welcome Nara, back to North Carolina. Nara is the director of project AGAPE and our dear friend in mission for many years.
NARA: Thank you, I am excited to be here.
BISHOP WARD: We have been engaged with Armenia, along with the Western North Carolina Conference for 23 years. The history of the Armenian church is a wonderful story. Can you tell us a little about how the church came to be?
NARA: Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity as the state religion in 301. One of our Armenian kings asked Jesus Christ to go and help people in Armenia become Christians; he was sick, he wanted to be healed also by Jesus Christ, but Jesus knew it was his time to leave this world and he sent Thaddeus and Bartholomew who went to Armenia and preached Christianity and this was when Armenia became a Christian country in 301, nineteen years before the Romans became tolerant to Christianity.
BISHOP WARD: When we were in Armenia with you, we visited a school and I commented on this beautiful plaque made by the children. Immediately the teacher took it off the wall and said “Take it home with you.”
NARA: Yes I remember.
BISHOP WARD: I cherish it and whenever I see it on my desk I remember you in my prayers and give thanks to this partnership that we have shared. Tell us about Project AGAPE.
NARA: Project AGAPE was a joint ministry of North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences that was launched 23 years ago when Armenia and Karabakh were in awful condition with war, natural and human-made disasters around them, with earthquake which happened in the northern part of Armenia and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Project AGAPE is the one that continues to be with the Armenian people in their difficult days today, when again, there is oppression and unrest at the border. So, all these years, AGAPE did great projects with hospital building area, which is the most vulnerable area inhabited by refugees and resettled people from the earthquake zone, and the children’s home founded in 1995, and Christian Education Center. Now Project AGAPE moves more toward programs that help people to become more self-reliable.
BISHOP WARD: Christmas boxes for Project AGAPE are one of our favorite mission endeavors here in the North Carolina Conference. Tell us about the Christmas boxes.
NARA: That’s one of the projects that gives the biggest joy to the children of the area, and I have heard from many parents that their children’s joy. The first time we received Christmas boxes in 2009, and they were very few, 297 Christmas boxes, and we used to save toys in different shipments and give those as presents on Christmas event which is a great thing for the children of the area. That’s the only time many people say, we realize it’s Christmas. The word of the Christmas boxes just went out and children far from the area where the AGAPE center is, from far villages walked 50 miles in snow to get to our Center and receive Christmas boxes. This is just an amazing project and as I told earlier, parents say, the only joy of their children for the whole year.
BISHOP WARD: Your generosity blesses children in Armenia. It’s time to start creating Christmas boxes again for Christmas 2016. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you Nara. Our partnership is a great blessing. I’m wearing today the beautiful Armenian cross that you gave to me and the others who have visited Armenia. It’s a treasure. We thank God for you.
NARA: Thank you. Thank you for all you do and may God bless you.
BISHOP WARD: May the strength and peace of Christ be yours this day.