A Caucasus’ Kaleidoscope

Monday. Up soared the plane, taking me to Qatar and then Yerevan, the Armenian capital nestled in the shadow of Mount Ararat. After 26 long hours, we touched down. Despite the midnight hour (Tuesday), the faces of the welcome committee were a wonderful sight! With acute laryngitis, I could only whisper.

Wednesday. I spent the day debriefing with the I. family, who had recently arrived and are making excellent progress on their trade and indigenous languages despite the lockdowns.

Thursday. I prayed with and debriefed K. and T., young Armenians from Aleppo (Syria) who became Adventists via the Dream Project. They opened a house church in Aleppo before attracting the brutal attention of the Syrian secret police, so they fled via Lebanon to Armenia. Here, they continue to lead a growing home fellowship among Syrian and Syrian-Armenian refugees. They also host online Arabic Bible study groups with women from across the Middle East, many of whom have had dreams of Jesus. Despite her rapid-onset and crippling multiple sclerosis, T. leads these women’s studies. Her faith is contagious. Her peace is awe-inspiring.
We then visited with the lead pastor for Armenia and Ms. T., a Syrian-Armenian lady. Ms. T. comes from a wealthy family scattered worldwide by the Syrian conflict, but she has found Jesus and wishes to join God’s remnant. While we were together, the pastor interviewed her and affirmed her readiness for baptism. We shared a meal and reflected on ministry in Armenia.

Friday. We received project reports from Mr. A., a local Bible worker who connects with visiting Muslims. He is working with a Muslim background believer to establish social media for their target Muslim group and distributes literature and study materials to seekers. While walking home, we got caught up in street demonstrations—with police, militia and shouting crowds in every direction. The onset of the Sabbath hours was such a blessing.

Sabbath. We participated in a Bible fellowship led by the I. family and attended by local Muslim background seekers. It was an inductive study on Jesus. The seekers made personal applications—very painful and very meaningful. They know suffering like few do in the West.

I was thankful for Sabbath rest. When darkness fell, email beckoned.

Sunday. Up early, I collected a PCR test before heading north for four hours over the barren mountainside and on to the Georgian border. “Entering Georgia?” asked the Armenian border guard.

Uncertain how to respond, I replied, “I was hoping for Hawaii.”

Another two hours of driving later, we (I and the Mays, our field directors for this region) pass through Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, surrounded by lush fields, derelict Soviet factories and grim apartment blocks. Then we headed westward for six hours, over more mountains to Batumi, on the Black Sea coast, just north of Turkey.

Monday. We debriefed the Troys. They arrived when the lockdowns started and spent the pandemic in a 70-square-meter (753-square-foot) 11th-floor apartment. Their Georgian language skills are excellent, and they are fluent when speaking to others on the streets. The AFM Refugee Ministry funds food and hygiene products provided to Ukrainian refugees, so we visited the local Adventist church, viewed the distributions and prayed with the local pastor. The local congregation is small and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Ukrainian refugees.

Tuesday. We worked with the Troys on their strategic plan, identified where the Spirit is at work, and put plans in place for furlough, Muslim and Georgian evangelism, and personal wellness.

Wednesday. Today we met with the S. family, a South African couple who moved as tentmakers to Georgia. We discussed plans for evangelism, youth retreats and men’s ministry in central Georgia. We spent time in prayer and encouraged them before spending the evening in fellowship and prayer with the Troys.

Thursday. Today we drove six hours back to Tbilisi to meet with the only Georgian pastor, a trained missiologist who has planted two local congregations. We discussed lessons for Georgian ministry, the Georgian worldview and church planting before staying overnight in a hotel filled with Ukrainian refugees and windy windows. Signs about PTSD symptoms and treatment filled the elevators.

Friday. We made the six-hour drive back to Yerevan today, along with a church visit and the final logistics of baptismal preparation. Ah, finally, the Sabbath hours!

Sabbath. With the help of a translator, I attended Sabbath School, then whispered through a sermon on the significance of baptism. We celebrated the baptism of Ms. T., the Syrian-Armenian lady, followed by a fellowship meal and a Bible study. Many in the group are preparing for baptism. Their joy is palpable. Their love mends hurting hearts, scattered families and broken dreams. After final goodbyes and prayers, I was off to the hotel. When the alarm went off at midnight, I had just enough time to head to my 4 a.m. (Sunday) flight to Qatar and then Chicago.

Monday. I arrived back in the office (along with my laryngitis). A whirlwind tour and Caucasus kaleidoscope. Oh, the joy of seeing the Spirit at work!