We took off across the world, over unfamiliar continents and unsettling turbulence, in order to make it to a home none of us had ever seen. We came as a group of aliens to a land foreign to us, but still so dear to each of our hearts. With great anticipation, excitement and even fear I walked through Zvartnots Airport in Yerevan and was immediately comforted by the large glaring letters that spelled out, Welcome Home.
My time in Armenia has been one that has brought me to a further understanding of who I am, who we are as Armenians and what we must do to truly own Armenia. More importantly, the pilgrimage that bought us through the wonders of our forefathers and their beautiful expressions of faith have renewed my soul and captivated my heart. It all began in Khor Virap, the site were we first prayed together and the birth of our nations spirit and faith. As a Deacon of the Armenian Apostolic Church, my faith has always defined me as a person but my experiences in the glorious monasteries such as Geghard, Saghmosavank and Tatev have helped me reestablish my foundation in the Armenian Apostalic Church. In trying to understand who we are as a people, it was clear that to be called Armenian, we must have true faith in the Christianity that filled the hands of our forefathers. With simple tools and immense faith, they were able to mold stronghold for their Christianity, centers for their worship and marvels that are only possible with the help of God. Each Church has its own story and symbolizes the parts that make a whole Armenian Christian. Even the sun-kissed fruits of our land speak so much about the love of God for the Armenian people and in every bite of apricot and sour-cherry my heart became more and more in love with the country I dreamed to call my home.
One experience that will always stick with me was our time in Martuni. It was a great shock when we began our service project but the warmth of our host families drew us all in. We began by breaking down the walls and bringing everything down but we did not stay there to demolish but to build. We built up the school and also great relationships with the villagers we interacted with. It was then that I felt like I “owned” Armenia. It was extremely rewarding to know that my work will someday be used to educate that children with will become the future of our nation.
Now as we come over so close to that fateful day when we must leave behind the beautiful cross-stones, the delicious fruit, and the gorgeous melodies, I have to ask myself one question: Am I a New Disciple or have I hidden behind the camera shutter and not truly experienced Armenia? My CYMA family will always be close to my heart and the guidance of Der. Avedis will echo through my mind. In a few days we will be back in the comfort of our homes in American but I am certain that Armenia will remain in our heart and we will be sure to return once again.