Exploring the Homeland

Today, was all about learning and honoring the history of the beautiful country we will be serving in. From visiting Mother Armenia to laying carnations by the Dzidzernagapert Armenian Genocide Memorial to hearing a choir’s songs echo throughout Geghart Monastery, our first full day here left me with a deep appreciation for my rich heritage.

Keghart
Geghart Monastery

As somebody who has never been to Armenia before, I’m already amazed by the hospitality, joy and kindness of the people we’ve met here. There is a deep sense of pride in the roots we share and the hardships we have overcome as a people.

at Dzidzernagapert
At Dzidzernagapert

We enjoyed authentic Western Armenian manti soup at Aitnab Restaurant in Yerevan. Then we had a delicious dinner in Garni, complete with sarma, yalanchi, dolma, lavash and so much more.

Although the group was very tired from our late arrival last night (we arrived at the Zvartnots Airport around 1:30AM!), we had an incredible day of immersing ourselves in the culture that the people who will come to our clinic experience every day. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be heading to Vanadzor to set up the clinic.

Please be praying for safe travels, a successful clinic setup, and the hearts of everybody we will serve in the week to come! – Lara Tovmassian Ingalls

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The Layover

We’ve landed in Russia, which means that the longest leg of our journey is behind us! The flight was smooth and now we are relaxing in the airport. We’ll be in Russia for about 6 hours until our connecting flight to Yerevan departs at 8:40 local time.

Here are some pictures of the group that’s with us here! Looking forward to meeting up with everyone else when we arrive in Yerevan. Please be praying for a safe arrival and quick adjustment to the time change so that we can be energized to serve with all our strength! – Lara Tovmassian Ingalls

 

Today’s the Day!

Team members across the country are gathering today to begin our journey to Armenia for the 10th Medical Mission. For our LA-based part of the team, the first stop is Moscow (Just a quick 13-hour flight. No big.) Then we’ll be off to Armenia! –Lara Tovmassian Ingalls

The Bittersweet Last Day

Our last day of the trip consisted of sightseeing and “see you soon’s,” as we did not want to say “goodbye.”

Our first stop of the morning was Khor Virap, where a few team members braved the crowds and climbed down into “the pit” where St. Gregory was imprisoned. Afterwards we visited the Echmiadzin, and thanks to Dr. John Garry’s old friend Archbishop Paren Avedikian, we were able to have a very special tour. We witnessed the rich history of church’s planting in Armenia and even spotted The Catholicos! We want to say a special thank you to Dr. Garry and to the Archbishop for this opportunity!
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After lunch, we had time to shop at the vernissage, a market right near republic square with hundreds of vendors. It was tempting to buy more than could fit in our suitcase, which happened to a few of us, but we managed to make room amongst ourselves. Paintings were purchased, knick knacks were collected and bargains were made. I stayed close to Lucy Huckabay and learned the art of bargaining, although Simon Nahigian is quite good at it as well.

We got all dressed up for our final dinner together. It was held at a restaurant/zoo/outdoor amphitheater and it was great! After our appetizers, we casually strolled over the see three bears in a cage that reside on this restaurant property. After enjoying a delicious meal, what better way to settle your stomach than to get up and dance? We danced to classic Armenian music, laughed at those of us who cannot dance well,  learned the art of the dance move “screwing in the lightbulb” and overall had a great time together. Large circles and pinkies were connected to dance the “shourt bar” often lead by Karen Jaramishian, who has fantastic footwork. After our dancing wound down, Dr. Al and Sue Phillips presented our translators with gifts of gratitude, recognizing that this medical mission would be impossible without them! So thank you to our translators who volunteered their time, loved on us and the patients. Our team also took the time to thank the dynamic duo, Dr. Al and Sue Phillips for their extraordinary efforts in crafting, organizing and leading this medical mission trip for the 9th consecutive year. We also want to thank Harout Nercessian from the AMAA for his tireless efforts for this mission, without whom this trip also would not have been possible.
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On our bus ride back to the hotel, team members had the chance to wobble towards the front of the bus, use the microphone and share reflections from the trip. Dr. David Essayan shared a story from the clinic about a four year old boy with a condition that could not be treated with the resources at our clinic. Typically at the end of seeing each patient, the doctor and their team took the time to pray over their patient. In this special moment Dr. Essayan said before he had the chance to pray, the young boy began to recite the Lord’s Prayer over them and they all joined in. Simon Nahigian also shared and read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, reflecting on the impressive teamwork he witnessed within our team. He was grateful that the patients were able to witness our love for them, for the Lord and for each other. Caitlin Sarian and George Zadigian reminded us that the Lord is with us wherever we may go, and to trust in him as we seek to glorify Him in our lives.

I forgot to mention that Dr. Jeff Bogosian and his daughter Audrey Bogosian shared their testimonies at the church service held in Stepanavan. Thank you to both of you for your willingness to share about God’s unique work in your lives!

Dr. Al Phillips reported that we saw nearly 1000 patients in our four days worth of clinics, praise the Lord! This trip was not only a blessing to those who were treated but to our team as well. God gave us the strength each day to joyfully serve, provided for us daily and encouraged us daily. We had a team full of remarkable individuals, who served humbly and had a blast doing so. For all the lives that were healed and touched during our time, all the glory goes to the Lord! Thank you (readers) for supporting and praying for our team. Until next time!

Blessings,
Emma Newman

Eternally Significant Service

Today marked our last day of hosting clinics in Stepanavan and Yerevan. After the Stepanavan team ate a few more hotdogs and sang worship, Sue Phillips challenged us to serve with every once of energy we had left, trusting that God gives us strength for each day. Allison Phillips in our devotional also reminded us that our mission field has eternal significance. Our team saw and prayed over nearly 70 patients today in Stepanavan and said our last goodbyes to our dear new 12 year old English speaking friends, Michael and Alexander. After playing soccer, badminton and spending time with them, they stopped by the church on our last day to deliver flowers and recruited their friends to help us carry boxes. The Yerevan team reported of seeing 120 patients with nearly a quarter of the team members, can you say power team?
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The Stepanavan team packed up the clinic then ate one last lunch prepared by the lovely church ladies before heading to Lake Sevan. On our way there, we made a pit stop and became more cultured as we tried out Arabian toilets. Then we toured the beautiful Sevanavank Monastery and ate dinner by the lake. Upon returning to Yerevan, our team that served in the Yerevan clinic was standing outside eager to greet us. In my opinion this is a perfect picture of what our team has become: a family. As we got off the bus, although it had only been a few days, our team hugged, embraced and began sharing stories with each other. We care for each other not only because of some the difficulties we’ve faced together, but because Christ first loved us and calls us to love one another. Tomorrow marks the last full day of our time in Armenia, and it has been such a blessing. Dr. Al and Sue Phillips and the people at the AMAA have done a phenomenal job in orchestrating this mission trip. Many sacrifices were made by many people in order for us to serve, so thank you to those who sacrificed! We are eternally grateful.
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Our Mission Field

This morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at our hotel that featured some hot dogs and pine jam. The lovely Allison Phillips lead worship once again, and in a lower key which many appreciated. We sang “Amazing Grace” along with two other worship songs that reminded us of the source of our life and love, Jesus Christ. In our devotional, Allison reminded us that our mission field follows us wherever we are, away or at home. Also, to embrace our everyday mission field.

The first day of the clinic at Stepanavan was a success as we loved on and treated 140 patients. We saw repeat patients who brought with them their old prescription baggies. A majority of these individuals rely on our clinic as the sole source of medical care for the entire year. Michelle joyfully recalls the feeling of witnessing improvement in multiple patients over the years, many of whom were no longer suffering from diabetes or hypertension. It has been so rewarding being able to create meaningful relationships with these individuals and we look forward to seeing them each year. This allows us to hold our patients accountable, saying things such as “when I see you next year, you’ll have stopped smoking.” Below is a decorated military official that returns annually to the clinic. During our midday church service, we were blown away by the beautiful voices of three women who lead worship. They swayed side to side, harmonized and captivated Dr. Bogosian so much that he would like to take them to Hollywood.

After dinner we saw the “Green Grand Canyon” of Armenia, the gorgeous Gorge (no pun intended). We took plenty of photos here as well, and George Zadigian dodged some drivers to take the best photos possible. After we returned to the hotel, some of the ladies on our trip had our hair done by stylists from Stepanavan. They even tamed Michelle’s Armenian curls and miraculously blow dried them straight. All in all, it was a joyful day. Nick Jaramishian even had his patients beaming as they dropped off their urine cups. We can’t believe tomorrow is out last day of clinic, our time has flown by. Thank you again for all your prayers!

Blessings,
Emma Newman & Michelle Phillips

Serving: A Privilege and a Responsibility

This morning marked our last day in the clinic in Vanadzor. Allison and Michelle Phillips lead worship in their lovely soprano voices, and Dr. Bogosian kindly asked if we might sing in a lower key. Allison also read a devotional from Rick Warren’s “What On Earth Am I Here For?” We reflected on how Warren describes our mission as believers as both a privilege and responsibility. We were reminded that our mission is a continuation of Jesus’ mission on earth. With spiritual sustenance, we finished our half day at clinic. Dr. Al reported that we saw a total of 600 patients combined with physicians and dentists!

After we packed up the clinic, the women of the church served us one last delicious meal and shared their immense gratitude for our team. They presented the team with two beautiful pieces of artwork that children had painted. We of course returned their thanks, recognizing that without them our clinic would not have been possible! Lucy Huckabay said it best when she acknowledged that the women of the church sacrificed to help carry our burdens. No doubt they did more than sacrifice their time, resources and love, they exemplified humble and joyful servants of the Lord. It was a bittersweet departure. We were grateful for our time, but as Miss Sue Phillips noted it was hard to leave because “You can’t help but fall in love with these women”.
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Our team split ways as a small group lead by Dr. Al Phillips and Dr. David Essayan headed to Yerevan to set up another clinic. The rest of our group departed along a bumpy, but most enjoyable bus ride to Stepanavan. When we arrived at the church, the ministry team was ready to greet us. After we worked hard to set up the clinic, we played hard. A young boy named Michael practiced his English with us and we joined him in a soccer game in the street, and it got surprisingly competitive. Katelyn Lee suffered a soccer ball to the head, but no worries, she took it like a champ and is just “golden”.
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Later in the evening, some of our team went for a hike in the outskirts of the village and stumbled upon a field of flowers with a breathtaking view. We probably took too many photos, but if you saw the view you wouldn’t blame us. With pollen drifting in the air from silver dollar trees, the green mountain ranges in the distance, and beautiful daisies blanketing the fields, it’s as if we entered another world. We are nearly halfway done with our trip, and it has certainly flown by! But, there are still many more patients to see, more love to be shared and laughs to be had. Thank you all for your prayers and support!

Blessings,

Emma Newman