The first mention of Armenia is in Genesis 8.4 where we are told that "The ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat", that is in the mountains of Armenia, and from this country the Lord told Noah, "Go forth be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth". History records that at least two of the apostles spent up to fifteen years there preaching the gospel and seeing New Testament churches established. This was a fruitful work. We read that the king was converted at that time, and many turned from their idols to serve Christ. In AD 301 Christianity was imposed on the nation by the king. It was first among the nations of the world to become so-called "Christian". However, much of the population resisted, and they brought some of their heathen practices with them, including animal sacrifices. This tradition still exists today.
Over the centuries, since the bright days of apostolic witness and its results, the country has been fought over and its lands have been taken possession of. Once a vast country, stretching from the Caucasus Mountains to the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea (almost half way across present day Turkey), the size of Armenia today compares to that of Belgium, but it is land-locked, surrounded by three hostile Muslim nations as well as Georgia, a friendly "Christian" nation. Armenia has a long and sad history, including the genocide of 1915 - 1923, when it is estimated that 1.5 million Armenians perished under unspeakable circumstances at the hand of the Turks. Many in the West turned a blind eye to these crimes because they were occupied with World War I. As a result of this tragedy, tens of thousands of Armenians fled to safety around the world. Then came Communism and its tyranny which lasted until 1991, when eventually the nation secured its freedom from its captors. The country suffered an earthquake in 1988 when 55,000 people were wiped out, and many were scarred for life. Limbs and lives were broken, and the results of this can still be seen.
Praise God, there is now a good measure of freedom in the land and the gospel is spreading freely. It is wonderful that within the last eight years or so two assemblies have been established, one in Gyumri and the other in Yerevan, the capital city.
I have been visiting Armenia for a number of years as an "ambassador", going there to help where possible, and returning with reports concerning the practical and spiritual needs of the Lords people. The Lord has blessed these efforts, and it is encouraging that souls are being saved, baptised, and added to the little assemblies. In Gyumri there are about forty in fellowship, and there is an excellent Sunday school work with about 120 children attending. Nearly all have to walk to the meetings in all kinds of weather and there are always unsaved at the gospel meetings. Last year, they had their first short series of gospel meetings for five nights; three souls were saved and baptised within a week, and are today in very happy fellowship in the assembly. The Lord gave help in preaching, and Toros (a commended worker in Gyumri from Cyprus) translated for me.
Pray for Toros and Virginia Pilibosian, who are heavily involved in the progress of the work in the assembly. Each family in the assembly was in some way affected by the earthquake. They are very poor materially, especially since the fall of Communism, but spiritually they are so rich and happy in the Lord.
The Yerevan assembly is a younger work with about twenty-five in fellowship. Like Gyumri there are a number of widows, but also several families meet with them. There are three elders who have a desire to follow the teachings of Scripture and pass this on to the little flock. It is a joy to be there and to witness their desire for the Word of God. On my recent visit the brethren asked if we would have a Bible Reading, a first for the assembly. Toros was there to translate, and we had a wonderful experience around the Word. All the meetings were positive and a blessing.
In February of 2006, a young girl saved in the Sunday school asked the brethren if they would go to her village, Tivin, 35 km outside Yerevan, to tell her family the good news of the gospel. This they did and a number were saved. On my visit last year, it was a joy to speak when six obeyed the Lord in baptism. On my last visit, I was encouraged to see them going on faithfully for the Lord and having a hunger for the Word. Others have been saved there since then.
Overall, the work of the Lord is encouraging in Armenia, but where this is so the enemy will be active trying to bring division and discord. Please pray that the unity will be preserved and that Satan will be frustrated in his efforts to inflict harm.
Pray that the land of Noahs Ark, the land once a bright jewel in the gospel outreach of apostolic times, will shine more brightly with many souls being saved through the efforts of the believers. Pray for Hrach and Marianna not long saved, but carrying a heavy burden of responsibility in Yerevan.
The saints are very poor. A widow receives $5 a month, if and when she gets her pension; a teacher earns $20 per month. There is no social security and corruption is widespread. The infrastructure is almost non-existent since the collapse of Communism. It is a difficult country to live in, but it is open to the gospel. Through the goodness and the generosity of the Lords people in the UK, Ireland, and beyond, it has been a joy to be involved with the saints there, so that a little extra comfort can be brought into their difficult circumstances. Do continue to uphold the testimony in your prayers, and pray for the leadership of both assemblies.