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The Armenia Bible College program is celebrating the completion of its first year this October! Here are the stories of some of its inaugural students and the impact they are already making in Armenia.
We spoke with Shahan Teberian, our representative working with the churches in Armenia as they administer the program, about how some of the students are progressing and the enormous sacrifices they are making to equip themselves through Armenia Bible College.
Shahan, who are some of the students enrolled in the Armenia Bible College program? Where are they from? What are their roles in the church?
Arpine and Armenuhi, both wonderful women of God, are from Stepanavan in northern Armenia near the Georgian border. They are both worship leaders and home group leaders in their church.
Hayk is from Massis. He is the regional pastor for the area.
Vahan and Grigor are from Tashir, also in northern Armenia near Georgia. Vahan is the senior pastor at his church and Grigor is the assistant pastor and treasurer for the same church.
How did they hear about the university?
All five heard about Armenia Bible College through their church leadership.
Why are they studying?
Arpine and Armenuhi are studying in order to gain a more in-depth knowledge of God. They are teaching and leading others and want to do so faithfully so that they can be right before God. They cannot teach without first learning.
For Hayk this is a second chance. During the last unaccredited college program that ended in 2010, Hayk could not participate. But he feels a strong calling to be a teacher of pastors and leaders. This program has allowed him to increase his own understanding of God and to answer his calling. He has already seen ministry doors open to him as he is being faithful.
Both Vahan and Grigor want to deepen the wells of their knowledge and to walk more closely with God.
What do the students think about the studies so far?
They feel very good about their studies. They find the materials useful and they all are growing in their walks with God. God’s Word is becoming clearer and is being opened to them. The Lord is becoming real in a way they never imagined possible.
What sacrifices are they making to study?
For all five of these students, going back to school is an enormous sacrifice. All of them work during the week and then attend our classes that are held on Friday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The students are also in class on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. They minister in the church on Sundays. They essentially give up any days off while classes are in session.
They also have to fit in their home studies and assignment completion during the rest of the week. This takes away from family time and downtime.
Students also have the significant financial burden of attending classes, both for travel and for fees.
Because of where they live, Arpine, Armenuhi, Vahan, and Grigor must travel 400 km (nearly 250 miles) round trip every week over mountain roads and in snow during the winter. They also have to stay in Yerevan overnight for classes and are away from their families.
Is there anything they want to share from their hearts with the people at Global or in the US about the college?
They are grateful for the opportunity to study at a high level; they want to deepen their walk with God and to be faithful to their callings. They never thought they would have this chance.
Additionally, they are grateful for the investments that GU, churches, and individuals in the US have made so that they and other students can be blessed.
Victory requires sacrifice. Although being part of the program is hard on them and their families, the students know that it is necessary, and they are willing to make those sacrifices.
The quality of the materials is very high. They are awed at the thought of the library being built for their homes and ministries. They are so thankful for this treasure house of knowledge.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I would again emphasize that being part of this program is an enormous sacrifice for all of these students. Their commitment is difficult to adequately communicate to someone who does not live here. These students travel rough roads, give up family time, and invest money that they cannot afford to spend in order to sit in a classroom for ten hours on the only free days they have. They are willing to do this for the next four years. It is mind-boggling. I know that it would be very hard, if not impossible, for me. But they are so dedicated to improving their knowledge to become better leaders that they are happy doing these things. They are genuine examples of Christian service.
ONE ADDITIONAL STORY:
Here’s an extra story regarding a potential student from the Yezidi Kurd community, which numbers about 40,000 people within Armenia. The ethnic Armenians comprise 98 percent of the population; the Yezidi are the second largest group in the country.
The Yezidi Kurds practice a pagan religion that includes aspects of Satan worship, and the Yezidi are a close-knit community. They intermarry and usually have their own villages. Also, it is their usual practice that several generations of a family live together in one home. They are hostile to any member of the community who converts to another religion and to those who try to convert Yezidi to another religion. The Yezidi are extremely abusive to and controlling of women; girls are forced to marry around 13 years of age, and they must move to the in-laws’ home. They become no better than slaves to the mother-in-law and the rest of the husband’s family. If they do not give birth within a year or two, they are often thrown out of the home.
An assistant pastor from a Yezidi Kurd church wants to study, but he has problems with his unsaved family with whom he lives. He desires to come to Armenia Bible College classes and to start including his wife (who is also a Christian) in his ministry. However, he cannot do this because he knows if this happens, his parents will throw him, his wife, and their young children out of the family home, and they will have nowhere to live. We are trying to find ways to let him study, but so far have not found a solution.
This assistant pastor’s life is another example of the sacrifices the people here are willing to make to become Christians and to study.