Today was our last day of ministry here in Armenia. We were in a little village outside of Yerevan called Bjni. If I’m not mistaken it’s pronounced something like buh-juh-knee, but some of us just call it Benji.
The church in Bjni went all out to make it a special day for their women. First off, they cancelled their normal Sunday service so that they could have more time with us. It is HUGE that they would do that. On the other hand, the churches are 70% women so it only seems right. They had also put a lot of effort into decorating the church to make it look special, complete with fresh flowers, banners and organza. The Armenians are very hospitable and treat their guests like royalty.
There were a few men who helped today and all of them were dressed in suits. I think it would be very uncommon for them to come to church in anything less. Even one little 18 month old boy I met was in a suit. Actually it was more of a tuxedo complete with tails! So cute! One man who was helping with music managed to find the canned applause key on the keyboard and as our team was introduced he’d turn it up as each member stood. It cracked me up.
At the end of the six-hour “mini-conference” we spent about a half-hour or more of time praying for the women individually. Later we were told that it was very unusual for them to be so open and ask for prayer like that. What an incredible time.
After a great day of ministry we were invited to the pastor’s house for dinner. The quantity of food at an American Thanksgiving dinner pales in comparison to what the Armenians put out for their guests. When we arrived the table was already filled with meat trays, platters of cucumbers and tomatoes, three or four different salads, greens, pickles, olives, boiled eggs, anise leaves, parsley, cheese and lots and lots of lavash bread. THEN, they brought in barbecued chicken and pork with potatoes. They barbecue in an oven dug into the ground, which is where they also make their lavash bread. After the chicken and pork they brought in plates of cooked greens that they pick in the mountains. It looks kind of like cooked spinach but tastes a wee bit better. I didn’t have any tonight but it’s been served several times since our arrival. Next came two whole chickens that they had butchered from their yard. And just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be more food, they brought out blinis, which are kind of like a crepe with some kind of meat. They can also be filled with sweet fillings but tonight they had some kind of pork. They are quite good.
But wait, we aren’t through. Just before we called the paramedics to come and take us out on stretchers they brought out pastries and some kind of homemade dessert. And, don’t be thinking they’ve cleared the table off at all. Oh no; they just set the newly arriving plates on top of the ones already on the table. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. We weren’t done yet though. Next came two platters of fresh fruit! AND, after all of that there were trays of wrapped candies. It was like the dinner that wouldn’t end. Some of the team enjoyed thick Armenian coffee which is why they are still up with me tonight as I write this. All in all we were there for two and half hours! In addition to the great quantities of food, we enjoyed great conversation and learned so much about Armenia and the persecution the Christians have faced here.
Our last day here will be spent doing a bit our touring before we head home. It will be hard to leave, but I do look forward to being home again. If I could just drop over every few days and be home in time for a cucumber-free dinner, that would be perfect.