On Thursday evening, May 31, 2018, the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut was the site of a banquet in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). Organized by the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAECNE), the event brought together over 220 people, including Armenian Evangelical ministers from the U.S., Australia, Iraq, Syria and Egypt, Haigazian University trustees, AMAA board members, the Bishop Shahe Panossian, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Prelacy of Lebanon, a representative of the Armenian Catholic Church, the Ambassador of Armenia in Lebanon, the mayor of Bourj Hammoud, heads of the three Armenian political parties in Lebanon, representatives of a variety of organizations and unions, and many guests.
The program opened with a word of welcome from the Vice-Chair of Haigazian University’s trustees, Mr. John Sagherian, followed by the opening prayer offered by Rev. Nishan Bakalian.
AMAA President Dr. Nazareth Darakjian in turn offered the Association’s greetings, recalling the importance of 1918 for the Armenian people, who had barely survived the massacres, who had declared the independence of the first Armenian republic, while at the same time in the United States, a group of Armenian Evangelicals were founding the AMAA in order to reach out to the decimated and demoralized survivors of the Genocide. The AMAA worked at rebuilding the educational institutions and churches of the Armenian people, and in 1988 established that same effort in the homeland, following the earthquake there. Therefore, as Darakjian put it, the year 2018 is a year to celebrate the centennial of the rebirth of the Armenian people at every level. Mentioning the AMAA’s work in the U.S., the Near East and Armenia through schools and universities, spiritual activities, camps, relief and social work, he pointed to all of these as ways for children especially to know the great love of God. The newly-established Centennial Fund is AMAA’s way of preparing to meet the continuing challenges and opportunities ahead.
The banquet attendees were treated to the lovely voice of Central High School and Haigazian University graduate Alice Ipradjian, who sang, “Savior, Thy Dying Love” and “Doun im hayreni”.
Taking the podium, Mr. Zaven Khanjian, Executive Director/CEO of the AMAA, expressed how the AMAA was a part of the strengthening and rebuilding of Armenia following its 1991 independence, also extending to Artsakh (Karabagh) and the needs there. This multi-faceted service was rendered without complaint and without much fanfare, whether in Armenia or in the Middle East and other places of the Diaspora where Armenians had established themselves. The widow, the orphan, the ill, the adult and the elderly, all were the target of the AMAA’s work. For those suffering and struggling communities in places of unrest in the Middle East, the wounded or grieving in border villages in Armenia, the AMAA strives not just to encourage, but to help them to develop and grow, through education and spiritual enlightenment. The Association’s efforts to spread the gospel in word and deed is founded on their conviction that the Christian faith has always been the key to the progress of the Armenian people in principles of honesty, accountability, transparency and responsibility.
As the crowd enjoyed dinner and conversation around the tables, guitarist Raffi Mandalian and his ensemble filled the banquet hall with an eclectic mix of adaptations of Armenian folk tunes along with jazz and popular standards.
The event included the screening of a short documentary film about the AMAA, with testimonies and location footage of the worldwide scope of its work, entitled “A Legacy of Faith, Love and Service”.
Dr. Hasmig Baran, current Trustee Chair of Haigazian University, joined Mr. Khanjian on the stage to present the AMAA award of appreciation to outgoing HU Chair Dr. Ani Darakjian for her eight years of service ending early this year. Dr. Ani Darakjian was surprised and touched by this gesture, and wished her successor the best.
Concluding the evening’s program, Rev. Megrditch Karagoezian, President of the UAECNE, presented a plaque recognizing the pivotal role the AMAA has played in the Christian testimony of the churches in the Middle East. He offered a benediction and prayer of thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon the church, after which AMAA and UAECNE heads gathered together to cut the anniversary cake.
These AMAA centennial activities in Lebanon also had the aim to financially help Armenian Evangelical schools in Lebanon, and all funds received were designated for that purpose. In commemoration of the centennial, each banquet attendee received a 112-page bilingual color booklet with detailed information on the rich history and current ministries of the AMAA.