By Louisa Janbazian

On Saturday, November 3, 2018, the Verdugo Hall of Castaway Restaurant in Burbank, CA was filled with joy and great enthusiasm as friends and supporters of the C & E Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School gathered together for a Fall Luncheon to celebrate the School’s Women’s Auxiliary and its 20th Anniversary and to pay tribute to one of the founding members, Suzie Phillips.

After an Invocation offered by Rev. Hendrik Shanazarian, Interim Pastor of the United Armenian Congregational Church of Los Angeles, the School’s dedicated and dynamic Principal Lina Arslanian, accompanied by three students, gave an update on the School’s successes and achievements. Principal Arslanian commended the support and love of the members of the Women’s Auxiliary to Merdinian School and expressed her “gratitude for an amazing celebration luncheon on this special anniversary and heartfelt congratulations to the honoree, Suzie Phillips, a founding member!” The three students then expressed their utmost pride to be at Merdinian, where they pursue excellence not only in academics, but in learning about their Armenian Christian heritage.

Following lunch, the Hamazkayin Niari Dance group, under the direction of Catherine Hairabedian, entertained the guests with several authentic Armenian dances, which were received with much enthusiasm.

Dina Tilkian Phillips, the Auxiliary’s first Chairperson, reflected on the formation and early days of the Auxiliary, when a group of dedicated women from the greater Los Angeles area came together as a support group to help the School both financially and morally. She then introduced honoree Suzie Phillips, who graciously hosted the first meeting of the newly formed Auxiliary group 20 years ago. Describing Mrs. Phillips, she said: “Most importantly, Suzie loves the Lord and has a heart of service and a spirit of generosity to help others, and this has been a shining example to all her family.”

Ani Hanessian and Louisa Janbazian, current Co-Chairs of the Merdinian Auxiliary, invited Mrs. Phillips to the podium. As a token of appreciation, they presented her with a framed page from the 1998 Merdinian School Yearbook showing two group photos from the Auxiliary’s first year and the following words, describing the formation of the Women’s Auxiliary: In May 1997, the Women’s Auxiliary of the Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School was formed. The purpose of the Auxiliary is to support Armenian Evangelical Education, promote interest in the Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School, further the mission of the School and render financial support, in all cooperating with the Principal and the Board of Directors. The Auxiliary is an affiliate of the Armenian Missionary Association of America. The first meeting of the newly formed Women’s Auxiliary was held at the home of Suzie Phillips in the presence of the late Rev. Dr. Movses B. Janbazian, Executive Director of the AMAA.

Mrs. Phillips expressed her gratitude for this honor and said: “I feel, as members of the Auxiliary, we are helping the students to grow in some small way. From the Principal to the teachers to the visiting ministers, we are all planting that seed in each student’s heart, so the children will grow and become leaders of their community. And the most important thing we are planting in each little heart, is the Word of God for it will stay with them forever.”

With their love, dedication and effort, Mrs. Phillips and her husband George R. Phillips have been a blessing to the School since its formative days. They have indeed heeded God’s word; “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Established in 1982, the C & E Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School is the only Armenian Evangelical School in the United States. The School offers a broad-based curriculum that fosters academic excellence, high moral values, and spiritual enrichment in the Armenian Evangelical tradition. The School strives to create a safe and nurturing environment where every student receives personal attention to become a successful and responsible individual. For more information you may contact Principal Arslanian at 818.907.8149.

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