Reflections!

AIA Sports Performance’s Educational mission team to Armenia saw God renew old friendships and begin new ones. Our team gelled very quickly into a great group willing to flex and adapt to what our hosts needed. Looking back, we saw God use our team to open doors for our ministry with the National Wrestling Team, a high level wrestling club, the newly formed Armenian Sports Medicine Federation, and the National Kinesiology University!

We met Nane, a Kinesiology student who follows Christ today because God worked through a previous AIA Sports Performance team. She is very active in AIA Armenia. God connected us to another student who is a follower of Christ and is now connected to the ministry there. Other kinesiology students and wrestlers at the university heard the team tell of God’s love and how He has changed their lives. This has given our Armenian staff several new contacts to follow up with to share the same story the cross stones tell!

We also met and shared our stories with the President of the soccer club where two of our ministry volunteers lead a youth soccer team. He is a retired army General who is in a position to be used by God to impact many people in this country. Please pray for him to know God and be filled with the knowledge of His will. John Peterson, an Olympic gold and silver medalist, and an AIA staff member since 1973, traveled with the team. God used John to open doors for the ministry within the sport of wrestling. He shared the story of how God changed his life at an elite wrestling club in Garni. John also built deeper relationships with the National Team Coaches and wrestlers at the Olympic Training Center and an Olympic level strength coach.

Here is the text of an email I received from our Armenia staff a week after we left Yerevan. If you have been to Armenia on one of our teams, supported us through your prayers or given financially so our teams could go, please accept this message as written to you too!

Yesterday I was in Garni. A massive wrestling tournament was being held there. 300 people were present. I gave them the gifts that your team left. They were very happy to see me and invited me to visit them again. I will send you some pictures later. John Peterson has opened wonderful doors of opportunity for us.

2 students from the Physical Institute have expressed desire and willingness to join us as volunteers! Thank you very much for helping us promote and accelerate our ministry. We greatly appreciate your efforts and are thankful to God for you. Would you please send me John Peterson’s email address? I want to send him an email as well to thank him and encourage him by letting him know how God has been working through his ministry.

Blessings,

Tigran & Lusine

  • Paul for the Team

Photos Below, Top Left: John Peterson sharing his testimony with some of the Garni wrestlers / Bottom Left: Pray that God continues to open these gates for ministry at the Armenian Olympic Training Facility! / Right: Tigran and Lusine

Day 5 Even the Stones Speak Here

I’m looking at a 16th century large stone carving that was used to speak to people’s hearts and reveal God’s plan for their lives. And it still speaks to people today! The carvings have intricate details that tell God’s story, from creation… to the fall of man… to Christ’s sacrifice, and finally to a great and wonderful wedding feast that we are all invited to!

It’s Monday after Easter and we have had another full day here in Armenia. Our day started with a Bible Study on Holy Sweat/Wholly Surrender. This title comes from the AIA Principles…Bible Studies that express the Gospel applied to sport, experienced through sport, in the language of sport. This Priciple asks the question, “How will I grow?”

Soon after our breakfast Bible study we left for a tour of the Armenian Olympic Training Center. John was able to fulfill one of our team goals by making some good connections for Tigran with the wrestling coaches. One wrestler remembered John from our AIA team last year that trained here with them for a week. Our prayer is that this opens doors for Tigran to minister to the athletes training at this complex!

We spent our afternoon touring the oldest cathedral in the world… Etchmiadzin! Built in the fourth century, it has survived wars and earthquakes and more. Our guide, Vardan who is the President of New Life Armenia (Campus Crusade for Christ) taught us how the Gospel can be told through the carvings on the ancient cross stones that can be found all over this country.

Our day was finished with a celebration of Easter with the New Life Armenia staff. There was more traditional Armenian Easter food, music and comedy. Our hosts were very gracious. They even celebrated my birthday and the birthday of a German missionary who is here since we both had March birthdays.

It’s exciting to hear how Vardan uses the Cross Stones to share the Gospel. We look forward to hearing how the people we are building relationships with receive this message. Perhaps, they will hear while we are in Armenia, but certainly after we leave for even the stones cry out in this land.

• Paul for the team

Day 4 - Easter Celebration!

Today, we had the privilege of celebrating Easter with followers of Christ in Armenia. The worship team was great and there was an awesome combination skit/video presentation that underlined the importance of sacrifice. The Pastor followed this with a rousing sermon centered around motivating his congregation to honor Christ’s sacrifice in their own lives. He quoted God’s Word from 1st Corinthians 15 and Colossians 2 & 3 encouraging both us and his church to claim the victory over sin, Satan and death in our daily lives.

Our Easter lunch was spent with our hosts, Tigran and Lusine. We enjoyed a typical Armenian Easter lunch with fresh fish, rice with raisins, pumpkin, assorted vegetables, cheeses, and colored hard boiled eggs. There was also ice cream and cake afterwards. …And this was just lunch!

We spent the last hour of the afternoon walking around Tsaghkadzor exploring the ancient church here and walking off lunch since we still have a dinner with four AIA volunteers in Yerevan. The time with the volunteers was special as two of them brought a retired general who is the President of their soccer club. He presented Tigran and Paul with medals from the club in honor of their service to the youth soccer players of Armenia. Our teams here have done clinics with these teams, and donated monies for new uniforms, balls and Bibles for the kids. The AIA volunteers coach three youth soccer teams and seek to share their faith with the kids as they coach.

We finished the dinner with John and Paul encouraging the volunteers in their ministry. Paul encouraged them in their ministry and shared about the Sport Life Bible Study resources we are leaving with Tigran, while John cast vision to them with his ministry to U.S. college wrestlers. As John was finishing up his testimony, one of the volunteers exclaimed how this was encouraging him as he saw it as 2nd Timothy 2:2 being lived out. This in turn, encouraged both John and Paul as it showed this man understood the purpose of our time with them.

Just a note here about our MVP’s (“Most Valued People”). Without our interpreters we would literally be lost here. The three who have served us at various times have been very helpful. John said the interpreter at church this morning was probably the best he has ever had!

  • AIA Sports Performance Armenia

Below: Pastor praying to open Easter Sunday services. / AIA Volunteers honor Tigran and Paul.

Day 3 - Connecting to a Culture

For all of my life I’ve never been outside of the country until now. Everything about this trip has been new to me. Sure there have been events where I didn’t know anyone o had to embrace the uncomfortableness of meeting new people, but I would say this has topped them all.  What do you do in a country where you don’t know the language? How do you connect with a people that experience life on the other side of the planet? Thoughts like these surrounded me as I went through my first 48 hours here.

Today, we spent the first half of the day exploring the genocide museum in Yerevan (see photo below). This was something I had no real understanding or previous knowledge of. It helped give me some perspective on Armenia and its people. I felt, a communication start to link between them to me. Not in a way that I have had something like this happen to me directly, but that all people no matter where from, all have scars from the past. That we all struggle, we all hurt from the sin and pain this world causes us.

We finished another session with the sports doctors, emphasizing areas in rehabilitation. After I give my talk on an overview of strength training, I take a seat to the side and watch as my other team members present on the next topic. As I watch, I start trying to compare conferences I’ve been to versus the one we’re hosting here. A realization starts taking place…even though these people may look, act, speak, or learn differently than me, they are doing exactly what I’ve doing. All they are trying to do is become better to be more effective for their given career. That’s exactly what I’d be doing. Another connection is made and now I’m not as intimidated by being in this “galaxy far far away.”

All in all what really opened my eyes was initially looking deeper and seeing that people desire most of the same things. We hurt form the struggles or tragedies that have occurred either presently, or in the past. And that we are all striving to be better (mentally, spiritually, etc.). That’s all it is. Everyone will “show” it differently, but when I see the similarities from Armenians to me, I don’t see as much superficial differences most of us do. When this connection starts to happen, wall break down and life begins a new path. I know this is the start for me.

  • Noah for the team (Noy means Noah in Armenian!).

Day 2 - Building Relationships

We started our second day in Armenia with a team Bible Study on the Holy Spirit; sharing and learning from God’s Word about how to be directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our plan is to gather each morning for study of God’s Word. This is an essential part of our day as we seek to stay in step with God’s will for our time here.

Our first teaching session today was at the National Kinesiology University. Our 2 1/2 hours with the students there focused on a discussion on nutrition for sport and how to recognize and know when to refer a head injury. We are seeking to build relationships with those who attend each day so that we can open doors for our ministry staff in Armenia to follow up with them.

We split up for our afternoon session with John and Noah going with Tigran to an elite wrestling club to do a clinic. As an Olympic Champion, John is received very well by Armenians, who love the sport of wrestling. There were 25-30 wrestlers and 7 coaches in attendance. Two of their wrestlers are Armenia National Champions. They were very focused on John as he shared his testimony of how God changed his life.

Paul and Doug stayed at the New Life Armenia ministry headquarters to teach on concussion and sudden death in sports. The 20-25 sports doctors who are coming to these meetings are from the top levels of sport in Armenia. They have recently formed an Armenian Sports Medicine Federation and hope to be a positive influence on their nation. This is something that our teams coming to Armenia have spoken with them about since 2012. We rejoice and celebrate this important step in improving sports medicine in their country.

Our prayer is to be used by God to be a a positive influence on both the wrestlers and the sport doctors so they can impact their country, and also those countries around them. By serving them in this way, we share the love of Christ with them, and open doors for our Armenian staff to follow up on the relationships we have built.

  • Paul for the team