Sports Performance - Armenia
“Laughter and joking can demolish language and cultural barriers and soon we all felt like a close knit group. I loved the lunchtime today with the New Life Armenia staff. It was sweet to hear their stories and share ours.” These were the words of Ben F., Athletic Training major at Liberty University who recently travelled to Armenia with AIA Sports Performance. Ben grew up as a missionary kid, but his life was changed by these Armenians who are daily sacrificing their desires to see their country reached for Jesus Christ. Laughter and joy were a consistent part of the week in the capital city of Yerevan, Armenia. The team of five athletic trainers and AT students sought to bond with one another and their hosts while sharing their faith at the National Physical Institute (Kinesiology University).
The main focus of the week was a three-day conference at the Institute in the afternoons followed by three evenings of hands on labs at a local sports club. The exchange of knowledge on heat illness, taping and wrapping, and sports injuries was just part of the purpose. Doing so with laughter and joy, despite jet lag and fatigue is essential to sharing one’s faith. Ben went on to describe his experience with, “They shared about their university experience and I got to share mine. Even though we are worlds apart we still found many similarities and created a friendship.” The key relationships Ben built early in the week led to spiritual conversations later in the week.
Tigran and Lusine, our Armenian AIA staff, are a couple who have fun doing ministry. The team laughed at Tigran’s humor and antics, and one member seemed to consider it his purpose to encourage Tigran with his own funny blunders and silly antics. Julian M., another Liberty Athletic Training major, had his life changed by the process of raising financial support for the mission. "The support raising process absolutely blew me away. I had a hard time of raising support at first, and then God provided. I am not the same anymore." The team was professional in their presentations but had a lot of laughter and joy fill their meals, van rides and everywhere in between.
The laughter and joy were interrupted one day during the tour as the team visited the Armenian Genocide Museum, dedicated to the victims of the 1915 tragedy. Megan S., a Graduate Athletic Training Student at the University of Arkansas commented on finding God in one’s journey through trials we encounter. The team’s Bible studies touched on this subject but perhaps the visit to the Genocide Museum brought home the reality of the harshness of life that others lead and the blessings we have received. The faculty at the Physical Institute gifted the team with single purple flower lapel pins, their national symbol of the one hundredth anniversary of the genocide. The Forget-Me-Not flower is the perfect symbol to accent both the tragedy, and the hope of those who survived.
The team’s week was not only full of laughter and joy but reflection as well. Tigran G., AIA’s National Director in Armenia reflected on the team’s work, “You have been a catalyst for us in ministry to open doors at the Institute. The meeting today with the Dean and Department Chairs was representative of that. And now I will be meeting with the Rector next week. I consider this a great opening after praying for two years" said Tigran. In addition to the teaching at the Institute, the team was able to reconnect with Aranyik who came to know Jesus three years ago during a previous AIA tour. Rachel S., an Assistant Athletic Trainer at the University of South Carolina said, “I am praying that the Armenian Christians' boldness and zealousness rubs off on me and that I will consider what doors AT can open for the gospel." She continued to comment of her desire to spend, “more time being thankful for my past experiences and my ever expanding opportunities.”
Rachel shared that her goal for the trip was to learn how to use her career for God’s glory, to discover how to truly live out Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men”. Rachel added, “Maybe the first step is simply to thank Him for the knowledge needed and the opportunity given to do this job – remembering it is nothing that I’ve done for myself but only because He has seen fit to place me in this time, in this place, in this career and in this position.”