November 20, 2020
Global Christian leaders are calling on believers worldwide to respond to the expansive and ongoing need of more than 150,000 Armenian refugees displaced by a recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over long-disputed territory in the region.
“We have seen and witnessed much need. There are many heartbreaking stories. But at the same time we are so blessed to witness many evangelical churches across the country receiving people on their premises as well as in their homes,” said Michael Cherenkov, executive field director for Mission Eurasia, a non-profit organization that “trains, equips, and mobilizes national Christian leaders throughout Eurasia and Israel.”
Cherenkov recently spent eight days in Armenia, building relationships, empowering local evangelical churches, and setting up the distribution of humanitarian aid to thousands of refugees in partnership with other ministries such as Samaritan’s Purse.
Food, clothing, counseling needed
In addition to distributing food packages to displaced families, Mission Eurasia is providing warm clothes, training counselors to help those suffering from emotional distress, and distributing thousands of copies of their Good News Prayer Guide and the Gospel of John.
Armenian pastor Vazgen Zohrabyan said that a week before the conflict began in September, his church sent a group of missionaries to Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory.
“They (the missionaries) went, they shared the gospel with the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and then they came back. … Three days after they returned, the war started,” said Zohrabyan.
“We were very upset, but then we prayed. We got divine leading to open our church building for refugees,” he said. “We invited all of those families that our youth group used to visit in Nagorno-Karabakh. Many young mothers with their children came to our church and took refuge and shelter.”
Zohrabyan’s church announced on Facebook that they had extra space and were happy to host more refugees. The social media post garnered more than 2,000 responses from people requesting shelter.
“We were not ready for that. But we adopted this one principle – if God is sending them to our city, then we need to help them,” said Zohrabyan. “This was a big challenge for us but we also, in some way, challenged God. We said, ‘God if you sent those people to us, then give us enough grace to help them.’”
How to help
Cherenkov believes Christians across the globe can help the Armenian evangelical churches address the refugee crisis.
“We are here just to ask for your advocacy, your prayers, your help and your support for the churches – that local Armenian evangelical churches be able to meet this new challenge and need and that many people would get the gospel of hope and come to the Lord,” he said in a recent virtual conference.
Cherenkov emphasized that while a recent cease-fire ended fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, the well-being of many in the region is degrading.
“First, I would say that all the hostilities have ended with the cease-fire agreement but the humanitarian crisis is only getting worse,” said Cherenkov. “The terms of this agreement are such that Armenian people lost almost everything. And people have nowhere to return. And Armenia itself now is completely under Russian control – I would say Russian occupation.
“And this means that all Western, and international, organizations can face big problems. And, even more, protests against the Armenian government and against surrender are growing,” said Cherenkov.
While the Armenian Church is taking a central role in responding to the current refugee crisis, Armenian Christians need help from the global Christian community in order to care for the influx of refugees.
“The evangelical churches of Armenia are very active but they are not – and could not – be ready for such a flow of refugees,” said Cherenkov.
‘Global Christian solidarity’
“Today is our chance to show our global Christian solidarity and help the Armenian evangelical Church to fulfill its mission in this difficult time,” he said.
Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia, said that his organization relies on partnerships with other ministries and churches.
“These relationships and networks are vital to the work we do and allow us to provide food to the hungry and also the message of Christ,” he said.
“We look forward to seeing how God will work through this outreach to help take His glory and hope to the nations and equip the church to clearly communicate the gospel,” Rakhuba said.
For more information on Mission Eurasia and its response to the Armenian refugee crisis, visit https://missioneurasia.org/armenia-azerbaijan-war-response/.
Click here to read more about the conflict.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Hear the TAB Talks: Special Report, “Crisis in Armenia,” featuring Jennifer Davis Rash’s interview with Michael Cherenkov, executive field director for Mission Eurasia, and Armenian pastor Vazgen Zohrabyan by clicking here.