Reaching Armenians With The Gospel
Recently a news item came to my attention. The Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called for an impartial study by historians into the claims that over a million Armenian people were slaughtered by Turkish troops from 1915 until about 1923. April 24, 2005, marked the 90th anniversary of what the Armenians refer to as the “Genocide,” namely, the systematic and planned destruction of a particular ethnic or national group.
What makes this news item about the Turkish Prime Minister’s call for a study remarkable is that Turkey has never officially acknowledged that genocide on a massive scale against the Armenians ever occurred, let alone that Turkish government officials in that earlier period were involved in some way in this genocide. Time will tell whether Turkish government officials will fully cooperate in this study of the documents that may shed light on what actually happened.
Let’s be clear in our use of terms: Armenia is a country at the east end of the Black Sea, while Jacob Arminius was a 16th-17th century minister in the Reformed Church in Amsterdam, a minister who taught serious error about God’s grace and man’s ability to claim that grace. So, an “Armenian” refers to a person of Armenian nationality, background, descent, or citizenship. An “Arminian” is a person who believes such a serious theological heresy. One can be both Armenian and Arminian, but a person can be both Armenian and Reformed as well!
For a number of years Rev. Aaron Kayayan was the French broadcast minister for the Back to God Hour. Rev. Kayayan’s background, however, is not French but Armenian. He grew up in Greece, the country to which his family had fled when the genocide had begun in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey’s earlier name). God in his providence opened the doors that enabled Aaron Kayavan later to study in France for the gospel ministry in the Reformed churches in France.
For over the past decade now Rev. Kayayan has been very busy in bringing the Reformed faith to the Armenian people. This ministry, known as “Christians for Armenia” (a branch of Reformed Faith and Life), carries on an active broadcast ministry in a country that is dominated by the Armenian Apostolic Church, with its ritualism and superstition. There is an evangelical presence in Armenia, but it is small and rather ineffective. Thus there is a very great need for the ministry that “Christians for Armenia” conducts. Letters bring back reports that many people of all ages listen to the Reformed broadcasts of Rev. Kayayan. As we all know, radio can reach cities and towns, homes and businesses where missionaries might not be able to go.
When “Christians for Armenia” began, its broadcasts were heard on only one station in Armenia, once a week. Now Rev. Kayayan’s messages are heard on ten stations, four times a week, fifteen minutes per day. Listeners send in letters to tell us how much hope as well as instruction they receive from the broadcasts. The Reformed Faith and Life staff in Armenia handles the requests for cassettes of the messages as well as requests for Bibles.
Another element in the ministry of “Christians for Armenia” is literature distribution. Rev. Kayayan had written many studies of a Biblical and doctrinal nature while he was the French broadcast minister for the Back to God Hour. Many of these works have now been translated into Armenian, published and distributed to seminaries and other interested people in Armenia. Obviously literature is a resource that “keeps on giving.” Approximately fifteen titles have been published to date, addressing topics from evangelism to theology, as well as social and scientific issues. More titles are being planned. Rev. Kayayan also produces an Armenian quarterly with about 3000 copies distributed per issue. This quarterly publication has also grown from 28 pages in its first issue, to 96 pages in recent issues. This periodical (Havadk Yev Guiank, Faith and Life) is distributed free because most Armenians are too poor to buy books and other literature.
The challenge is great. Many would remember the devastating earthquake that struck Armenia in 1988. Much of the country has not been rebuilt. Poverty is rather widespread, and Armenia has several hostile Muslim countries as its neighbors. Into that situation comes a message of genuine hope and good news. The Reformed faith gives not only comfort and hope about salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, but this faith also addresses the issues of living, justice, family relationships, businesses, and all the rest of life.
Rev. Kayayan visits Armenia from time to time to speak with interested groups, to teach in the schools that invite him to lecture, to encourage the Armenia ministry staff in the country, and to see what other windows of opportunity the Lord may provide for this work. At the end of July Rev. Kayayan and Rev. Peter Adams of the Grace United Reformed Church of Alto, Michigan, went to Armenia. A summer camp was held July 25-31 at which both pastors Kayayan and Adams spoke on the authority of the Scriptures and the confessions as well as the gospel in our contemporary world and culture. About a hundred participants (professors, intellectuals, social workers, and pastors) attend. May the Lord continue to give “Badveli (Reverend) Kayayan” much strength and a large vision for this work that is so necessary for rebuilding a great land and a great people who have endured so much.
If you are interested in obtaining more information in supporting this work you can contact it at Reformed Faith & Life, 2133 N. Cross Creek Dr. S.E. Grand Rapids, MI 49508-8775, USA
Taken with permission from Christian Renewal, August 2003.
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