St. John’s Armenian Church Detroit Builds 4th House in Armenia
By: Barbara Haroutunian
“The earth like a living thing has its own spirit, and without one’s native land, without close touch with one’s motherland, it is impossible to find one’s soul…”
On June 18, 2010 a team of 11 people representing the Fuller Center for Housing went to Armenia to build a house. All members were from St. John’s Armenian Church in Detroit, Michigan. The team leader was Jackie El-Chemmas and she did an outstanding job organizing the group and relating the daily activities. This was St. John’s 4th mission trip to Armenia, however the goal was always the same, to build a home for a needy family and gain a sense of one’s heritage in Armenia. This year St. John’s Armenian Church School donated the funds so that our team could build a house in the mountain village of Shatin, Armenia near the town of Yeghegnadzor.
Summer is a wonderful time in Armenia. Food shops have increased substantially, quaint cafes, and many boutiques selling the latest fashions from Paris and Milan. There is construction everywhere in Armenia, especially in Yerevan. We strolled around the capital city if only to marvel at how it has changed so much in such a short time. The streets are finished by grants from Kirk Krikorian and virtually every main thoroughfare is crammed during the day and early evening. Yerevan is bustling with activity. Here is a land smaller than the state of Maryland where we can witness the old with the new. Armenia is reborn and its Diaspora has given it new energy and money.
On Monday June 21st we checked into Gohar’s Bed and Breakfast. This quaint Armenian style Inn is located in the picturesque mountains of Yeghegnadzor. For the next 10 days the team built a house. Together in total harmony, we laid gravel and mixed cement and established a bucket brigade to lay cement on the floor for four rooms. We worked two days and traveled Armenia on the third day. On our free days we visited Holy Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the very first Armenian Church built in 303 AD. The cathedral echoed with the sounds of bells and beautiful voices of the clergy and choir. On the way to Khor Virab we saw Mt. Ararat standing majestically on the horizon. This mountain symbolizes the spirit and survival of every Armenian. Khor Virab Monestary is the site where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for preaching Christianity. Many climbed down the pit where St. Gregory lived for 13 years. On to Garni, the pagan temple and of course Geghart, the church which was carved out of solid rock. We went to the Areni Wine Factory, the Sardarbad Memorial, the Matenadaran, and Tatev Vank which was built in the 9th century on top of a mountain. The visit to Tsitsernakaberd Monument was emotionally moving. We laid flowers and said a prayer at the eternal flame. After 10 days our job was completed and we headed back to Yerevan with a stop at Lake Sevan. As a result of new roads Lake Sevan is just a 15 minute drive from Yerevan.
On July 4th the group headed for the airport. We had worked and contributed to the building of a home, working in Armenia side by side with our Armenian brothers and sisters. We all had tears in our eyes and a reluctant departure for home, our fantastic experience had come to an end. We all recognized the importance of a culturally vibrant and successful Armenia. We were instilled with a sense of pride and a desire to return to Armenia again and again. Armenia is ours and such will remain!