SAMARITAN STRATEGY PROJECT IN YEGHEGNADZOR, ARMENIA
Establishing self-sustaining Samaritan Strategy teams in new areas.
Harvest Global Field Coordinator
The “Samaritan Strategy” (SamS) program helps churches demonstrate God’s intentions in every area of life. It uses step-by-step exercises called “disciplines of love” and “seed projects” to disciple people to grow like Jesus. A SamS project has four phases: (1) network, (2) training, (3) coaching, and (4) commissioning. Harvest completed over eighty SamS projects around the world. Last year, 49 projects were in process in 17 countries with the participation of 375 churches. In Yeghegnadzor, Armenia, Harvest adviser Kristina Avanesyan coordinated one of these projects and here is her story. The uniqueness of this project was that while still dealing with their own problems, church members decided to serve others. After they started their practices of service, God gave them a vision to help persecuted Christians from Central Asia.
Harvest Adviser – Central and Western Asia
June 15, 2016 – Contact
In a very informal way, we approached our close friends Artur and Larisa, who are the pastors of a small (80 people) church in Yeghegnadzor, a town 150 km from Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Artur and Larisa were concerned that their church was not ready to demonstrate God’s love to the community, and that God’s people were consumed by their own problems. So, our sharing with them about Samaritan Strategy was essential and they were open to hold a seminar in their church.
We did a vision casting meeting with Artur and Larisa, presented the main idea and went through some lessons. Then, we planned a training for fifty participants. We also met with Pastor Arsen, from the Sesyan region. He and his leaders are already actively involved in serving their community, they have an ongoing program to help vulnerable people in poor villages. But they also wanted to be a part of this training and learn the biblical foundations for their actions of love.
October 15, 2016 – Basic training
The leadership of the church in Yeghegnadzor decided to have the training and a break-away time for their leaders at the same time. Being away from home and daily worries, they said, would help people to concentrate more on the training and not have to hurry back home after each session. They choose a guest house in the nice place of Tsaghkadzor to host all the participants. Arsen, the pastor from Sesyan, participated, but unfortunately his team could not come, so we had thirty people, which ended up being a good number.
We were very satisfied with the training. People were open and participated actively. They liked group discussions very much, which took a bit longer than we thought, but it was good to let people share their opinions and ideas. Even before the training, we realized that due to translation we would have less time, so we had to cut the number of lessons to six instead of eight, and taught the following lessons: Irreducible Minimum, Luke 2:52, Church as a Window, Discipline of Love, Kingdom Math, and Seed Projects. Each lesson took about one hour to present, besides time for worship and devotions.
March 17-18, 2017– Advanced training
After we did the basic training, we expected participants to be more active, doing disciplines of love and the three seed projects that were planned in groups. After few months, we asked the leaders many times about their disciplines of love and seed projects, but it looked like they were not doing them. So, after a conversation with Larisa, we decided to have an additional training. We held this training in two days, and had participants discuss in small groups. We even wrote down who would do what to keep them accountable. It looked like that was the right approach. It was easier to work with individual disciplines of love than with groups planning seed projects. Two months later, I followed up with Larisa, and she said that most of the people did what they planned and went even further to do more. Most of the disciplines of love were about sharing food and clothing and helping with yard work and home repairs for both, needy believers and non-believers.
Disciplines of Love done by members of the Yeghegnadzor’s church:
- Donated a blanket and a pillow to a neighbor.
- Visited a family and cooked a dinner for them.
- Three people painted the house of a non-believer friend.
- Donated food to an elderly lady.
- Donated dishes to a family with many kids that lived in the neighborhood.
- Spent time with a family that did not go to church for a long time.
- Gave a ride to a needy family for an excursion.
- Spent time with kids of a family in the neighborhood.
- Cooked for a sick woman.
- Donated pillows to a neighbor.
- Cleaned a neighbor’s yard.
May, 2017 – Training of Trainers
Larisa is the pastor’s wife in Yeghegnadzor and a key leader in the church, so we trained her to be one of the future trainers in Armenia (or other countries, as she speaks Russian). She understood the key concepts and we planned to do the next session with her.
July 30-31, 2017 – Coaching
Our coaching session concentrated on seed projects. Planning is a weak thing in our culture, usually people do things spontaneously, do not plan and do not evaluate. So, this training on planning was so good not only for doing seed projects but to give them a good tool for future activities. In the summer, the church did two seed projects:
All-church cleaning and renovation day
The church had an old house donated to them for ministry activities. After the Yeghegnadzor church learned about disciplines of love and seed projects, they wanted to take something they already had, a local resource, and turn it into an action of love. They decided that they would use the house donated to the church as a home for vulnerable people, a place for rest and restoration. The entire church gathered together, planned, donated tools, and assigned tasks for the project. They refreshed and renovated the old house to be a nice place for vulnerable people. While working together, they did not forget that seed projects are covered by prayer, so they prayed before they started, in the middle, and in the end of the project.
Canning fruit and vegetables for poor people
Making preserves is a tradition at every home in Armenia. When fall comes, there are many vegetables available, and they are cheap at this time of the year, so in every home women make jam, chutney, pickles, and many other tasty things. These cans help families live through the winter, when the weather is cold, and food is expensive. The women from the Yeghegnadzor church came together to make preserves and donated them to poor families. Some washed the vegetables and fruit, some cut, some cooked, others prepared glass jars and canned them. In the end, everybody helped to clean. It was a joy to share the jars with people who did not expect that gift. We believe that God was glorified!
January – March, 2018 – Observation
During this SamS project, there was a change in the leadership of the church in Yeghegnadzor. But, as multiplication of the work done with them, a pastor invited us to do a SamS training in a missionary school that trains and sends missionaries to work in sensitive areas. The fact that it is a school and not a church would require a different approach. Usually, we have a free style of training, with students doing a lot of discussions, while we facilitate. Here we had to work more academically, using lectures, and have times for questions and answers in the end of each presentation. We taught six lessons: Irreducible Minimum, Luke 2:52, Kingdom Math, Church as a Window, Seed Projects, and Seed Projects Planning. We did three lessons in January and then three lessons in March. Personally, we preferred that we would have taught the six lessons in a row, but that was the time given to us. All students were very opened and asked many questions. In the end, they shared the truths that they learned that would be useful in their ministry. The pastor thought that this training was very beneficial for his students and invited us for the next year to teach the Samaritan Strategy curriculum to next group of students.
In Yeghegnadzor, church members who participated in the SamS training received a vision from the Lord to help persecuted Christians from Central Asia. Now they receive families and leaders who went through persecutions and help them to get rest in Armenia. The house they renovated as a seed project is now partially used to host these people, and partially used as rehabilitation center. The entire church gathers to help these suffering people. After doing this project for six months, they registered a non-government organization to advance the ministry. They contact churches from places where there are persecutions and invite people to come to Armenia. People from the Yeghegnadzor church are ready to demonstrate God’s love and apply the knowledge and principles that they learned at the SamS training in practical ways. What makes us happy is that the entire church is involved to demonstrate God’s love and glorify Him.
We are grateful to the Harvest team in Armenia and to the participants in the SamS project in Yeghegnadzor. Their servant spirit and collaboration blessed many people. We thank the donors who so generously contributed to this project, without their participation we would not be able to go that far. We praise the Lord for His provision, guidance, and protection, and pray that this experience may be multiplied in many places for His glory.
INVITATION TO COLLABORATE
Harvest staff and associates sacrificially give of themselves to this ministry. We welcome your participation to help them financially. You can write a check to “Harvest” and mail it to P. O. Box 2670 – Phoenix, AZ – 85002, or click on the “Donate” button below for a credit card donation. To designate the gift to the coordinators of the SamS project in Armenia, please add a separate note to the check or write “Avanesyan” on the suggestion box online.