20 years ago: One of us

It was 20 years ago today: Untold stories of the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center

Today’s Episode: One of us

Finding yourself and seeing yourself in the Gospel message is part of Christian introspection. There is a much different relationship you have with what is known as the Old Testament. Those are historic stories and therefore stuck in time. In the Gospels, you are invited to see yourself in Christ’s parables, such as the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son. Not so with Old Testament stories. For instance, it is a mistake to console yourself by comparing your sufferings with Jobs, rather, understand his story as maintaining faith despite difficulties.

The words of Christ are timeless, that is, they transcend time, whether in a parable or in his messages. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) Jesus’ says,  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These words are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. They are spoken from God.

Our “In His Shoes” mission was adopted early at the Armenian Church Youth Ministries was taking off and becoming popular among the students. In Genocide commemoration, held on April 24, In His Shoes was a sensible alternative to yelling and protesting in front of empty buildings, plus it provided positive exposure to the plight of the Armenians. And the best part of it was that it was in step with the Gospel message of love, light and goodness. We were walking in the shoes of others.

We were looking for opportunities to demonstrate how love can be a new means of expression for Genocide awareness. That first year, April 24 was marked with a blood drive in the basement of our building. The American Red Cross came out and we lined up donors. The message we proclaimed was simple, “In 1915 we gave blood against our will, today willing we give blood for the sake of saving lives.” The students were quick to get on board. Though some could not donate because of their age, they brought in relatives to fill our quotas.

This was something new in the community. We had done the April 24 blood drives in Cupertino and Pasadena, but the number of Armenians in Glendale, especially around the Center, prompted discussions and questions.

Q: Who will get this blood?

A: It will go into the community blood bank collected by the Red Cross to be used by those who need it.

Q: You mean non-Armenians might receive this blood?

A: Yes! In fact, it is possible that a Turk might need blood and your blood will go to him or her!

Now, we are truly talking about walking in the shoes of others. Now “love your enemies” starts making sense – helping someone because they are a child of God. And, on a personal level, what better payback can there be than to have a Turk walking around with Armenian blood?! We collected blood and reached out with other programs as well.

At the time, recording artist Joane Osborne’s song, “One of us” was getting a lot of airtime. We adopted the song for the Youth Ministries. It helped us articulate what we discovered and were trying to practice with the students: to recognize God as “The least of His brothers and sisters.” (Matthew 25)

We would sing this song during those early years as a mantra for us, our relationship with others and our expression of faith. “If God had a name, what would it be? And would you call it to His face? If you were faced with Him in all His glory? What would you ask if you had just one question?

And yeah, God is great, yeah, God is good.

What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?  Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?

With this song, we were celebrating accessibility. Jesus’ teaching was revolutionary because through him God was accessible to us all. He invited us to engage with God. And we were witnessing the miracle at the Center – here were young kids, coming to an Armenian Church and understanding themselves as participants is God’s Kingdom. It was a time of celebration, in this forgotten area of Glendale, kids were waking up to God’s glory by seeing it in the love they expressed to others.

We continue tomorrow with more untold stories from 20 years ago today, and invite you to join us. If you missed earlier episodes, you can hear them on your favorite podcatcher or at Epostle.net under the “Armodoxy for Today” tab. Remember to leave a comment and/or write us at feedback@epostle.net.

Cover: Old man smoking in Thailand, Envato Elements

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