It was 20 years ago: Untold stories from the Youth Ministry Center
Today’s Inspiration: Suspended Angel
Barouyr* was a troubled kid. He was a 10th grader at Hoover High School when I met him outside the Youth Ministry Center. It was during the day, and he was pacing the sidewalk outside our church. He had been suspended from school. The school would dispense punishment according to the misbehavior of a student in a manner that escaped by understanding. Minor offenses led to detention – an after-school time spent in a supervised room with others. Enough detentions led to suspension – a period of time-off from the school. Finally, too many suspensions led to expulsion from the school.
There was Barouyr outside the church, looking around as if lost, but once you spoke with him you realized he was very aware of his surroundings. I greeted him and found a very respectful young man. We talked and he gave me excuses for being suspended, blaming teachers and administrators and their degree of “incompetence.” He was a young “tough guy.” He was from the streets and let me know he wasn’t afraid of anyone, but God.
At the time, I could not understand how suspending a student from classes could possibly be helpful for the child. Of course, it was easy to understand how it benefitted the teaching staff maintain a calm atmosphere in the classroom. At some point the discipline problem becomes overwhelming and there aren’t enough staff members to handle all the trouble-giving youth.
We went into the church. We talked. He opened up. His father was an alcoholic who abused his mother. They lived in a two-bedroom apartment. He and his older sister shared a room. He told me he didn’t want to be in school, but that rejection was merely a cover up, the tough-guy persona coming through. He was a bright guy who knew he wanted more.
The Soviet Union had disassembled a little over 10 years before we opened. The atheistic state had been prevalent for over seven decades. Domestic violence and alcoholism often accompanied one another as a result of life in the Soviet Union.
Barouyr became one of the regulars at the Youth Ministry. He grew up under the shadow of the church. On Sunday’s he served at the holy altar and during the week he was a regular fixture. I can’t tell you what it was that tied him there, suffice it to say he was one of the miracles of the ministry. In turn he inspired others to come to the church. Barouyr was no angel to the school authorities, but for the kids he turned-onto the church and this unique ministry, they could not have wished for a more caring guide from heaven. He retained his tough-guy exterior. He continued to get in trouble, but he was loved by everyone at the Center.
He ended up graduating and went to on to become a teacher himself. He still keeps in touch.
As a result of Barouyr, we found a new place within the community. The Center was seen as place that could pick up the pieces that were floating around. We put in a formal request with the school administrators to count us as an alternative to detention. We quickly became a go-to-point for students after school. The three schools across the way, Keppel Elementary, Toll Middle and Hoover High, ended their classes around 3PM and they walked over. Parents understood this to be a safe zone, where their children could “hang” until pick-up time. It was important for me that there was an understanding by everyone who came through its doors that the building was a Church.
I did not understand how suspending this student from classes could possibly help him. Now I understand that had he not been suspended our paths may not have crossed, or if they did, we may not have had the introduction we did. Like so many things that happened at the Youth Ministry Center, they just did. They weren’t planned. This was new and charted territory for the Armenian Church and we were following the flow, trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That trust, from the Church, was perhaps the biggest miracle.
Tomorrow we continue with more untold stories and miracles from 20 years ago today. I 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 email@example.com.
*Fictitious name to keep him anonymous.