Tag Archive for: In His Shoes

Wella Moments

Wella Moments

Next Step #754 – November 17, 2022 – Pre-thanksgiving messages to the questions of robots with souls and worshipping with AI creatures. Not too far off considering Disney gave a soul and personality to a rodent named Mickey.  Carl Perkins helping Paul McCartney grieve John Lennon. Pope Francis and the World Day of the Poor: a challenge from the pages of In His Shoes. Baptism as a candle of hope.
Links
Cover: “Over the clouds”
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
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Empathy

Armodoxy for Today
Empathy

On the last evening of a visit to Armenia, I sat staring out the window of my room at sunset. The room was high enough to give me a panoramic view of Yerevan, under the majestic shadow of Mt. Ararat. During my trip, I had met with people doing work on the cutting edge of technology. I spent time with people who were challenging the norms and excelling for the betterment of themselves, their families and their country. There was real hope in the air.

I remember looking out the window and praying for peace. It was simple wish: If this small but potent country could only have peace, miracles could happen. The miracles we would see would not be from any outside source, rather, they would come from within, if only there was peace. It was possible, it had been nearly 30 years that this country, which had known centuries of oppression, massacres and even genocide, was now living in peace. I looked out at the Yerevan skyscape and knew we would see the best of miracles, if only there was peace.

It is now 2022. A friend called me from Armenia this morning. At the end of our conversation he said, “If only we have peace, we can do anything, we can aspire to the best and be the best. If only we have peace.” It was as if my prayer from a few years ago was recorded and being played back to me in the voice of my friend. His prayer was more current, though, and had a more urgent tone to it. After all, the 44 day war in 2020 had taken place and the war in September of this year, initiated by the Azeris, has left everyone on edge, to say the least.

It is difficult to understand the pain and suffering of others from a distance. One of the core tenants of Armodoxy is a call to walk in the shoes of others. It is the expression of empathy, that is, to fully understand the pain and suffering of others, we must walk in their shoes. And small exercises can help us place our feet in the correct place.

Those of us living in the United States might not fully understand the prayer for peace in Armenia, but we might begin by imagining a world where we were constantly being attacked by our neighbors in Mexico and Canada, to the point that we live with the uncertainty of maintaining our independence, day-in and day-out. Perhaps the example is not fair considering the size, power and geography of the US. Those of you in Europe, in Africa, or in the Middle East, where countries are so much closer and intertwined with one another, can consider a country such as Switzerland, if its landlocking neighbors, France, Italy, Austria and Germany had only one intention, to annihilate and destroy that relatively small country.

And if still difficult to imagine, sit in your own home, in your house or apartment and picture all of your neighbors – every one of them, next door and across the street – wanting only one thing: to overpower, overcome and rid you from the neighborhood.

Walking in the shoes of others is a call to empathy. It is understanding that the only real and true miracle that we must pray and work for is peace. Walking in the shoes of others gives us the capacity to understand and once in the shoes, we must walk towards resolution.

Appropriately, today we pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Blessing-15

Next Step #733: Beginning the 15th season of the Next Step, Fr. Vazken shares some of the most precious blessings of the ministry, spanning the last five decades. From Genocide experiences, to the primer offered by St. Nersess Shnorhali, unlock the beauty of the “blessings” in this up-close and personal edition of the Next Step, presenting the new Epostle.net ministry.
Sirach 43
Einstein on Religiousness
The End is just the challenge (NS69)
Highlights of Fr. Vazken’s Ministry
Paul McCartney’s “Junk”
Cover: Epostle.net, 2022, Anush Movsesian Avejic
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org and Epostle.net
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Listen on Apple Podcasts

Sasnashen Youth Center

Walking In His Shoes in… Sasnashen Village in the Town of Talin, Armenia

A place for kids to feel welcome, share and explore options to maximize their potential

Introduction:

Last Summer, at the request of the Prop Wash Gang I was invited to the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to offer the keynote address at their gathering commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the shoot-down of US Air Force C-130 #60528. Before going any further…  let’s get the obvious questions out of the way: Why a priest of the Armenian Church? at a US Air Force base? to a group of hundreds of servicemen and their families? So let’s back up 60 years…

In 1958 – during the height of the Cold War – a United States Air Force C-130 flying a reconnaissance mission on the Turkish/Armenian border was shot down by the Soviets. The plane crashed in the village of Sasnashen, Armenia and lost its entire crew of 17 servicemen. The Soviets did not admit to the severity of the tragedy until after the fall of the USSR and by 1992 – some 34 years after the incident – the remains of all 17 men were returned to the United States for proper recognition and committal. Since that time commemorations have been taken place, including the placing of a khatchkar (cross stone) and a monument at the crash site with visits by U.S. military and government officials.

Now… on the evening of September 2, 2018, exactly 60 years to the date of the crash I stood before the servicemen and their families. I explained that in 1958 Armenia was completely occupied, that is, the place where the C-130 took-off (Van) was in Armenia occupied by the Turks and that where the plane crashed was occupied by the Soviets. After speaking about Armenian history and our faith as Christian, there in Nebraska, I offered the requiem hymn and prayer of the Armenian Church for the souls of the 17 victims of the shoot-down.

The group honored me by giving me a framed piece of the tail of the fallen plane. Then, spontaneously they took up a collection and asked that I use it to benefit the children of Sasnashen. Here, I had to confess that I did not know where Sasnashen was but I also promised that from this point on I would not travel to Armenia without visiting the village which had brought us and tied us together 60 years after the tragedy.

On October 25, 2018, I made it to the village of Sasnanshen – about 65km out of Yerevan toward the Northwest border of Armenia. The closest town is Talin (about 10 kms away) with a population of about 4,000. Through our Armenian Church I connected with Fr. Tade Tamazyan, the priest of the Talin and a number of villages that surround the Town, one of those villages being Sasnashen (population 750). My deacon Hrayr Nalbandian, drove us up to there and together with the priest we climbed a rocky road to the crash-site where a monument stands in this remote and obscure corner of the world. It is a tall standing memorial with a plaque written in both Armenian and English:

September 2, 1958

We must never forget that freedom is never really free.
It is the most costly thing in the world.
Freedom is never paid in a lump sum.
Installments come due in every generation.
All any of us can do is offer the generations
that follow a chance for freedom.

There, under the open skies and the silence of the village we offered a prayer for the 17 fallen servicemen as well as a prayer for peace.

 

In His Shoes’ Involvement

Since 2003 the In His Shoes ministry has actively initiated programs that effect and benefit some of the most impoverished and violence infected areas of the world, including in areas such as Darfur, Syria and Rwanda. After a recent project with the Starkey Foundation to provide hearing aids for over 2,000 inhabitants in Yerevan, we made a conscious decision to move beyond the limits of Yerevan with our assistance so to stay closer to our charter and so that our contributions can be directed in these often forgotten and overlooked regions.

In Sasnashen, beyond the economic challenges of village life, there are few, if any, opportunities for young people to advance in education, or even to explore and exploit their potential. There are government schools but after school-hours and on weekends the children end up on the rural roads without supervision and/or guidance. Father Tade has access to the schools and offers weekly classes to children in the village schools and is known and recognized youth. We decided to use the Prop Wash

Gang funds to further opportunities for youth in the Sasnashen village by creating a Center for after school-hours, where young people can feel welcome, share and explore options to maximize their potential in life.

With the encouragement and blessing of Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Western Diocese we quickly began work on organizing this program called “Sasnashen Youth Center.”  The Catholicos of All Armenians, HH Kareken II gave a small house directly across the street from the Talin church with the understanding that it would be used as a gathering place for youth. The collected funds were used to bring the house up to standards for a meeting place. We repaired the plumbing, installed a kitchenette, lavatory and new windows.  We have been monitoring the renovation process via pictures and videos sent to us by Fr. Tade.

On July 18, 2019 I personally made a trip to the area to monitor progress and meet with Fr. Tade and others to discuss the program. I also met with the head of the Aragatsotn Diocesan, Bishop Mkrtich Proshyan to assure a proper working relationship between all of our parties. He officially pronounced the name of this project as Sasnashen Youth Center and we are scheduled to open on September 29, 2019. It will be dedicated in the name of the servicemen who perished in the village in 1958. A framed piece of the plane will be presented to the Center at that time.

This is a place where young people can first and foremost feel welcome, safe and loved. It is a gathering place to study, to learn, or merely congregate after school.  We furnished the room and provided computers with internet connections so that we can visit remotely. Fr. Tade plans to bring speakers and mentors with specialties to direct and share time with the kids.

If successful, this can be a pilot project which can be replicated in villages for a low cost and can take advantage of local resources – personnel and physical spaces – which are often overlooked. In this case, those resources were found in the apartment/house which was vacant and unused because of its condition and a priest who has unique access and connection to the young people.

-Fr. Vazken Movsesian

Some links:

Talin in Armenia

Shoot Down of US Air Force C-130 Flight 60528

Fr. Vazken’s Blog on Visiting Sasnashen