It was 20 years ago today: The untold story of the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center.
Between the years 2003 and 2016 we ran an experiment in an area of Glendale, California known as “Ground Zero,” a place that Armenian organizations have ignored and forgotten, a place where education, identity and prayer came together.
This is a series about the miracles that we witnessed at this small church on the corner with a worldwide ministry. This is part of the Armodoxy for Today podcast series about the Armenian Church now, patterned after the ancient Apostolic Church, then.
Today: We Care for Youth ~ Linda Maxwell and Jose Quintanar
The doors of the Youth Ministries Center opened to three schools across the street, Keppel Elementary, Toll Middle and Hoover High School. When we arrived there was a surprising atmosphere of welcome and joy by the school administrators. It was surprising to find openness from a public school, perhaps it was because of the groundwork laid by two amazing people.
Inside of Hoover High School, Linda Maxwell and Jose Quintanar had set up shop under the name “We Care for Youth” working with youth, to give them a sense of belonging and teaching them life-skills to function within society. Those kids that were helped by We Care for Youth, to this day, think of both Linda and Jose as people who saved them from a life that might have been marred by dysfunctionality and tragedy.
I met Linda Maxwell a few years earlier, circa 1998, when she called me out of the blue. We Care for Youth had opened up a store in the Glendale Mall and hire young people to work and manage the shop. There these young wannabe business people learned skills, basic business practices, that would become the cornerstones for success. Many of the kids she was working with were ethnically Armenian.
I remember my first conversation with Linda. She called and said, “You have a problem!”
She explained that the many of these young Armenian people wore crosses around their necks. Part of Linda’s methodology is to promote open dialog, to get young people to articulate themselves. She had asked them, why they wore crosses? They mentioned they go to the Armenian Church, she told me. When she asked what they do there, they answered that they “Light candles” without much more to say about the ritual or the faith. That, Linda told me, was my problem. I’m a priest of the Armenian Church, did I care about these kids.
At the time I was the priest in Pasadena. These kids were in Glendale. I mentioned to Linda that there was an Armenian Church within proximity to the store and the kids and that maybe she should call the priest in Glendale. The answer was too common and too true: The priests there can’t related to the children, and don’t even speak to the kids. She told me that those were not her words, but the words of the kids. She had seen me on Vatché Mangasarian’s TV show and gave me a call.
I went down to the store and met with both Linda and Jose and many of the kids. We had a good conversation about the crosses, the rituals of candles and other movements, and most importantly we spoke about the meaning of the cross and rituals for the Christian. We spoke about Jesus Christ.
Linda Maxwell is a Buddhist by practice. She could have easily seized the moment to proselytize and/ or the capitalize on the weakness of the Armenian Church in delivering the faith to its youth. Instead she called me and asked that I do my duty to these children. You have to respect someone who is so confident in her faith that she is not fearful of other ideas. Her action that day was the beginning of a relationship that has continued for the last quarter of a century. It is built on mutual respect, respecting our differences and celebrating our oneness as people. Both Linda and Jose were regular fixtures at the Youth Ministries Center. We have had several opportunities to collaborate and work together. We’ve done conferences on violence, on forgiveness and prejudice together. I’ve asked to them to speak at many programs and events we’ve organized including a Reclaim conference at the Western Diocese.
Being sure of your faith is not articulated by arrogance, rather it is demonstrated by confidence in your faith. Linda and Jose, in their humble and sacrificial lifestyle, have aided and assisted more youth than can be imaged. They truly “Care for Youth” as the name of their organization claims. They facilitated many miracles that can only be counted in the lives they saved.
As we share the story from “20 years ago today,” I want you to meet some of the players that were part and parcel of the miracles at the church on the corner.
Join me tomorrow, as we continue the journey which began 20 years ago today.
If you missed earlier episodes, you can catch up by listening to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.