“Today there are signs of spiritual revival again in Armenia. The number of believers is increasing, and people are responding to God’s word.” So says the leader of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Armenia, describing perhaps the most unlikely revival occurring anywhere in the world.
Today commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Armenian atrocities. A century ago, leaders of the Turkish government suspected Armenians living in the then-Ottoman Empire of conspiring with Imperial Russia, one of the Empire’s long-standing enemies. On April 24, 1915, scores of Armenian intellectuals were arrested in Istanbul; most were later murdered. Thus began an atrocity that still defies comprehension.
Ann-Margret Hovsepian, a descendant of Armenians involved in the tragedy, tells what happened: Turkish soldiers kidnapped all males ages 12 and older from their villages, executing most of them. They sent women, children and the elderly to concentration camps and deserts, where tens of thousands starved to death. About 200,000 were forcibly converted to Islam. By the early 1920s, when the deportations and massacres came to an end, some 1.5 million of Turkey’s Armenians were dead, and many more were removed from the country.
Last Sunday, Pope Francis called their deaths a “genocide,” a label many historians accept but one the Turkish government strongly denies. Turkey claims that around 500,000 Armenians died of hunger and disease en route to the Syrian desert, deported because they were siding with Russia during World War I. It is illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened to the Armenians, or to label their deaths a genocide.
My interest this morning is not in labeling the tragedy, but in considering ways God is redeeming it. After the atrocities, many Armenians rejected their faith or turned to secularism or communism. However, Hovsepian tells us that a remarkable gospel movement is now underway among these long-suffering people.
In 1988, a devastating earthquake in Armenia killed about 30,000 people. In response, many began turning to God. Cru came to Armenia 16 years ago, where it has sponsored more than 1,000 events and now operates 28 fellowship groups. Thousands have responded to the gospel. Hovsepian’s father has traveled numerous times to minister among the Armenians as well, and is seeing many come to faith in Jesus.
He says, “I am a child of genocide, but I have not allowed the genocide to hinder my future. I believe God will raise workers to rekindle the flame of the gospel in Armenia.” Our omnipotent and loving Father is able to redeem all he allows. (Tweet this) What he is doing in Armenia, he wants to do where you live, through your witness today.
Richard Halverson, longtime Senate chaplain, made famous this benediction: “You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you there. Wherever you are, God has put you there. He has a purpose in your being there. Christ, who indwells you, has something He wants to do through you, wherever you are. Believe this, and go in His grace, and love and power.”