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Volunteers' testimony in Armenia - I am thirsty, thirsty to serve, thirsty to love

EN - Thursday, 18 March 2021

SOS Chrétiens d'Orient sends volunteers in mission throughout the year. Like Gabrielle, come and live an unforgettable experience in Armenia. Don't ask yourself any questions. The only limits are those in your mind.

Per day, the mission of a volunteer costs 33 € to the association. If you can't leave, support a volunteer on a mission, donate.


Minsk-Belarus Airport, December 29, 2020.

I emptied my schedule to welcome the fullness of life through this mission. Following the ceasefire of November 10th, I immediately contacted SOS Chrétiens d'Orient. Turning 20 in 2020 is brilliant, sometimes impressive but young people have to keep a beating heart. In this troubled time, it is certainly our duty to rise up, to bring joy, strength and tenderness to those around us. Showing that the battle is not lost, that we haven't experienced everything yet and open up consciousness about what is happening outside our borders. Watching and thinking about these sacrificed peoples.

From the genocide of 1915, to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in 2020, I would bluntly say: Armenia has been through a hard time. Since my return from mission in Egypt in the summer of 2019, I've been waiting for only one thing that is the union of two: serve and leave to live. So I decided to leave the savages of big cities to join, a little bit, the civilized of the Caucasian mountains.

From this first mission, there is one thing I held back: those who have nothing, only their eyes to cry and their hearts to love, will give you the most, yes. But beyond a material aspect, they will look at you the most, love you the most, in a time so uncomfortable that we can't tell the color of our amphi neighbor's eyes on Monday morning. So I decided to pack my backpack.

Guy de Larigaudie used to explain ′′it's as good to peel potatoes for God's sake as it is to build cathedrals". I don't have big muscles and I'm 1 m50 but I have will, so I wanted to peel all the potatoes in Armenia, for the smile of Christians.

sos chretiens orient armenie volontaire paysageI am a small student as we meet at every corner of amphi, potassizing her classes and dreaming of feeling useful, foreign smiles, new cultural tradition. But I had this thirst to serve, give myself, try to do my best for my next of kind. So I signed up and bought my tickets. I went to Armenia, of course too little time, but it's already a departure. There, I found simplicity, there I marveled. I don't want my little life's simple tempo to beat at the pace of violent protests, Article 24, Coronavirus, Biden, zoom.

After a while and often faster than we imagine we lose this little inner music, we are no longer in tune. Everything then sounds fake, we lost that harmony. On a mission I learned to listen to this inner song we all have.

I left my watch in France, the remnant of my mission in Egypt, having the will to inhabit time rather than look at it, living the moment not by the productivity of ticking but by human encounter. Enthusiasm actually means God's breath ′ en-theou-asthma′′. This, I let Him blow this crazy idea to leave during my revisions and at the end of the years family party but, He blew my life and made me made it excited for this new beginning.

You will definitely say to yourself, when we remain only a short period, we do not come to change things, nor transform a village or the destiny of the Armenians we meet. We are just ′′useless servants′′ who ′′give our hands to serve and our hearts to love" as Mother Teresa used to tell us. Mancur Olson will even come to say that our action is irrational considering its impact. I disagree with you Olson, there is no small gesture if they are made with the heart, and in this simple action you discovered a fragment of one of the billions of nuggets, life offers you ..

What is the meaning of all this suffering when seeing these poor?
What are the senses of this feeling of helplessness when I listen to their still alive wounds of leaving their land, of losing a loved one?

sos chretiens orient armenie volontaire prie dans le cimetiere de gorisWe are all aware of the misfortune of Armenians to leave the land of their father, grandfather, brother and son who died in battle. But are we aware of this? Are we aware of the recklessness of this people to carry the hope of a better future? Are we aware of this brave people, defending their Church to the end, of their attachment to their land, to the point of burning their own home?

Do we know this reality?

We chose to close our eyes and ignore it; SOS Chrétiens d'Orient chose to keep them wide open and reach out to those in need.

This is during my stopover in Minsk that I write these few words while waiting for my flight to Paris, waiting for my return to the savages. I don't think I grew up on this mission in Armenia but I became smaller, in the humility of my place, in the consciousness of my luck. My scout education taught me service, to always be ready.

I now have the strong will, the violent desire, in this world of adults waiting for me at the turn, to serve without return, to love without judging, to watch without hurry.

sos chretiens orient armenie volontaire et traductrice visitent famille deplacee de l artsakhAll these translators, friends from the French-speaking centre in Goris and Yerevan, who give their time without counting, sometimes working their exams at night to help us during the day. They are sentinels of the invisible, forgotten charities, devoted Armenians, they are Carmen, Nona, Maryam, Asmik, Nelly, Erymé.

I could talk about the evaluations we are making in these villages disfigured by war and those faces marked by hope. There was this little gentleman in the village of Alavus, who left in the middle of the night with his grandchildren because the Azerbaidjanis were already too close to his humble home. He left on September 24th, it was December 17th and he had no choice but to wear the same clothes as the ones he wore on the day he escaped. He was a farmer, like many others, he was comfortably settled, peacefully father and grandfather, fully resident of Artsakh and escaped.

sos chretiens orient armenie volontaire et femme armenienneI could tell you about this woman, during a donation, who cried in my arms out of shame to ask, whereas she was just being brought what meant so little to us Westerners lost in riches: a food pack for 5 days. She didn't dare say she was hungry and she didn't know where to get money for diapers and clothes for her kids. She too, left like many others with only her IDs. On television, parade the news. Erdogan's simple view describing this people as ′′Armenian dogs′′ makes her burst into tears. She had fled the first war at the age of 2 for Moscow, she returned to help her husband's family who volunteered on the front line, her son was now 2 years old, history repeats itself.

I could describe this family of seven children in Vorotan, Armenian village too close to the new border, whose future is uncertain. We came to bring them blankets, mattresses, food and hygiene packs. The whole family, even the grandmother was sleeping on the floor, there were no tiles on the windows, their clothes are full of holes. An eighth child was about to born, a new mouth to feed.

Maybe it is pictures like this you want to read to decide to leave, to decide to serve, I have many more to tell you. But, I prefer to remind you of this gentleman's smile when leaving with his food pack, his mischievous look when asked his size to offer him a coat.

I prefer to speak about the hospitality of this Armenian mom. Tea, coffee, chocolate, treats, fruits, we were spoiled, she opened her heart and door for us and we tried our best to reach out to her, open our heart and assure her of our prayers. I prefer to talk to you about the overflowing joy of these 7 children, this absolutely fan of our President Macron who explained she liked all her Facebook posts. The portrait of Saint Therese hanging on this hole wall letting the winter cold of the Caucasus pass, wisely reminded us that God is found in everyday things. I had looked at their daily life, I had recognized Mary in her little ones face.

sos chretiens orient armenie groupe des volontairesI also prefer to speak about every volunteer and their unusual adventures, about each of these actions. They are the lungs of the efficiency of the machine of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient. Solidarity, sharing and beautiful friendships, little attentions during a moving testimony are not to be underestimated. A mission that works well and laughs a lot, is a mission that serves.

I prefer to tell you about these men, women and children, this people of Armenia who only survive through the transmission of their culture. One of the world's largest diasporas and yet one of the most affirmed cultural identities. This is my vision of a humanitarian mission: leaving for them not putting on our French glasses comfortably seated and judging their precariousness.

sos chretiens orient armenie volontaires assistent a la messeLast but not least, impossible not to mention this divine grace of this Christian Christmas during this mission in Armenia. I've never lived a real Christmas like the Holy Family crib and journey because my family is not really practicing. I mean a real Christmas, where we are in love with the little nuggets of life. A Christmas so joyful that we experience eternity. We are so filled with joy that we feel light. Jaw cramps, from smiling, are the only pain we feel. So light that we gradually fly to Heaven, because we suddenly trust. I wanted to live a Christmas like this.

I received something beyond my expectations. We went to a community of Mother Theresa on the 24th at night. I could neither describe their faces illuminated by faith, nor put words on what I was going through. A sentence was written next to the cross ′′I thurst"; I am thirsty, thirsty to serve, thirsty to love, thirsty to look with a Christian eye. Finally I was spending a truer Christmas than anyone because I was with those who look the most like Jesus in nursery and those around Him.

So I went on a mission with Christians, for Christians.

Through sharing around an Armenian meter or in the fatigue of a donation, during a lotto game during French classes or in a mundane conversation at the checkout of a grocery store, at the detour of a sparkly look of gratitude or a toothless and radiant smile, the simple volunteer I am, marveled, something I forgot the power of in France.

Cherish peace, it is so precious.

Gabrielle, volunteer in Armenia.