Death, Devastation, and God

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Those close to the plight of Armenians in Karabakh deeply lament with yesterday’s surrender, 11/9/2020 at 5pm EST. There is plenty to grieve. The onslaught of radical Islam jars open the storehouse of anguish in every Armenian.

War crimes and terrorism launched against Karabakh – Artsakh for Armenians – ignited and unified hearts around the globe. Campaigns, rallies, protests, and prayer meetings rang through every country with desperate cries for intervention, justice, mercy and outright miracles.

Miracles needed indeed for a small volunteer army against the military wealth of Turkey and Azerbaijan and the endless supply of hired mercenaries from numerous Islamic countries. I beseeched God, day and night, fasting and crying out the battle cries of David for Armenia…

‘Rescue them O Lord, from evil men; protect them from men of violence, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day…Keep them O Lord from the hands of the wicked…Hear O Lord, our cry for mercy. O Sovereign Lord, our strong deliverer, who shields our head in the day of battle, do not grant the wicked their desires…do not let their plans succeed…

But zeal and faith were not enough to overcome the vast enemy nor the inner battles of raging COVID, dysentery, and growing despair amongst the soldiers that fought without a break.

I had planned all night prayer last night, postponing today’s Bible fellowship with a precious new believer Raquel. With Armenia’s surrender however, all night prayer canceled. Somehow I slept well and awoke with the Lord’s words strongly pressed upon my heart,

“My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My servants would fight…”

I texted Raquel and asked if she wanted to fellowship – “sure!”. I shared with her how the situation turned out in Armenia,

“I am heartbroken for the destruction, bloodshed and death of so many and the rejoicing of evil people”

Raquel replied,

“We can only do what Jesus said, pray and do not give up and trust in the Lord.”

“Evil people will always rejoice in this world because Satan rules this world. Jesus already tells us that many will die in His name. The Armenian Christians that have been slain will be risen again by the Lord when the time has come and we will win this fight and reclaim the Earth that Father God made for us.”

Remarkably, for a new believer, she went on…

“I know you are heartbroken. Our deaths and suffering are inevitable. We all have a date reserved for each one of us to die. Sadly, many of those Armenians have met the last day of their flesh life. Remember though, they will live in eternity and they will no longer suffer. They are already with Jesus. Remember He said to the convicted man who believed in Him, crucified next to Him, that he would be with Him today. And as are the Armenian Christians who died in His name. He has wiped every tear from their eyes….”

I had not considered Armenia’s defeat, losing Karabakh. I had truly believed that the Lord God would move as He did against evil armies like the Moabites, the Ammonites, and Assyrians. One angel, at His command, could change the battle. I was sure, certain that I would travel to Armenia in the spring, hear the church bells ring at Sushi and burst with rejoicing.

I know this world is passing away. Darker days are coming for us all. I had such zealous hope though for the Armenians to stand and prevail after years of massacres, genocide, and persecution.

The Lord did not “strike the enemy with fear, panic and confusion” and sadly, He did not “bring Erdogan to shame.” But soldiers were baptized on the battlefield. Zoom prayer meetings joined me with Armenian believers whom I never met, to cry out for Armenians and pray for the enemy as well.

In my despair, the Lord’s very words gripped my heart with the truth I wasn’t reaching for and uplifted my heart through the new believer I am mentoring.

“My Kingdom is not of this world”

“…pray and do not give up and trust in the Lord.”

Pressing on….

Cluster Bombs on Karabakh – Pray for Armenia!

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“The use of cluster bombs in any circumstances is banned under international humanitarian law, so their use to attack civilian areas is particularly dangerous and will only lead to further deaths and injuries,” Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty‘s acting head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in the statement.

“Cluster bombs are inherently indiscriminate weapons, and their deployment in residential areas is absolutely appalling and unacceptable,” he said.

https://www.24newshd.tv/06-Oct-2020/amnesty-warns-of-cluster-bomb-use-in-karabakh

On Sunday, 9/27/2020 at 7am most Armenians were preparing for church and family gatherings when struck by surprise military attack from Azerbaijan. Not a random act of aggression, this act of war was strategically calculated from Armenia’s darkest foe, Turkey. President Erdogan’s mission to resurrect the Ottoman Empire takes a big step forward, exerting Turkey’s military strength in the region. Although criticized, they remain virtually unchallenged.

“Turkey bets that the West and Russia will sit idle as Nagorno-Karabakh burns.” Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal 10/6/2020

With world powers preoccupied with pandemics, social uprisings, and chaotic elections, the Azeri – Turkish alliance is forging ahead to claim the cherished Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh – Artsakh.

Bombings destroy Stepanakert….

Turkey’s recent invasion into Syria, aggressively pushing out the Kurdish stronghold against ISIS, provided a devilish resource. Turkish ‘security corporations’ now employ these freed ISIS fighters – mercenaries – to join the attack upon Karabakh. A perfect Islamic coalition of wealth, military strength, and jihadist blood thirst vows to fight on until all Armenians are removed.

Of course, Armenians globally are deeply grieved by these unprovoked acts of war and the real threat of another genocide (From 1915-1922 the Ottoman Turks annihilated 1.5 million Armenians, the first genocide of the 20th century).

While many are mobilizing resources, volunteer soldiers, and humanitarian aid, it is my cry that believers also will join in a spiritual battle through prayer.

As the world once again turns away, may the Lord burden the hearts of believers to press in for the suffering Body of Christ. Armenia claims to be a ‘Christian nation’, although many are nominal and religious. May true believers rise up in faith, may nominal Christians cry out to God with true faith.

Please remember Armenians daily and especially on Friday night, 10/9/2020 starting 8pm as we cry out to the Lord on points such as these:

1. Pray for the Body of Christ in Armenia and especially those in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

* Pray for church leadership – Pastors, elders, deacons – that God will strongly encourage them, and speak clearly to them that they may deliver God’s heart to the people.

* Pray that God strengthen believers, quicken their faith, and ignite a living faith in nominal Christians

2. Pray for soldiers on the frontlines, many of whom are farmers and villagers defending their families, their community, and country.

* May the Holy Spirit bring a spiritual awakening on the battlefield, that God will ignite their hearts to pray, finding their marching orders through Christ.

* Lord, stir up a revival on the battlefield. While bombarded by vast numbers and sophisticated weaponry, draw them to depend upon You and Your leadership, strength, and wisdom.

* Let great testimonies arise from the battle, may the Lord be glorified and honored

3. We pray for the enemy Lord, confound and push them back. Bring their Islamic onslaught to naught. Shake the hearts of these Azeri, Turkish, and ISIS fighters. Raise up a contention in their hearts and thwart their zeal, deflate the spirit of murder, and lead them to godly sorrow.

* Lord, thwart Azeri stock piles of bombs, drones, and missiles.

4. Pray for peace negotiations and conflict resolution.

Lord, even surrounded by enemies, stir up Armenian churches, let them be a light and let Armenians live to glorify You!

“Let God arise and His enemies be scattered.”

“Turkey Guilty of Genocide!”

As an Armenian I must have heard that cry “1.5 million” times and yet it has never lost its piercing anguish.  I had to join alongside the Kurds with other Armenians, Greeks, and Syrians yesterday at the White House as President Trump met with Turkish President Talaat Pasha Erdogan.

 

Why cry out?  Doesn’t President Trump know he’s meeting with a despot?  Will gathering together bring about any real change?  Compelled to go, these sad questions loomed in my heart.  Those are irrelevant questions for a believer.  The follower of Christ need only resolve:  what is God doing?  how is He leading my heart, my life?  is this emotion within or truly a burdening from the heart of God?

When we are born again and indwelled with the Holy Spirit, the resources of our lives – even brokenness, anguish, and grief – are not wasted but serve the Kingdom of God.  It is by design, not ‘coincidence’ that my surviving relatives of the Armenian Genocide testified of Kurds saving lives. It is not coincidence that my grandparents survived Turkish death march into Syria and settled there,  living in Der Zor then moving to Aleppo.

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A stone memorial in Der Zor, built by my grandfather Antranig Stepanian with a relative and caring Arab man

(My grandfather was a truck driver and, during one of his trips he discovered a massive site of death in Der Zor where thousands of Armenians perished, left unburied. He and others collected as many bones as they could, transporting then on his truck, to be buried at a location upon which a large Armenian Church and memorial were built)

Just this week an Armenian priest and his elderly father were killed by ISIS – they were on their way to Der Zor to repair the memorial honoring those who perished.

Whether the world knows or cares to know, Turkish military is trampling the Kurds, Armenians, Arab and Yazidis in a conquest of ethnic cleansing toward the ultimate goal to revive the Ottoman Empire.  Erdogan’s mission to revive Ottoman Empire  is not a kept secret.  That Erdogan claimed in his meeting with Trump that he would protect Christians and rebuild churches defies reality.  The reality is, Christianity in Turkey suffers a bloody downward spiral – from 20-25 percent in 1914 to presently 0.2 percent – near extinction!   Erdogan is cited often for his role, such as Turkey Turns on its Christians  and  Persecution of Christians close to genocide.   Pastor Andrew Brunson’s testimony still resounds.

Since Turkey incarcerates more journalists than any country in the world, who there will report governmental oppression, even crimes against humanity?

On the Greyhound bus back to NYC I lamented, “What’s the point and purpose delving into this legacy of suffering?  Why go to Washington or anywhere else when rulers of this dark world don’t relent?”

I had shared of myself with Soma from Kurdistan…

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“We are cousins” she said as she lovingly hugged me.

Yes I believe in the call to “Speak up” and “Rescue” those in grievous suffering and even facing death, Proverbs 24:11 and 31:8.  But our personal call to live out the Scriptures comes from the Holy Spirit within.  He opens our eyes, stirs our hearts with a brokenness and love that burdens us to act.   

Yes dear Soma, as Armenians and Kurds we are ‘cousins’ but my heart so much more hopes that we would be ‘sisters’ – in Christ.   My heart is stirred Lord, for the Kurds.  Thank you for bringing me alongside themLet me join in Your work amongst the Kurds, not that they may finally establish a country of their own but that they may establish a place in Your Kingdom forever.   Amen.