One of my favorite things about living here in Cyprus is getting to meet all kinds of people from many different backgrounds and cultures. I love just sitting down with people and hearing their stories, hearing where they come from and how they got to the place they are today. These encounters always leave me feeling so inspired; they remind me of the amazing way that the Lord is at work in each one of us uniquely and personally. Here’s a quick story from one of these encounters, a time when I got to sit down at my landlady’s kitchen table and listen to her tell stories of the Armenian genocide and the Lebanese civil war, and how her faith in God has carried her through it all.
For the sake of her privacy, I’ll use the name Lena to refer to my landlady. This is Lena’s story:
Before the genocide broke out in Armenia, Lena’s grandfather went to the States to work. His plan was to save up money so that the rest of his family could join him there and start a better life. He had just come back to Armenia to bring the rest of the family to the States with him when the genocide began. Taken by the Turks, he was brought into a church with a group of other men. Here they were forced to either convert to Islam or be murdered. The men refused to deny their Christian faith. With the families of these Christian men looking on, including Lena’s grandmother, the Turks poured gasoline in a ring around the men and proceeded to light them on fire. Lena’s grandmother watched all of this happen. She stood by, looking on as her husband was burned alive for his faith in Christ.
Lena’s grandmother and father were the only two from their family who escaped the genocide alive. They fled the country with just the clothes on their backs and a Bible. They trekked through the burning sand of the desert with bare feet and no protection from the sun.
Eventually they ended up in Lebanon, which is where Lena was born. Her grandmother would read to her grandchildren(including Lena) from the Bible that she escaped Armenia with. She would walk them to school every day, 45 minutes each way, and teach them memory verses. She would tell them that the words must not just be heard with the ears, but with the heart.
When Lena was still young, a civil war broke out in Lebanon. Lena and her family fled to Cyprus and had to leave everything in Lebanon. After the war had settled down they went back to see what was left of their home. Everything had been taken aside from a large piano which was too heavy to be looted out. Their pictures were strewn all over the street, the albums they had been in stolen. They looked all over, but they couldn’t find her grandmother’s Bible anywhere. They never found it, but Lena told me that she prays for whoever ended up with that Bible, that they were able to read it and have encountered the living God. Lydia said, “I know that all things work together for good, and I trust that good has come from the loss of this precious Bible”.
What an incredible testimony and an incredible woman of God. She sent me home with a big bowl of a dessert she had made, and welcomed me back anytime. I so look forward to spending more times like this with Lena and her family, getting to hear more stories, and gleaning from her the wisdom of many years and life experiences.
What a blessing it is to build friendships with people from all over the world and with all different backgrounds and stories. These times are so rich. I never want to stop seeking out these kinds of relationships. We have so much to learn from each other, and it’s not just found in Cyprus, I can find these relationships at home.
Lord, open my eyes to the people around me. Make me bold enough to confront them and get to know their stories, and may my story be full of you and lead others into discovering your story.