In the mountainous area of Akhuran, which perches at 865 meters altitude (nearly 3,000 feet), winter is always severe, sometimes reaching -40 Fahrenheit, wrote Rev. Seyran Vardanyan, pastor of the Nazarene church, in an email report. In fact, last winter was the coldest in 12 years.
The church, which was first organized in 2003 with four people, opened in an unfinished building without a roof or floors. Two Work & Witness teams finished the construction that year.
The conserve heating expenses, the church would plan all their weekly activities during the two- to three-hour worship gathering on Sunday mornings. This way they could leave the church unheated the rest of the week when no one was there.
This hasn’t worked very well, however, because the building’s wood- and cow dung-burning stove fills the church with smoke. As a result, the people could only tolerate remaining inside the church for the Sunday morning worship service. The smoke prevented them from conducting the usual Sunday school classes or kids clubs on Sunday mornings, as well.
The rest of each week, the church rooms were icy, which put at risk its furniture, musical instruments and electronic audio equipment.
Firewood is not cheap in Armenia. In rural areas, families struggle to find permanent jobs, and thus to afford wood to heat their homes, Vardanyan wrote.
“Even families that can afford to buy wood normally only burn it in the morning and in the evening. [The] same economic challenge is affecting the pastors of the churches as well. Many pastors are by-vocational, struggle to find permanent jobs.”
In 2010, NCM began to sponsor the heating expenses for the Nazarene Church. As a result, they don’t have to work so hard to conserve firewood, and thus can scatter church activities throughout the week, which avoids the eye-watering build-up of smoke they struggled with before. A more consistently warm church is also better for the sound equipment and musical instruments.
“Without NCM support for heating during the winter we would not only face large utility bills, but would also have to involve more people-resources to solve issues related to the absence of heating,” Vardanyan wrote.
NCM is also providing heating fuel to Nazarene pastors, including Vardanyan, and one of the most economically challenged families to whom the church actively ministers.
“This winter we decided to help one family that was facing a very difficult economic situation. Provided support was just right to help them get to the point where the head of the family was able to find employment and was able to take care of his family for the rest of the winter.”
To learn more, visit http://ncm.org/projects/acm1729