In my profession as a career and academic advisor, I am constantly counseling others on their current educational and professional pursuits and how they can be successful in each of their endeavors through hard work and determination. Over the past few months, I have been working with a family that has recently emigrated from Armenia and are working towards educational degrees and technical professions here in the states. This family, two adult children and their parents, are all an incredible example to me of perseverance, hard work, and most of all, faith in something greater than themselves!
When I first met the family, they still seemed to be jetlagged from their flight half way around the world, however they were bright eyed and ready to get to work and start their education in a country they had viewed their entire lives as: “The Land of Opportunity.” They had worked extensively with a US immigration lawyer for over a year to be able to come over as a whole family, as they refused to leave any member alone in their country.
The family was from the city of Gyumri, where in 1988, a horrific earthquake that measured 6.8 on the Richter scale nearly leveled the entire city and left an estimated 25,000 dead and over 700,000 people homeless. This family was lucky enough to be alive, but unfortunate that they lost their home and all their possessions.
The more I got to know the family, the more they told me about their life after the earthquake. Their family was housed in un-insulated box car type homes that were meant to be used as temporary housing until the Soviet Union could rebuilt their homes, but with the fall of communism less than a year later, the project was completely halted and they were left in those temporary shelters. They told me that hundreds and thousands in their city have been living in those un-insulated shelters through the harsh winters and scorching summers for the past twenty five years since there has not been sufficient reconstruction for the poorest to afford proper housing.
Their struggles were so touching to me; to think of someone living in those circumstances for decades was something I had never even fathomed. I had always taken my home and beautiful yard for granted, and here I was looking into the eyes of a family who had come to American to work for all the luxuries they had dreamed about all those years in their destroyed city.
But the thing that touched me the most was when I was counseling them on a proper career path for each of them. I was surprised that they explained that they already had an idea of what they each wanted to do in terms of education and occupation because they had prayed together about it as a family and had each received an answer. When I asked if they had normally made decisions this way they all nodded emphatically.
The daughter, Narina explained how over a decade after the earthquake, the family’s circumstances were still very bleak and she didn’t feel as though she could go on any longer living in such a dreary and downtrodden state. She had not been raised to believe in God since the Soviet Union didn’t allow it, but she walked by a church one day and decided to pray. In the very moment she bowed her head to pray, she explained that she was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of love “It was as though God had been waiting to hear from me, and he had so much to tell me!” she told me with tears in her eyes. “I ran home and we began to pray as a family and read the word of God each night.”
The son, Garik told me that after they began to read and pray as a family, their entire world began to change. They were still living in the un-insulated box homes, and they still worked long hours and made very little money, but their outlook on life transformed drastically. It was then they realized that perhaps God couldn’t change their circumstances right then, but they could find comfort in his endless love and live in a way that would warrant blessings in the future.
For them, those blessings were still over a decade away, but they never lost their faith and they continued to exercise their faith earnestly through their good works and devotion. When they finally had saved enough money to begin working with the US immigration lawyer, everything seemed to fall into place with surprising ease. Even the immigration lawyer was shocked at how quickly their paperwork came through so they were able to come to the US together.
As this family continues their education and chosen occupations, I will always remember them. I will remember their kind, energetic smiles, their optimism, their excitement, and their faith. As I raise my children, I always want them to know that God is waiting to hear their prayers, and listen to their questions and praise. And I always want them to remember that even though times may be trying and our circumstances may not change right away, we can live in a way that will give God a way to bless us in the future.
Article by Lucy Markham
Lucy Markham is an avid blogger and works as a career and academic counselor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in education from the University of Utah.