Pastor Vazir stood at a funeral and he was drunk. Truthfully, he’d been drunk for years. This was before “pastor” hung in front of his name and he was just attending the funeral of his friend’s father. This funeral would ultimately change Pastor Vazir’s life, and the lives of countless people in the region.
Vazir’s friend’s father was a Christian, and this was the first Christian funeral that he, like many others, had seen in his small Yazidi Kurdish village in central Armenia. The Yazidi Kurdish people have been in Armenia for generations and have proudly retained a distinctive culture. Pastor Vazir’s friend told him of Jesus, and like many of us, a switch was not flipped, rather, a transformation began. He continued to read the Bible drunk. His friends warned him that Jesus was an Armenian god, and that if he accepted Christ, he would become Armenian and no longer Kurdish. “Then I read John 3:16 and it didn’t say He loved the Armenians. It didn’t say He loved any particular nation. It said He loved all,” recalls Pastor Vazir. “I stopped and said, ‘God, if you’re alive and your son is real, don’t let me drink anymore.’”
Vazir stopped drinking, reconciled his relationships, and began a work in the region that is nothing short of a miracle.
This open, mountainous country reveals villages dotted across the landscape with green fields and sheep connecting the spaces between. The region has twenty-two villages: eleven Kurdish, and eleven Armenian. Pastor Vazir’s village is now impacted by the Christian faith and testimony of this humble man and his ministry is impacting eight of the Kurdish villages and one Armenian village.
Where there was nothing, the Holy Spirit grew something. Pastor Vazir tells stories of lives changed and miraculous events. He also tells of poverty, of education difficulties, of harsh winters, and of people lost and empty.
In Pastor Vazir’s village, ministry changed when he purchased a building for the church. In the Armenian Yazidi Kurdish culture, where guests are not commonly invited into the home, a church building in which to worship and gather provides a neutral location that is accessible and acceptable to all. Pastor Vazir’s church is a dynamic force for expanding the reach of the gospel into the other villages in the region.
Pastor Vazir and others in the church face obstacles unique to the area, and obstacles common to any ministry. Most of all, he sees more clearly than he did before, when his life was clouded by alcohol. Now, the Holy Spirit has given him a singular vision.