. Samaritan’s Purse burn specialty teams are among dozens of disaster personnel helping Armenians from Artsakh

Samaritan’s Purse Evangelical Christian Organization Provides Aid to Armenians from Artsakh

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WATERTOWN — Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization that both provides physical aid and promotes the Gospel, has recently provided aid to the forcibly displaced Armenians from Artsakh in Armenia. Two flights of its DC-8 cargo plane brought emergency supplies from its base in Greensboro, NC.

The first delivery on October 7 brought more than 30 tons of relief, including food, blankets and solar lights, to Yerevan. Samaritan’s Purse set up its own Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) by working with local evangelical church partners to deliver this relief. According to its press release, it promised hot meals, and necessities such as personal hygiene kits, diapers, cleaning supplies, bed linens and blankets.

Moreover, Samaritan’s Purse medical teams began working in local hospitals to help burn victims from a gas station explosion near Stepanakert during the exodus from Artsakh. Two burn specialty teams provided surgical care to these victims, including wound care, skin grafts, and post-operative physical therapy, as well as prayer.

Helping an Armenian burn victim

“The depth and extent of these [wounds from the explosion] are probably some of the worst I’ve seen in my 27 years of experience working in burn treatment. The amount of suffering here is beyond human comprehension,” said Joany McDougall, a nurse on Samaritan’s DART, in an October 11 article.

. Samaritan’s Purse burn specialty teams are among dozens of disaster personnel helping Armenians from Artsakh

By October 11, Samaritan’s Purse had 28 people on the ground in Armenia, including the burn specialty teams.

A second flight left North Carolina on October 12 with 23 tons of emergency supplies.

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Rick Emenaker of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) was on vacation with his Armenian-American wife during the Azerbaijani invasion of Artsakh in September 2023. Samaritan’s Purse asked whether he could help with its relief efforts and MAF gave Emenaker permission to stay after his vacation in October and early November to assist in these efforts.

Rick Emenaker at work in 2018

He said, “I did do some of the distribution and helped with it, but my main role was actually to get the two DC-8 airplanes in — to get landing permission for them. I know all of the people in civil aviation, up to the director.” He also went out on the ramp on the aviation side, and help with the unloading and getting the items through customs.

Rick Emenaker in Armenia with Mt. Ararat in the background

Emenaker added, “I was in reality a point of contact for a lot of people because I know a lot of people. That enabled them to do their work a lot easier.” Emenaker explained that he understands Armenian fairly well as well as Russian, because he and his wife lived in Russia for eight years. He said he knows a lot of people in Armenia, primarily within the Evangelical community, as well as outside it, because he has been there 8 or 9 times in the last few years for various reasons.

He found that the refugees he spoke with seemed not to want to try to return to Artsakh again. Emenaker related, “The interesting thing for me was that many of them said, [when asked], do you want to go back to Artsakh, no, we are done. We are finished. Let’s start life afresh and move forward.”

He declared, “Without going into a whole lot, I think there is such an opportunity here, if the diaspora and many others could realize that this is actually an opportunity for Armenia to regroup and become stronger. You have 120,000 people, many of them farmers who work the land, hard workers, and they have big families. Many of them have 6 or 7 kids.” They are looking for work, and considering going to Russia, he said, but when talking to some of them, “they said: If we had a piece of land to work and grow we would do it. We don’t want to leave, but what choice [do we have]?”

Emenaker stressed, “Artsakh is gone. We don’t like it but we have to face reality at the moment. It doesn’t mean that in 20-30 years it can’t be back. I mean, things do change, but that is all philosophical. I just think there is an opportunity for Armenia now. If you want to keep the land, if you really want to make Armenia prosper, there is an opportunity for that to happen.” Here, the diaspora could play an important role, he said.

Samaritan’s Purse brought emergency supplies to Armenia after the 2020 war as well, according to its own press releases. It airlifted over 22 tons, including coats, boots, thermals, gloves, socks and beanies, while distributing winter kits, blankets and food to over 8,000 displaced families. Mobile medical teams provided care to more than 500 patients. Emenaker was in Armenia from the start of the war, and afterwards participated in the 2020 relief efforts, through MAF, in the same way as in 2023. He assisted Samaritan’s Purse in getting aircraft permissions for landing, helped with customs to get donated items released, and then helped to work with local churches for distribution of goods.

He recalled, “That was hard. That was winter when that happened when a lot of people poured in. The difference is, back then they all thought they were going back, and many of them did, the majority. This time they know they are not.”

Emenaker stated that he had heard that Samaritan’s Purse would conclude its current program of assistance on November 22. Meanwhile, he has his own plans connected with Armenia. He said, “We’ll be back. In fact, my wife and I plan to climb Ararat next year with some friends.”

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