The Board of Directors of In His Shoes is pleased and proud to announce that In His Shoes is an official ministry of the Western Diocese. In a meeting with the Primate, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Directors asked to be included among the ministries that operate under the umbrella of the Diocese and His Eminence enthusiastically accepted the request.
In His Shoes was born in 2003 by a group of young Armenian men and women who accepted the call to define themselves as children of Genocide living in the 21st century – four to five generations removed from the darkest day in modern history. In a statement issued by this group, “In His Shoes is created in response to acts of Genocide perpetrated against the Armenian nation in 1915. We believe those who have suffered evil have a unique responsibility to take action against injustice to others. Our actions are based on Christ’s principles of love, compassion and repaying evil with good as expressed in the Armenian Church.” (2003)
The Christian response to evil begins with us walking in the shoes of others – to understand their pain and respond accordingly. Since its founding, under the direction of Father Vazken Movsesian, In His Shoes has rallied support and brought attention to those who suffer in the world. In His Shoes has sponsored weekends of prayer and fasting to raise awareness and much needed funds (over $750,000) for communities experiencing famine in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for breast cancer research. On the grass-roots level Armenian youth organized under the In His Shoes banner went door-to-door collecting signatures to divest California from the Sudan. Then-Governer Schwarzenegger divested over $5 Billion.
“It’s a very easy formula,” says Fr. Vazken, “By walking in the shoes of others, you feel and understand their pain. We can only wish someone had done that for us in our hour of need. What if someone had cared in 1915 and divested from Turkey? Could the outcome of genocide been avoided? Of course, we know that world looked away. Today, we Armenians cannot make the same mistake. We are called as Armenians and even more as Christians to reach out to others who suffer.”
From a motto of walking-in-his-shoes to a full-fledged outreach program, the organization has sponsored conferences such as the 7x77 Forgiveness conference with the Episcopal Church, and a conference to address youth violence with We Care for Youth. Its educational programs have been global such as heightening awareness about the Genocide in Darfur, and local such as confronting the domestic violence issue in the Southern California immigrant community. Currently, under a “madagh” program hot meals are provided to the homeless in Los Angeles. Walking in-the-shoes of others, opens the door for Christian ministry at a grass-roots level. Toy Drives, Children’s Memorial services and Martin Luther King Retreats are annual events of the ministry. With weekly broadcasts for over 12 years, Fr. Vazken has shared messages about the Christian response to social needs within the community.
“I am full of encouragement,” said His Eminence to the Board members, “And appreciation for what you have done and what you can do with Fr. Vazken’s leadership.” Following the meeting the Board, comprised of Mardiros Dakessian, Anoush Dekmejian and Maria Hamparian, was very optimistic about the future of In His Shoes as new outreach opportunities are opened through the Western Diocese. Currently, the COVID-19 response is in the crosshairs of In His Shoes and working with His Eminence a schedule of assistance to families has been developed to facilitate solicitation.
The Christian call to love one another begins with understanding one another, that is, by walking “in his shoes.”
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