In 2009, Anna Jara accepted a role as translator for a Nazarene Work & Witness team traveling to Armenia. Familiar with Christianity but without a personal relationship with Jesus, Anna bluntly recalls applying for the role: “I just needed a job,” she says, laughing. Little did she know that 14 years later, she would be part of a historic moment as one of the first women to become an ordained pastor in Armenia.
Raised in the Apostolic church, Anna remembers that she knew about God, but had no relationship with him. “I didn’t know anything about Jesus or salvation,” she says. “I didn’t even read the Bible.”
Her first day on the job as Work & Witness translator left Anna surprised. “Everything was so strange,” she says. “People were praying…the songs were different.” Over the proceeding weeks, she remembers watching the team serve God in unfamiliar ways, challenging her perceptions of Christianity and Christians.
On the last day of the trip, a team member approached Anna. “‘The Lord put something in my heart,’” she remembers him saying. “‘And I don’t want you to think that I am crazy.’” The man was crying, and he shared that God was asking him to step into her life as a spiritual father. Anna, who had recently lost her father to a heart attack, was caught off guard by his kindness, but expected the promise to go unfulfilled. Once again, God surprised her. Anna’s new acquaintance honored his word, connecting with her often and providing a safe place for her faith to take root. “We developed this beautiful relationship,” she says. Her spiritual father prayed with and for her, encouraged her, and walked alongside her as she grew closer to the Lord.
Her spiritual father was committed to calling and encouraging Anna. He called her one day, challenging her to prayerfully consider taking the Lord seriously in her life – mentioning that the Lord had special plans for her and her future. Anna remembers the call as a pivotal point of change. “This was the moment that I started to take really serious that something different [was] happening in my life,” she says. “I think then the Lord started to work in my heart… and then little by little, the Lord started to call me for ministry.”
In 2012, with her Master’s degree in education completed, Anna formally began her ministry education at European Nazarene College. While studying, Anna felt the Lord leading her deeper into leadership. “He was calling me for a pastoral ministry,” she remembers. “And I made the decision that I would like to be ordained.” Though confident in her calling, Anna knew that she would face an uphill battle in the Armenian community. “Women are not welcomed to the ministry here,” she says. “But with the help of the Lord and with his grace, I decided to accept the challenge.” In 2022, Anna’s historical ordination took place. She humbly acknowledges the gift and the difficult road set before her. “I know the challenge,” she says. “But I know that the Nazarene church is welcoming [of] women in ministry, and that for the Lord it’s acceptable…I am grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to be his servant in his field.”
Today, Anna and her husband, Trino, serve as missionaries in Eurasia. Anna’s favorite part of pastoring is watching lives transform through spiritual growth and development within the body of Christ. “I enjoy and love to see God’s people coming together,” she says. “My hope is that every Armenian will be reached and experience [the] real Christ in their lives.”
written by Sarah Norris, volunteer Eurasia Region
photos shared with permission by Anna Jara