Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang is gathering with Armenian Christian churches from the Los Angeles area to celebrate the life of the late missionary Maria Jacobsen at 10:30 a.m. today, Sunday, Oct. 23, when a bust in her honor will be unveiled.

Jacobsen was a Danish Lutheran missionary, who traveled in 1915 from Denmark to the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) when she learned of the extermination of Armenians within its boundaries and on forced death marches to the Syrian desert. More than 1.5 million were killed in what has come to be known as the Armenian Genocide.

Jacobsen worked in the hospitals assisting Armenian people. The records she kept during this time have been credited as some of the most meaningful proof of the genocide, which Turkey still disputes. During her time in the eastern Ottoman Empire, she encountered numerous orphans of parents who were taken away by Turkish forces.

Her greatest work was directed at these orphans who she was able to find refuge for in Lebanon. She is credited by the Armenian people for saving the lives of up to 3,000 orphans during the genocide; children she hid in her care. She adopted three orphaned children. She found one by the side of a road, another was hiding in a tree. 

When the genocide ended in 1922, Jacobsen moved many of the children to an orphanage she established near Beirut, Lebanon. She was buried there following her death in 1960.

Jacobsen is affectionately known today by the Armenian people as "Mayrik" (Mama in Armenian). 

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About 50 representatives of the Armenian churches in the L.A. area will be here for the dedication, said Bethania Pastor Chris Brown. "There will be a short ceremony followed by a reception in our parish hall."

He added, "I think this is an amazing person to honor, not only because of the work she did, but also because of her Danish heritage."

The event is open to the public.

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