THE SURPRISE VISIT
After Aneta gave up her cherished position at the Talas school,
Satan immediately hurled his many-sided temptations her way: Who would
supply her needs? How could she continue to be useful? How could she again
influence so many youngsters? These concerns occupied her mind.
Relinquishing the post was a significant step. In doing so, she didn’t
consult with flesh and blood. Long before that, it had become her life
principle to trust in Jehovah-Jireh (Genesis 22:8, 14).
When she returned home in 1914 the dark clouds of World War I
were already gathering over Europe. Within a short time the cruel tentacles
of the war were to engulf many more countries. The entry of the Ottoman
Empire into the war in November was to open one of the saddest and most
grievous chapters in the history of Anatolia. It was going to inflict the
bitter cup of tribulation and horror on vast populations. How true was the
excruciating remark of Sir Edward Grey, then Britain’s foreign minister:
“The lights of Europe are going out. Our generation will not see them
again!” The lights eventually were turned back on and are still burning. But
millions in Anatolia never saw the light again.
In hindsight, the quiet town of Zinjidere and the idyllic aura
prevailing at the time could hardly foresee the ominous sequel of the War!
What deep sorrow, anguish and tears the quandary was to bring upon the
people of Zinjidere and numerous other towns and cities throughout Asia
Minor! Last but not least, Aneta’s own life was to be gravely affected.
It was a balmy September day. Farmers had gathered in their
harvest. Grapes and a variety of other fruits were brought in to be dried or
processed for wine, molasses, jam and other uses. Suddenly word spread
around that a certain mother and her son were visiting town! They had
traveled a long distance from the south of the country, traversing mountains
and plains to get there. Traveling in Anatolia was a tortuous ordeal.
Passengers in horse-drawn carriages sometimes were attacked by bandits or
caught between opposing factions of outlaws. The professional carriage
drivers were Tartars, specially qualified to select the best route and to
take care of their passengers. Even so, the charge for transport was
All wayfarers stopped at night. No one would jeopardize himself
or his passengers by traveling after dark. Stopping in isolated inns was an
experience matched only by ancient travel accounts. The guests were put into
rooms befitting their status. There was ample space for horses and other
animals in the stable. The coachmen usually stayed in a special section next
to the stable. There were no restaurants. Everyone carried his own food or
purchased it along the way. Traveling was a strenuous undertaking which
required much stamina. The absence of road accidents made the journey safe
in this respect, at least.
Haralambos while evangelizing in Adana was considering Osman
bey’s advice to stay away from Aintab for some time. He sought counsel from
two of his best Christian friends. They prayed together and decided that
now was the most suitable time for him to get married. Nevertheless he took
a very brief trip to Aintab, arranged church affairs there and chose a
little house near the Anglican Church where he would live at his return. At
the same time he gave instructions to his church associates that his
departure from Aintab shouldn’t be publicized. The purpose behind it,
namely his intended wedding, was to be kept secret. The following day he
traveled all day by horse carriage to Iskenderun (Alexandretta). The same
evening he took the train for Adana and at around noon the next day he
arrived home, announcing to his mother his decision to get married. The
woman was thrilled. After a day’s preparation he and his mother started the
long journey to Zinjidere by horse coach. It took five days from Adana for
the two guests to reach Aneta’s town.
Passing over the Taurus Mountain Range, renowned for its historic
crossing by Xenophon and his ten thousand mercenaries, was a gallant venture
in itself. Along the way two matters came to Haralambos’ mind. First he
had written nothing to Aneta’s parents concerning his intention to marry
their daughter. It was not because of disrespect or negligence.
Conversely, he was conscientious and considerate. However, the stormy
months just before had made him undecided and uncommitted as to the timing.
Secondly he had no idea if Aneta was still teaching in Talas, or was at
home. At his decision to get married there was no time to write to Aneta
since the arrival of a letter would take ten days, longer than it would take
them to get there!
As always, his decisions were taken by prayer and faith: “Commit
your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3).
On the other hand, God was working his mysterious purpose in accordance
with Romans 8:28. He had conveniently prepared the way for Aneta’s
resignation from the academy. She was a free person now. Haralambos was
not aware of this development. Therefore, he and his mother were somewhat
anxious all along their journey. The mother was naturally inconvenienced at
taking this long trip at such short notice. But he had made up his mind and
was set to go. She was willing to proceed with the plan since she always
feared her son would end up a bachelor because of his undeviating commitment
to the cause of Christ.
When the unexpected carriage entered Zinjidere it was first seen
by Aneta’s aunt, who was taking her customary late afternoon stroll. She
knew them both, and Haralambos knew her. After a cordial greeting she
invited the surprise visitors into her home — somewhat reminiscent of
Eliezer invited by Rebekah. “Do you know why we’re here?” asked the young
man’s mother. Aneta’s aunt intuitively understood but maintained a discreet
reserve. Without waiting for a reply, the mother said, “We came to ask for
your girl!” A girl was not solely the father’s and mother’s, but belonged to
the whole clan and usually everybody had a say on her.
Haralambos asked if Aneta was home or teaching at the school.
When her aunt replied that she had resigned from her post and was at home,
he jubilated, “This is the leading of the Holy Spirit!” This modern version
of an Old Testament epic with the slight variation that on this occasion the
suitor himself came along with the mediator fascinated Aneta’s aunt. And to
think that she should be the one privileged to be approached!
Strange as it may seem, no one in Aneta’s family had the
slightest clue of Haralambos’ intention to marry her. Even her mother knew
nothing about it. Her father was away in Greece. And Aneta herself was not
expecting Haralambos to abruptly dawn on the town openly declaring that he
had come to marry her.
The aunt prudently showed no sign of panic or excitement.
Immediately she arranged for the guests to be entertained at the home of the
preacher’s daughter. Then she ran to Aneta’s house with the special tidings,
“You’ll never guess who is here!” Suddenly Aneta’s heart pounded. “Could it
be?” she thought, “but without any previous correspondence...” What would
she do when the bombshell exploded? In the next breath the aunt spilled out
the news, “Reverend Bostanjoglou is here with his mother! Their intention is
to ask you to marry him.” Aneta was startled. “Well,” she said, “At last the
day is here!” For five months they had been out of touch with each other, so
this was an exciting day indeed! During all that time he had been laying the
ground for this surprise.
The aunt said nothing to Aneta’s mother about the arrival of the
groom and his mother. Her eyes sparkling, she only mentioned having a couple
guests in the evening, the Reverend Bostanjoglou with his mother. Aneta’s
mother must have thought it was a rather strange happening. But what could
she do? That very day she had sent her younger son Leonidas to Samsun, port
on the Black Sea, to be with an uncle who was engaged in business there. She
was feeling rather down because of this separation. . Little did she realize
that the family was never going to see Leonidas again. In the course of the
devastating war, he became one of the numberless missing and unaccounted
High emotions and excitement gripped Aneta. Her mother’s
thoughts and hers were on two different wave-lengths. At eight in the
evening the doorbell rang. The special guests had arrived. Aneta’s aunt ran
to the door. She warmly welcomed them in and offered them choice seats in
the sitting room. The customary round of welcoming handshakes began. Aneta
kissed the mother’s hand and then disappeared, the normal procedure on such
occasions. Knowing what had brought them to the family house made her eager
to vanish. It was completely out of order for the young woman under
consideration for matrimony to sit with the elders while matters of her
marriage were being discussed.
The serious session lasted more than an hour. Aneta’s mother had
to carry the whole conversation since her husband was away in Greece. While
the contents of the discussion were unknown to Aneta, a deep calmness came
into her heart. As far as she was concerned the matter was already arranged.
No need to worry! The two mothers were simply carrying out the accustomed
routine, without which a marriage could not receive communal approval.
Aneta’s father was more progressive than most men of his day.
Considering his frequent absences from home, he had handed her a letter of
pledge before going to Greece. In it he granted her complete right to select
her own life partner, using her own judgment, provided of course the person
was a believer. This authorization was known only to him, her mother and to
Aneta’s mother was not a woman to place a fait accompli
on her daughter. She alluded to the response of the bride-to-be, expressing
her reservations. Haralambos assured her that he and Aneta had already been
corresponding, while expressing his regrets for having dawned on the family
without notice. Conversation centered mostly on his ministry in Aintab and
the acrimony he was encountering there. The vital interests of the Kingdom
of God had compelled him to devote all his energies to that ministry. He had
to put his marriage plans on hold for a while. He spoke in detail of
revivals as well as his ordeals which had put him under heavy strain.
Aneta’s mother and aunt were sitting spellbound, listening intently to all
his experiences. The guests wanted to learn what Aneta’s father’s opinion
would be. Her mother was quick to reassure them of his leaving the matter to
his daughter’s discretion.
Then came the bolt out of the blue! Haralambos asked for the
wedding to take place the following evening! Aneta’s mother was taken
aback. “My daughter will never be able to get ready!” she exclaimed. The
groom assured her that he had no elaborate wedding ceremony in mind. He had
a commitment to return to Aintab in ten days. Apparently, the King’s
business required haste!
When all was settled, Haralambos asked for Aneta’s mother’s
approval to talk with Aneta herself. She consented and led him into her
daughter’s room. Once inside, Haralambos handed Aneta a letter in which he
apologized for not having written during the last five months. After that,
he told her of his intention of having the wedding the following evening.
They sat down and wrote a letter to Aneta’s father, sharing with him the
happy news. After he prayed with Aneta, mother and son left for the night.