Armenian Bible Church            

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 11 


             An atmosphere of excitement captivated Aneta, her mother and all who were involved. They had to move quickly. The wedding was to take place in less than twenty-four hours in the family’s spacious house.  But they had little time to relish this enthralling prospect. How could a mother-daughter team set the stage for a life-long commitment in this brief time?  An insurmountable task lay before them.

            Any thought of sleeping that night was abandoned. Even by the standards of their own distinctive Anatolia, a wedding with only a day’s notice was unheard of. Aneta’s mother, an industrious woman, was used to hardship and heavy work. So she tackled this challenge with gusto. A neighbor’s assistance was badly needed nevertheless. A knock at the door awakened her from a restful slumber. Could she relinquish her night’s sleep to assist?  Her readiness to help was true to her reputation of unselfish giving.

            The work got underway in the large living room. The newest rugs were brought out and meticulously laid on the floor. Then they moved to the other rooms. Total mobilization was the order of the night. The scrupulous labor was to be completed by morning in order to devote the day to cooking and baking, another formidable task. When morning dawned, they felt that they had just gone through an extremely exhausting day. But the day was only beginning!      

            The town was informed by this time about the exciting event through the ‘poor man’s newspaper’ as it was called in those days. It became the talk of the town. People were dropping in one after the other throughout the day to congratulate the bride. These visits only added to the commotion of the hour.

            The minister’s daughter, a skillful seamstress, started sewing Aneta’s bridal gown early in the morning. After uninterrupted, steady work, she completed it by evening, to the admiration of all who had been sitting on pins and needles all day!  Aneta’s mother was engrossed in baking. All sorts of Anatolian delicacies were carefully hand-prepared and then taken to the public oven for baking. All other essential preparations were carried out one after the other.

            In the meantime, the groom was in nearby Kayseri, administrative center of the region, feverishly seeking to obtain the wedding license. He was racing against time, with the intention of returning early enough to put on his newly-purchased wedding suit just before the ceremony. At the governmental office for wedding permits the presence of the groom was sufficient. The officials were not so much interested to see the bride, receive her affirmation or get her signature.  Normally, the issuing of the license took a month.  However, there was a provision for a temporary permit to proceed with a church ceremony.  The day after the wedding the permit with the minister’s signature and the birth certificates of both bride and groom would be taken to Kayseri.  This was a great convenience in times of pressing necessity.  Until now, this provision is on the law books, and is called ‘yıldırım nikahı’‘lightning wedding!’  There was an extra charge for speedy marriage licenses.

           Customarily, weddings in Anatolia were held in a church; but this one was an exception.  Everything had to be done quickly and as conveniently as possible.  The house was large enough for the service and all the guests.  About one hundred townspeople gathered into the spacious living room that evening.  There was no time to invite friends even from nearby places.  Communication wasn’t the same then as it is now. 

            The two ministers who were to officiate came: The Reverend Stephanos Sirinides, their own pastor, and his son-in-law, the Reverend Vahram Tahmizian, already mentioned in detail.  They later made illustrious names for themselves for their faithful and fruitful service in Asia Minor during that period. As time went on, Reverend Sirinides’ many children dispersed to various countries, leaving children’s children with his renowned name.

            The hour for the wedding arrived, but the main person was nowhere to be seen! The groom was still not back from Kayseri with the license!  An amusingly expectant atmosphere ensued. Everyone was thinking that it would be an extraordinary success if the license were to be issued on the same day. Delay of official transactions was proverbial. Actually, deciding to have the wedding on that day without first obtaining the license was trusting for the impossible. At last Haralambos appeared — out of breath, but full of joy.  Pastor Sirinides, never lacking in humor, made a remark which put everyone at ease, “My friend, hurry to take your place before someone else takes it from you!”

            It was on September 29, 1914, that Aneta became Pastor Haralambos Bostanjoglou’s wife. The marriage vows were clear and exact; their lives were joined together until death.  Little could they have envisioned that a cruel end would be theirs in less than a year.  The wedding was two months prior to the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the ghastly war.

            It was a simple wedding with no elaborate gifts. Anyway, who could have bought gifts at such brief notice? However, relatives and friends who had some gold in their homes handed Aneta gold coins of various values, a well-known custom in those parts.

            The reception was a time of witness with songs and prayers. Aneta’s mother’s hastily baked delicacies drew considerable praise. Only the day before no one in town could have dreamed that they would be attending a wedding reception the following evening! Events had unfolded speedily and were going to continue at a rapid pace. There was no time to wait.

            Haralambos was burning with a desire to return to his beloved Aintab to restart his service for his Lord. He was convinced that the warning of the friendly official had run its course. He had been in need of a season of respite, which culminated in his matrimony. And now, peace or no peace, he and Aneta were returning together to Aintab within ten days! It was a hectic time of getting everything ready, surpassed only by the twenty-four hour preparation for the wedding.

            Now Aneta also had a mother-in-law with whom her lot was cast. Life was taking on a different course with Anastasia’s entry into the picture. She was to eventually be with them in Aintab. Her presence would become more valuable and supportive in times to come.

            Haralambos’ mind was set on his upcoming preaching mission. Aintab was the place and there could be no escaping it! However he had the urge to preach in the city of Kayseri and the towns of Talas and Munjusun before setting off for Aintab.  “This may be my last opportunity to evangelize in these places,” he remarked.  The town of Munjusun had special importance to him because it was there that he had written his last book, ‘The Cross-Bearing Life.’  The Christians of this town had an awful ordeal awaiting them.  During the massacre the authorities came to the non-Muslim people and told them that they had two options: either accept Islam as a group, or be deported.  In a single hour a person had to leave all his belongings and take off for who-knew-where?  Naturally, the people chose the second option.  Old and young adults, little boys and girls, were driven out of their homes and towns like animals. 

            Two days after the wedding Haralambos left Aneta’s parental home to devote his ministry to these places. From the very outset he took the admonition in I Corinthians 7:29 seriously: “... from now on let those who have wives live as though they had none.”  This guidance was from the Lord. The meetings were profoundly blessed with many responding to the message of this newly-married evangelist.

            On the following Sunday he preached at the Greek Evangelical Church in Zinjidere.  On that day many Greek Orthodox neighbors also attended. It was a touching service. Haralambos and Aneta were committed to God’s tender care. It was the last opportunity for her to be at the church which had nurtured her from childhood.

            After a little while they said their final good-byes to beloved Zinjidere and its warm-hearted folks. How could she have imagined that this would be her last glimpse of the town and its simple, gentle people?  Suddenly, events in her life took a very unexpected turn.

            The coach pulled up in front of the house. Friends and relatives carefully loaded Aneta’s belongings. With tears in every eye and some women weeping, they hugged and kissed Aneta good-bye. The carriage went along at walking pace as people accompanied it to the outskirts of town. They wanted to be with Aneta and Haralambos until the last possible moment.  Then it gradually picked up speed as it set out on the long journey. Haralambos’ last words to her sobbing mother were, “Next summer, the Lord willing, I’ll bring her back for a long stay!”