INVESTITURE AND INGATHERING STORM
It was a Saturday
afternoon when they arrived in Aintab. Although it was an entirely fresh
experience for Aneta, she felt that she practically knew the place and the
people from all that Haralambos had related to her. His friends were elated
at the news of Haralambos’ arrival. He had left them so abruptly and now
suddenly here he was with his bride!
There is always
something special about Armenian hospitality and friendship. It is so warm
and generous, truly unique. Everyone wanted to claim the bridal couple for
their own. Until they were settled in a house that evening, there was a
solicitous display of competition as to who would get to entertain them!
Aneta had looked forward to the Lord’s Day, but even before Sunday, they
were informed about the unpleasant atmosphere prevailing in church circles.
Haralambos was apprehensive and at the same time quite confident that God
would work all things out.
Before his return
he had written an open letter to the editor of the Protestant periodical
Rahnuma. In it he clearly stated his theological position in all love
and humility. He assured everyone that he entertained no ill feeling or
malice toward anyone. He offered to serialize his beliefs in the same
magazine should he be given the opportunity to do so. If this was not
accepted, he indulged their understanding to respect his convictions and not
attempt to frustrate his efforts. His only interest was to preach Jesus
Christ crucified, risen and coming again. In the same letter he
mentioned the various suggestions which had come to him to sue the
Protestants for their polemics and other tactics, but as a minister of the
Gospel he could not entertain such a thought! The import of his overture was
totally conciliatory, and a “Let’s have a new start” approach.
The editor was
apparently touched by it. He printed a very gracious and placatory reply in
his magazine, pledging himself never to resort to the former methods in his
periodical again. This was taken as a victory for the Lord by Haralambos.
But unfortunately, there were other troubles in the making.
On Sunday morning
the young couple prepared to go to the Anglican Church where Haralambos was
going to preach. Miss Katy Frearson, a British citizen, was now in England
because of the state of war between the two countries. Even so, the church
building was still available. Aneta didn’t walk to church with her husband
as she wanted to avoid the scrutinizing gazes of people along the way.
Instead, she covered her head with a shawl and took another route so as to
make her way without being noticed.
The sanctuary of
the immense building was packed to capacity. The church stood right in the
center of a vast courtyard. Much money had been spent to build it. When
constructing this unusual edifice the Anglicans must have had in mind, at
least through faith, a spectacular growth of the church. Their vision
materialized, though only in part, since the fellowship ministered to by
Haralambos was not considered to be part of the Anglican Communion! Due to
the interdenominational nature of the meetings, people from all affiliations
felt free to attend. They included Armenian Gregorians, Roman Catholics and
The first Sunday
was filled with unforgettable blessings. Tears streamed down many cheeks as
people heard Christ’s message from one they had grown to love and respect.
It was a long service. No announcement or recognition was made from the
pulpit that Haralambos was now a married pastor. This practice did not fall
into the realm of the pulpit. There was no need of it anyway since everyone
already knew it. At the end of the service people spotted Aneta and a
spontaneous hour of congratulations and best wishes began. Elderly men and
women, middle-aged and young people, all came around to extend their warm
regards and express their love.
An announcement was
made that there would be a meeting every evening except on Saturdays.
Haralambos began his preaching in full power. Every message was evangelistic
and with a clear emphasis on consecrated Christian living. Evening after
evening, numerous people wholeheartedly responded, discovering new spiritual
depth in their lives. Exuberant joy filled the hearts of all who came. The
outcome was so remarkable and interest so high that Haralambos felt the need
to train young people who had been deprived of opportunities to study.
Starting a Bible school became his immediate goal. So many people had found
faith in Christ and were in need of some form of training. Haralambos and
Aneta spent much thought and time in prayer about this. The leading to begin
a Bible school was clear. They had all the needed space. Nothing stood in
The inception of
the Bible school was made with eight girls and four boys. Everybody was
joyful. They had not thought that such a school could exist! They eagerly
attended classes every day and then spread throughout the city inviting
people to the evening services. This they did with unbounded enthusiasm.
Success was overwhelming. Haralambos was also aware of the need for physical
exercise for the boys. He often led them to a place called Kurban Baba
and joined them in lively games and sports.
There was now a
need for a magazine to promulgate the Evangelical faith. The name chosen for
the magazine was “The Truth.” Soon the plates and other equipment
were purchased and the type was set in a corner of the church. An Armenian
printer in Aleppo took on the task of printing the magazine. Sales started
climbing and its production was the source of great encouragement.
A successful choir
was organized at the church which Haralambos directed. He taught them many
hymns, some of which he had written. One could hardly wish for more — a
church with large crowds, including many outsiders attending services every
evening, a small Bible school, a monthly magazine and a lively choir, all in
a spiritually-charged atmosphere.
But when does Satan
strike? — During such seasons of spiritual jubilation. The tide of
opposition began rising once again. A pervasive unpleasant atmosphere
developed. Often success on one side invites jealousy on the other. The
tension was not lessening, rather worsening day by day.
Those attending the
services were the prime target. Their children were made unwelcome in the
official Protestant school. Haralambos had a ready response to their tactic.
In faith, he went ahead and started his own elementary school at the church!
This was a peculiar school as there were no qualifications required for the
teachers, no set curriculum, and no required tuition. There were always a
few ladies ready to teach the basic subjects. Within a short time, the new
Haralambos was a
person of initiative, always in search of new horizons. He sought fresh
opportunities, then prayed for wisdom and strength to fulfill them. Getting
to know him better each day, Aneta couldn’t restrain herself from asking
what new inducements for service would be next on his agenda. In the
meantime tension was relentlessly building up.
The Ottoman Empire
was already at war on the side of the Central Powers. Battles were raging on
several fronts. Young men, also from Christian communities, were drafted
into the army. But this was the least of the woes. Waves of deportation of
Armenians, brutal massacres, snatching away of girls and women as well as
all Armenian property, were already in progress.
disasters came upon the Christian community there had been a precarious
balance of relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. But this was totally
disrupted. Suddenly, hostility took over between the two groups. Muslims
with the instigation of the government in Constantinople turned against
their neighbors overnight. Good relations were shattered. Man’s depravity
displayed its inherent ruthlessness in detestable behavior.
deteriorating very fast; fear was gripping the hearts of everyone. The
Ottoman scheme to exterminate the Armenian population in Anatolia, which
they considered a trouble-causing element, was diabolically plotted in
Constantinople. The government was under the leadership of the party called
‘Union and Progress,’ made up of so-called ‘Young Turks’ whose political
philosophy was based on pan-Turkism. The shrewd mind behind the whole
contrivance was the Minister of the Interior, Talat (1874-1921), who carried
out his plot to the very end (1918). The execution of his plan began with
the deportation of the Armenian population to a desert location in Syria by
the Euphrates, Deir ez-Zor. The first group to be targeted were the
Armenian Gregorians because they were the mainstream of the populace. Young
and old men and women, along with their children encountered a cruel
annihilation as they were forced to walk all the way without food, drink or
sleep. Many perished on this horrible trek and were simply abandoned along
the roadside. Mothers threw their starving and crying young children into
some body of water to take them out of their misery. Young women committed
suicide to avoid being brutally raped.
populace, for long aspiring self-rule, felt that the time had come. With the
Ottoman forces engaged in battle on several fronts they thought there could
not be a better time than now to pursue their historic ambition. But how
wrong they were! Outrageous retaliation struck like lightning. It knew no
mercy or limit. Much has been said and written on this subject. History has
already vociferously remonstrated these shameful atrocities in its dark
very adversely affected the ministry of the Gospel, even though the
Protestants were not yet being targeted. Actually, most of the people in the
Protestant church were enlightened Gregorians. They had not joined the
Evangelical church, but had retained their formal affiliation to the ‘Mother
Church,’ as they customarily referred to it.
At this time,
Haralambos was warned by certain friends to leave Aintab because of the
ingathering storm. He was also told that those who did not care for his
preaching may not act in a favorable way toward him. Vindictiveness from his
doctrinal adversaries appeared as a threatening possibility. He was not a
man to be moved by fear in the face of trials so the counseling had no
effect on him. He probably thought that his having submitted to pressure
before was enough. Getting out of Aintab where he had a call to minister
because some people so desired was not going to happen again! Besides, he
had good reason to believe that no harm would befall him. To those who
cautioned him, he said, “I am Greek by ancestral extraction. The deportation
is being carried out against Armenians; the Greeks are not being affected.
I will never consent to leave the flock. Such a decision would make me
miserable. I couldn’t live with it.”
Aneta were concluding a fast-fleeting ten months’ stay in Aintab. What a
rich and rewarding time it had been! Many people of various ages had
entered into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. A small Bible school
and an elementary school were now running efficiently, and an effective
publishing work was growing steadily. His mother Anastasia had traveled from
Adana to join them as Aneta was joyfully expecting their first child. As is
the custom in Anatolia, the mother or mother-in-law is around to assist the
couple during this time. But the arch-enemy was closing in to silence all
these happy developments.