Armenian Bible Church            

Հայ Աստուածաշունչի Եկեղեցի

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 40322  Pasadena, CA 91114 USA

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 25 


             They stayed three years in Aleppo. A functioning church was progressing encouragingly. It had started in a house and then moved to a larger hall. Anastasia longed to go back to Adana to visit relatives and friends and if possible, to resettle there.  At the time Cilicia, with its capital city of Adana, was under French occupation as Syria was.  At last, the two women found convenient transport, said their goodbyes to all the friends in Aleppo and traveled to Adana.  Aneta began to serve refugees there, just as she had done in Aleppo. Nevertheless, their hopes for any future in Adana did not look promising.  The city was not to remain under French control for very long. The whole situation was contingent on the ongoing Turko-Greco war in Anatolia (1919–1922).  The outcome did not look promising for the Greeks. 

            Adana was no longer the former city with large Christian communities freely practicing their faith. The few Armenian Christians there now were returnees from the deportation. As for the Greeks, their time of departure had not yet come.  An air of uncertainty prevailed. People no longer felt safe. Old fears resurfaced, haunting the Christians. The situation carried their thoughts to the lament of Nehemiah: “The survivors there in the province who escaped exile are in great trouble and shame” (1:3a). A new exodus started, this time voluntarily because the French were giving every indication of abandoning the city. 

            Again, refugees took to the road.  The ordinarily moderate climate of Adana that year gave way to a fierce winter for the first time ever.  A cold wind roaring down from the mountains caught the refugees by surprise.  Thousands of these unprotected people walking all the way to Aleppo or Beirut were engulfed by the severe blizzard.  Many froze to death, including a friend of Aneta’s, a strong and healthy woman, along with her twelve-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. 

            The time came for Aneta and Anastasia to say good-bye to their beloved Adana. After giving themselves to prayer, the two women made up their minds to proceed to Mersin. They bade an agonizing farewell to Adana. Tarsus, their first destination, the Apostle Paul’s home town, is about thirty-five kilometers southwest of Adana.  Another forty kilometers to the south of Tarsus is the beautiful port city of Mersin.  This place had a very large heterogeneous Christian community. Its port was a convenient embarkation point for ships taking off for any country around the Mediterranean. Refugees from all over Anatolia were thronging there to catch a boat to wherever they could go.  Both Armenians and Greeks wept as they left their beloved Anatolia forever. Aneta and Anastasia were among those departing these beautiful climes. They caught a boat which would sail along the enchanting Mediterranean coast for Izmir (Smyrna). After five days of refreshing sea travel with several stops along the way, they landed in the historic city of Smyrna. At the time the city and the whole region were under Greek control. The Greek army was fighting against the rising force of New Turkey under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk. 

            Smyrna has always been a large port city catering to outlying areas. Its population was largely Christian, mainly Greeks.  This antagonized the Turks who referred to it as Gavur Izmir, i.e., ‘Infidel Smyrna’.   Besides Greek and Turkish being spoken here, Italian, French, English, Armenian and a few other languages were widely used.  In this cosmopolitan city, there was a sizeable Jewish population.  The metropolis was full of Christian churches.  To the Church of Smyrna Christ addressed his second letter from the Island of Patmos. The Smyrnean church was highly commended by the Savior for her faithfulness. Anyone familiar with church history will remember the name of Polycarp, first bishop of the church in Smyrna.  When he was about to be thrown into the fire along with some other Christian martyrs, the Roman officer who pitied him suggested that he recant his faith in Christ, but go on believing in his Master from within.  Then Polycarp gave that classical reply: “Four score and six years he has been true to me.  How can I now deny him, my Lord and my King!” Then the inevitable happened.

              Izmir was in a state of tenuous peace.  The Greek army was fighting the Turks in the interior of Anatolia.  The Turkish army was pushing westward and the Greek army was slowly retreating.  The outcome looked bleak for the Greeks. An air of uncertainty and trepidation prevailed. 

            Among the many churches in Smyrna was a large Greek Evangelical Church, pastored by the able and scholarly preacher, Xenophone Moschou. Some years before Haralambos had preached there while visiting Smyrna. It was in this church that Aneta had the joy of attending a Greek service for the first time. The only church meetings she knew until then were in Turkish and some in Armenian. The pastor’s message that Sunday left a lasting impression on her.  It depicted the crucial times facing Christians in Smyrna. Pastor Moschou, following the catastrophe of 1922 when all remaining Greeks were thrown out of Asia Minor, moved to Athens. There he transplanted his church, which until today is known as the Second Greek Evangelical Church.  The members of his congregation were mostly Smyrneans and a smattering of Greeks from other areas of Asia Minor.          

            There were two American academies in Izmir, one for boys and the other for girls.   These were part of the country-wide American educational institutions run by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Pastor Moschou was one of the teachers at the boys’ academy where Aneta had a unique meeting with the renowned Dr. Samuel M. Zwemer. Generally referred to as ‘Apostle to Islam,’ he had started to proclaim Jesus Christ to the sons of Ishmael from his early youth.   On one of his many world tours he also visited Izmir where he was invited to conduct a series of meetings at the boys’ academy about his ministries in Arab lands.  Many people attended these extraordinary lectures.

            As Aneta described him, he was a tall, captivating and love-radiating messenger of Christ. During the meetings in Smyrna he expounded the awesome truths about Jesus Christ and how he related them to Muslims.  The principles he propounded during his presentations could constitute a manual for Christian witness to Muslims.

            Some of the teachers in the girls’ academy gathered a sizeable group of Turkish students studying English to hear Dr. Zwemer. But they needed an interpreter. Aneta was the only woman who spoke both languages fluently, so was drafted into translating for Dr. Zwemer. She was thrilled to relate the life-transforming message in Turkish presented by this scholarly missionary. All the girls listened with deep interest.

            The place of Dr. Zwemer stands unique in missionary annals. He was an untiring evangelist-preacher for forty years in various Arab countries. He traveled extensively in many lands and preached in every place where there was a Muslim population. He authored about thirty-five books, many of them out of print today. He was one of the ‘giants in the land’ in those days.

            One day when Dr. Zwemer finished his speech, a young American teacher from the academy wanted to say something and asked Aneta if she would be willing to translate for him.  She consented, but as soon as he started talking he expressed his enthusiasm for Islam saying that there wasn’t much difference between the two religions.  He was obviously one of those tainted by modernistic theology, against which Haralambos had warned her!  Aneta said that she was shocked at such a statement and that she didn’t share his opinion.  She told him before the whole audience that she couldn’t continue to translate his thoughts. 

            The city of Smyrna was full of refugees, much like the other places they were in following Haralambos’ death. Tens of thousands of Armenian refugees thought they had found shelter here. But sadly, the temporary tranquility was coming to an end.  The refugees were left in the same despondency they had already experienced in their home towns.  Aneta and Anastasia spent eleven months in Izmir, the last agonizing place they stayed in.

             During their time in Smyrna Aneta took a trip to Patras in Greece to visit her father who was a Bible colporteur there.  She had not seen him for years and they enjoyed a gratifying time together.  It was the beginning of 1921, the centennial year of the Greeks’ uprising against Turkish rule in Naphlion, Peloponnesus.  Sadly, the Greek army was now fighting a losing battle against the Turks in Asia Minor.  A great celebration was arranged at the stadium in Athens to commemorate the centennial of Greek independence.  Aneta went to Athens to witness the occasion.  It was a moving festivity with the king, members of the government, the clergy and a large number of other officials in attendance.  As the parade moved along in the stadium, incense rose from an altar erected for the occasion, on which these words were inscribed, “For Faith and Fatherland.”  In the parade were veterans in wheelchairs back home from the ongoing war in Anatolia.  As they approached the altar, everyone stood to their feet to cheer them.  Aneta’s tears flowed freely as she remembered her own painful experiences in Anatolia.  At that moment she visualized the martyrs’ welcome, including her husband’s, as they were honored on their glorious entry into heaven.  She committed herself anew to the Lord to walk in his footsteps, accepting his reproach.  She never forgot that commitment.  The following day Aneta returned to Smyrna with her cousin who was a teacher at the American Academy there.