Armenian Bible Church            

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ANATOLIA, ANATOLIA!

By Thomas Cosmades

 
 

Chapter 3

 IN PAMBUKIANSí VINEYARD

 The young nation of the United States had no missionary organization.  The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions grew out of the 1806 Haystack Prayer Meeting already mentioned.  This first mission society was established in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1810 with the view of sending missionaries to the unevangelized peoples of the world, especially Asia.  One of the targeted countries of this vision was Asia Minor, which lay within the borders of the Ottoman Empire.  A decade after its founding this worthy missionary organization sent its first missionaries to present-day Turkey.  The people who heeded the call were single-minded men and women who offered their lives unreservedly to the service of Jesus Christ. 

            They are gratefully remembered for their earnest efforts to evangelize several ethnic groups, start churches, schools, theological colleges, hospitals, clinics, orphanages, print shops and various vocational schools across Anatolia. In Aintab, in connection to their college a medical school was established.

            Phenomenal advances were scored in the Ottoman Empire among the Christian elements, namely the Greeks, Armenians, Aramaians, Arabs, etc.  Naturally, the Muslim populace comes to mind.  From the very outset, they were adverse to the proclamation of the Good News because of the prohibition to convert to Christianity as stated in their book.  However, they were not neglected.  After strenuous efforts a group of forty baptized converts from Islam was established as a church in one of the sections of Constantinople.  They had their own ordained pastor under whose leadership they were regularly assembling.  News of this reached the Palace.  The Sadrazam (Prime Minister) was highly agitated and went on to issue a decree that no conversion from Islam to Christianity would be tolerated.  In the same edict members of the church were ordered to return to their former religion.  Twelve of them who refused to do so were thrown into prison; several went into hiding and the pastor was whisked away outside of the country.  There is no record of anyone being executed, as news of this event was quite scanty.

               Conversion of the Turks to Christianity and the establishing of fellowships throughout the country would have to wait for over a hundred years.  During that century there were scattered isolated Turkish believers dwelling in semi-secrecy.  The government was very favorable to the formation of a new group of Christians, i.e., Protestants, who came out of the mainline Orthodox or Catholic churches.  In fact, a special law was passed by the Palace recognizing this new community as ĎMilletí (a nation). 

          Then World War I came, ferociously engulfing the Ottoman Empire.  It brought unimaginable calamities on all Christian ethnic groups in the Empire.  Millions of people were uprooted from home and hearth.  The notorious Armenian massacre which cost the lives of approximately one and a half million people was cruelly orchestrated.  Whole towns were reduced to rubble.  Farmlands were destroyed.  Churches and Christian institutions were wiped out.  Other heinous atrocities were committed, too numerous to mention.  A great many churches were converted to mosques. 

            Going back to the pre-World War I years, there were amazing spiritual awakenings in Anatolia.  It is quite obvious that the Holy Spirit − knowing what was coming − opened the way for a large number people from the vast Christian population to enter into Godís kingdom.  The main thrust for this achievement was the translation of the Bible and its introduction to people who didnít know the message.  The remarkable evangelistic efforts were catalysts to form a stable Christian witness at the time of the ingathering clouds.  To mention just one of these soul-lifting spiritual awakenings will gladden the heart of the reader: 

          During the time of the Welsh Revival in 1905 a remarkable Swedish evangelist-preacher, Reverend Fredrik Franson, unexpectedly visited Asia Minor on one of his world tours.  Without having informed anyone of his coming he stopped in the city of Marash in Cilicia to preach for a night or two.  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the very first meeting was sweeping.  This induced Fredrik Franson to extend his stay.  For six weeks these astonishing meetings continued in great fervor.  The city of Marash was one of the Armenian strongholds in Asia Minor.  It is said that there were eleven or twelve Evangelical meeting houses and churches there.  Great numbers of people were converted; many lethargic Christians were revived and a number of young people were called into the ministry of the Gospel.  Marash was visited by a genuine revival.  The impact of this revival was felt in several parts of the country in a succession of waves which moved from town to town.  Fredrik Franson moved on from Marash to Aintab Ė an equally great Christian center Ė where he was again instrumental in an unforgettable spiritual awakening.  He spoke at the college in this city; a number of the students were converted and received the call to serve the Lord in their own land, and at the dispersion of the Armenians, to many parts of the world.

            In the same year, i.e., 1906, in one of the colleges established by the American Board, namely St. Paulís College in Tarsus, a young student named Haralambos Bostanjoglou was in the graduating class.  Having been converted to Christ earlier he was consumed with an unswerving devotion to become an evangelist.  He was certain that evangelism was the gift of the Holy Spirit to him (Ephesians 4:11).  His conversion dated back to 1901 when he was sixteen.  Since that experience of new birth he was praying and preparing to serve God and his people.  A deep restlessness possessed him impelling his heart to serve his master.  He also was talented musically, competently playing the violin.  He utilized this ability to give music lessons to other students in order to subsidize the small allowance he received from his widowed mother. 

            Haralambos regularly attended a sizeable Armenian Evangelical church in Tarsus where he became a close friend of a respected older couple, Hampartsum and his wife Aghnes Pambukian.  The man was treasurer of the church.  He and his wife were not converted but had open hearts for a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.  They started inviting Haralambos to their spacious house, situated in the middle of a large vineyard.  Their home soon became a center for meetings.  From the outset house gatherings throughout Anatolia held a very important place in the life and assembling of believers. Churches often grew out of them. Hampartsumís fellow elders in the church were not very happy at his choice to become so closely associated with this young, zealous evangelist.  They considered Haralambos not a true friend of the church leadership.  In one of these house meetings, both Hampartsum and his wife were converted to living faith in Christ.  After this, the meetings picked up momentum, interest grew, and the effectiveness of the Word became evident.  An increasing number of both men and women were finding their way to the Pambukian vineyard and joyfully encountering the Savior.  The messages, mostly given by Haralambos, centered on Christís redemptive work, the crucified life of the believer and the return of the Lord.  Hampartsum and Aghnes were quite well off.  So they invited the young student to live with them.  It was Godís provision because he needed privacy to start writing his book on ĎThe Second Coming of Christ.í  He had already studied the subject extensively.  There was no better arrangement for him to proceed with his writing than in the ideal surroundings of Pambukiansí vineyard.  However, he thought such a sacred subject could not be written while sitting comfortably at his desk.  He expressed his deep appreciation of the glorious subject of the Second Coming by preparing the whole manuscript on his knees.                  

            Hampartsum Pambukian was a skillful mechanic Ė in fact the only one − in Tarsus, and a reputable machine shop owner.  So he had a wide variety of acquaintances. Because of his highly sought proficiency he was recipient of many favors, especially from Turkish army personnel who badly needed his services. This expertise was eventually going to save the Pambukian family from the horrors of deportation and the massacre.

            The close friendship between the Pambukian family and the young evangelist continued until the end of Haralambosí life.  As a note of interest, Hampartsumís son Samuel who changed his name to Pambakian, later moved to Cyprus where he became a well-known business man and leader of the Evangelical Brotherhood Church in Nicosia.  In the upheavals on the island, all his property was left behind in Turkish-occupied territory.  He moved on to Beirut, Lebanon, where he served the Brotherhood Church very effectively.  In 1980 he migrated to the United States where he is still living, well into his nineties, at this writing.  He is widely involved in the Armenian Brotherhood Church in Pasadena, California, and until recently has been making occasional trips to Armenia where he preaches to his own people.

 

 
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