Armenian Bible Church            

Հայ Աստուածաշունչի Եկեղեցի

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

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 31 


             Armenian folks who were providentially spared from the massacres found refuge in cities such as Beirut, Aleppo, Cairo, Alexandria, etc.  Many of them had known Haralambos and more were acquainted with him through his books.  They kept inviting Aneta to visit them. Her first destination was Beirut, Lebanon, where the bulk of the Armenian refugees had found a new and pleasant home.  Their enjoyable and prosperous life there continued until 1975 when Beirut became a center of bloody conflict.  Many of those refugees or their children moved out once again, this time to America, Canada and Australia. 

           At her arrival at the airport in Beirut she was met by a group of people who had known Haralambos.  Immediately meetings began in various homes. Most of these people were refugees from Anatolia.  When they got together with Aneta, there was no end to the topics of discussion.  Their common suffering in the past carried them back to the Anatolia they still longed for.  Now that Aneta was with them, she could add her own experiences, share the memories of the flourishing work in Aintab, and the poignant account of Haralambos’ arrest which led to his eventual execution in Marash.  Most of these people had not known Aneta previously. But the warmth with which they welcomed her and took her into their hearts was proof of their devotion to the Lord and to the blessing of Haralambos’ ministry in their lives.  She had numerous opportunities to go from house to house and share with friends.  She met one brother by the name of Jacob Halepian who was especially delighted to meet her.  He hung on her words as she related her and her late husband’s ministry.  Remembering Haralambos’ early martyrdom never ceased to be a wrenching experience to all who had known him or had heard about him.

            Aneta longed to visit Jerusalem, but didn’t know how she could plan for such a trip.  Right at that time, an old friend in Philadelphia, Dr. Balian, wrote to her that he and his wife were taking off on a group tour to Jerusalem and that they could meet her in Beirut.  This was a God-sent offer to be with a group of believers to visit the Golden City.  In Jerusalem she was the guest of an Armenian minister who was a convert back in Aintab.  For Aneta who had studied the Bible for years and was familiar with all the events relating to the City of Zion to at last see the place where Christ taught and was crucified was a highlight of her earthly pilgrimage.

           Following their return to Beirut, the group flew back to the U.S.  Aneta once again was with old friends.  Among them was Sister Katerina of Marash, whom Haralambos had led to Christ in the prison just before his execution.  The many services Katerina had offered to Haralambos in his last hours flooded Aneta’s mind. The two women had never seen each other before, so to meet at last was a touching experience.  Katerina’s financial condition, as it had been throughout the years, was mediocre.  So the first thing that came to Aneta’s mind was to offer her some monetary assistance.  But Katerina adamantly refused to accept any gift.  She said she was already enjoying the reward of eternal life extended to her through Haralambos before he died.  Katerina was living in the reality of Christ and His salvation. 

            From Beirut, Aneta sailed over to Cyprus, an overnight voyage. There, too, her many friends and acquaintances offered her hospitality.  Even a family from her own home town of Zinjidere was now on this beautiful island.  The mother of the family was the youngest daughter of Pastor Stephanos Sirinides who had performed her and Haralambos’ wedding back in 1914.  Once again, house meetings among Greeks and Armenians were the order of the day.  After Cyprus, she went on to Egypt where she visited Alexandria and Cairo.  Again she was among friends and a few relatives who had settled there.  People remembered Haralambos’ messages and how they had been helped in their time of great trial through his writings.  So they took Aneta into their hearts and truly cherished her, giving her a sense of belonging to a loving family.

           Aneta had always wanted to go to Baghdad and events so developed that she almost got there!   In 1964, after she moved from Katerini to Athens a man who was visiting from Iraq was trying to get in touch with her.  He looked for her until he finally found her.  He related that he had been converted through her husband’s’ early ministry in Adana at the time when Haralambos was still at Tarsus College.  When he was ten years old, he was working in a coffee house of rather good repute, having been hired for a pittance to serve customers one Turkish coffee after the other.  To this day, little boys are hired for this job.   Men spend hours in these places playing backgammon and cards, smoking and drinking coffee.  One day a tall man with a strong voice entered the coffee house.  Everyone’s attention was immediately riveted on this commanding stranger. He held a Bible in his hand and started talking about the Day of Judgment with great passion.  He invited people to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.  All games stopped.  People nodded their heads in agreement to the evangelist’s vibrant message.  The young boy was standing at the counter.  He stepped forward closer to the evangelist so he wouldn’t miss anything of what was said.  Right then and there he met the Lord Jesus.  The smoke-filled room had become an evangelistic center.  After so very many years, the Iraqi visitor was telling Aneta how blessed he was to be the errand boy at the coffee house that day!  He later experienced his faithful Lord’s strength to face the agonies of the deportation and the long death march.  Throughout the years, he stayed true to his Lord.  Before he went back to Iraq, he asked Aneta to visit the believers there and help him in the ministry to the transplanted Armenians.  But this was a desire not to be fulfilled.

            One especially touching visit was in Istanbul where she spent a whole month with the believers, among whom was Vahram Tatikian.  God had raised Vahram to be an effective colporteur and evangelist in Anatolia to follow in Haralambos’ footsteps. He was a Spirit-anointed evangelist who led many men and women to Jesus Christ.  The house meetings he conducted in the city became a legend.  People heard him preach; they sang, testified and had earnest prayer sessions afterward.  This unrecorded revival took place in Istanbul.  In those days Christian reading material in Turkish was very rare.  One could say that the Bostanjoglou books were a provision from God for many old and new Christians.  These books in Turkish with Armenian characters circulated widely among local believers.  Vahram would often suggest to Christians that after the Bible they study these books.  Many were fortified in the faith and entered into a deeper life with Christ.  Among the numerous house gatherings in Istanbul, one of particular meaning was in remembrance of Haralambos.  Of course, Aneta spoke extensively.  There was hardly anyone in the group who had known Haralambos personally, but everyone could give a testimony about some blessing received through reading his books. 

           Here she was in a land where her husband had offered himself entirely to proclaim Christ, to travel tirelessly from city to city and town to town, to bring people to the knowledge of the Savior and build up the Church.  Old memories were shared, and there was prayer for revival and broad evangelism in Turkey.  Aneta said that she left Istanbul with a different feeling than in the other places she had visited.  Here she enjoyed the fellowship of Christians who continued to live in the land of her husband’s birth and martyrdom while faithfully carrying on the witness of Christ.

          There were places Aneta would have liked to spend the rest of her life — in Beirut, among those beloved friends, or in Katerini with God’s people around that great tabernacle. But old age and poor eyesight made no provision for such aspirations. Her younger sister Andriana Seraphimidou became God’s chosen deaconess to care for her in the eve of her life.

            Aneta related that her earthly sojourn had been a series of exciting experiences. Though confronted with the valley of death and many other sorrows, the Good Shepherd did not abandon her for a moment. His peerless sustenance and matchless grace carried her through every storm.

            Old age brings into focus His many benefits as brilliant roses stand out in a field of thorns. As she relished the certainty of her Lord’s return, sadness at all past reminiscences gave way to gladness.  Since the days of the Apostle Paul whose origin was in Anatolia, the message of Jesus Christ has been persistently declared in that land —regardless of the earthly government in power at any given time.  In the days of Rome, Christians were persecuted and like Polycarp of old, gladly laid down their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ.  When the Muslim Ottomans made their appearance in the thirteenth century a different form of hostility developed.  This also stymied the progress of the Gospel in varying degrees, but the testimony of Christ went on.  Haralambos and numberless others laid down their lives under the intimidation of the Crescent.  Today Anatolia continues to be swayed by Islamic Turks.  People are still hated for their faith in Christ. However, for the first time in the long history of Turkey, national believers are appearing on the scene courageously declaring their faith in Christ the Savior.

            What does the future hold for Anatolia?  While we don’t know any detail, we can be very certain that the Lord Jesus Christ and His truth and sovereign design will prevail in this land overcoming every usurpation and oppression.  Today Christians in Turkey are living and testifying with this certainty.  We can pray, “Lord Jesus, you gave your precious life for the people of Anatolia. Speed the impact of your message in this country where so many throughout the centuries believed in you and died, not few in martyrdom.”                  



In the Church calendar, Christmas Day is followed by St. Stephen’s Day, likewise a significant commemoration.  A life born to save other lives was faithfully emulated by one who was benefited from the supreme gift.          

           T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) in his classical historic drama, ‘Murder in the Cathedral,’ (1935) envisages Thomas A'Becket, (1118-1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, delivering his last sermon.  His execution had been ordered by King Henry II and was carried out on Christmas morning at the Cathedral.  The conjectured masterpiece is narrated as if Thomas A'Becket himself gave it four days prior to his murder:

"Beloved, we do not think of a martyr simply as a good Christian who has been killed because he is a Christian; for that would be solely to mourn.  We do not think of him simply as a good Christian who has been elevated to the company of the Saints; for that would be simply to rejoice; and neither our mourning nor our rejoicing is as the world's is.  A Christian martyrdom is never an accident, for Saints are not made by accident.  Still less is a Christian martyrdom the effect of a man's will to become a Saint, as a man by willing and contriving may become a ruler of men.  A martyrdom is always the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways.  It is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, and who no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of being a martyr.  So thus as on earth the Church mourns and rejoices at once, in a fashion that the world cannot understand; so in Heaven the Saints are most high, having made themselves most low, and are seen, not as we see them, but in the light of the Godhead, from which they draw their being."