Armenian Bible Church            

Հայ Աստուածաշունչի Եկեղեցի

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

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 6 


             At the start of the academic year in 1911 Aneta moved from the orphanage to teach at the American Academy in Talas. She noticed that a great change had taken place within the short year after her graduation.  Modern theology had crept into the school in more obvious ways.  When she wanted to counsel the girls on spiritual matters it was considered an intrusion into their personal lives. However, she continued her teaching duties. Three years full of conflicts and storms, mingled with joy, lay ahead.

            In 1913 Haralambos, feeling the urge to dedicate himself entirely to evangelism, resigned from his position as director of the orphanage.  His successor was a young Armenian minister in Kayseri, the Rev. Vahram Tahmizian.  He came to the orphanage at a very crucial time, competently shouldering the responsibilities turned over by Haralambos. Rev. Tahmizian continued to be involved in church activities around Kayseri while carrying on his service at the orphanage.  When he left the orphanage he took over the pastorate in the large evangelical church of Kayseri.  The war was on the horizon and the situation was threatening.  In the midst of this crucial time his ministry at the Kayseri church grew in effectiveness.

            During the Armenian deportation and massacre the Turks subtlely spread the word among Armenians that anyone who converted to Islam would be spared.  Naturally, Vahram Tahmizian remained firm in carrying on a faithful pulpit and pastoral ministry. The Turkish district administrator targeted him, thinking that if Vahram would embrace Islam his congregation would follow.  He called him into his office, spoke to him in flattering language and made a pernicious suggestion.  He told Vahram he was a respected citizen of the Ottoman Empire, these were crucial times and the future was uncertain.  He wanted to spare him from all that could occur, and very shrewdly proposed that if he embraced Islam he could save himself and his family from a lot of trouble.  At that moment Vahram Tahmizian became extremely exasperated.  The Lord granted him unusual stamina.  He walked over to the administrator, bent over and laid his head on the desk. Very confidently and deliberately he shouted, “Shall I abandon my living Christ and bow to your dead prophet?  Here is my head for my Christ. Chop it off.”  The administrator was aghast.  He angrily shouted the order: “Take this man out of my sight immediately!”  So the Lord delivered Vahram, according to his sovereign promise.  One can question why God did not deliver so many other Christians of equal determination. After the war, Vahram emigrated to the United States and settled in Fresno, California, where he became pastor of the Armenian Brotherhood Church. God used him there to bring many sorrowing refugees to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God used him as an instrument for revival among his own people.  For many years he published ‘Pirgutyun’‘The Way of Salvation’ − a periodical which ministered to Armenian people around the world. His wife, Kalliopi Sirinidou, was daughter of the Zinjidere pastor, Stephanos Sirinides, a renowned saint in those circles.   

               Returning to the subject of Haralambos:- When he left the orphanage he took with him a promising young Armenian boy named Isaac Paronakian to be his assistant.  They spent three months covering the wide area beyond Cappadocia to the city of Yozgat.  It was a memorable evangelistic tour. People were converted in every place they visited.  Years later when Aneta came to Greece she met a blind old lady in the Danish old people’s home who told her about receiving Christ through Haralambos’ ministry at that time.

        Following this extensive outreach, Haralambos visited the academy with the express purpose of seeing Aneta again.  In the course of their conversation he warned her about the danger of modern theology and told her how to encounter it. He also asked her about her spiritual condition. Then he wanted to know how she would feel about carrying on correspondence with him. Would she be willing to receive his letters? To this she replied, “It would be my privilege to have you as my spiritual counselor.” Right then and there, he knelt and prayed after which he bade her a fond farewell.  The following day he took off on horseback for Adana, a trip which would take about three days.  Christians in towns along the way offered him hospitality and opportunities for ministry. 

            In the very first letter he wrote from Adana, he clearly indicated his desire to marry Aneta.  It took her a while to recover from the shock of his proposal. She wondered whether she was worthy to be the life partner of this fiery evangelist. However, the expression of his deep love to her at the outset of his letter was a clear indication that he was a down-to-earth human!  He went on to describe his widely reproached convictions for the sake of Christ and His Gospel. He said he was not afraid of controversy. From the very beginning he saw himself as a defender of the Faith in Anatolia. Modern theology had already made considerable inroads into the schools and a number of churches. Professor Krikorian’s refuting his book on the Second Coming was only one link in the long chain of discontentment with his stance.

            Because of his outspoken convictions he anticipated nothing but trouble. He mentioned in his letter that he had visions of a violent death issuing from his unwavering devotion to Jesus Christ. He asked Aneta if she was prepared to marry such a daring person. She couldn’t expect popularity or prominence. He then went on to write about the thrilling journey to Adana.  God had granted him safety all the way, where dangers of bandits and robbers were ever present. 

            The memories of that letter were among Aneta’s cherished possessions. What could she say?  What reply could she give? She later recalled the earnestness with which she gave herself to prayer in order to make the right decision. 

            She humbly replied that this was God’s gracious doing.  After expressing gratitude for the privilege of knowing him and the honor of being selected as the one to walk with him on life’s journey, she laid her numerous limitations bare. “There are many girls more worthy than I. You deserve one who is better qualified to be your spouse,” she wrote. However she clearly indicated her readiness to accept the reproaches which were sure to come by quoting II Corinthians 12:10: “For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong.”

            His response was that of a determined man and unswerving minister. He relayed his deep gratitude to this girl he was asking to join him in a difficult life.

          In his second letter he wrote,   “I have an invitation to go to Aintab,” which he considered a great privilege.   Aintab, focal point of Christian activity in southern Anatolia was considered the bulwark of Protestantism. It was a city with many churches, schools, and a hospital with an adjacent school of medicine. He quoted I Corinthians 16:9, “For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”  He asked for prayer for his upcoming ministries there.

            Before he left for Aintab, his letter reached her. The thrust of the letter was a famous Turkish proverb: Kιlιç çuvala sιğmaz, i.e., ‘The sword can not be carried in a sack.’ “My love for you is always fresh, and if I ever marry, you’re the only one I want. But remember that I’m a person spurned and despised. Suffering will be your lot with me. My life and preaching will someday lead me to an unnatural death.”  Her commitment had already been irrevocably made.  Considering the great responsibility before her, Aneta started reading serious Christian books, among them Andrew Murray’s writings.  At this time she also read Haralambos’ book on the richer and fuller life in Christ.  The very thought of becoming the wife of such an alert and spiritual person weighed heavily upon her. Through deeper searching in the Word her life was transformed at this time.  The Holy Spirit put a great longing into her heart to assist the girls at the school who desired a fuller knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

            Letters continued coming from Haralambos. These always burdened her heart for those around her. Along with the academic training, she was eager to impart truths about Jesus Christ to the girls.   She would always offer a prayer before opening a letter from him.  She did not reply immediately, but would write the answer, lay it aside to read it again and then she would mail it.  The compelling consideration of the correspondence was neither to hinder his ministry in any way nor to cause detriment to her own spiritual life. 

            One day the school principal called her into her office.  “I see you’re corresponding with a dangerous person,” she remarked.  “Don’t you know that his renown is on the negative side? He is thoroughly controversial!” What could Aneta say? Even though the principal’s remarks totally upset her, she decided to ask if she had ever heard him preach. “No,” she said. This was a convenient moment to remind her not to judge by hearsay. “I know him from the orphanage,” Aneta said, “and never detected anything negative in his life or ministry.”  Her elucidation did not fall on deaf ears. 

          In 1906 during Aneta’s school days, there had been a serious conflict between the missionaries working in the hospital and those in the school.  No one could understand why.  It was kept secret. Actually, it emanated from theological differences. Various missionaries from places such as Istanbul, Izmir, Merzifon and Sivas came to Talas to reconcile the people involved.  This effort turned out to be fruitless and the missionaries returned to their respective cities.  The sad consequence was a rift between the hospital administration and that of the school.  All property belonged to the same mission and was in the same compound.  Those in charge at the hospital stopped accepting students from the school who would go and sing on Sunday afternoons.  Before long the missionaries working in the hospital transferred all the equipment to the school and moved on to Konya (Iconium) where they started a new hospital.  The missionaries at the school invited new hospital personnel and they carried on.  At the time the cause of the split was incomprehensible to the students.  Haralambos’ book partly played the role of catalyst in the theological dispute. Those in the hospital were of the conservative persuasion whereas those in the school leaned to the modern position. 

            The city of Konya where the hospital staff moved was home of the famous Armenian Haigazian College — presently in Beirut, Lebanon. The leaders of the college were favorably disposed to Haralambos.  Whenever he visited Konya the doors of the college were open to him.  Esther, a registered nurse, sister of the founder, Professor Haigazian, had witnessed Haralambos’ ordination in Switzerland years before.  She was appreciative of his wide ministry.  The result of the unpleasant break worked for the enrichment of Konya with the establishment a new hospital run by dedicated Christians.  From the time of its inception the hospital functioned very successfully until the entire Christian work in Anatolia was uprooted.  

          Haralambos keenly followed the ongoing developments in the missionary community and church life in the land.  His about the Second Coming of Christ drew wider interest as the days went on.