I MARRY SUCH A PERSON?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.