Haralambos’ trip to
Aintab, 280 kilometers to the east of his native Adana, was made on
horseback in unfavorable weather conditions in December 1913. This
fascinating region of Cilicia stretched through the eastern end of the
fertile Cotton Valley in southern Anatolia, sheltered by the majestic Taurus
The road traversed
at that time was over harsh terrain, Gavur Dagi − Mt. Infidel − as
the Turks used to call it. In classical language, the mountains were known
as the Amanus Range. Its two famous passes were infested with robbers and
bandits. These obstacles did not deter the young preacher. His burning
passion for the Gospel in the legendary city of Aintab spurred him on. No
doubt he was expecting further encounters with the defenders of higher
criticism, of whom there were a number there.
Upon his arrival in
Aintab, he received a hearty welcome from both Armenian Gregorian and
Evangelical churches, as well as from the schools and the college.
Immediately he started preaching. Word spread quickly that the writer of the
controversial book was in town, preaching nightly. Crowds ran to hear him.
The overflow crowd hung from the iron bars at the windows, a safeguard
against thieves. The attendants remember the long sermons which seemed like
only a few short minutes. The Holy Spirit moved among them, bringing
People recalled a
striking occurrence during one of the meetings. A large kerosene lamp
hanging from the ceiling illuminated the sanctuary. Haralambos was praying
from the pulpit. In his intercession he quoted with great force the words
from Jeremiah 23:29: “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a
hammer which breaks the rock in pieces?” Suddenly the lamp was ablaze.
Everyone was alarmed. Unperturbed he continued in earnest supplication,
while a couple men climbed up to extinguish the flame.
He spent several
months in this renowned Christian city. During the day home visits were a
joyful experience for him. This heart-to-heart connection always comprised a
healthy extension to the pulpit ministry of pastors in Anatolia. But
opposition was sure to come. Opponents of his unfaltering theological
stance began showing signs of agitation. At this time in a letter he wrote
to Aneta he quoted a well-known verse from the New Testament: “For a wide
door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (I
Corinthians 16:9). While his message was warming many hearts it was
causing disquiet among others. Rahnuma, the Protestant magazine, at
times took issue with him in caustic language. Pastors who had previously
opened their churches to Haralambos were warned not to continue inviting
him. In fact, he was accused of coming to Aintab to harm the churches. The
effect of modern theology was felt deeply in this foremost Protestant
As Aneta received
Haralambos’ not very cheerful letters she questioned why liberal theology
should have entered into this spiritually vibrant land. Why did it destroy
the pure faith of certain local leaders, creating a split in the ranks of
the church? While the impending catastrophe was hanging ominously over the
country, the churches in Anatolia were experiencing an unhealthy split.
This conflict brought great grief to Aneta’s soul. She mused, “What kind
of life-partner should I be to this person in order to daily strengthen him
and stand with him in the biblical faith he is so diligently upholding?”
As these thoughts
streamed through her mind, the Holy Spirit touched her to become a more
fervent teacher to the girls under her instruction. Several approached her
seeking guidance for the deepening of their faith. During this time far
away in Aintab a ministerial gathering was called. Haralambos was summoned
to explain the tenets of his beliefs and set forth his intentions. The many
questions projected opened the way for him to clarify his position. He kept
his composure throughout.
decided to hold a private session among themselves. He was asked to leave
the room. In the heated discussion a few pastors defended the evangelist,
but the opposing ones got the upper hand. Their verdict was, “Close the
churches to him! That is the only way we can stop him!” Apparently they
could not come up with any alternative. It was extremely distressing to have
one church after another in the city close its doors to him. The college
followed suit. Amazingly, one Armenian Gregorian school remained open, and
the Gregorians continued their friendship.
Miss Katy Frearson
was an English missionary in Aintab who headed the Martin Hill Orphanage.
She expressed her disappointment at the unpleasant way the pastors had
treated the evangelist. Quite providentially she was in possession of the
keys of an unused, run-down Anglican Church in the city. She visited
Haralambos and offered the keys to him on condition that he and the other
Christians restore the falling ceiling. This request was readily accepted.
A God-sent provision met the need of the hour, and normal gatherings resumed
in the repaired building. This was an encouraging experience for the
disheartened man. While the local people banned him from their halls, a
foreign woman came forward to make an unexpected offer!
Haralambos did not
aspire to go out and start separate meetings. He was always desirous to use
the pulpit of the existing churches to proclaim the message he believed to
be valid and effective. But following the ban no alternative was left. He
simply accepted the outcome and announced the meetings at the Anglican
From the outset,
the building was overcrowded. Again people climbed up the barred windows to
hear the message. Great numbers received the Savior. The ban by the
opponents only boosted the success of the meetings elsewhere, but threats to
disturb the gatherings were ordinary.
The leaders were
unhappy with Katy Frearson’s generous offer. They obliged her to stop
orphanage girls from attending the meetings. The girls were broken-hearted.
Several of them prayed for the restriction to be lifted. In six months it
was. One of the girls at the Martin Hill Orphanage was Vartanoush Ajemian.
Her unusual story goes back to Malatya where she was born. The first
Armenian massacre occurred when she was a two-month-old baby. Her father
moved the family south to Belen, near Antioch (Antakya), thinking it would
be a safer place. But another wave of massacres reached their selected area.
Her father and mother fled for dear life with her and her two brothers. When
the going got rough someone suggested, “Throw her away and save the boys!”
The mother rejected this cruel and heartless suggestion.
A while later, both
mother and father were slaughtered before her eyes. The brothers were taken
away, and she never saw them again. Little Vartanoush struggled to keep body
and soul together. Through the pity of some kind people she survived and
eventually was brought to Martin Hill Orphanage. Miss Katy Frearson became
her mother as she was to scores of other helpless little girls. Vartanoush
and six other girls were determined not to become Evangelicals. Their
attachment to the Armenian Mother Church was the only emotional tie they had
with their sad past.
Several girls at
the orphanage prayed together regularly. Their prayers seemed strange to
her. She asked one girl why she prayed. The reply made her think: “If you
loved the Lord, you wouldn’t let us pray alone.”
Vartanoush had a
valuable, but macabre possession from her dismal childhood. After the
murderers killed her father, they burned his corpse. She went to the charred
body in the dark and rescued a few pieces of bone. She never let these bits
of bone part from her. Often she would withdraw to a corner to kiss them and
cry disconsolately. The praying girls were concerned for her. They said,
“We’ll bury the bones!” She didn’t resist. The bones were committed to the
earth. But then she took frequent trips to the burial site and prayed.
The influence of
the girls on her was profound. One day during chapel hour she determined to
pray audibly. Her friends sought to discourage her, but she overcame their
resistance, stood to her feet and prayed, “Oh, Lord Jesus! Forgive all my
sins. Save me from this condition!” The next morning she bought a Bible and
joined the other girls for prayer. The group was introduced to Haralambos’
book on the Holy Spirit. This became a precious treasure which she read on
her knees. While reading the book, she was filled with the Holy Spirit.
When the news
reached the orphanage that the author of the book was in right there in
Aintab preaching, the girls eagerly went to hear him. Only they had to take
turns to attend. When they were again forbidden from going to the meetings,
they were cast into sorrow and persevered in praying until the ban was
During his tenure
at Zinjidere, Haralambos had written a chorus which became the song of the
Let all things become bitter
He who carries the cross
receives the crown.
I’ve set forth my course,
Oh, Lord, along your footsteps!
The chorus was inspired by the
assurance in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed,
for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you
with my victorious right hand”. Haralambos always referred to
this truth in his preaching. It became a convenient theme for taunting in
the mouths of obstreperous children: “Korkma, sasma, Haralambos’a yanasma!
(i.e., Fear not, sway not, and approach not Haralambos!) The war of nerves
intensified day by day. The evangelist did not like to entangle himself in
this base conflict. Nevertheless, drastic measures had to be taken. The
controversy knew no bounds.
authorities were understanding and accommodating. In their desire to prevent
any unpleasant development, they decided to post two policemen in front of
the church during the meeting hours for a whole week. The guards dutifully
protected the place.
The tactics of his
opponents took on a new dimension. The confrontation became a personal
assault rather than a doctrinal battle. The adversaries would have been
pleased if Haralambos had abandoned his ministry and left town, but he
didn’t even consider this option. The ministers sent a delegation to inform
the authorities that Haralambos was preaching as a non-ordained person. The
law clearly stated that anyone caught preaching as a non-ordained person
could be thrown into prison immediately. There was no room for clemency.
This restriction had been imposed by the government to combat draft-dodgers.
Through special imperial dispensation ministers were exempt from military
service. Therefore, any person pretending to be a preacher could only be a
against Haralambos was untrue. In 1909 the orphanage at Zinjidere had sent
him to Switzerland to take some theological courses and to represent them in
meetings. It was his only trip outside the country. That he had been
ordained in Leo Lokel in a large Baptist church was general knowledge. The
allegation against him stemmed from deep prejudice and nothing else.
The authorities had
no time or disposition to verify matters or check out facts. Martial law
prevailed in the country. Edgy local officials treated many cases
impulsively because of fear from the upper echelon. One evening men sent by
the local government came to the meeting place, took Haralambos to the
police headquarters and after administering fifteen rods to the soles of his
bare feet, threw him into jail as a usurper of the pulpit. He accepted this
treatment with praise and thanksgiving.
However, there was
a convenient provision in the law which propelled a great number of
Christians into action. Military service could be bought for a certain sum
of money. Immediately they started to raise the demanded amount to bail him
out of prison and military service. The sum was forty-five gold liras, a
huge amount in those days. But they managed it. So his imprisonment didn’t
last for even a day. He was a free man again, redeemed from prison and
military duty. He continued preaching every evening at the Anglican Church
with large crowds in attendance.
The execution of
the law may sound quite strange and accommodating. But the Ottoman Empire
during its final hours was governed by anything but logic. The whole
governmental system was saturated with favoritism, corruption and decadence.
Bribes solved most problems.
It has been
mentioned already that there was a hospital in Aintab administered by the
American Board. The head doctor was Dr. Frederick Shepherd, whose son Lauren
followed him in the same profession and post. One day he entered uninvited
into the ministerial gathering. Like a modern Nicodemus or Gamaliel he
addressed them: “Brothers, this man has come to you with the New Testament
in his hand and you meet him with governmental interference. While I respect
your position I intensely dislike your tactics!” This did not bring about a
conciliatory turn in the quandary. The conspiracy only intensified. This
time a pernicious accusation was hurled at Haralambos. They fabricated a
charge of immoral conduct and instigated the authorities to interrogate him.
Again he was arrested and beaten. But when the authorities understood the
truth he was exonerated. All these events caused the Muslim officials to
take a keen interest in what was going on. Some secretly attended the
One of these, Osman
bey, a very kind government employee, approached Haralambos and told him of
other plots. He offered wise advice: “You have no friends in this place. The
top echelon is determined to get you out of here. Conditions are
deteriorating. If I were you, I would leave the city for a while to enjoy a
measure of peace.”
The Lord speaks in
mysterious ways, in this case through this kind Muslim official. However,
leaving was easier said than done. With large crowds attending every evening
and many responding to Christ’s message, leaving Aintab would be a drastic
decision. A few accounts from the Book of Acts unfolded before his eyes
indicating what he was to do. In every age the decision to leave one
fruitful place of service for another has been very hard for evangelists.
Haralambos listened to the man’s advice and bade farewell to his friends and
church people. He departed for his native Adana where he immediately started
a wide evangelistic ministry.