To the memory of the
innumerable martyrs of our Armenian people whose blood covers the whole
of Anatolia. To the great company of saints who were victorious in
death, keeping the faith. To all the millions who triumphed over this
world. To those who now bear the trophies of victory around the Lamb
slain for them and vanquishing the foe, rose again.
I am greatly honored
that my good friend, the Rev. Vartan Bilezikian, permitted me to read
the manuscript of the book, “Apraham Hoja of Aintab”.
Too little has been
recorded of the sufferings and victories of that faithful company of
Armenian Christians who bore the unspeakable persecutions of wicked men
during the early part of this century. It is well that one who shared
these experiences has been led by the Holy Spirit to write of these acts
of modern apostles who followed in the train of the early martyrs.
This volume is more
than a narrative of those who dared to follow their Lord in full
dedication of life and service. It is a daring, shocking, convicting
indictment of the spiritual shallowness and lack of passion for God’s
very best which characterizes the ease-loving generation of which we are
Do not read this
book hastily or in the midst of the confusion and distraction of a busy
day. Read it in the quiet of your chamber, read it slowly, read it
prayerfully, that your own heart may catch fire and cause you to become
a flaming witness.
DR. J. ELWIN WRIGHT,
Association of Evangelicals
The story of the
Armenian revival, preserved for us by the Rev. Bilezikian, is an
inspiration to all who are interested in the sovereign movements of
God’s Spirit in the history of the Church. It illustrates that the
Spirit bloweth where it listeth. This revival would be unknown to us
except for the record made by the Rev. Bilezikian. Revival often comes
from sufferings or else is the prelude to suffering. Many of God’s
people are praying these days for the last great revival of the age
preliminary to the tribulation and the coming of Christ. The fact that
thousands in mass meetings are hearing the Gospel would lead us to
believe that the Church may be moving toward a period of suffering for
which this is a preparation.
historical study will encourage your heart, inspire your labors and
awaken a new interest in revival.
Dr. H. J. OCKENGA
Pastor, Park Street
This book which
records the lives and works of some of God’s servants and saints is
written with the sole purpose that it might strengthen the faith and be
a blessing to those into whose hands it may fall. It is the aim of this
book also to preserve the testimony and experience of these servants of
God for the generations yet to follow. As in all ages of the Church, in
which the Holy Spirit did mighty and wonderful works through consecrated
souls, so during the first half of the twentieth century among our
Armenian people the blessed Holy Spirit brought about mighty
accomplishments through some obscure and weak instruments. It is the
sober conviction of the author that it would not be rightly honoring
those of yesteryears if we should permit their precious testimony to be
lost. At the outset it may be said that to understand this book and
appreciate its worth, it ought to be read through carefully and
The spiritual hero
of this book is Apraham Hoja Levonian of Aintab, Turkey. He was a man
absolutely dead to self and separated from the world. He was unique,
incredibly unique in a thousand and one ways. Of all the men the author
has known, Apraham Hoja could make without reservation the apostolic
claim: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who
live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I
live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”
(Galatians 2:20). Though like his Lord and Master, he was rejected
by men and misunderstood by them, none could withstand his power, nor
resist his prophetic personality. They could not deny the mighty
operation of the Holy Spirit in his life which resulted in the salvation
of thousands, and in the spiritual vision and purification of the Church
throughout the length and breadth of Central Anatolia. While Apraham
Hoja was the leading figure and moving spirit there were many other
worthy co-workers who suffered with him, some of whom are mentioned in
this book. But many men and women, all of whom have reached their rest
above, are too numerous to mention here.
In addition to the
astounding life and service of Apraham Hoja we are able to include in
this book only a few of his many amazing letters. In producing this
book, I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness and thanks to a few persons
who assisted me by their cooperation and helpful suggestions in
gathering the material and shaping the manuscript:
To Rev. M.
Bozuklian, formerly of Aleppo, Syria, for writing part of the
To Brother John
Shnorhokian of Beirut, Lebanon, for additional information about Apraham
Hoja, and for making available some of Hoja’s letters;
To Rev. M.
Apkarian for securing the exact copy and form of Hoja’s last will and
All these brothers
are now deceased.
The author is under
particular obligation to Rev. M. P. Krikorian, and would like to express
his deep gratitude for the outstanding assistance he rendered in making
a faithful translation. The text I wrote was in Turkish with Armenian
characters. The translator skillfully rendered it into English,
offering valuable suggestions, accomplishing a work I could not have
done. The readers of this translation who are familiar with the
Armenian text will certainly agree with me that Rev. Krikorian’s work
has been done well. He has managed not only to preserve the spirit of
the text, but has also rendered the thought, essence and atmosphere
In this book I
abided by the principle to give glory to no one. For Christ’s is the
kingdom and the power and the glory forever. It is my earnest hope that
through these pages God will be honored. I add my prayers that this
testimony will contribute to the salvation and spiritual awakening of
many, both now and in the days to come. I also wish that young people
in the coming generation will be benefited from this book and dedicate
their lives to the supreme service of Jesus Christ.
V. S. BILEZIKIAN
The Reverend Mr.
Vartan S. Bilezikian with his faithful wife, Elmas,
In their home in
Thomas Cosmades, an old friend, who updated the book
In November 1950
when I arrived in the USA at the age of twenty-seven, my uncle, Cosmas
Cosmades, welcomed me at the port of New York and drove me to his home
in Watertown, MA. I had the name and address of Reverend Vartan
Bilezikian with me, given by a friend. Newtonville, where Brother
Bilezikian and his wife, Sister Elmas (Elmas Hemshere) lived, was a
stone’s throw away. On my first evening in Watertown when I called him,
he immediately invited me to their home. We were both extremely happy
for our coming together. Brother Bilezikian was the very first
Christian minister I had the joy of meeting in the USA. He took a
fatherly interest in me, asking me to attend the Armenian Brethren
Church in Watertown the following Sunday and relate to the fellowship my
conversion experience. I shall not forget that Sunday when I spoke for
the first time from a pulpit in America.
almost all of whom
― except for
had come from Anatolia, listened with keen interest. This was the start
of a long friendship. Brother Bilezikian wanted me to study at some
school in New England. He and his wife drove me to Providence, Rhode
Island, where he got in contact with the dean of Providence Bible
College. After explaining my intention to eventually serve the Lord
among Turkish people he was able to obtain a financial arrangement with
the school for which I am ever grateful to him. A few years later, both
husband and wife were promoted to glory. Their sweet memory is ever
fresh in my mind. While studying at Providence, many weekends they
would invite me to their home and church. This was one of the many
couples – they had no children – whose support and assistance in the USA
I will gratefully remember until the day I die.
I am now in my
eighty-fourth year of life. I thank the Lord for his assistance in
enabling me to go over this book and put it into fresh form, along with
my wife Lila, whose contribution to this work was invaluable. On my
countless visits to the Bilezikian home Reverend Vartan would
passionately recount his many experiences from the days of his youth in
Turkey until moving to the United States in 1912. During our talks, I
encouraged him to put his rich memoirs into writing. Many others
induced him to do the same.
Brother Vartan was
born in Marash in 1883 to Sarkis and Marta Bilezikian, being the last
child (whose twin died in childbirth) in the family of five boys and one
girl. The name ‘Bilezik’ means ‘bracelet’ in Turkish. Armenians
in Anatolia bear trade names. Very likely, one of his progenitors was a
bracelet-maker. Sarkis was an early convert to the evangelical faith. He
became instrumental in establishing the first Armenian Evangelical
Church in Marash, ‘Birinji Kilise’ (First Church), as it was called in
Turkish. Vartan was a capable tailor by trade, had little education but
was conversant in three languages: English, Armenian and Turkish. He had
no experience in writing until he wrote this, his only book, ‘Apraham
Hoja of Aintab’. He went to be with the Lord in the Armenian Nursing
and Rehabilitation Center in Jamaica Plain, MA, in 1972.
God had his gracious
hand on him. Vartan experienced glorious revivals, preached widely in
Anatolian cities and won many to Jesus Christ. After landing in the
USA, he did extensive itinerant preaching. House meetings conducted
around the Boston area eventually developed into the Armenian Brethren
Church in Watertown. Brother Socrate Amiralian, also from Marash, was
working with him. Vartan faithfully ministered in this church for many
years. Some time after his arrival in the USA, he met Elmas Melkonian,
who was from a village between Marash and Aintab. She was working as a
cook at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. In her Vartan
found the beloved companion of his life. She was to stand with him very
faithfully until the Lord called her home after a prolonged illness.
During his later
years Brother Bilezikian acted on the many requests and began writing
this book in Turkish with Armenian characters. This was the
improvisation of the language used by Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Many of these people did not know their own Armenian language. This
worthy production was put into Armenian, printed and sold to numerous
Armenians around the world until the supply was exhausted. Many of them
remembered their endless afflictions and, at the same time, heartening
experiences related here. The book is not available anywhere today.
When this book came out in Armenian, it was considered a great lack not
to produce such a valuable source of information in English.
I wish to introduce
you to the person who did the original English translation, which will
offer further background about this valuable memorabilia. It was my joy
to be acquainted with Brother Krikorian. I could have never thought
that one day, my wife Lila and I would make a minor, but important
contribution for the presentation of this book on the Internet. We both
thank God for this privilege. We updated it linguistically and
stylistically. Afterward we checked about some details with various
sources, including the relatives of Vartan Bilezikian, all of whom we
thank for their assistance. This story is now added to the rostrum of
several noble accounts from Anatolia, once a land of glory. These can
all be found at our website:
www.cosmades.org. Our sincere wish is that those who read it will
catch a vision for evangelism, be gripped to pray for Turkey and the
conversion of the Turks, as well as for the many messengers of the Good
News who labor there.
Krikorian, Translator (1888-1974)
This book is an
unabridged translation from the Armenian-Turkish language of the Rev. V.
S. Bilezikian’s book “Apraham Hoja Levonian and Co-workers in the First
Half of the Twentieth Century.”
I have known Rev.
Bilezikian for over thirty years. Besides being together on a
missionary journey the best part of a year following WW I (1914-1918),
which covered eight states in America and several provinces in Canada, I
have spent months at a time in his hospitable home in Newtonville,
Massachusetts, while sharing a church-building operation with him and
also preaching and ministering to his congregation. Consequently, I
have come to know him most intimately as a brother in Christ, a warm and
genial friend, a near relative and an esteemed servant of the Lord; a
man who hazarded his life unto death and endured the tortures of the
Turkish prison for the sake of the Gospel.
In the course of our
association, I listened in private and in public to his poignantly
dramatic and extraordinary experiences of apostolic nature. The more I
heard, the more I became convinced that here were experiences and
testimonies that should be made available to the reading public.
Certainly the Christian church ought not to be deprived of a so gripping
and soul-stirring message. Therefore, at every opportunity I kept
before my brother the idea of a book, fanning into flame the smoldering
fire of his own desire. Nor was I alone in this; others here in America
as well as in the Near East — the seat and source of the text — joined
in the call for the writing of such a book.
The Rev. Mr.
Bilezikian was born in Marash, Turkey, in the year 1883, the son of
godly parents, his father being a scholarly minister. At the age of
fifteen, he accepted Christ as his Lord and Master; and his manner of
preaching the Gospel has been apostolic, in that, like Paul the
tent-maker, he has worked with his own hands and supported himself,
laboring for the perpetuation of the faith without financial recompense.
He is an accomplished tailor, and only in recent years, on account of a
pilgrimage to the gates of death, retired from business activities.
Happily, however, this has been rather a gain, in that it furnished the
freedom so necessary for the task of writing. In the goodness of God
restored to reasonably good health, he has accomplished what many have
hoped and prayed would some day be done.
Early in the spring
of 1951, Mr. Bilezikian wrote me that the manuscript was ready for
publication in the Armenian language, and asked what I thought of an
English edition. Judging from the warm reception the messages received
during our missionary journey, and on other similar occasions, I had
always visualized a welcome acceptance of such a book in English-reading
circles. At once, therefore, I gladly endorsed the idea, little
realizing, however, the part that would be mine in this endeavor. For
he wrote me back: “If this book is to appear in English, you are the one
to translate it.” Here was a piece of work, a spiritual drama, the
scenes of which were very close to my heart.
while on a preaching mission in metropolitan Boston, a conference with
Mr. Bilezikian resulted in the task of translation being prayerfully
undertaken. The best part of two months, averaging eight hours a day,
was devoted to the work, while the translator was established in the
comfortable home in Newtonville. This afforded the advantage of easy
access to each other for conference and consultation—prime requisites
for such an engagement, as this translation asked of the translator not
only his mind, but his spirit and his heart as well.
The author allowed
the translator the broadest of latitude in executing into English the
original manuscript, and meticulous care has been exercised to preserve
the atmosphere without sacrificing the color of the original text.
Whenever need of extension was deemed advantageous such as supplying
Scriptural references which did not always appear in the manuscript to
support statements of facts and claims, they have been freely supplied.
As the English of several hymns was not available, the poetry was
composed from the prose. However, as these extensions have received the
author’s imprimatur, no need has been felt to indicate them in the text.
Also, it should be noted that the translator has made avid use of new
material that has come to light since the original manuscript went to
The title of this
English edition, the dedication, and the chapters in their present form,
with the acquiescence of the author, is the work of the translator. It
is the judgment of both author and translator that they adequately serve
their purpose. The author and the translator have become collaborators,
each welcoming the thoughts and words of the other—the translator
enjoying complete autonomy with the full cooperation of the author.
I owe my thanks to
the author for having conferred on me this distinction and honor, which,
in spite of all the labor entailed, has been a rich and rewarding
experience. This translation is offered with humility. If a tithe of
the blessing that has come to me shall be the portion of the reader of
this book, then author and translator alike shall rejoice in this labor
M. P. K.