WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER
OPPOSITION AND EXHILARATION
At this time in Istanbul there were only a few traditional Protestant churches. In general they followed stereotyped patterns of worship and viewed with suspicion the necessity of the new birth, witnessing for Christ and house gatherings. They held to the position that it was sufficient for anyone to attend church, listen to a sermon and worship God. It was hard to find any warmth, liveliness or enthusiasm in these traditional churches. They looked down on Vahram and the other believers as the 'Spirituals,' because of the unstructured nature of the meetings and that the Holy Spirit alone was the guide. Vahram's response to this was, “My brother, they call us the 'Spirituals.' As long as they don't call us the 'Unspirituals' we won't object!"
Among the ministers who knew the new birth and lived in its blessing was Garabet Derhovannesian. As minister of the Gedikpasha church, this respectable person with his grey beard and upright posture influenced his hearers by his devotion to Jesus Christ. He was filled with joy at the spiritual awakening in Istanbul. His comprehensive preaching was drawing new converts to the meetings and helping them to mature in the life of faith. He was a loved and respected father to all. As a person enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he was well able to handle God's Word. He took his call very seriously. At the outset of his ministry, usually walking from house to house, he would visit as many as fifteen hundred families in a year. He would go from one family to another in those tightly-knit neighborhoods, instructing and encouraging them. Actually, God used him to pave the way for the spiritual awakening in the thirties.
Revival, or spiritual awakening, is a divine act advanced by the Holy Spirit. But believers wittingly or unwittingly prepare the way of the Lord. As Isaiah affirmed and John the Baptist reiterated, "A voice cries: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken’” (Isaiah 40:3-5).
Garabet Derhovannesian, Moscho Bekleyen, James K. Lyman, Aleksanefendi Batmazian, Hagopos Karakochian, David Giray and several other men and women knew that the prevailing traditionalism in churches was not God's supernatural order. They believed that the Holy Spirit was capable of doing something entirely different. Like Jacob wrestling with God, they fasted and prayed for God to fulfil his promises. Now they were witnessing a unique work of Christ. From every corner of Istanbul God's children were singing songs of praise and thanksgiving. In faith they were praying that the Lord would perform even mightier deeds. This was true revival. Sinners were cleansed. Lives were saved. Hearts were pricked and renewed, and believers were strengthened.
While the work induced and advanced by the Holy Spirit was bringing joy and delight to many, others were hardening their hearts and some even resorted to resistance. Acts of obstruction have not been uncommon in times of revival. While many people were offering praise for the revival, others were looking on with distaste, mistrust and envy. The awakening had been poured out by the Holy Spirit, but instead of encouraging the much-needed work, these detractors in the churches were complaining about Vahram's ignorance, his extreme enthusiasm and the haphazard ‘air’ prevailing in the meetings. What they failed to see was that this was not generated by Vahram, but was activated by the Holy Spirit.
At the same time Vahram's own family were also unhappy with his peculiar line. "How could he turn his back on such a promising, successful and lucrative business?" they demanded. "And for what? For an activity with no prospect for the future! What can possibly come of it all?" His mother complained to some of Vahram’s friends and begged them to persuade him to change his mind and go back to his tailoring. And she just could not fathom why he should retreat to his room and spend long hours in prayer. Praying all night and fasting could play havoc with his health, she reasoned! She became obsessed with these thoughts. She was afraid that her son was becoming a fanatic. Vahram would always respond to his family's fears with the words, "Praise the Lord!" Shortly after this mild resistance his father and mother were both converted. A few years later his mother contracted tuberculosis. On her deathbed she said with joy, "My son is Jesus Christ's nightingale."
God always met the physical needs of the believers. Among them were poor, unemployed, sick and of course, the newcomers from Anatolia. Money generously placed in the offering plate at the meetings provided for the basic sustenance of many. About this time a wealthy Greek businessman named Niko Kamileri became a Christian. He met the needs of Vahram and other believers from the proceeds of his two bustling dairy product shops on the main boulevard of Istanbul. He also gave work in his business places to some of the unemployed Christians.
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