Thomas Cosmades





On the Asiatic side of the city in Suadiye, YMCA had a beautiful campsite.  Every summer young people from the city would retreat there for a time of recreation.  This was long before Istanbul's population exploded.  At that time Suadiye, Erenkoy and Bostanci were just villages with lovely summer homes surrounded by gardens.  The American director of the YMCA had heard of Vahram and arranged for him and his friend Aram to have a holiday free of charge at the camp.  Normally this place would have been out of their reach.  So before they went they prayed that God would use their witness there.

In the light-hearted atmosphere, someone had an idea, that with the help of a friend he would catch the Turkish camp director and throw him fully clothed into the Marmara Sea!  It was really hilarious to everyone except to the victim.  He emerged from the water sopping wet and choking.  "Are you pleased with your accomplishment?" he gasped.

Now the camp had a set of rules, and the designated punishment for this kind of horseplay was that the instigator provide a new set of clothes for the victim and then that he be tied to a tree without food.  The punishment was carried out to the letter and the director himself bound the culprit with rope to a tree.  The prankster's friend said to Vahram, "If you believe in doing good, why don't you untie our friend and let him go and get something to eat?"  "How can I set someone free who is being punished by the director?" Vahram replied.  "I have no authority to do this.  But..." he continued, "if the director approves, let him free this man and tie me to the tree in his place."  Hearing this, the director proceeded to tie Vahram to another tree.  Vahram said, "Now that you have tied me up you must set him free."  So the director untied the prankster and let him go.

Vahram asked the director, "Do I have any guilt in this affair?"  The director said, "No!"  "Then why did you tie me up?"  The director replied, "You asked to be tied up in his place."  Then Vahram began to explain that the sinless and guiltless Lord Jesus was hung on the cross in our place of his own volition and there he died.  "Just as the prankster here accepted my being tied in his place, so we too must accept through faith Christ's taking our place.  We must repent of all our sin and ask God's forgiveness."

The illustration was apropos and its application exact.  But there was a camp rule dictated by the governmental authorities that any conversation about religion was forbidden[1].  The YMCA director entered in nervously, "I wanted to give you two weeks of rest in this place, but you don't seem to know the meaning of the word 'rest'.  You are simply carrying on your work here.”  They almost sent the two friends home, but the matter was resolved amicably and they stayed.  Whenever Vahram and Aram found the camp entertainment crude they would slip away to their room and pray.  With discreet conversation they were able to finish out their two weeks with no further problems.

At this time Istanbul’s population was only 750,000 and information of the ongoing revival spread quickly.  But instead of rejoicing over what was happening, the Protestant churches for the most part were not very happy about it.  There was a well-known Armenian professor named Dr. Hagopian.  One day Vahram decided to take some of the young believers to visit him.  Each one explained his conversion story, telling how Christ had made him a new person.  The professor listened with patience to all of them and then remarked, "Is this all you're busying yourselves with?"  And with that he sent them off.  While many were affected by the message of salvation, others decided it was not for them.

Vahram's main concern was to relate to everyone what Christ had done in his own life.  One day along with some others he went to visit Dr. Huntington, a well-known teacher at Robert College to tell him their life stories.  These were simple young men having come out of an irreligious background.  Their lives had been completely transformed during the revival.  An intelligent hearer could appreciate the change which had taken place.  After listening to the testimonies with interest, the doctor exclaimed, "Thanks be to God for His work of salvation in your lives!"

As he travelled from place to place selling Bibles, Vahram had some interesting experiences.  Once in a while it happened that he approached people absorbed in amusing themselves.  When he tried to sell them books, they would make fun of him.  Then he would read from the Word: "Of whom are you making sport?  Against whom do you open your mouth wide and put out your tongue?  Are you not children of transgression, the offspring of deceit?" (Isaiah 57:4).  This appropriate rebuke would sober and silence them.

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