Thomas Cosmades

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WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER

CHAPTER 13

ON ROADS AND TRAMS

One day when Vahram, Artaki and Aram were praying together they said, "We put great emphasis on house meetings and get much joy over the salvation of a lot of people.  But many know nothing of our meetings.  How will they hear the name of Christ?  It's up to us to take the Good News to the highways and byways.  We could at least start to preach in the streetcars."  So they started on the trams, Vahram with his violin, Artaki with his harmonica and Aram also helping proclaim new life to men and women in song and speech.  In the early thirties 'New Life' was the brand name of a caramel that was being pushed everywhere on the market.  It had so caught the public imagination that within a short time everybody was singing the virtues of 'New Life': "It cools the mouth, refreshes the breath, gives new whiteness to the teeth, stops coughs and colds there's nothing that 'New Life' can't do!"

On every tram, ferryboat and street comer vendors were crying, 'New Life, New Life!  One day when the three friends were on a tram spreading the news about genuine new life, one passenger shouted, "We haven't got much out of the old life; let's give the new one a try."  Then and there he wanted to buy new life.  But the brothers explained that real new life is without money or price, it is the free gift of God's grace.

Another day Vahram and Aram were on their way to visit some newly arrived families from Anatolia.  At one of the tram stops Aram said, "Come on, let's sing a hymn!"  So the two began to sing, "Hallelujah to the Lamb who washed away our sins and gave us new life!"  A passenger muttered, "We can't escape these songster-beggars."  Immediately another rejoined, "What songsters!  These are Jesus-propagandists!"

Vahram and his friends were taken to the police station several times, but after questioning were always allowed to go free.  One day, when Vahram was being held in a police station an older sister, Rebekah, heard about it and hurried there to pray.  The police were amazed to see such a close bond between these people.  Vahram explained, "You see, we're brother and sister."  But one of the policemen was puzzled.  "How can this elderly lady be a sister to someone as young as you?"

One day, again in the tram, Vahram began singing "Lo, He is coming in the clouds, the Lamb that was slain!"  Everyone listened with interest.  Two young men standing nearby asked Vahram what the song was about.  He replied, "It's about Jesus Christ who came down once and was offered as a sacrifice for sinners.  He will come a second time to judge those who have not repented.  We should be prepared for His coming."  One of the passengers, an elderly man, rose angrily to his feet exclaiming, "Efendi[1] this is not a church; it's public transport!"  One of the young men retorted, "Sir, why do you interrupt our conversation?  Did we ask your opinion?"  "Come to your senses," replied the man.  "They are feeding you poison."  "What has poison got to do with it?" replied the young man.  "Can't we think for ourselves?  You hear what he's saying he's talking plain Turkish."  In exasperation the man shouted "Police!" At that moment, the tram was passing a police station.  The man made the tram stop and forcibly dragged Vahram into the police station.  "This man has been singing a spiritual song on the tram," he announced.  One of the young men had followed them into the police station.  The elderly man became suspicious, requesting to see his identity card and asked him, "How is it that you side with such a person?"

As for the police, they first of all took the elderly man to a room for questioning.  Waiting outside, Vahram prayed earnestly.  As the elderly man was coming out, Vahram ran and kissed his hand.  He said, "Please forgive me sir for arousing your anger."  The man was flabbergasted, not knowing what to make of such unaccustomed behavior.  Then Vahram was summoned inside for questioning by three officers, but at this juncture the door opened and the elderly man appeared.  "I apologise for dragging him here by force," he said.  "I withdraw my complaints.  Please do not take any action."

When the police chief questioned Vahram about the incident, he explained: "Inspector Efendi, I used to live a sinful life, but one night God showed me the terrors of hell in a dream.  For days I was ill and could not eat.  This remarkable experience led me to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus forgave all my sin and saved me.  He gave me a completely new life.  Now I am always filled with joy at my deliverance from hell.  No money, pleasure or entertainment could offer such delight.  While men are struggling in the slavery of sin, should we keep silent?  God commands that all men repent and believe in Christ."

The inspector interrupted, '"Don't you know our authority?  Singing of hymns and calling people to believe in Jesus is not allowed on the trams."  "Sir," said Vahram, "Jesus Christ is coming again to throw Satan into the lake of fire, and Satan will drag many sinners with him.  He is the most pernicious enemy of man.  Is it out of place to tell men and women to be liberated from Satan's clutches?"  The inspector said, "Who doesn't know that sin is wicked?  You're not a hoja[2], neither a priest nor a rabbi.  Who are you to praise Jesus on public transport?"  Vahram replied, "The motivating force is the transformation Jesus brought about in my own life.  Actually, he is the one speaking."  0ne of the policemen asked him, "Which Faculty did you graduate from?"  Vahram chuckled, "What Faculty? Police bey, I don't even remember going to school."  The policeman mused, "This is really strange.  You didn't go to school.  Then how can you teach so well?"

The inspector pressed him further: "You say that Christ has transformed your life.  Tell us a bit more about that."  Vahram explained, "If a vine in a vineyard yields sour, tasteless grapes, the vinedresser prunes it, digs around it and spreads fertilizer on it.  Then he waters it and does anything else that needs to be done.  But the vine is still the same vine.

In the end he cuts a branch from a vine that is yielding sweet fruit and grafts it onto the useless vine.  Only then does the vine begin to produce good fruit.  You see, I used to be that vine bearing tasteless fruit.  Jesus Christ made the necessary graft into my life through the sacrifice of His blood and I became a different person.  My own efforts had not helped at all.  When Christ does the work of grafting in the sinner's life, the sinner becomes a saved and purified person."  "So no other graft takes, then?" the inspector exclaimed.  "Exactly," replied Vahram.

The conversation took on a friendly tone, "Well then, where will you go from here?"  "To a prayer meeting," said Vahram.  "And after that, God willing, I'll go home."  "I don't want to prolong this affair," said the inspector.  "If I refer it to the courts, it will be a lot of involvement for you.  Since the man who brought you here has decided to withdraw his complaint, you can go.  Only, don't preach on the streets, boulevards and trams again."  He gave Vahram's identity card back to him and they warmly parted ways.

  [1] Efendi - "Mr.", used also as "sir"

  [2] Religious teacher.  The Sunni branch of Islam, - as practiced in Turkey, is not supposed to make room for clergy, contrary to the Shia branch which is in control of the clergy.

 

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