Thomas Cosmades





In 1941, the war raged on in all its fury.  The government abruptly drafted men from the minorities whose ages spanned a period of twenty years.  In fact, some younger ones discharged shortly before from regular service, were called up again.  The task assigned to all non-Turkish draftees was road construction.  They were issued brown uniforms to differentiate them from the ordinary soldiers. Vahram and Aram were sent to the same location.  Here at Kuri Kemeri, between five and six hundred men were assigned to build a road.  From morning to night they slaved away with pick and shovel in all kinds of weather conditions.  Naturally, most of them did not know Vahram.  Those who saw his devotion to God and how he was encouraging everyone soon started calling him 'the priest'.  Many contracted malaria.  Aram, knowing Vahram's weak constitution, asked the commanding officer if he might be given lighter work.  The sympathetic officer complied and gave him a job in the kitchen.

For any given offence soldiers were put into an old Turkish bath which was being used as a prison. Vahram and Aram volunteered to join them.  So the officer said, “Okay; you can stay there for three days.” Shut up in an old hamam[1], what were they going to do?  Everyone was telling each other dirty stories, most of them centered on sexual experiences.  Aram explained to them the story of Joseph.  Vahram related the story of Samson with its bitter consequences.  Unbeknown to them, the officer was listening outside.  He opened the door and came in.  "Vahram, I thought you were an intelligent fellow," he said.  "But now you're talking about some imaginary man who shakes the pillars of a great hall and topples the whole building.  What a crazy tale!”

Vahram said, "Sir, I didn't invent the story; it's recorded in the Holy Book."  The officer was intrigued and wanted to be told every detail of the account.  As a result, he gave Vahram permission to hold a meeting every Sunday.  Behind such developments, Vahram could always see the intervening hand of his sovereign Lord.  This so-called ‘military’ tenure was full of similar experiences.

Among soldiers there are always some rough characters.  They dislike godliness.  "Come on, let's pull a trick on Vahram," said one of them.  So they planned their scheme.  In an out-of-the-way place, they arranged an entertainment with raki[2] a strictly forbidden party for soldiers.  They wanted to include Vahram.  He joined them, but refused to drink.  Instead, he opened his Bible and started reading to them.  They were not disposed to favorably respond.  Suddenly, four of them jumped to their feet, grabbed him and forced raki into his mouth — a very upsetting experience for Vahram.  In leaving, he sensed the pitiless nature of Satan and felt deep grief for sinners caught in his clutches.  Vahram remarked that one of the most effective weapons of Satan in fighting the truth of Christ is firmly holding sinners in his grip by all means.  Some of those who saw that Vahram didn't inform the officer about the prohibited raki party ridiculed him and called him a coward.  Mockery of the preaching of God's word has a very long history (cf.  Acts 17:32).

One of the soldiers made up his mind to have Vahram swear.  Naturally, he refused.  When the instigator saw that he couldn't accomplish his aim, he hit Vahram on the head with his fist, causing his nose to bleed.  Again Vahram did not run to the officer to complain, nor did he bear a grudge.  Christ's life had become his.  Another time from a high wall a few fellows threw dirty water on him, soaking him from head to foot.  He said, "Praise the Lord!"  From that time on, whenever they heard the cry, "Praise the Lord!" people around would say "The priest's in trouble again!" 

At last this hard service was concluded. Much witness had been left behind.  He came back to the brothers and sisters in Istanbul as a fortified person with much praise to God for his gracious sustenance.  The believers had not slackened in their devotion to God, nor had they given up the meetings.  In the absence of Vahram who had been regularly teaching the Word, both men and women gave themselves to prayer. They became a closely-knit family united in Christ.  God did not leave their prayers unanswered.  He had protected and used Vahram and returned him safely to them.

  [1] Hamam - Turkish bath house

  [2] raki - a strong anise-flavored alcoholic drink, well-known in Turkey

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