Thomas Cosmades





A woman was seeking the Lord for eight years.  She would spend whole nights in various churches, sometimes lying in dusty attics crying out and pleading in prayer until morning.  Yet she couldn't find the assurance that she had obtained peace with God and the certainty of eternal life.  One day on a street she saw a hamal[1] lugging a basket of coal on his back.  He was humming the tune of a hymn as he went along.  She thought that this hamal straining under the heavy load might be a true Christian.  Hoping that he might be able to point her to God she called out, "When you have delivered your load, would you mind coming to my home?"

When the porter arrived at her home she asked him, "Do you know the way that leads to heaven?"  The porter declared that she needed to be like the saints and that to reach such a level she had to go to church, prostrate herself on the ground, give generously to the poor, fast and pray constantly.  "But for eight years I've been doing all that," said the woman, "and still I have no assurance that I shall get to heaven.  Instead of these things, I'm going to perform a kindness to you in your need."  So she proceeded to cut the porter's hair and trim his nails, and shaved his beard.  She threw his lice-infested shirt into the fire and furnished him with a brand-new one.  Pressing some money into his hand, she sent him off to the nearest hamam.  After all these works of mercy she hoped that her soul might be blessed with the peace she sought.  Cruel disappointment again mocked her.  Instead of experiencing spiritual release, she felt only coldness inside her soul.

She started to read about the lives of the saints; all were very splendid and remarkable, but what was the relevance to her?  One day she went to see her sister who had some joyful news to share.  "I have met a very interesting man," she said.  "He's a living saint.  May I bring him to your home?"  Immediately, the woman's curiosity was aroused.  "Oh, yes, find him and bring him to me as soon as possible!" she earnestly begged.  Finding Vahram, the sister said, "Can you come with me immediately to my older sister's home?"  Vahram was always ready to act on such urgent calls.

When Vahram reached her home, his first question was, "Do you have sin in your heart?" "You've put your finger on my problem exactly," she said.  And she began to unburden herself: "My sin is very great.  I am crushed under its weight.  I donít know how to get rid of it ó I've tried everything."  Vahram sweetly sang a hymn of invitation to Christ.  Then he clearly explained how God is love and offers salvation to the sinner through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Like one who has just stumbled upon a whole new world, the woman cried, "I understand, I understand!"  Joyfully she went on, "I am now putting my trust in Christ, receiving the forgiveness and peace He offers."  The blessings of salvation she had vainly sought for so many years finally became hers.

Vahram was not only seeking out sinners to lead them to the grace of God, he was also moved with compassion towards backsliders.  Whenever he received news of someone who had strayed from the life of faith to love for the world, he would be consumed with pathos to lead him back to the Lord.  After prayer he would go to see him.  Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and filled with the love of Christ, he would approach that person and re-introduce him to the reassuring love of Jesus Christ.

On one occasion, he learned of the arrival in Istanbul of someone who had come to Jesus Christ while in Anatolia but had since gone back to the pursuit of pleasure.  The man was looking for a friend of his and hearing that Vahram was the only person who knew where he was, came reluctantly to Vahram's home.  Vahram was on his knees praying at the time.  When the door opened and the visitor caught a glimpse of his face, radiant with joy, he was deeply affected.  Vahram at prayer was truly transported to heaven.  The man was immediately convicted of sin and pled that the Holy Spirit would grant him the same joy and radiance.  He genuinely repented and fell on his knees to pray with Vahram.  The backslider was restored and promised to follow Christ.  He had long before given up carrying a New Testament, so Vahram gave him a new one.  He never forgot that day ó and never let go of that New Testament.  From then on, he too sought to restore backsliders who had made shipwreck of their lives.  "Save some, by snatching them out of the fire" (Jude 23a).

Suzan was offended by another sister.  She unburdened her heavy heart to Vahram.  "Sister, it's normal for offences to come.  We must know how to let them go.  When I became a Christian, my Lord showed me that I must not bear a grudge against anyone in my heart.  He is your Lord, too.  Listen to his word."  The grudge that Suzan had been carrying vanished.

Vahram's ministry encompassed both men and women.  Hundreds of women believed in the message of salvation they had heard from him.  This man who never married extended to many women the ministry of reconciliation through Christ.  In this way he demonstrated the equality for women in God's kingdom.  It wouldn't be an exaggeration to apply to him this passage from Scripture: "This continued for many years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord..." (Acts 19:10).

  [1] hamal - porter. A hamal has a saddle on his back on which heavy loads are tied and carried. Being a hamal is having the lowest job in Turkey.

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