Thomas Cosmades






Lyman MacCallum[1], son of Canadian missionaries in Turkey who for many years was director of the Bible Society in Istanbul and died there, loved Vahram greatly.  Not only would he listen with interest to Vahram's experiences, but from time to time would write a piece of information about his selling Scriptures and other experiences.  Two of these valuable articles which at the time were read widely are being incorporated into this book.  Nothing has been altered from the original text. 


The journey had begun remarkably well.  Evangelist Vahram's somewhat venerable companion in the two-berth compartment of the Taurus Express had introduced himself as municipal treasurer of the holy city of Mecca, returning thither after medical treatment in Istanbul.  Vahram had the lower berth and begged that they exchange as he could more easily mount the ladder to the upper.  The travelling friendship thus established progressed pleasantly and the treasurer spent much time examining the Turkish and Arabic Scriptures which Vahram furnished.

On the second day, with the Syrian border drawing near, Vahram tried to do everything possible to distribute his Turkish Scriptures, for which there would be little demand in Arabic-speaking territories.  He even went through the sleeping car offering them in each compartment.  Only at one door was he rebuked somewhat excitedly by two young ladies whom he took to be school teachers.  They defiantly told him that it was very wrong and presumptuous of him to offer Christian Scriptures to Turks. During the next hour or two as he waylaid passing members of the train staff he saw them watching him with growing agitation.

At country stations youngsters offer to replenish the water-bottles of travellers at the station pump in return for a coin.  Before each of the rather frequent stops Vahram took care to empty his bottle so as to have an excuse for paying a Gospel to the lad who would fill it.  But at one station the ladies called out, "Look here, boy, tear that up; it's not a good book!"  The lad looked at them open-mouthed, then hurried out of sight still clutching his Gospel with its bright picture cover.  But this had been a declaration of war.

At the next stopover Vahram had hardly paid off a boy with the Gospel when a second lad came begging for a book.  Vahram seized and emptied the bottle of his Meccan friend and paid the boy for filling it, at which there were angry exclamations at the next window.  Then a third poor little boy appeared, demanding a book.

"Your chums earned theirs by filling my bottles.  You'll have to pay ten kurush for yours," said Vahram, who knew that the unfriendly teachers could involve him with the police and possibly interrupt his journey should he give the lad a free copy.

 "I have no money and I'm very fond of books.  Please, please give me a book," begged the lad, who might very well have been hoping to sell it as soon as the train left.  "No.  I must have money.  Go and beg ten kurush and buy your book."

 "Big brother, you know well that no one would give me money.  And the train has started.  Give me my book my book!"  Already he was trotting, and then running, holding up his hand to the window. Committing the outcome to God, Vahram dropped him the book, while two small, scandalised shrieks rang out from the next window.  In a moment the ladies were in the corridor shouting, "Shame on you, shameless one!  Where are the train police?  We are witnesses that you are poisoning the innocent Turkish children of these mountains."

"What is it?  What has he done?"  Corridor doors were flying open and a tall gentleman of some importance stood before him glaring coldly into Vahram's eyes while the teachers made their excited accusations.  They were obviously trying to draw a crowd whom they could then stir up against him.

 "Sir," said Vahram, "I believe that these ladies have entirely misunderstood me, but rather than speak in my own defence I would ask you to talk with this worthy gentleman from Mecca who, you will observe, is enjoying the books which they scorn."  With this Vahram got the stranger into the compartment and closed the door on the buzzing corridor.  After a few moments of polite conversation with the treasurer the stranger turned to Vahram and asked for one copy of each of his books.  "Police court evidence," thought Vahram in alarm, envisioning himself being handed over to custody at the next station.  Slowly he made a little pile of his Old and New Testament portions.  "And now a Gospel each for the ladies," ordered the stranger.  Bewilderment redoubled Vahram's foreboding.  "Those two would gladly arrest me for giving them Gospels," he objected.

 "You're not giving them, I am.  I'm buying these books, you know."  It seemed to Vahram in his relief that an angel of the Lord was a passenger that day on the Taurus Express.  Vahram thought it wise not to accompany him when he presented the books to the teachers, or to appear for some time.  When he did slip quietly into the corridor he heard the teachers discussing the story of Zacchaeus, at which his grateful heart overflowed.

The ladies left the train at Adana.  Vahram quickly checked their empty compartment and was delighted not to find the Gospels abandoned on the seat.  Courageous now, he posted himself at the window, almost challenging them if they cared to denounce him.  But they were happily embracing friends on the platform.  He wondered whether they would continue to ignore him, or would leave a farewell as is customary among Oriental travellers.  This would show their hearts.  Greetings ended, luggage and parcels were gathered up and the party began to move off.  But one of the two waited until the others had gone on; then with a quick dart she turned full round to Vahram and said, "A good journey to you."  "God go with you," he replied, knowing that she heard as she hurried away.  He sat down to follow them with prayer.


  [1] He is author of a very intriguing book, "Call to Istanbul"

  [2] From "The Bible in the World", publication of the British and Foreign Bible Society, January-February 1954


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