WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER
BEIRUT, A COSMOPOLITAN CITY
From the time he left Istanbul twelve days before, with stops in several port cities, the ship embarked in Beirut. For Vahram, it had been much more than a pleasant Mediterranean cruise. It had been an opportunity to contact fellow-believers in every place, minister to them and to evangelize people of various backgrounds onboard ship. In spite of linguistic barriers God enabled him to reach people through Scriptures and through using the few phrases he had memorized beforehand.
The American Board in Istanbul had offered to send Vahram to NEST, Near East School of Theology in Beirut. At this stage of his Christian life and ministry, Vahram was already established on the teaching of the Bible. However, since he wanted to spend a while in Beirut, he accepted the offer. Vahram knew that some of the teaching at NEST had liberal elements in it. He started his brief study being aware of the schoolís position. As he was praying earnestly about the period of his studies at NEST, the Lord appeared to him in a vision: "Don't be swayed by details." At the time he couldn't quite understand what this meant, but eventually he was to find out the essence of some of the teaching. Therefore, he couldnít throw himself wholeheartedly into the lessons. The curriculum of the school was in English, however there was a provision made for Armenian students who didnít know the language.
Vahram felt oppressed in Beirut. He discovered that this city which was fast becoming the 'Pearl of the Mediterranean' was a hedonistic centre for many who ran there for amusement. Indeed, the fast life of Beirut surpassed that of Istanbul. Every religion and creed under the sun was found in this city. This gave him a very special opportunity to spread God's message. The renowned city abounded with churches of all denominations. Every mission had its representation in this place. There was precise preaching of Godís Word from many a pulpit. There was also freedom to sell Scriptures, distribute literature and witness openly. Vahram was very happy for these favorable aspects. However, the uninhibited life-style of the people was not to his liking. It only motivated him to evangelize more fervently. He established contact with the Bible Society. Because he was a former employee of the Society they offered at discount all the Scriptures he could sell. This brought encouragement to Vahram, and he took full advantage of this offer, walking the streets and selling books ó mostly Arabic ó in his spare time. The Bible Society people later remarked that his sale of Scriptures in Lebanon surpassed that of all the other colporteurs. During his stay in Beirut, he sold one thousand one hundred copies of Bibles, New Testaments and portions. Like anyone engaged in spiritual warfare, he experienced similar feelings to those of Paul at Corinth; "Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city" (Acts 18:9,10). The Lord revealed to Vahram three ways in which he could pursue his commission:
1. By prayer and fasting
2. By evangelizing, preaching and teaching
3. By frequent fellowship with believers.
He took Paul's encouragement to Timothy as his own motto: "And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2).
From the very beginning he discovered the teaching and way of belief at the seminary not in full harmony with what he had been taught from early on in his Christian life. The teaching was tilted toward the naturalistic. Among the students there were several who had the new birth experience. They, too, took this kind of teaching with a grain of salt. Perceiving that these contemporary thoughts were not in full harmony with the authoritative message of the Bible, Vahram continuously went back to the Word. He gave his testimony to teachers and students alike, stressing the necessity of the new birth. He would insist, "There is both heaven and hell" and lovingly invited each one to a clear-cut commitment to Christ.
After what turned out to be nine months at the theological seminary, he sensed the Lord leading him to move on to Syria. Along with his studies, he had been fully occupied in fellowshipping with other Christians, attending both church and house meetings, and selling books. For a long time he had wanted to go to Damascus, from where many standing invitations were before him. But he had no money. There were only two and a half Lebanese pounds in his pocket. How far could such a small amount take him? As he was contemplating this, a sister who was a cleaning woman appeared at the place he was staying. With reticence and bashfulness she handed him an envelope. That same day a completely unknown person to him came up to him, also with an envelope, saying, "This money is for you," and he pressed the gift into Vahramís hand. These love-gifts were ample proof from the Lord that now was the time for him to set off on the road to Damascus.
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