WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER
DAMASCUS IN CRISIS
Arriving by bus in Damascus, Vahram immediately started looking for the people whose addresses he had been given. It was a great joy for him to become acquainted with Christians he hadn't known before. But the whole city of Damascus was in fear and anguish because Syria was at war with the newly-born state of Israel. There was general anxiety; people were uncertain about what was going to happen from one day to the next. Vahram joined ranks with the believers and they all walked together to the front of a church where there was a statue of the Apostle Paul. Using the passage from Acts 9:1-25, he encouraged their hearts. The city was being bombarded incessantly, but he calmly carried on. The Christians were amazed at his courage. In a letter written to a brother he related the following: "Once again I witnessed how Jesus Christ takes away fear from his true child. In all of this, many times I bowed my head and thanked God for the peace he gives in the midst of trouble."
Witnesses were relating a sad incident which had happened the night before. A young woman had just returned home from an amusement centre when a bomb fell on her house and she was killed. Vahram was deeply affected by the story and wrote, "Many people say, 'I'll live as I please, and then repent at the last minute.’ But Satan does not so easily allow that 'last-minute opportunity'." Fear was spreading. People were abandoning their homes and fleeing the city. So Vahram added these words, "Satan whispered in my ear, 'This is a very dangerous place. Get out just for the time being. Take care of yourself. The danger will soon be past, and then you can come back.' But the Lord has sent me to Damascus. Was it not He who said to me while I was still in Beirut, 'Arise, go to Damascus'? When my Lord gives a clear command He never cancels it or contradicts Himself." Vahram did not pray, "Oh Lord, shall I stay in Damascus?" He was not one to keep praying about something on which he had clear guidance.
Every morning from five to seven he gave himself to prayer, pleading that sinners might repent. Then he would hurry off to house meetings. In spite of the prevailing fear many people, both young and old, came. Those who joined in the meetings received comfort and in turn encouraged others to attend. The meetings were usually in Turkish. It happened that a hoja from Turkey was passing through Damascus. An Armenian brother who met him informed him of the meetings in Turkish going on at that time. He gladly attended. He heard Vahram preach on heaven and hell, and responded at that very meeting by raising his hands and praying, "My God, I realize I am a sinner and that my heart is in need of the grace of Christ. Wash me in His precious blood." He found peace and joined the believers. His whole direction changed from then on.
At times meetings were held in the open air. With violin in one hand and Bible in the other, Vahram would preach and sing, inviting men and women to come to the Savior. People became curious to hear this man who was speaking in Turkish. Some days there were five or six meetings. Many responded to God's call. Occasionally there was opposition. In one of the meetings a drunk appeared and started throwing stones at everybody and swearing. On another day, again a drunk threatened him, "If you don't scram, you'll be in big trouble!" Vahram wasn't worried about these attacks. Since his Lord had brought him to Damascus, what could man do against His will? While walking down the street called Straight where Ananias was sent to the Apostle Paul he saw a man earnestly praying in front of the alleged house of Ananias. He told him that it was not sacred houses or hallowed streets that would offer a person inner peace, but that the blood of Jesus Christ which had cleansed Saul of Tarsus could do the same for him. The man was touched. He shed tears of repentance and trusted in Jesus Christ.
At the farewell in Istanbul when the believers came to send him off at the Galata wharf, their thought was that Vahram would be gone for six months. But his ministry kept expanding and now he didn't know when he would return. The Lord spoke to him: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD" (Isaiah 55:8). He was continuously receiving new invitations and having encouraging encounters. The Holy Spirit was advancing God's work through him.
He was longing to visit Jerusalem, but the Arab-Israeli war prevented him from going. However, this desire was to be realised later. While the war was raging, God spoke to him: "Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water" (Psalm 114:7, 8). This positive affirmation relayed to him the promise of a forthcoming spiritual awakening. His heart was lifted with the promise that God was going to perform mighty works. With invigorated faith he was waiting to see what lay ahead. His experiences as God's servant throughout the years assured him of bright days to come.
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