WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER
To a New Continent
Throughout the years of his service Vahram’s lips, mind and hands were a witness to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He wrote Christian articles in which he enlightened and encouraged Armenian folks throughout the world. Practically all these people had their roots in Anatolia, by and large using Turkish as their language. Those who survived the notorious genocide in 1916-1917 moved to every conceivable country seeking to find a new home for themselves. At the outset, most went to Aleppo in Syria and from there spread to other lands. Apraham Seferian was the leader of the Armenian Brotherhood, as it is called until now. This effective man hailing from Hadjin, near Adana, found himself in Aleppo. A wide and effective door was open before him among the thousands of Armenian refugees who had fled to this city. Among his many contributions, such as founding the Brotherhood Church, running the School of Life, etc., was also the publication of the Maranatha magazine. It was produced in Turkish with Armenian characters and for man y years enjoyed a wide readership from Iran to Argentina, engulfing many countries.
Scattered Armenian evangelical leaders regularly sent their articles to this valuable periodical. Refugees who had found a new home in strange lands were greatly benefited and encouraged. Vahram sent his articles from Istanbul. Before he ever left Turkey, his name and evangelistic endeavors were known by many. The magazine also reached Argentina, since following WWII Armenians from the Middle East and Greece migrated there. Vahram’s elder sister Dikranuhi and his brother-in-law, Misak Balian were settled in Buenos Aires. Armenian folks in Argentina who were benefited from his articles in Maranatha were begging his sister to invite Vahram to South America. For a long time he was not inclined to leave the climes in which he was being effectively used by the Lord. Finally, his heavenly Father gave him the ‘go-ahead.’ The invitation from his sister had to be validated by the Argentinean consulate in Beirut, where he was at the time. With growing restiveness in the Middle Eastern lands many people, especially those of Christian tradition, were eager to migrate elsewhere.
The gate to the Argentinean consulate had long queues of eager anticipants waiting to obtain the needed visa. Vahram joined them from early morning. After a long wait, his turn came and he was called in. It seemed that there was no end to the questions and formalities. He had to pursue his application on the following day. Again, it was more of the same. However, this wasn’t wasted time for this man who knew how to best utilize it. God who had ordained his journey was using him at the Argentinean consulate before he left Beirut. As was his practice, he was selling Scriptures to the long lines of people and witnessing to them. He told them that it was much easier to go to heaven than to Argentina or to any other country! People full of anxiety received a great uplift in the midst of the human regulations in which they were caught. Vahram was an evangelist, and knew how to bear witness for his Savior in season and out of season. The subject of going to heaven mentioned by a man from another country brought assurance to weary hearts. While waiting for his Argentinean visa to come through he devoted afternoons to house gatherings. Believers who realized they would probably not see him again on earth brought unsaved neighbors and friends to hear the message of Jesus Christ. The delay in obtaining his visa was God’s opportunity for evangelism.
At last, the Argentinean consulate put the stamp on his passport and the consul signed it. His ticket to Argentina was already in his possession, provided by his sister. There was no obstacle before him. It was a cold day in Beirut, February 25, 1957, when Vahram climbed the gangplank to the ship after fervent prayers of brothers and sisters who had come to the port to see him off. At a time when travelling by air was rather a novelty, a long voyage lay ahead. To many people this would be a difficult and somewhat boring passage. But not for Vahram! He boarded the ship with a good supply of Scriptures in several languages. People immediately took their places around tables to play cards. Some made their way to the bars to drink. Still others talked incessantly, looking at their watches, anticipating the next film showing while cracking pumpkin seeds between their teeth. It was not a bad time to be selling Scripture portions in Arabic, as well as in other languages. As he walked around the lounge his steps led him to three Armenian women involved in conversation. He began explaining to them how the Lord Jesus Christ had saved him from sin and changed his life direction from tailoring to Scripture selling. They took a genuine interest in what he was explaining. He stressed to them that the matter of their souls’ salvation could not be put off. One of the ladies was highly animated. She related that she was a preacher’s daughter, but had lapsed in her faith. She started telling Vahram her engaging story:
“My father became very ill. He was in no condition to go to church and preach. However he was burning with the desire to declare the message of Christ to the very end of his life. He called all of us family members and some friends to his bedside. He told us that he was dying. But before he went to meet his longed-for Savior, he felt compelled to tell his story one last time. Meeting his Savior in heaven was more real to him than closing his eyes in death. His spirit was buoyant. He spoke with unusual strength, challenged the unsaved ones to trust in Christ, and then committed his spirit to him. On that day some who didn’t know the Savior, were saved. They left the bedside of the dying preacher as transformed people. “
After explaining her arresting story, she listened with interest to Vahram’s extraordinary experiences. “You remind me of my father,” she said, and with tears in her eyes, she found her way back to the arms of the Savior. At their arrival in Alexandria, this lady assisted Vahram to get a visitor’s pass so he could visit his friends while the ship was in port. He wrote the following to his sister, Beatrice, in Istanbul: “If I were not a believer, where would I have such assistance?” In the same letter he related some of his fresh experiences: “A day after we had sailed from Beirut, we arrived in Alexandria. When I got out, I went to visit the brothers and sisters whom I knew from my previous trip.” This freighter stayed in Alexandria for two days. During this time Vahram made many visits and held a couple of meetings. The presence of the Holy Spirit was evident. He continued his letter, “Those converted during my previous visit to Egypt are going on with the Savior. How we all rejoiced, hallelujah! Next, we will be heading to Italy.” A pleasant smooth voyage made it possible for him to talk with many Arabs who were lounging around. They generally listened to him with interest. It was so good that Beatrice kept all his letters. In 2006 she went to be with her Lord.
After departing from Alexandria, their next stop was Syracuse, Sicily. There he visited a doctor, apparently for his never-ending physical ailments. He mentioned sharing his testimony with the doctor, but made no mention of the doctor’s name. Vahram needed to obtain Italian money, and the doctor offered to exchange his currency for him, but inadvertently gave him extra. Vahram immediately returned the extra money when he realized what had happened, and the doctor was very appreciative and somewhat surprised.
As they continued their voyage to Naples he contacted numerous people, selling or offering free Scriptures. Among them, he met a Jew wearing a skullcap. The man prayed three times a day. They struck up a conversation in Arabic and Vahram told him about his visit to Jerusalem, “I explained about Christ’s crucifixion on Golgotha and the agonies he endured.” The Jew who probably was hearing the Gospel for the first time did not object at all. Their friendship continued all the way to the end of the voyage, when they parted ways in Buenos Aires. Barriers of language and religion were almost non-existent with Vahram. He would silently pray before talking to each new contact. Some people enjoyed being in his company so much that they didn’t want to leave him. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Psalm126:5, 6).
He remembered the past trips to various Anatolian cities and his impressions from there. Reminiscing about them he recalled how difficult some of them had been. He often traveled in rain, snow or scorching heat. He encountered hard circumstances, in some places resistance, ridicule and distrust. He faced physical hunger at times, but he always sought to make his Savior known to his downcast people. This time bearing witness for his Savior in the comfort of a nice ship was an unusually pleasant experience. The passengers from various backgrounds on this Mediterranean voyage were favorably disposed to the message. Again he remembered those people in Anatolia whom he had evangelized and how he had prayed to God that there would be someone to follow him in watering and reaping the fruit of those labors (I Corinthians 3:6-9). During those difficult days of traveling in Anatolia he carried heavy packs of books on his back. He remembered how his Lord had helped him to endure all that exhaustion and how he rejoiced when the books found their proper use in remote villages. Now he was praying that the witness given here in favorable conditions would bring fruit in the days ahead. He was spreading Christ’s unique message on the ship and the Holy Spirit was attending his efforts. Vahram always looked ahead in faith. His work was not a fleeting activity, but something which would bring dividends in God’s time. He had seen God doing miracles in the past; likewise this outreach was going to affect lives. He was now on his way to carry the Good News to another continent. His joy was overflowing, but the greatest joy was awaiting him at Christ’s throne.
“Well done, good and faithful servant;
you have been faithful over a little,
I will set you over much;
Enter into the joy of your master”
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant,
whom his master has set over his household,
to give them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master
When he comes will find so doing.
Truly, I say to you, he will set him over
All his possessions”
This part of the voyage over, the ship arrived in Naples. Here he was to transfer to an ocean liner. He disembarked and found a reasonable hotel. First settling in his room, he took the stock of his Italian Scriptures and other literature and walked out onto the street to evangelize any and all he met. People received his witness and the books readily. They were meeting one of the very few people spreading Christ’s message in this place. Sinful practices in any port city are commonly known. He went around, talking to people who came across his way. At one point, he met three Catholic nuns and struck up a conversation with them. They could somehow understand each other since their common interest was directed to heaven. The nuns were delighted with this foreigner’s earnestness and joyfulness. One of them told him that he would do very well if he turned to Roman Catholicism. Smilingly he replied, “Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end.” It was nothing new for him to converse about his Savior with folks whose language he did not speak. In fact, he always found it to be an exhilarating experience. He was enthralled to be in a European country running around, pointing people to heaven. But alas! He had wandered pretty far out and lost his way back to the hotel. He felt like the lost sheep of the anxious shepherd, who after diligent search found it and rejoiced. He prayed to his Great Shepherd and experienced the Shepherd’s guiding his steps back to the hotel. He realized that indeed he had strayed quite some distance.
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