WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER
Plowed Ground, Watered Fields
Vahram’s program to preach and evangelize was already laid. On March 21, 1957, the day after his arrival, the congregation gathered in a church with high expectancy of great blessing. It was a notable occasion, commencing his ministry in South America. He couldn’t yet fully adjust himself to the new land and the climate change. Standing behind a new pulpit was nothing unusual for him. Throughout his ministry he had proclaimed Christ’s Good News from many a pulpit, in coffee houses and on street corners. He was entirely new to the audience, nevertheless as a seasoned evangelist he felt at home everywhere. Vahram’s thoughts were carried back to the farmer in Anatolia. He sensed that the ground had been cultivated and watered prior his arrival. For this he gave thanks to the Holy Spirit. The believers were full of joy at hearing the anointed message in their own Armenian language. Born-again Christians remarked about an air of Pentecost blowing in their midst. The effect of the Word was immediately felt as it fell upon prepared hearts. Some were converted and believers in attrition found their way back to the Lord. That evening ended with deeply felt jubilation.
Vahram was guest at his sister and brother-in-law’s house. Just as had happened in other countries, house gatherings became the order of the day. He had a special interest in house meetings and strongly believed in their effectiveness. Following his conversion in Istanbul on October 14, 1928, the first meetings he participated in were house gatherings. Those experiences brought an unforgettable reward as they were the beginning of an unnoticed revival which moved onward to several little homes. Who knows how many were ushered into God’s kingdom at the start of his ministry? Now in the concluding years of his service house gatherings in another corner of the world were still drawing people to Christ. From the very outset, he was also out on the streets and in the public squares selling Scriptures and witnessing. The passion of his soul to introduce Christ and gather in sheaves never abated. He felt that he was fulfilling of Christ’s words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). The earnest follower of the Prince of Peace was always involved in his peace-making mission, always calling sinners to repentance and reconciliation to God.
Vahram, a messenger of peace, was used by God to induce vertical and horizontal peace. People were reconciled to God and then to each other; frictions and factions vanished. To this aftermath of the preaching of the Word he would respond with his often-heard ‘Hallelujah!’ There was an immediate task before him. His sister’s son, Joseph Balian, in the same house where he was staying, had never made a decision for the Savior. He couldn’t have imagined that a brilliant Christian life and service for Christ lay ahead. It wasn’t too long before Joseph opened his prepared heart to Christ. This young man grew in the faith and led many others to the Savior (II Timothy 2:2). It was too bad that Joseph was not going to enjoy a long life. He died in his thirties. Nevertheless, his few years of effective witness left a lasting impact on the community.
Vahram’s productive ministry in Buenos Aires continued for many months, always with fresh and rejuvenating experiences. However, he increasingly felt that God was leading him to serve elsewhere in South America. The city of Montevideo in Uruguay was the next attraction. Once again he found himself in an attractive port city. According to spoken tradition, when the Portuguese first arrived at this strikingly beautiful place and took in the magnificence of the scene, a sailor exclaimed: ‘Monte vide eu!’ i.e., ‘I see the mountain!’ So this important port with the mountain in the background became known as Montevideo. Moses saw the mountain of God where he was transformed and then commissioned to perform great exploits for him (Exodus 3:1-3). Vahram went to Montevideo with the expectation of carrying on his commission. The meetings started on November 24, 1957. Just as Moses saw the glory of God, Vahram saw the same glory hovering over this place where many lives were going to be touched and transformed.
Armenian folks who escaped the bloody massacres within the Ottoman borders migrated as far away as this city. They came here to make a new life for themselves, put down deep roots, and build a community with their businesses, schools and churches. Vahram served faithfully wherever he was invited. His messages were in Armenian or Turkish, always translated into Spanish for the benefit of the young people. Among the many who were converted was a seventy-year-old woman. God filled her with the Holy Spirit and burdened her heart for prayer. Daily she would sit out in front of her door, a custom carried from the old country, notice the passers-by and pray for their salvation. The pleading of her burdened heart received its rewards.
Numerous young people were converted at this time. During the meetings they would rush to the altar, many with tears in their eyes, to repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. Their lives were transformed. Vahram always impressed two necessities of the Christian life upon any new convert. Besides faithfully reading the Scriptures, they were to pray in faith and witness for Christ. The young converts caught his point. They would go to public squares testifying to anyone around. They would also visit prisons, proclaiming the forgiveness of Christ and his power to transform lives.
Vahram’s messages always touched the reality of the Blessed Hope. He never failed to remind his audience of the Lord’s return. He would admonish new believers to pray for Christ’s Second Coming (Revelation 22:20). A young fellow was brought to one of his meetings. The boy had aspired to enjoy a hedonistic life. He ran away from his home in Rio de Janeiro and fell among other pleasure-seekers in Montevideo. But he soon became disillusioned with this mirage. He started looking for a way out. An Armenian woman somehow ran across him and brought him to a meeting. The lively message conveyed by a man who really knew God had its immediate impact on him. He understood that the heavenly Father was waiting for him. This wayward son came for forgiveness to the Cross and into the arms of his Savior and of his waiting parents.
In a short time the meetings were moved from Armenian to Spanish-speaking churches. Vahram’s newly converted nephew Joseph was always present to interpret for him. Strange indeed, people for years had heard Christ’s message in their own language without being affected. But now they were responding to a heart-stirring sermon from a man of God who had come from the other end of the earth. In fact, speaking through interpreter was not an unusual experience for Vahram. He was entirely reliant on the Holy Spirit who, since Pentecost, has been speaking to people in many languages.
On November 28, 1957, he wrote these lines to his sister in Istanbul: “Hallelujah! There is an amazing revival here. Souls are being redeemed; people not on speaking terms with each other are restored to fellowship. Rifts are healed. All churches, including the Gregorians, came together and rented a large hall. Meetings continue nightly. Also, there is an orchestra made up of young people. Men and women readily pray aloud in the meetings, and how beautifully God is answering their prayers! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! One sister approached me saying, ‘Others sowed the seed and now you are reaping’ (I Corinthians 3:6, 7). With prayer, Vahram”
Following one meeting four young ladies walked to the front of the pulpit, crying uncontrollably. Vahram was led by the Holy Spirit to read the passage: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). Right then and there, all four received Christ and gave clear evidence of transformed lives. The evangelist remarked, “Angels in heaven rejoice over the salvation of these dear women.” After the meeting a young man came forward. “My past is very dark; I killed a man and spent a long time in prison. Finally I was released, but the evil tendency within doesn’t let me go. I am constantly prone to do evil. Is there any hope for me?” As he always did, Vahram opened the Scriptures and read feelingly, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). At hearing these reassuring words, the young man cried out, “Yes, yes, I wish to receive Christ. I need to be cleansed.” Vahram prayed earnestly for this bereft fellow, then let him pray for himself. He started praying without hesitation, and another sinner’s name was written in the Lamb’s book of life. The penitent sinner who had been haunted by Satan, said, “Such peace and repose I have never known.” This newly-born man began attending all prayer meetings, radiating his Christ-given joy. His growth in the faith was remarkable. Such experiences always brought fresh delight and thanksgiving to the heart of the evangelist.
Practically all churches in Montevideo invited Vahram for meetings. A minister had read years before a story about Vahram, printed in Damascus. At the time, he was so excited with the account that he remarked, “How I wish we could invite him here!” One day he heard that Vahram was actually in town! He was thrilled. He chanced upon him in one of the city squares where Vahram and his nephew were holding an open air meeting. The minister was delighted and immediately invited him to preach in his church. Right from the outset, the meetings were guided by the Holy Spirit. A young man was converted and gave a thrilling testimony: “I have been in this church for some years, trying to do all the right things. Probably most people thought I was a true believer, but in fact I was merely a decent and moral person. I never confessed my sins openly, nor repented of my sinfulness. I have been deceiving all of you and myself as well. I ask your forgiveness, but above all, for Christ’s forgiveness.” Following this candid confession, he fell on his knees and did something which he should have done years before. He was saved and became a genuine disciple of Christ. Many other such encounters in Montevideo brought joy to the Lord, to Vahram and everybody else.
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