Thomas Cosmades





Passing the Torch

From his youth, Vahram was a seeker of God’s truth.  Also, as a young teen-ager he became a refugee in his own country due to the Armenian massacre in Anatolia. As soon as he arrived in Istanbul he started working as a tailor, a trade he had learned in Sungurlu from one of his uncles.  Due to his past experiences, many of which were unfavourable, a special interest directed to young people and children grew in his heart.  From the day he set foot in Argentina he found himself in a free atmosphere where he could evangelize youngsters. He lived at the home of his sister and brother-in-law, where his nephew Joseph immediately became the target of his interest. His desire was to lead him to Christ.  Joseph was born in 1936.  As he grew, his passion was football – so common in Latin America.  While the whole family were believers, Joseph didn’t show any interest in the faith. 

Before Vahram arrived, Joseph became very ill.  The doctors gave up all hope for his recovery.  He had been named after his grandfather.  Before the old man died, he gave his grandson an Armenian and a Spanish Bible.  He dedicated the Armenian Bible with the words, “To Joseph Balian, volunteer preacher.”  These words puzzled the family.  Young Joseph said, “Such a statement doesn’t suit me.  I am very far from getting involved in preaching.”  Vahram fasted and prayed, first for his salvation, then for his healing.  God rewarded this earnest supplication.  Shortly afterwards Joseph was converted and healed. A couple months later, he became Vahram’s main interpreter, accompanying him to meetings everywhere.  The grandfather’s expectation of faith was rewarded.  Joseph knew Armenian and Turkish, and naturally Spanish.  Having a young interpreter was a valuable asset for Vahram. Among the converted young people, Joseph was the most active.

 Vahram’s convincing messages had a definite impact on people who could understand only Spanish.  Many people remarked about Joseph’s ability to translate messages into Spanish with equal vibrancy.  This opened the doors to many Spanish-speaking churches.  When Joseph gave his testimony of how the Lord had redeemed and healed him, bringing him together with his uncle to peach, people saw the merciful hand of God in the whole affair.

Vahram stayed at his sister’s home for five years, with that one interruption when he travelled to Montevideo.  Finally, the believers decided to buy a house for him.  They raised the funds from among themselves and bought a small house of two-rooms.  The place became a center of prayer.  The door was always open to receive visitors of all ages.  He wrote to his sister in Istanbul, “I have never known a happier time than this.”  Until then he had not lived in a house of his own. 

His relationship with young people grew ever more effective.  A person lacking formal education, hailing from another culture and language, yet fully able to help young people in their search for God was clearly a work of the Holy Spirit.  He was like a father to boys and girls who could not be helped in their own homes.  He was a God-sent counsellor to young people.  Besides preaching in churches, he included in his ministry visits to hospitals, homes for the aged, prisons—whenever permission was granted, and also open-air meetings.  Again he wrote to his sister, “Sitting in church pews and listening to sermons without putting them into action does not excite young people.  They are only satisfied in fervently serving the Lord who came into the world to work hard and ultimately die to save sinners.  Young people need accomplishment and productivity.”  At a time when the restiveness and rebellion of youth everywhere had not yet come to a head (in the late fifties and early sixties), he taught a basic principle to parents and church leaders:  “Show vital interest and concern in your young people.  Display constructive action which they can emulate.  Let them sweat it out.  They should appreciate the value of their faith and gladly contribute to its promulgation.  Let them consider it a privilege to work wholeheartedly for the Master.  Pull them out of stagnant indifference.  Let the Holy Spirit direct you in your responsibility of leadership.  The outcome will be rewarding.”  He could offer such sound advice because this is exactly how he labored everywhere he went.

His thoughts were carried back to his youth.  When he was a young believer in Christ, a faithful Swiss brother by the name of Herr Mueller was a worker in Istanbul.  Herr Mueller was a worthy counsellor and father to Vahram, Artaki and Aram, effectively training them to be untiring witnesses for Jesus Christ.  He successfully encouraged these young men to proclaim the Good News fearlessly and persistently.  This stimulus had great effect upon them to take Christ’s message to highways and byways.  Herr Mueller did not only encourage them to bear bold witness, but he also taught them the basics of evangelistic outreach.  The assistance of Herr Mueller had undeniable influence on the young evangelists just as the Scriptures put it:

“Tell your children of it, and let your children

tell their children, and their children another generation.”

(Joel 1:3)

“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)

The expression in Vahram’s letter to his sister, “I have not had better times than these,” could be well understood. The farmer who puts his hand to the plow and carries on without looking back is a vivid illustration of the Spirit-guided evangelist’s work.  In South America Vahram passed the lessons he had learned in Istanbul on to his nephew Joseph and other young people.  Herr Mueller is gone; Vahram is gone; even Joseph is gone following a brief service to the Lord, but the truth stressed in Paul’s letter to Timothy goes on proving its vitality. 

For Vahram the Christian faith was a process of continuous learning.  He couldn’t stand to see idle Christians who did not bring some fruit for the Master.  Faithful men such as Herr Mueller, J. K. Lyman and a few others who had a positive impact on his life continue to reap the rewards of their labors.  New generations growing in the faith and progressing in the testimony go on offering their service to the Lord of the harvest. Young folks nurtured and trained by Vahram authenticated their clear-cut commitment by effective ministries in evangelism, radio and literature, Bible school leadership and in other areas. Vahram’s conviction of the verity of Scripture has been evidenced from generation to generation.  Those who have gone on before, though dead, continue to minister through the lives they trained so faithfully.  The value of their legacy surpasses many other achievements.  

“A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters

will himself be watered.” (Proverbs 11:25)


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