Armenian Bible Church            

Հայ Աստուածաշունչի Եկեղեցի

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 40322  Pasadena, CA 91114 USA

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 29 


            When Armenians moved en masse to America at the end of World War I, they had no church. Many of them had been converted to Christ during the massacres and had entered into a close relationship with the Lord.  Initially they spent some time in Aleppo and those who were able to do so, moved on to the U.S.A.  Here they found full freedom and opportunity to start their own fellowships.  These came to be known as Armenian Brotherhood churches.  The brothers really ran the affairs of the church; sisters were seen to have another role, mostly in the family and church activities which men couldn’t manage. After her mother-in-law died, Aneta was invited to visit California by her husband’s young associate in evangelism, Isaac Paronakian.  He had first come to Philadelphia and then moved out to California, like most Armenians did.  At that time, Aneta’s health was rather weak, so she couldn’t accept the offer. Her heavenly Father had a different plan for her.

             Former minister of Caesarea Mazaca (Kayseri), the Reverend Vahram Tahmizian, about whom mention has already been made, moved to Fresno, California, where he started evangelizing his own Armenian people.  The result of his earnest efforts was a Holy Spirit-inspired awakening.  During this revival a large number of Armenians were converted to Jesus Christ, some from among the old settlers and many from the new.  The result of this awakening was the establishment of the Fresno Brotherhood Church, which was led by Vahram Tahmizian and his able wife, Kalliopi. They also invited Aneta to California.  She knew them well and longed to be with them. 

           Now was the time to visit the Golden State. Right at that time two young Armenian brothers were traveling from California to Detroit to buy new cars and then visit Boston to find their future wives from among their own people.  To the delight of the older one, he found a wife right away. But they had to wait until Labor Day for the wedding, so his parents could come in from California to join the party. They were a wealthy family, involved in rug-cleaning business in Los Angeles.  The parents arrived and the wedding duly took place on Labor Day weekend, which coincided with the Armenian Brotherhood Bible conference.  After the wedding, they all drove to New York and from there to Philadelphia.  There they left the younger brother to look for his own bride.  Just before parting, the younger brother took Aneta’s hand in his and said, “Sister Aneta, as you were at the wedding of my brother, I want you also to be present at mine.”  She promised him that she would be there.  So in the new car Aneta joined the just-married couple on their westward trip. They made stops in Pittsburg and Akron, and finally arrived in Chicago.  Aneta told them that she wanted to stay on in Chicago and attend Moody Bible Institute.  She was accepted as a visiting foreign student, and rented a small room in close proximity to the school. During her three months’ residence in Chicago she attended every possible course, plus evening school. She especially enjoyed long hours in the library and in the bookstore.  She often related that her time at Moody was one of the most enriching exposures to Christian education.

           There was a couple in Waukegan, just north of Chicago, both converts of Haralambos.  He was from Adana and she from Tarsus. At seeing Aneta after so many years, they were thrilled. They drove her around to visit their many Armenian friends in the area and in Racine, Wisconsin.  It was a useful time of evangelizing and renewing old friendships. When the time of her stay in Chicago was drawing to a close, a letter came from the younger Californian brother in Philadelphia.  In the meantime, he had found a lovely wife for himself and they were soon to be married.  They had decided to pass through Chicago so they could take Aneta along with them to southern California. It was late December when they started their journey on the historic Highway 66, arriving in Los Angeles in early January, 1938.  In those days when journeying across the continent by car was a novelty, the colorful trip impressed Aneta beyond measure, as it would any first-time traveler, even to this day. 

           That was the beginning of a two-year stay and ministry among Armenians in California.  She felt pretty much at home with friends who had known her husband and were grateful for the couple’s ministry in Anatolia. Invitations poured in, so many that she couldn’t accept them all.  Sometimes, her stay in a given home extended to many days where her loving hosts couldn’t bear to have her leave.  Aneta related a time of fellowship she had with Mrs. Charles Cowman, writer of ‘Streams in the Desert.’ Aneta had already read her books, in which she had found great comfort in her times of grief.  When she arrived in California, health-wise Aneta was weak. But she found relief and restoration with all the love, hospitality and the wonderful climate.

           Her time in California was spent between the L.A. area and Fresno.  She stayed seven months in Fresno where she had an abundance of ministry opportunities. Aneta became a widely sought speaker to women and young people.  When she had left Aintab with her mother-in-law she felt as if she were a forsaken young widow tramping through difficult places, unsure of where she would ultimately land.  But how favorably things had changed in the meantime! God gave her special strength to cheer and comfort many people who needed her loving support.  What she had received from Christians in the past, she was now liberally giving to others.  People would always tell her about the uplift they had received from her husband’s books.  What he had freely sown, she was now reaping in abundance.  As Christ said, “There were many widows in Israel, but Elijah was sent to the one in Zarephath” (cf. Luke 4:26).  In California many friendships were established which continued till the end of her life.  Her husband’s love for young people and his ministry to them had been abruptly cut off.  Now Aneta had the opportunity to work among many Armenian young people in California.  They were especially excited to listen to her first-hand experiences in their ancestral land. She had a good impact on these first-generation Armenian-Americans who were living as Americans and yet were very much Armenian in their culture and mindset.

           Aneta’s two years in California sped by like the fast-moving Santa-Fe train. She resolved to go back East where people were asking her to return.  Once again she stopped in Chicago on her return trip, where she attended a six-week summer school course at Moody Bible Institute.  Eventually, she was back among friends in Boston.  One Sunday at church a man approached her, saying, “I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.  Your husband’s heroic testimony was a catalyst in my life to receive Jesus.”  He had been a missionary in Marash, nevertheless lacking a personal encounter with the Savior.  The sad events in that city stirred him deeply, and brought him to consider the necessity of having a personal relationship with Jesus.  When all missionaries were compelled to leave the country he returned to the United States.  Now as a retired person he was rejoicing in his concrete relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

           Aneta related another experience she had at a Bible conference in New York in 1940.  A stranger approached her and asked, “Are you Sister Aneta?”  The Lord led this Armenian woman to ask Aneta for counseling.  She longed to be reconciled to her daughter who didn’t even wish to hear her mother’s name.  Behind this agony was a distressing story.  The family was extremely poor upon their arrival in America.  When the daughter was born as the fifth child the mother was deathly sick.  She had an aunt, a wealthy woman, who had come to America earlier. She had no children of her own so she asked the mother if she could adopt the little daughter. The parents consented, and the girl officially became their child. In accordance with Anatolian tradition, such dealings are kept secret from the child involved.  Members of the wider family are more-or-less sworn to secrecy.  Of course, once in a while, someone discloses this suppressed information and then a great crisis ensues.  The new parents assumed the role of real mother and father, and the matter remained a classified item as far as the child was concerned. But then the thing they all feared fell upon them. A certain relative who had a fall-out with the parents took little Rose aside and divulged to her that she was an adopted child and that her mom and dad in actuality were not her real parents. Her birth mother had given her away because of poverty and her being a girl!

            The disclosure plunged the eight-year old child into deep despair. She did not want to see her real parents again, whom until then she had loved as aunt and uncle. The damage was severe. It created havoc in the wider family circle. In the meantime, the adoptive parents both died, one after the other. Rose was left alone at sixteen.  An Armenian priest had compassion on this little orphan girl and introduced her to a wealthy family in Boston.  They were his friends from Anatolia.  These people visited Rose.  They liked her and within a short time arranged a marriage with their son. But in spite of her new-found happiness, the wounds of the past did not heal. One day her mother-in-law confided to Aneta that all efforts to reconcile her to her own parents had failed.  She was hoping that Aneta could help.  Rose, her husband and family were residents of Watertown, Massachusetts, and communicants of the Armenian Gregorian Church. At the suggestion of her mother-in-law, Aneta went to visit Rose one day.  She introduced herself and said she was dropping by as a Bible woman. Surprisingly, Rose was very pleased.  As Aneta was leaving, she invited her to come again. The encouragement was more than Aneta had anticipated.

            Another call was made in due time. Rose then invited her for dinner. Their friendship developed, with conversations usually moving around personal faith in Christ.  Rose had a lovely baby daughter. During one of Aneta’s visits she was literally pouring affection on her baby. The time had come to take the initiative as the wise woman of Tekoa had done (cf. II Samuel 14).

            “Rose,” Aneta asked, “How much do you love your baby daughter?” She readily replied, “The world on one side, my darling daughter on the other. She means everything to me.” At this, Aneta proceeded, “Suppose you were very ill and the doctors prognosticated your death. If I had come to you and promised to take excellent care of your child would you have given her to me?”  It was    an uncivil proposition, but Rose accepted it in a good spirit. “Naturally!” she replied. Their conversation went on: “Assume you recovered, but the child continued to stay with me for some reason. Then comes a busybody and tells her, ‘Do you know that your mother gave you away because you were a girl and she did not care for you?’ How would you feel?” 

            “Of course, it would kill me!” she said. The point was made.  “My dear Rose, this is exactly the situation between you and your mother.  I am here at her request to bring an end to this sad ongoing predicament.”  Until then Rose had thought of Aneta merely as a Bible woman, without realizing her true mission as conciliator.  She broke down in sobs. Her grievance of long years was overcome at last. The following Saturday, she and her husband drove to New York City to visit her mother to be reconciled with her.  Sometime later, Rose gave her heart to the Lord.  Aneta related that she received a deep satisfaction from putting into practice the seventh beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9). 

            Then World War II broke out. What a disastrous repetition of history! On the eve of World War I, Aneta was in Zinjidere, just before marrying Haralambos. World War I had taken a heavy toll on her.  In the years between the two wars she was switching from country to country, finally finding her niche in the U.S.A.  America was now plunged into another quandary. It was to be bloodier than WWI.  Carnage and destruction were ahead.            

            Having returned to Boston, Aneta felt a deep urge to serve her adoptive country in some way.  Seeing the great need among wounded soldiers, she volunteered as a nurse’s aid in the Veterans’ Hospital. This heart-rending service went on for five years. She witnessed much pain, misery and anguish.  Daily she was confronted with wounded, amputated, maimed, blinded, physically and psychologically wrecked young men.  Who could understand their grief and sorrow in the prime of their lives? Miseries of the past in another land were now being re-enacted. One could only cry, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). The general rule in hospitals was that religion could not be discussed with the patients. When she tried, she was informed, “There are chaplains hired for this task.”  But this was a difficult regulation to observe in the midst of agony and grief. How could Aneta minister to dying men without pointing them to the living Savior?  She longed to communicate the love of Jesus to these young men whose lives were about to be snuffed out.

            A young man with severe wounds was at death’s door. He insistently asked for the Protestant chaplain to minister to him, but he was nowhere to be found. The head nurse was in a difficult situation. She had no choice but to grant Aneta official authorization to assist him. The young fellow readily responded to the offer of Christ and with quiet assurance passed into eternity.  The head nurse, a Roman Catholic, followed the whole procedure with deep interest. 

            When Aneta had made her escape from Aintab, Turkey, with her mother-in-law on that dreadful night, she was the young widow of a rejected and hung evangelist. But now in the U.S.A. she was a much-loved and respected nurses’ aid, ministering to desperately needy soldiers. She never initiated a conversation on spiritual matters.  However, she often heard the question: “Why are you so different from the others?  Why do you work so hard?”  The wordless response was self-evident.  When she entered the ward in the morning soldiers would call out, “Here comes the sunshine!”   She answered them, saying, “I’m not anything like sunshine, but I have the sunshine of the Lord Jesus Christ in my heart.  I am here to serve you with the love of Christ.”  This way she could leave a transparent witness for her beloved Savior.  The pockets of her uniform were full of Gospel portions and stories of encouragement from real life.  She always considered this service among such needy patients an exciting experience.           Aneta never joined any mission society nor did she have a regular income. Throughout her stay in the U.S., her needs were amply met through loving friends.  She never made reference to money in any of her meetings.  Her reliance was entirely on her heavenly Father.