Missionary Stories

  "A Fortress in the Church" (Armenia)

     From Missionary Stories with the Millers, Chapter 19

      By Mildred A. Martin

“We cannot leave the Bible behind,” murmured the deacon to his neighbor. “It will be heavy to carry, but it is too precious to leave. I will leave something else behind, but we must have the Bible!”

The two men belonged to a little Armenian church in the mountains of Syria. Terrible persecution had come to the Christians in that land, as the Turks tried to wipe out all who believed in Jesus.

“The Turks are coming this way!” a terrified messenger had cried, and now the whole village was getting ready to leave their valley.

Men, women, and children, all of the families of the church must flee over the mountains. The people were poor. Very few owned a donkey to carry their possessions, so they walked, carrying only the most necessary things. Soon a long line of people straggled along the track to the mountain, pulling their children with them. “Hurry! The Turks are coming — the Turks will kill us!” they repeated over and over.

The church deacon walked with the rest, carrying the treasured Bible. In those days, most Armenian Christians had no Bibles of their own at home, so the church Bible was very precious. And this Bible was an extra-special one, a big, heavy pulpit Bible which had been a gift from the missionary, Elias Riggs.

As the refugees hurried on, the mountain trail grew steep and rocky. “Daddy, carry me!” weary children sobbed. Soon many tired people began leaving their bundles of food and clothing beside the path, for they had no strength left to carry them. The deacon carried the Bible as long as he could. But finally his strength gave out. Tears of weariness rolled down his cheeks as he gently laid the Bible on a rock near the trail.

“Lord, forgive me,” he prayed. “Take care of our Bible now, for I cannot!”

Picking up his whimpering child, the deacon staggered on. Night was coming, and the Christians must hurry!

As darkness fell upon the mountainside, a lone mother came up the path with her two children. She had been left behind, for she could not keep up with the others.

“I must rest again,” the woman groaned. “We can go no farther.” Tired legs trembling, she sank down on a rock beside the road. But something was in the way! Feeling about her in the dark, her hands explored the object’s fine leather cover. “This is our church Bible!” she gasped in dismay. “Who could have left it here? Somehow I must take it with me.”

After a short rest, the woman wearily rose to her feet. Leaving behind the blanket which she had brought to keep her children warm, she carried the Bible instead. And so, with her baby in one arm and the big Bible in the other, she trudged wearily on.

At last she arrived at the next village. But what was happening? The enemy must be here already! An angry mob of men in red fez hats, waving torches and big knives, milled about in the streets. The church — I must go to the church, thought the frightened mother. Maybe the other Christians will be there. Slipping among the dark shadows of buildings, she made her way with her children to the back of the village church. Creeping cautiously up to a side door, she knocked softly. “It’s me,” she said and whispered her name.

Someone unlocked the door and opened it just enough for the woman to slip in with her children. On the floor in the dark church house, several hundred Christians huddled together, their faces terrified.

“Fear not, neighbors — I have our Bible!” whispered the woman, holding up the Book. “She has our Bible!” whispered a man. “She brought the Bible!” glad whispers spread around the room.

“Here is a little candle I found,” someone murmured softly.

“And I have a match,” said another hushed voice.

The Bible was carried into the center of the group, and someone lighted the one little candle with the match. Women close by shaded the small flame with a circle of long skirts, lest its light be seen outside the church. And then into the darkness and fear came a new feeling of God’s presence, as one of the Christians began to read in a low voice from Psalm 91:

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee . . . thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day . . . ”

And so they read the promises of God’s Word, until the little candle finally burned itself out. Then the people, full of renewed faith in God, lay down and fell asleep where they were on the floor of the church.

For two days and nights the Christians remained in the church. The Turks soon discovered their hiding place, and threatening shouts filled the air. “Come out, Christians, or we’ll burn you out! You’ll never escape from us!”

But the Christians did not reply. “We will stay here,” their leaders whispered to one another. “Better to die by fire, together, than to fall into the hands of the cruel Turks. And God is able to save us. He is our refuge and fortress!”

On the third morning, there was silence outside the church. At last there came a timid knock at the door. “The Turks are gone!” called a sympathetic villager. “They left in the night. You are safe, you may come out now!”

It was true. The Turks were gone, and what thanksgiving filled the hearts of the Christians as they came out into the sunshine!

“It was very strange,” the villager said to the Christians. “They tried again and again to set the church on fire! Once they even tried to pour kerosene through a hole in the roof to burn you all out. But their fires would never light and every effort failed. I cannot understand it.”

But the Christians understood! “God is our refuge and our fortress,” they reminded one another happily. “He gave His angels charge over us, and we were safe.”

Historical Note: This miracle happened in 1909, during the massacres of Christians in Armenia by the Turks.
Dr. Elias Riggs, the missionary, died eight years before the story took place. During his sixty-eight years of missionary service, he translated the Bible into the Armenian and Turkish languages. He is said to have had a working knowledge of twenty-one different languages!

To order this wonderful book, Missionary Stories with the Millers, please contact Don L. Martin at Green Pastures Press.

Email: greenpastures@emypeople.net

Phone 717-436-9119


Copyright 1993. All Rights Reserved. Published on this website by permission of Green Pastures Press. No part of this chapter may reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher.

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