#14: Anatolian Hellenism (c. 1902)

Another comes to mind, a fatherless Greek youth from Marsovan, whose mother was poor and blind. He used to come to school over the stones of the snowy streets in winter, carrying his one pair of cheap shoes in his hand till he reached the fountain in the College yard, where he would wash his feet in the icy water, put on his shoes for decency, wear them during the day, and then carry them again as he walked barefoot to his house in the evening. Later he was for many years an industrious laborer and an earnest preacher of the gospel.

The Greek community in Marsovan was never large, only a few hundred souls or perhaps a thousand at most. Nor did they represent the upper levels of Greek wealth or learning. Most of them belonged to a clan of miners brought some generations earlier from the miners of the Trebizond mountains to work the silver mines of Gumush Maden at the upper end of our plain. Some digging and smelting continued to our day, but it gradually ceased to be profitable and some families of miners whose ancestors were virtually serfs at first started to seek work and bread in other places. But the Greek people had in Athens one of the world's proud historic capitals, though dilapidated then by foreign domination. They had a Greek country, though rather distant and inaccessible for the peasant stock of Asia Minor. Above all they were the chief keepers of the Byzantine heritage and the priceless treasures of the Greek Orthodox Church, though wars and oppression had almost crushed the semblance of life in some places. In ancient and ruined graveyards, it was touching to read such Christian epitaphs a thousand years old as, "Here lies the servant of God, Daniel"; "Here lies the deaconess, Maria", in regions where there were no present day Christians.


The Greek priest of our town was a kind-hearted, warm- hearted Christian man and we became good friends. For quite a time he was a familiar figure on our premises as he came to attend such Theological lessons as he could find conducted in Turkish, the only language he really knew, though, of course, he read the liturgy and conducted the church services in Greek. The Greek community school was very elementary, and to bridge the gap between it and our First Form lessons, we maintained special classes in College and Girls' School for several years. The priest was much interested in these special classes, as he was in the occasional trips of students to preach in village churches. He was not afraid of our taking any sectarian attitude. The first time I ever was invited to preach in an Eastern Church, when I questioned the priest as to his confidence in so inviting me, he said, "I know you won't say anything in my church that would be unfriendly to me".

NEXT: A memorable sermon (c. 1902)