#27: Old Armenian ladies (1915-16)

There was one very interesting feature of this year's strange life and work. Some time before, the Armenians of the city in their poverty had undertaken to establish and maintain a Home for some of the old women alone in life and poor. They had rented a house and received two persons. When the deportations came, city officials, instead of troubling to send some of the old women on the road, told them to go to this Home. One by one about 50 persons tottered there, each with a bag of flour, or other food, or bedding, on her shoulder, and there they stayed. One day one of them died and I was asked to conduct a burial service. It was pitiful the way those poor human waifs crowded around me and said, "Badvelli (Reverend), won't you bury me? Won't you bury me? I'd go gladly today if I could only go to the other world with a Christian burial". After that, all through the fall and winter, I went there and held a service every Sunday. One student dared to go with me and help in the service. He could sing; he was a Russian. I was the minister and he was the choir. A good lady teacher from the Girls' School, Pampish Prapione, was often at the Home and was intimate and profoundly helpful among the lonely old women there.

Two of them were Protestants, whether Church "members" or not; all the rest were Gregorians, in the habit of receiving the communion at Easter and greatly cherishing the opportunity. They felt kindly toward me, yet I was not sure they would regard themselves authorized to receive the sacrament from an ecclesiastic of another denomination. But I announced in advance that I was a Christian minister of my church as they knew well, that on Easter Sunday I would come to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and that I heartily invited everyone to share who wanted to do so without any question as to church "membership", official denomination, or other such condition. When Easter came, infinitely solemn and yet glad, every one of those simple, kindly old women partook of the communion at my hands. I think that was for me the richest celebration of the Lord's Supper in all my life.

NEXT: The Caucasus campaign (1914-16)