A visit to our historical hospital in Gaziantep, in the southeast of Turkey, should always include a walk to a corner of the hospital garden to visit the old gravestones.
A visit to our historical hospital in Gaziantep, in the southeast of Turkey,
should always include a walk to a corner of the hospital garden to visit the
old gravestones. Most of them came from the cemetery at Central Turkey College,
founded in 1874, but which no longer exists in Gaziantep. Among the dozen or so
gravestones you’ll see is that of Azariah Smith, the first American physician
to practice medicine in southeast Turkey. His legacy inspired the establishment
of Gaziantep American Hospital in 1878. Other memorial stones belong to various
predecessors of our American Board (today’s Global Ministries) who lived and
worked in southeast Turkey in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The hospital, which has run continuously since its founding and has a distinguished
reputation in Gaziantep, is now owned and operated by the Health and Education
Foundation, a Turkish philanthropic group consisting largely of graduates of
the traditional American Board schools. The hospital administrators have placed
a brief explanatory plaque near the old gravestones. It reads in part as
The inscriptions on these stones point to the many people who, trusting in
God, left the country of their birth to serve and befriend the people of
Anatolia. Their accomplishments in medicine and education are still with us.
Some of them died within a short time of arrival; others had long and
distinguished careers. Whether their lives were brief or extended, they make us
pause in this garden of peace and remember that it is God who forgives all
sins, who heals all sickness, and who inspires us to selfless living.
The central municipal cemetery in Gaziantep is a huge area where Muslims have
been buried since the founding of the Republic 88 years ago. Off to one side is
a small Jewish section. In another area there are four unassuming graves
belonging to American Board persons. They died during World War 2, a time when
it was difficult to travel and communicate between Turkey and the US. Their
gravestones, with only names and dates on them, surround a central monument
stone that displays both Biblical and Quranic inscriptions.
Normally persons of different religious traditions are buried in separate
cemeteries in Turkey. For instance, in Istanbul there’s a Protestant cemetery,
a Catholic cemetery, a Jewish cemetery, Armenian cemeteries, Greek cemeteries,
and several Muslim cemeteries. To find people of different faiths buried
together in the same spot in Gaziantep is somehow pleasing. It acknowledges
that in life as in death, we share the same humanity and are destined for the
same material end.
Ken and Betty Frank
& Betty Frank serve with the American Board in Istanbul, Turkey. They share the job of General Secretary of
the American Board. They also serve on
the board of the Istanbul
Interparish Migrant Program (IIMP).