The Road to Gorgon

Gorgon lies in northern Iran, forgotten by most people I know.  But I canot forget and I must never forget.  Gorgon for me, will always be a holy place.  I knew Haik Hovsepian.  I was very young but I knew him and his family.  On the road to Gorgon in 1964,  his first son was killed in an accident, along with three other children from the Bliss family. also good friends of ours.  This was before my time, and I came to know them much later, before the Shah fell, and before the true Persia was wiped off the maps forever.

Safi Abad, where I lived....not in this big palace silly!  Behind it, up on the mountain in a small house.

Safi Abad, where I lived....not in this big palace silly! Behind it, up on the mountain in a small house. Haik came to visit us and to minister to us as Christians...we had no one else.

But still, his wife Takoosh and Haik pursued Christ.  They became missionaries for a Protestant church inside Iran, at a time when Christ’s name was reviled among Iranians.  If you were to ask Haik and Takoosh, they would tell you that they were “Persian”, not Iranian.  The distinction is important although I doubt that many westerners know this.

For Takoosh, to be Persian meant to be a free woman.  For Haik, it meant to be free of the Savaak, the Iranian political police.  For both of them, to be Persian, meant to be Christian.  Haik was martyred for Christ in 1994.  He was stabbed to death in a forgotten alley in Tehran by Muslims faithful to Ayatollah Khomeini.   His death was a severre blow to my family.  I will always remember the courtyard of their home.

They lived in a poor suburb of Tehran, and yet, their house had the only penny wishing well within maybe 15,000 square miles.  Because only a Christian household would tolerate such a fanciful thing.  And they were the only Persian Christians who dared to speak Christ’s name within the same radius.  Haik gave me pennies of every kind to throw in his fountain:  American, British, and Canadian.  Haik saved his pennies from western nations so that he could give them to children of every colour, every ethnic background.  Our family carries his little tradition by keeping our coins from all over the world in our Persian alabaster bowl.  But we are too poor of spirit to build a wishing well.

Takoosh made baklava, from scratch.  Patiently, she laid each parchment thin sheet of handrolled pastry onto the baking pan.  I wanted to scream for instant satisfaction, but I said nothing.  As she spread the fresh almond marzipan onto the sheets, I thought I would die from Pavlov’s disease. Then she would go and ruin it by pouring boiled saffron onto my rice and say “Eat up.  No baklava until you eat the kabab.”  Tender, spiced lamb that falls off the stick.  Then she would take me shopping and tell me to go and see if I can find the rials stuck in the ice on the streets.  Every time I brought back rials, that were not really “found treasures” but more like stray bullets for the beggars, she would put it in a special jar for the poor.

In the Shah’s time, there were ice skating rinks, and roller skating rinks in Tehran, which meant for me, the only real reason to go there.  We would stay in an apartment, paid for by the Americans, and Ali, a “superintendent” of the building, would always have a gift for me.  He was a convert to Christianity from Islam, but nobody ever talked of this.  To do that was to invite disaster on him, but not because of the Savaak or the Shah.  Because of the Islamic extremests who were gaining power even in 1976.

That was the year we got a special invitation from the Shah’s wife to come and see the Crown Jewels on a private tour.  I got to hold the golden globe, made by the best jewelers in the souk.  It had sapphires for the oceans, and emeralds for land masses. Diamonds were for the polar caps and rubies were for anything south of the equator.  I held it in my hands.  Princessa Farahnaz, older than me by a few years,  took it from my hands and said, “You are a good friend to us. Would you like to see my Nancy Drew books?”  She wore a jasmine perfume I have never been able to create.  We played on a terrace overlooking Safi Abad and she wondered out loud if my hair was really “that” black, because I wasn’t Persian.  I wondered if her eyeliner was tattooed on.  Later in my life, I discovered that this was the very latest thing:  to tattoo your “eyeliner”.

“See?  See the flaw???”  Haik taught me to study the kilim, the traditional Persian carpets.  The best come from Nain or Bukhaara, and are made of silk. Each one is made from hand looms, and flaws are intentionally placed in the design. Because only Allah is perfect.  “See it????”  He would point to it, to make sure I saw what he saw.  “Yes I see it!”  I would jump up off my chair and haik would pat my head.  “Good girl.  You are a good girl.”  I still have the small silk Bukhaara bedside  carpet that he gave me for my very own, grownup girl room.  I used to sit on it and pretend to be flying across the world.  It still smells like almonds, baklava, and saffron to me.

Anyone who says that Christ cannot work outside of Orthodoxy never met Takoosh or Haik. And people who don’t say that, but who are just a bit too strong in their defensiveness against Protestants, have never been outside their comfortable, free, and indulgent western country.   And they also deny the whole of the Old Testament.

A  Cry From Iran

The road to Gorgon is lonely.  They say it is the loneliest place God ever built.  The scents of Gorgon rise up to meet my memory as saffron, mixed with dust and shoes that have been worn for too long and don’t quite fit rightly.  But it is the place that Christ will walk someday, to call up the bones of his tiny martyr, Haik’s son.  And then our Lord will walk all the way back to Tehran, and call up the bones of Haik, his beloved friend, and martyr for the Truth, a Person!  And our Lord will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Road to Gorgon.

Road to Gorgon.

8 Responses to “The Road to Gorgon”

  1. sergiusbob Says:

    Another wonderful journey with you! You succeed so well at bringing others into the light of your experience, while always sharing the Light of Christ within your own heart. You create a new and heavenly perfume everytime you write.

    Here is a link to my friend Lily’s website. You might enjoy her work as well as her story. While at first glance, you will see much of Islam, Lily and her mother Carmen are Christians from Palestine.

  2. desertseeker Says:

    Another lovely story! You need to collect these into a book. I hope your daughter reads your blog. She has such a rich heritage in you.

    I read this recently and it made me think of you: “my own experience of resurrection has been through the gracious agency of other storytellers.”

    Please keep telling your stories! They bring life to your readers. Thank you!

  3. That had me all teary-eyed. It’s beautiful!

  4. God bless you fro reading it and your kind words!!!! someday, after my father is gone, I would like to do a book. I can’t now…but by then, no one will care if I do a book. But I will need someone to write it over and make it “properly”. God will bring someone if He wills that I do a book.

    My daughter is too busy with telephones and having her own adventures with Nancy Drew. But maybe someday she will want to know so I decided to use my blog to at least put some of it down.

    I ordered the movie about Haik in the link I posted for my mother’s birthday present. I want my priest to see it first. But maybe he will let us show it at church after Liturgy one Sunday.

    Funny anecdote: We were evacutated from Iran just before the fall of the Shah. That “Agency” knew things were heading “south” and the rest of the western agencies (State Department, diplomats, journalists, etc.) would not listen to them when they said, “Get out ASAP!” Well, we all know what happened then..they all stayed till 79 and the bandini really hit the fan…

    But anyway, my dad no longer had a post and had lots of free time, so he took us to Cyprus for a vacation. We had a GREAT time! And then we went to Greece, and while we were there, on our vacation, my father’s office called and my dad said they offered him a position in Rhabat, Morrocco. He said he told them he wanted to think it over and talk to his wife. I really wanted to go there….my brother was apathetic like every other teenage boy but I really wanted to go to Rhabat…I was already planning my new room.

    I think that was the only time I saw my mother REALLY mad at my dad, in those days. She threw a fit and said she wasn’t going to any Rhabat, and if he wanted to go he was going alone, but she wanted to go to West. Europe for a CHANGE….she was tired of the difficult lifestyle involved in these “exotic” countries.

    My dad let her finish her tantrem, and then he said, “Well, that’s good because they didn’t really offer me Rhabat. They offered me Germany…is that better?”

    ROFL!!! She got REALLY mad after that and told him to do his own laundry, that she was going shopping for new luggage. ROFL!!!!
    We got to Berlin in 1979…

  5. My mother told me Iran was a very, very beautiful place to live in the 60s (she was an archaeologist and travelled there occasionally). All I have ever read about it, I am ashamed to say, is ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ and that made me cry.

  6. hi I also lived near safi abbad palace in one of those little houses and had the best time of my life.
    I would have to put some real thought into it but we left like ’72 or ’73
    what years were you there?


  7. Hi Scott!!! 🙂
    So nice of you to find me and drop in to say hello from Safi A’bhad! 🙂
    I lived there from 74 to 78. We left just before the Shah fell. I lived over on T-site road. There was a big oak tree in my backyard that all the kids played around with the swing. (It’s MY swing — I get to go first!)
    Mr. and Mrs. Pelfry were still there running the school when we got there. Forgive me, but I hated them until I was 25. 😉 We got great replacements for them in 76. Feel free to connect with me on e-mail:
    info at blackincense dot com.
    God bless ya Scott! Great to see a fellow “base kid” here!
    Your pal,

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