During a trip to speak at a Social and Cultural Psychiatry Congress in Tehran, Iran, I took the opportunity to try to find Ernst Christoffel’s grave. Pastor Ernst Christoffel was CBM’s founder and director for many years. With a little investigation, I had learnt that he was buried, in 1955, in the Armenian Cemetery in Isfahan. He had returned to Iran in 1951 at the age of 70 years, to continue the work he had started in the region almost 50 years earlier.
The Armenian community is well established, having first been invited by Shah Abbas 1, in 1605 to live and trade in Isfahan, the then capital. They made Isfahan the centre of a huge trading network, and have been protected by law and allowed to practice their faith, although their numbers are significantly declining now. Isfahan has several beautiful churches, including Vank Cathedral, and a museum showing the fascinating history of Armenians in the region.
After a day of chasing bureaucracy with my guide (we had to visit the Ministry of Islamic Culture, and the Armenian Church to have written permission), we were allowed into the cemetery, and eventually located the area that was reserved for foreigners. There we found an interesting mix of nationalities, who had been in Isfahan for a variety of reasons (missionaries, diplomats etc), over the past four centuries.
Writings on the grave
Ernst Christoffel’s grave was one of the largest there, surrounded by flowering bushes. On his grave was written (in German, Persian and Armenian);
Here rests in God’s peace Pastor Ernst J. Christoffel the Father of the blind, orphans, cripples and deaf-mute born.
Born 4.9.1876 IN Rheydt, died 23.4.1955 in Isfahan after more than 50 years of missionary work in Siwas, Malatia, Tabris and Isfahan. “I have fought the good fight” 2. Tim. 4.7. “But thanks be to
God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15.57