We knew months in advance that we were heading to Turkey to help create contextualised videos that would assist in sharing the good news with Iranians. So I was excited to start researching past and recent Persian history and culture to get a better sense of who these people were.As I started looking into it, it became clear that, especially in 2007, Iran was continuing to develop a very negative reputation with the western world from a political viewpoint. The frequent reports in all forms of media about Iran were painting a picture in my mind that was making me uncomfortable with the idea of getting close to them. Yet I knew there was obviously more to the Iranians than what the media said, and that the policies of a government don’t always fully reflect the heart of a people, so I delved deeper into research and began to see the gifts God put in them.
By the time our team arrived in Turkey I was really looking forward to meeting Iranians. During our first week there I was asked to be a key person in a Video People Profile that would have me relating directly and closely with a family from Iran. I was super excited.
The family shared their incredible story of how they all came to faith in Christ one after the other, leaving behind a life of nominal Islam. The family had fled Iran years earlier and faced various harsh conditions along the way. In the midst of their troubles they suffered the loss of one of their twin boys due to sickness. The reality is that it would have been easy for them to have decided following Jesus wasn’t worth it as their circumstances hadn’t seemed to improve much since deciding to follow him. But in spite of painful times they couldn’t deny they had found a freedom and a peace in their hearts from Jesus that they’d never known before.
I felt humbled and grateful for being able to go to Turkey and meet these people and hear their stories first hand. I realised there’s a whole generation of Iranians just like this family with similar testimonies of finding Jesus and holding on to Him in the midst of pain and suffering because He is true and He is good. I started to see a larger and more accurate picture of Iranians – that though they may face much injustice at times, God is still working through these situations to show families and individuals the unconditional love of the Father. Persians are discovering this love all across Iran and across the world.
I believe its clear from history that the Persians as a people have a gift of unrelenting determination to struggle through and survive intense antagonism from both outside and within their nation. This generation, more than ever, is using this gift from God to hold on to Christ no matter what, once they’ve found Him because they know they’ve found something precious and true. What I heard and saw from that one family in Turkey convinced me that God is working in Iranians’ hearts and is going to bring new life to Iran from the inside out.
As our time in Turkey wrapped up and we headed back to Australia I remembered the family’s stories and knew in a deeper sense that in spite of the great pain and suffering people are enduring, God truly is there with us all in the midst of it and is able to bring healing and rest to anyone that’s asking for it.