May 2015

Shahnaz

Hello believer brothers and sisters. My name is Shahnaz. I'm 30 years old and I believed in Jesus two years ago and today I want to tell you the story of my faith and the problem that I had after it.

Before I believed, as a lot of Iranian youths I born in a Muslim family and respected Islam by habit and due to the prejudice of my family and I thought that my religion is the most perfect religion; specifically I loved Imam Ali. But I did not do the Islam laws and I did not perform the namaz, nor did I fast. But because since childhood I had been taught that I will be forgiven by mourning for Imam Hussein, I was present at the mourning ceremonies of month of Muharram and I cried for Imam Hussein.

About three years ago, I began to work at the Institute of Tourism as a leader and I went to neighboring countries. In one of these trips, I met a pastor. That time I thought that my religion was the most perfect religion and other religions were imperfect. So, I started to talk to him to convince him to be Muslim because I heard that if someone can make an infidel Muslim, he/she will go to heaven and in my opinion that pastor was an infidel. But when I told him that his religion is distorted, he replied to me that the most found books during the history were Bible and convinced me that Bible is not distorted. I could not convince him because his information was more than me, even about Islam. Finally, he explained the history of Islam and compared it with the current state of Islamic countries and caught up me in the debate that I had started. So I decided to study more about Islam.  In the next trips I discussed with him more and finally, he invited me to go to house church meetings and believe in Jesus.
When I wanted to believe in Christ, there were some fears in my heart: first, the fear of my family who was very religious, second, the fear of rejection by my friends and the third and most important fear was how I can marry after becoming a Christian because I was at the age of marriage and my family were very strict about it! These fears led me to wait for believing in Christ, although in the church meetings I was convinced that Christ is the true Savior and I finally overcame my fears and believed in Christ.

Just a few months after my faith what frightens me most of all became a big problem for me. I rejected any suitors that I had with an excuse, but my family insisted me to get married soon.

Unfortunately, in the house group where I was (and still I am), there were two couples and some married women and a single daughter and I did not have contact with many believers. So I was pressured by my family and this pressure became more when the son of my father's friend named Saeed who was really good guy and educated and had a good income proposed marriage to me and I had no excuse and when I told my father that I would not want to marry him, he rebuked me and told me that I had to accept that marriage and he said yes on my behalf.

I knew that I would have a lot of problems by marrying with unbeliever and I could not go to church. So, the next day I went to workplace of Saeed and talked with him and told him: "I am a Christian and if you accept me as a Christian woman and let me go to church and be associated with believers, I will marry with you!" and he told me that two people with two different religions cannot live together and so our marriage was not done.

Now, two years have passed from my faith in Christ and I am still single and almost every week I have problem with my family about my marriage and I pray that God provides the ground for my marriage with a believer and I know that this is not just my problem and most of the believer girls in Iran have this problem!

My prayer is that in Iran the condition will become such that all believers do not have to hide their beliefs for security reasons, and they can observe their church meetings in larger groups instead of the groups with only six or seven persons and this problem will be partially solved!

Maryam

Hello dear believer sisters and brothers. My name is Maryam. I'm 31 years old and now I want to tell you something that happened a few years ago.

I believed in Christ in a building church about 15 years ago. I well remember that earlier when I went to the church, the Christian teaching books and even the Bible were very low, even in the church. We went to the building church for several years and after several years when the building churches were closed by the government, the church members formed several house churches and my mother and I also became a member of one of them.

But the problem that existed at that time was the shortage of Bible and Christian teaching books and of course, this problem is still exist but much less than that time because some believers began to print the Christian books in Iran and as we know, printing the Christian books in Iran is not allowed and is considered as a very serious crime but these dear believers print them secretly by knowing all these problems and accepting the risks that it can have for them, and actually now the Christian books are much more available for believers than the first years of my faith. But the issue is not just printing these books but also their storage and distribution are so risky and what happened a few years ago was exactly related to the same issue.

About 5 years ago, we lived in a house that had a big storeroom. One of our believer friends named Hesam that printed and distributed the Christian books hid those books in the storeroom of our house and our storeroom was full of Christian books.

My mother and I were the members of house group of Hesam and his wife. One day that was the day of house meeting, Hesam and his wife did not contact us for the meeting and when we called them, they did not answer their phones. We were so worried and felt bad. The next day, early morning my pastor called me from abroad and told me that Hesam and his wife and some other members have been arrested. He said that Hesam's girl told him that our storeroom was full of books and wanted us to evacuate there quickly because it was possible that the officers would come to our house!

My brother and I quickly went to the storeroom and packed the books in the cartons but we did not know where we should take them! I well remember when we wanted one of the believers to take the books to his garden, he did not allow us! Finally, within a few hours we took the books to an unfinished house that was for the family of one of the friends of my brother. Our landlord was an information officer and the next day he came to our house with another officer and searched all parts of our house but found nothing and went. We also took the books out of the city a few days later by one of the believers. Hesam and his wife also were released after two months of interrogation because there was no evidence against them.

Today I thank God because of those who accept these challenges and risks and do this hazardous work and I pray that they continue it safely because although the Christian books are available for us more than a few years ago but God is blessing the house churches in Iran and we will need much more books. Just two months ago, a believer friend told that there are about 15 believers in a very small remote village who have just one Bible and use it together and they have divided it into separate parts and distribute among the group members. He asked us to give additional Bible and teaching books to them if we have!

Reza

Hello dear believers. My name is Reza. I'm 50 years old and I believed in Jesus about 25 years ago. Today one of my friends asked me what make me sad as a Christian in Iran. This question led me to recall the testimony of my faith and also I remember something that happened two months ago.

Two days ago when I went to my workplace from house, I saw a man who had lain in the park on the carton and he had very bad status and was very dirty and unkempt. But the man's face was familiar to me, and he looked at me as if I was familiar to him. I was staring at him as I passed by him! I always disturb when I see the addicted people in the street and I pray for them to heal from addiction as I believed in Christ and was saved from that situation. But since the man's face was familiar to me, I could not forget his face and I thought him at work and suddenly I remembered who he was! I could not believe but he was Vahid who was my old friend and I had no news of him for a long time!

I live in a small town. Unfortunately, in a city where I live most people are addicted to drugs. Unlike most people in my city, my family was a religious family and my father and my brothers were not addicted. But I became addicted to drug when I was 20 years old and I spent all my money for buying drugs. Wherever I worked for a short time and after a while I was expelled from my work! Every time I became jobless, I quarreled with my family and forcefully took money from my parents. I remember well that one day I severely beat my mother because she did not want to give me money and I went and when I came back home, my father and my brothers beat me and my father expelled me from the house and told me that he would never allow me to go home.

After my father expelled me from the house, I went to the house of one of my close friends named Vahid who had rented a room and I was living with him and all the time we got money in any way to buy drugs. I was very tired and weary from that situation and I did not like to live that way and I decided to leave addiction several times, but could not. Even once I thought to suicide, but I did not even dare to commit suicide.

One day I was sitting in the park and I did not have money to buy drugs, a middle-aged man sat down beside me and started talking about God and his love. I found it strange that he said to me from God and I laughed and said: "what you saw in me that you think God can love me. All day I am thinking to make money in any way and buy drug and I do not think to God even for a second! I do not remember the last time when I thought of God!" But he started talking about Christ and said that Christ can save me! I do not know what happened in me but I suddenly started to cry and told him that I wanted to leave addiction several times but I could not. Finally, he took me to a place for leaving drug and some believers prayed for me night and day and after 5 months I could completely leave addiction and I believed in Jesus and I also began to work at the same place and after a while I went back home and I apologized from my family !!! I also went to Vahid's house to speak with him about Christ and take him to that place so that he would be healed and saved like me but Vahid was not there and I searched for him a long time but I never could get anything from him!

I do not believe that he was Vahid, my childhood friend, whom I had been looking for! I came out of my workplace and went to the park. Vahid was still there. I hugged him and I started to cry. He said that he had known me the very first moment but he was embarrassed to call me and introduce himself to me! And he said that he had escaped from authorities and had gone to another city! Finally I took him to the place for leaving drug. Now, he is there and he has believed in Christ and is leaving addiction.

Today in my city and also in Iran, addiction is very common among young people and this is something that is very annoying for me because I know that drug addiction is very destructive. Let's pray that the Iranian youth are awake and alert and avoid from the disease!

Street Vending

There are some pseudo-jobs and street vending in Iran in the same way that exist in other countries. Jobs like distributing advertisement flyers, vending clothes, flower, fruit, toys, books and etc are called as pseudo-jobs. Economists and sociologists believe these kinds of jobs are not profitable and they cause increase in the number of crimes, murder and villainy in the society. Sociologists think that having pseudo-jobs is sometimes a cover over criminal acts like the people who seem selling legal CDs but they actually do criminal acts like peddling drugs, burglary and selling illegal CDs. In fact their pseudo-job is a disguise for their real activities. The main reasons that people choose these jobs are immigration, not being educated and not having any profession. After the sanctions against Iran which caused severe economic recession there, nowadays because of not having any jobs, even some university students have to choose these jobs.

In accordance with this issue, the municipality of each city is responsible for collecting these people from the streets and has to fulfill the law against the vendors. As a result the people are the witnesses of the struggles between the street vendors and municipality employees every day and sometimes throughout these struggles some tragic irreparable events happen. Although the municipality workers intend to collect the vendors, the people somehow sympathize with them by buying things from them. But you should know that this action doesn’t mean that the people want to increase the number of crimes in the society. From the aspect of the people, they think that the street vendors are those who don’t have any other choices for making money because of the weak economy and not having enough facilities for progress.

By considering these issues, because of the improper behavior of the municipality two people were killed since last year. This problem has been so challenging for the public opinion. One of the victims was a man called Ali who got killed last year in a struggle with the municipality workers. The story was as follow: Ali with his fourteen-year-old son was selling fruit last summer and got beaten by three municipality workers and was injured. At the end after getting to the hospital he died. Ali’s family say that the municipality officials promised to give them a house and insurance after Ali’s death who was the householder. But they only paid Ali’s hospital costs and the officials haven’t fulfilled their promises until now that a year has passed since this event. His older son who was a witness of his father’s killing, is now in charge of his family including his mother and younger brother. He had to quit school because he needed to make money and support his family. And because he isn’t educated and doesn’t have any skills, he is continuing his father’s job. Of course he hasn’t been hidden from the sight of the municipality workers and recently when the workers went to him to impound his selling equipments, the local shopkeepers who were aware of his father’s murder, fought with the municipality workers and didn’t let him get arrested.

Iranian people witnessed another tragic event this year. On 14th March, a 32-year-old vendor named Yunes in Khorramshahr (a city in the south of Iran), set himself on fire in front of the Khorramshahr city hall, to show his objection against impounding his vending objects. He was an Iranian citizen and was one of the Arabs from KHouzestan. He was married and had two children. Before this tragedy, the municipality workers impounded his vending objects twice; he also had many financial problems and vending was his only way to support his family. Therefore he went to the city hall and requested to get a kiosk for continuing his job. On that very day, when Yunes’ request was rejected, he committed suicide by putting himself on fire in front of the city hall. At first the people took him to a hospital in Khouzestan and some officials went there to visit him. Then he was transferred to a hospital in Tehran but unfortunately because of the severe injuries he died in the hospital on 22nd March.

Based on the reports by some Human right activists in Ahvaz, Yunes’ brother, father and one of the old people from his tribe came to Tehran to receive his corpse. But they were arrested for eight hours in order to accept by pressure the Intelligent Ministry’s conditions for holding the funeral. Supposedly the Intelligent service told them they didn’t have the right to hold the funeral in Arabic style and they had to bury their son in a place which was far from crowds of people. Of course people from Khouzestan accompanied Yunes family in his funeral; but later on some clashes happened between Khouzestan Arabs and the police and a police car went on fire in these unrests and some young protesters got arrested. However the police announced later that they had released all of the prisoners.

Now a non-governmental charity organization is collecting money in order to buy a house for Yunes family, his wife and his two children. I pray that the Lord may give the authorities wisdom so they might rule the country more wisely and try to solve the problems of the people and He may give these dear families patience and peace. The eyes of people’s hearts may get open and their ears may hear His voice and they might give their exhaustions, burdens and problems to Him. They may trust the Lord who is trustworthy and surrender their lives to Him.

Shaban

Hello. My name is Shaban. About ten years ago I believed in Christ. Today I want to tell you a strange and comforting thing that happened to me.

I live in a city in which becoming Christian is the worst thing a person can do. From the viewpoint of the people of this city, being addicted is better than being Christian! When I believed jesus, I worked in a factory and have a great passion for reading Bible and so I always took the Gospel to my work place and read it at lunch and rest time to finish it as soon as possible but when my colleagues came to me, I closed my book not to realize what I read.

One day I was immersed in reading the Bible, one of my colleagues came to me and took the book from me and began to read it. He began to ridicule me and Bible. I was very upset and angry and started arguing with him, and it caused our supervisor to come. When he asked what the problem was, my colleague said that Shaban has become a Christian and is reading the Bible! When he asked me if it was true, I could not deny and I said yes! He said nothing to me and asked everyone to return to work and that's why I did not think that he took the problem seriously! But the problems began from the very next day!

From the next day, none of my colleagues talked to me! Also, when the work hours finished and I wanted to go home, the supervisor told me that I cannot go because my work has not finished and had to stay there about three hours. I was very surprised because in all the time I worked there it had never happened! I said nothing and agreed and started working until the night workers came. From that day, the supervisor told me that I should stay and he gave me work hard to do alone. Once I told him I could not stay, he said me that he expelled! I needed that work and so I had to stand.

Tolerating the situation was very difficult for me. One day I was so tired and when I came back from work to the house, I said to myself: "Jesus, where you are and why you see these all my difficulties, but do not do anything!" While I thought to myself, I arrived in front of a supermarket and I got out of my motorcycle to buy something. When I wanted to move, I put my wallet in the front of motorcycle and when I reached in front of the house and wanted to take the key from inside the wallet, I saw that my wallet was not there!

When this happened I felt that my patience and tolerance has finished and I started complaining to God why he did not show himself, why he allowed these things to happen to me!!! I had to go back and search all the way to my wallet! I searched all the way to the supermarket, but I could not find my wallet. I thought that maybe I left it in the supermarket, that's why I got out of the motorcycle and went to the supermarket, but it was not there!!! I was so tired and weary that I wanted to sit there and cry! I felt strangely alone! But the strange thing happened when I came out of the supermarket!

When I came out of the supermarket and went toward the motorcycle, I saw Jesus next to my motorcycle! He hugged me! Just for a moment all the noises of the street were stopped and I heard the heartbeat of Christ and I felt his heartbeat on my body! It was quite true! He hugged me tightly and told me: “Be still, and know that I am God” and then left me and went!

I was very surprised and also had a deep sense of peace in my heart. When I turned back and looked at my motorcycle, I saw my wallet on my motorcycle! It was quite dusty and it was clear that it had fallen somewhere and someone had taken it and put it on my motorcycle! But at that time there was no one around me! It was very strange!

The next day when I went to work, my supervisor called and apologized for annoying me! I do not know what happened that he repented of his work but I am sure that our God is alive and he had seen my difficulties and whatever happened was His work.