PRAYING FOR THE PERSIANS
December 8, 2011
An SFM graduate shares how God impacted him on his outreach
As I reflect back on the last 8 years in YWAM I have to say my SFM trip to Turkey in 2007 was one of the most memorable experiences. There are many reasons for this: the team dynamic we had made it so much fun and I got to learn a lot about documentary film making. But the special thing about that project was learning more about the goodness of God from a family of Iranian believers that were in the midst of seeking refuge in Turkey.
We knew months in advance that we were heading to Turkey to help create contextualized 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 documentary film 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 and 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 realized 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 I feel 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.
A few points to keep in mind if praying for Iranians:
1. Partly because of advances in technology, Iranians now have opportunities to hear about Jesus, in spite of attempts to shut down communication of the Gospel. Pray for this communication to keep being created and permeating the nation. Social networks, downloadable media, satellite tv and radio are ways to reach Iranians with the Gospel and expose them to truth.
2. There is so much political unrest in Iran and the politics can be confusing and distracting. Pray for believers to be given strength and grace to “love their neighbors as themselves” and remember that they're battle is “not against flesh and blood, but against the unseen enemy.” Pray for the leaders in Iran to lead as God would intend.
3. A large group of Iranians displaced around the globe are not from an Islamic background but follow the Ba'hai faith. This religion is very different from Islam and Christianity in that it teaches truth is continuing to be revealed through various prophets and that prophets from the Bible including Jesus were simply a few in a line of many to come afterwards. Pray that their eyes would be opened to see what Christ really had to say about himself, sin and the after life--that he was the way to the Father.
4. Pray for wisdom and protection for Iranians coming to Christ that are from Islamic backgrounds. Pray that they would know how to move forward in their faith in the midst of an Islamic community.
5. Pray for women in Iran. Often women are marginalized and dealt brutal punishments without fair trials. Pray that justice would come into Iranian court systems and more protection and rights would be given through out the nation to women.
6. Not all Iranians are necessarily religious. Many are nominal or see the fruit of Islam and decide not to take part in empty religious exercises. But they can see true faith and devotion when it is lived out, and they are attracted to a sincere witness for Christ. Don't forget to always be ready to share the reason for what you believe in your sphere of influence and if you know Iranians ask God to show you how to share Christ with them.