I grew up in a family that was indifferent about religion, not irreligious but not too religious. My family is Sunni not Shiee (Shiite). All of my family members are teachers. Because of that, growing up, I was only concerned with lessons and being a good student. In our city, in the Kurdish part of Iran, it was traditional in the summer to have a Koran class for all the young children taught by a mullah. I attended this class every summer for seven years. I have read the whole Koran three times through in these classes. I have also read the two books that one has to read to become a mullah in the Sunni branch of Islam.
Until I graduated from high school, I didn't have any problems, but after I passed my final examinations, I thought my God was far away from me, that He was high up in the sky, we were down on the earth, and there was no way to really talk to Him. There were some things that were sin in my life, but I couldn't stop doing them, I couldn't stop being a sinner. That really hurt my faith. When I passed the entrance exam to university, I went to Tehran. From that time my bad life began. I was hopeless and nothing bothered me, no matter what I did. I enjoyed being a sinner. The sin was one of the habits in my normal life. The only thing I didn't think about was God. I had emotional problems. I couldn't sleep at all. I would go to sleep late at night and rise early in the morning. I wasn't getting enough sleep. I think now that this was because my sin was bothering my conscience, but I didn't think about that then.
I studied in Tehran for four years, the last two of which I was a member of an opposition political group. Because of that, the university kicked me out and didn't give me a degree. I stayed in Iran for nine more months, and then I decided to leave the country, since I wasn't allowed to do anything because of my political affiliation... I couldn't work or study or do anything. I wasn't in prison but it was like a prison.
When I left Iran, my plan was to go to Bulgaria and then to England. Everything was set. I wasn't supposed to come to Greece. I stayed in Bulgaria for four months and had been accepted to be given a Bulgarian passport. But before I was issued one, September 11 happened, and the law was changed. I wasn't allowed to have one, so I had to leave. I decided to come to Greece with three other Iranians.
The first couple of weeks in Athens, we slept in the park and found out about a place the other refugees called "The American Church" (Helping Hands), where we could come to eat. Later we decided to help. I started to read a Bible I got there because it was the only Farsi book I had. I was reading it like a newspaper, not caring about it at all because of my religion. I talked to Nader privately and attended the Seekers' Class, Persian Christian Fellowship, and a local church, that my friends had begun attending because they were interested in Christianity, just to fill my free time because I didn't have anything else to do. When I would think about Christianity logically in my mind, I could accept it, but I still couldn't accept it in my heart.
My friends and I went to Argos in southern Greece to work, picking oranges. There I met a friend from Bulgaria who spoke Turkish. He had been Muslim but he had converted to Christianity. We would work together picking oranges, eat together, spend all of our time together. Every day and night during our free time he read the Bible out loud. Before each meal he prayed for us. His good attitude impacted me. One day he came to me and said, "Tomorrow is Sunday. We haven't been to church in a long time. We should go together." So we returned to Athens to take him to the church we had been attending. In church he prayed for us, crying as he prayed. When the work season was finished, he left for Bulgaria. But before he left, said to me, "Open your heart to Jesus. I will pray for you every day."
The opportunity arose to go to Italy, so I left Athens and went to an island to board a boat. Everything was set, everyone was ready to go, but something didn't let me go, something wasn't right. When I returned to Athens, I had no money left, and I was lost completely. It was the hardest time in my life. At that time I asked Jesus, "If You're real, touch me." On a Thursday, I went to an Iranian fellowship at the church my friends attended. I was not ready. I entered the church to find the congregation singing and worshiping God. I suddenly felt another feeling in my heart, like it had completely changed. I felt different. All the words they sang were like a wooden board hitting me in the head, reminding of my childhood. It was like a cinema, seeing all the things that had happened in my life. I was weeping, and I couldn't stand up straight, and I knelt to the floor. Afterward, I went back home... not really a house, just a ruined building where we were staying. We slept on the concrete floor, and it was very hard, and we each had only one sleeping bag. And yet that night was the first time I could sleep through the night in years.
Ten days after that day, I was baptized, earlier than my three friends! I didn't have emotional problems anymore. Instead, I had peace in my heart. Sin was slowly exiting my life as I lost the desire to sin. The best thing is that I can talk with my God directly. My God is not far away in the sky anymore. I know that my God has a wonderful plan for my life here on earth. Now I have the opportunity to leave Greece and live with some relatives in another country, but I know that God is calling me to work in Greece and be here. So I will not go anywhere until He will let me go. I can feel that He is trying to teach me each day through His Word. I am very grateful for His plan, and I will obey Him, step by step. I confess that He is the only one who can give us peace, and that He is the only Savior.