Saturday, April 22, 2006

"Iranian M" 's Story

I am from Iran. I left my home country because I wanted to go to university and it is very difficult to get accepted there. Out of the one million people who take the entrance exam each year, only 100,000 are accepted. I also wanted to find a good surgeon to operate on my foot, which hurts.

I left Iran for Turkey, legally with my passport. Then I made several unsuccessful attempts to enter Greece from Turkey by walking across the border, but I was finally able to come by paying a smuggler to take me on a big ship; that worked very well. I made my way to Athens, where I moved into a downtown house packed with Kurdish people. The rent was only $36 a month, but it was a dirty, old, decrepit building that shook whenever you walked in it. A Greek man leased each room to a different Kurd, who then sublet his room to as many people he could squeeze inside. There were three floors, six rooms on each floor, and twelve or more people in each room. There were about 270 people living in this one building! There was only one bathroom for one hundred people, and all of us had to shower to go to work, but there was never any hot water. I stayed there for a month and a half and tried to learn Kurdish, but it took me until the day I left to be able to communicate in it.

I found a job the very first day I came to Athens. Finding a job was essential because my family could not possibly send me enough money with which to survive. My first day, I got paid twelve dollars for two hours of work. I thought to myself, I can make good money working here, so why should my family have to send me anything? I decided to work in Athens and repay the money my mother had borrowed from the bank for me. Then I decided that I could get even better work in another country.

But the next day, I couldn't find a job anywhere. The following day was a Sunday, and a friend told me there was a place that offered free English classes. When class was over, I came out and heard Nader preaching in Farsi and discovered that a church meeting was taking place. My friend was from Kurdistan and couldn't speak Farsi. I told him, "Let's go sit and see what's going on here."

But he said, "Oh, it's all garbage about Christianity." I told him that I didn't know much about Christianity and I was curious to learn more. But he told me that listening was unclean and that God would curse me. I responded that I wanted to sit there and know more and increase my knowledge. Didn't our Prophet say the same thing, that to increase your knowledge, you should be willing to go as far as China? So why should I go to China if I can sit right here? So he sat with me, unable to argue with that.

Nader was preaching about all of the difficulties of life, and all my hardships came to my mind. As I sat there, I prayed that God would find a job for me. I told God, it doesn't matter where I am, in a mosque or a church, I can still ask you. It's your house, and if you answer my prayer, I promise I will come to wherever your house truly is.

When the service was over, I wanted to leave, but I realized they were serving Iranian food afterward. The food was horrible! A man named Hamzeh, who didn't know how to cook very well, had prepared the food. It was so bad, that I couldn't eat. Later, when I had become friends with Hamzeh, I told him so. (He is getting better at cooking now.)

After that day, I found a job very quickly. Since then, I have worked the whole time I have been in Greece. The first five months, my employer paid me. But the last two months, even though I have worked hard despite my painful foot, he has refused to pay me, offering only to give me a third of what he owed me "as a gift." I am still trying to get him to give me what he owes me.

The first time I came to Helping Hands, I didn't know what they offered... food, English classes, etc... From the first day, I sat because I wanted to learn more about Christianity. It wasn't until the next Sunday that I came again, because I had been working the whole week. I tried to find out about more classes about Christianity and then attended all the Bible classes and some of the English classes, but the Bible class was more important to me. I tried to take time off from my job when the Bible studies were going on. My knowledge increased about Christianity little by little. When all the Kurds I lived with found out that I was coming to Bible classes, they told me Aybeh, aybeh, "No good, no good. Christianity is heretical and all the people are infidels." I couldn't give them answers or proof, only calm them down. I took a Bible from Helping Hands, but I hid it in my suitcase so no one would see it. But they found out when they searched the suitcase and found it.

I didn't work at Helping Hands at that time. I asked God to use me as his servant somehow. The only way I knew how to serve was to come and grow in Jesus. One Sunday, Hamzeh called me. From that day, I started to help him in the kitchen each week. My life in the house was very difficult, them fighting with me all the time about Christianity, so I packed my suitcase one night at eleven at night. I lived on the 3rd floor, and the people in one of the rooms on the 1st floor told me they would not let me leave to sleep in the park that night, so I spent the night with them. I stayed in their room for two weeks. I didn't have any choice because I didn't know any Iranians with whom to rent a house. I found one place, but the people there told me I had to pay a $500 deposit and then the rent. I had the salary to pay the rent but not enough for the deposit. One Sunday, I came to church and asked Nader to pray so that God would solve my problems about a place to stay, to provide an apartment. I was searching everywhere for an apartment I could afford. One day I was in Bible study, and brother Themis called Nader over to translate and said, "I hear you have problems with housing." I thought, "He has found a house I can rent." But he told me about a shelter where we could live and leave our clothes, a place called The Nest. In this way God helped me a lot so that I could send money to my parents instead of using it to pay rent. Three months later I accepted Jesus in my life in that house. I can say I believed in Jesus from the beginning, but it wasn't with strong faith. Those three months in that house helped strengthen me in my faith so that I could say I believe in Jesus.

I asked to be baptized with the next group who was going to be baptized, but the baptism teacher and his translator wouldn't let me because they thought I wasn't ready. I was really upset, because there were people being baptized that had been believers for a shorter time than I had, so why should they have papers to prove their belief? But the teacher asked me to attend the next baptism class, and after the class it was really funny that I received my baptism certificate one day earlier than the people in the group ahead of me!

As for the future, I want to go to Canada and attend university. I think God wants to train me by sending me to university and helping me learn more about him so I can be his servant. I want to go to a Christian university. But if God wants me here in Greece, I could go to university here. I believe God has a call on my life, but I don't know what it is yet.

I can say that the good attitudes of the team helped me to grow in my faith. I have problems, but I ask God to help me, and I know he will.

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