Saturday, April 22, 2006

"S's" Testimony

"S" 's Testimony
I was born in Tehran, Iran into a very wealthy family. My father was not religious at all, and his skepticism rubbed off on me. I even had to attend a private high school (made up of mostly Christian students) so that I would not get in trouble at the public high school. My Armenian Christian classmates would ask me questions about my religion, questions I could not answer. I was interested in learning more about Christianity and even attended my friend's sister's wedding just so I could see the inside of a church building.

One day an American woman wandered into the expansive enclosure around our house. I was surprised to see that anyone had managed to get by the four guards, not to mention the guard dogs, that usually watched our gate. She was lost, so I walked her back to the street and pointed her in the direction of the address she was seeking. "Thank you," she said, "and, here, I have something for you." She gave me a New Testament in Farsi, my native tongue. When I asked about her later, no one in the area had seen her or knew anything about her.

The New Testament sat on a shelf in my room for a long time before I finally picked it up one night after discussions about Christianity with my classmates. I began at the beginning of Matthew and read straight through. When I got to Mark, I realized that it was telling the same story, but I couldn't put it down. When I had finished John, I realized it was four o'clock in the morning!

This Jesus character fascinated me, and I wanted to learn all I could about him. One day I telephoned my cousin and told her I wanted to talk to her about something interesting. I stuck my New Testament and a book criticizing Islam, which my friends at school had given me, into my bag and left for her house. I would always take a cab when I went to see her, but this time I walked. I was stopped by the religious police, who investigated my bag. Then they immediately arrested me.

When my father found out, he went to the police station and talked to the guard on duty. "How much do you make in a year?" he asked the young soldier. The guard told him. "How would you like four times that amount right now?" The guard released me.
Since we had been to Greece before on vacation, it was not very difficult to get a tourist visa. My father gave his half of his factory to his partner. My father, mother, and I got on a flight to Athens three days after I was arrested.

Life suddenly became very difficult. We lived with my uncle's family and worked in his restaurant. Three months after we first came to Athens, I realized I would never be able to return home. Around that time, my uncle cheated my father out of his money, and one of my cousins in Iran died. I was tired of living and tried to kill myself twice, but both times I was interrupted.

The next day after my second attempt, I passed by the First Evangelical Church of Athens and saw the cross and remembered why I had come to Athens in the first place. I came home and announced that I would be attending church that Sunday. To my surprise, both of my parents said they would come with me. From that day, the three of us attended church every Sunday, starting with Sunday school at ten o'clock.

Even though I went to church every Sunday, I was still afraid to change my religion, afraid of being the only Iranian to stop being Muslim to become a Christian. But one Sunday I met an American woman who said that she knew a lot of Iranians. I didn't believe her, but accepted her invitation to her English class at the Athens Refugee Center. The place was packed full of men, and I was scared I was the only woman there! Then the office door opened and one of the women who worked there asked, "Can I help you?" She took me to the English class, and, yes, there were many Iranians there. Afterward, the teacher introduced me to an Iranian who had converted from Islam to Christianity. I finally realized that I was free to listen to my heart.
When I got home, I prayed and said, "Okay, God, I've heard everything, now show me the truth. Which one is right? Show me who you really are." I fell asleep and had a dream, someone was telling me, I told you that I am the Truth and the Life and the Way. No one comes to the Father except by me. I woke up and cried and knew which one was true. In the morning I called my pastor and asked, "How can I get baptized?"

I continued coming to the English class at the A.R.C., and when my teacher left to return to America, I took over her class! In fact, I was getting very involved in volunteering at the A.R.C., despite telling myself I didn't need to go there anymore. Something inside me wouldn't let me stay away. It was there, working with other believers, that I discovered what it really meant to be a Christian, through their example.

I believe God has a call on my life to bring His truth to my people. Right now I am doing that by translating, teaching English classes, and developing relationships with Iranians (and Afghans!) here in Athens. Refugees are more open than people living in their homeland. But one day, when there is a second revolution in Iran and the government finally changes, I want to return to my country and tell people about Jesus. If they could only read the Bible for themselves, I am sure Iranians would see the truth about who God really is, just as He revealed Himself to me.

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