I was born into a devout Muslim family in Iran. As I was growing up, I was taught about the way Allah wanted Muslims to live and about the dire consequences of going against Allah's wishes.
When I came to the U. S. in the 1970's, I found myself facing a world with a very different value system. In order to maintain my spiritual health, I continued praying five times a day. My goals were to hold on to my faith, obtain my college education and return to Iran.
Things went well for me for a while, and I did not worry about my finances, as they were provided by my family. Then I met Kazi, a Japanese girl whom I found most attractive. She had all of the qualities which I sought in a friend and life partner. After a few months, however, she returned to Japan. I thought that this was not fair to me, as I no longer had a companion. From our correspondence, I learned that her parents would not approve of her marrying a "guyjin" (foreigner). And, that was what I was!
I found myself alone and lonely. Also the university courses had become more difficult and I was experiencing a disruption in my financial support. I thought to myself, "So what else could go wrong?" That something else was the Iranian Revolution which occurred in 1978-1979. Very soon, I found myself also worrying about a civil war in Iran. To complicate things more, at this time my father became ill. Since my mother was very old, my sister was the one who had to manage the family affairs.
During this time I began to visit David, my English teacher at the university's language institute, whom I knew from the year before. He had since quit teaching and was doing what he had always desired. He now worked with international students on a wide range of their concerns. David's parents had been missionaries to Japan for many years. David, himself, had lived there and spoke Japanese fluently and knew the Japanese culture. I had more reasons for visiting him now. This was in spite of the fact that David had told me that his mission was to give every international student on our campus a chance to know what he called "THE LORD." Though I appreciated David's friendship, I rationalized that since I was a Muslim, I did not need to know about his Lord! I prayed to my Muslim God and often I differed and even argued with David about religious matters.
The news from Japan became more discouraging as Kazi wrote that she could not convince her parents to let her marry me. The news from Iran was equally discouraging. Many were executed, while others were arrested, imprisoned and interrogated. It seemed that no one was exempt. I began to question my Islamic faith. I began to worry about my family, as no one was immune from revolution.
These concerns caused me to spend more time with David. And, I was grateful that he was always available when I needed him.
David never became upset even when I offended "his God" and him. And he always prayed for me. I wondered why he prayed for me when I had told him I didn't believe in the same things he did. This behavior made a great impression on me.
Before long, I was so angry with the Islamic revolution that I quit praying to the Muslim God. And soon war broke out between Iran and Iraq. Every day many hundreds lost their lives at the war front and scores more died due to their beliefs. I decided that I could no longer be a Muslim.
There is a tremendous void in my life. One day as I was sitting in the University cafeteria, David arrived and sat by me and patiently listened to me as I told him that Kazi's mother would not allow her to marry me. I also told David about my financial problems, my father's illness and my worries for my family in Iran. I also shared about my spiritual struggles. David responded by saying that he was sure that "the Lord" would help me, but I must first come to know Him and then He would give me peace. I asked David why "his Lord" was waiting for me to first accept Him before helping me. I promised that if David's Lord would solve my problems and meet my needs, I would then believe in Him. David said that we can be saved only by faith and not by works. I lost control of myself and pounding the table, I declared, "You and your God!"
Things didn't get any better for me. My sister wrote that my father's health continued to decline and that my brother who was married and had children was once again using drugs. He could thus no longer support them. The only thing I thought I could do was to cry and hope that things would improve. I did not feel free to visit David anymore. So I visited a Christian professor with whom I had a course. I noticed that he, in a similar manner to David, listened with care and willingly talked to me. He talked about "the Lord" and finally prayed for me. When my visit was over, he gave me a book, the New Testament (Injil) with Psalms (Zabour) and Proverbs (of Solomon) all in one volume and recommended that I read it. So now and then I read from it. Whenever I read from it I had peace. I soon realized that things seemed a little different. I started visiting David again. I told him that I that I was reading the Bible and about the peace I was experiencing. He became excited. I asked him to tell me more about his lord. So once a week he would come to my apartment and we would read a Bible story and then discuss it.
When March 1980 arrived ad in the Iranian custom, I decided to celebrate the Iranian New Year (which begins on March 21, the first day of Spring) by setting seven objects, whose names begin with the letter "s" on a table. It is also a custom of some families to add other objects such as a mirror, a Qur'an (the Muslim Holy book) and a picture of Prophet Mohammad. However I could not make myself place the last two objects on the table spread. Something like a force inside of me held me back. While not admitting to or recognizing the change, I had changed spiritually.
My thoughts were often occupied with those dear to me in Japan and Iran. When my sister wrote that my father had stabilized, I was so happy. Because of my financial situation, I couldn't even afford to place an overseas telephone call to my family. In gratitude of the good news, I thanked God, but strangely enough I realized that this God was different than the one I had known as a Muslim.
And, strangely enough, one day Kazi called and said that her mother now trusted me and was allowing her to come back to the U. S. to me. Even Kazi's mother had noticed the change in me from the cassette tape recording which I had regularly sent them. So with a number of our friends present Kazi and I were married in a church.
I continued to see David for our Friday Bible study. In the meantime, my grades at the university improved. Life was a tremendous joy.
When an Iranian friend was going to Tehran, he agreed to take a gift to my father from me and visit my family. When my friend returned from Iran he said that while visiting my family that he had learned that my father had died a week earlier. The news hit me as if I had just lost part of my own life. It saddened me that I could never again embrace my father. Nonetheless, as I read my Bible, the Lord ministered peace to me.
Though Kazi was not a Christian, I shared with her about the peace and strength the Lord had given me. Kazi had not problem with my interest in Christianity. I went so far as to even talk to my Iranian friends about Jesus. But all this time, I had not yet accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord!
I soon graduated from the university. Since the terrible situation in Iran continued as every day hundreds lost their lives in war and many died for their beliefs, I decided not to return to Iran at that time.
I applied for a practical training job in my field and was accepted. Since things were "better" in my life, I did not ask the Lord for help as often. And I usually forgot about Him.
I worked for almost two years and expected to obtain my permanent resident status in the U.S. In spite of the thousands of dollars which I had spent for attorney's fees, I was unable to obtain my permanent residence. So again I went before the Lord Jesus Christ for His help. However this time I seemed to know Him better and I felt His presence with me. In the meantime Kazi became pregnant. She gave birth to our daughter, Ziba. The experience was so wonderful that I myself seemed to be born again through Ziba's birth. I saw the Lord's wonderful power of creation. That afternoon, alone at home, I felt the Lord's strong presence with me. I had a personal realization of God's love for me. I came to realize that God would help me no matter what, but I must first place my trust in Him. I did this. I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude towards the Lord.
A few days later when I saw David, I shared how I now felt that Jesus Christ was dwelling within me. But, I did not tell him that I had accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord because I wanted to first share the news with Kazi.
By 1986, I was concerned that the U.S. immigration would not allow me to remain in the U.S. and I was afraid that I would have to take my small family to Japan where the language and culture was strange to me and we would have to start from zero again. My worries got the best of me. I could not sleep at night and I did not eat well. I just felt numb. I asked David to meet me for lunch in a restaurant (I did not want Kazi to know of my fears.) By lunch time that day I felt like a human wreck. I was crying and could hardly talk. David knew about my situation. He seemed to be crying for me deep inside. David told me that God was the ultimate authority and that He makes the final decision on everything. David reminded me that I had forgotten about God's power. At that point I realized that I had really had not yet fully accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. As I left David to return to work that afternoon, David opened his Bible and shared the following verses with me. They captured my heart for ever:
"Come to me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Injil - Matthew 11:28-30).
As I drove back to my office, instead of listening to my Persian music tapes, which I usually did, I turned the car radio on. The singer sang, "All you need is a miracle; all you need is Jesus." For the next few minutes these sentences repeated themselves in my mind. As I parked my car I heard a "public broadcasting emergency" message on the radio which ended with "this is a test - only a test." To me, these events were no coincidence. It occurred to me that the Lord was telling me that all my present difficulties were a test - only a test. I concluded that I had suffered enough due to my stubbornness. I decided right there that I was not going to worry about my visa, my job, my finances or my family. I knew Someone who had these difficulties as well as all other areas of my life in His hand. I only needed to accept and proclaim His lordship over my life and to give my life over to Him forever. And I did! I was no longer the same person. My behavior towards my family members and co-workers changed immediately.
When I arrived home that evening I described the events of that afternoon to Kazi. I shared how, after thirty some years of my life I had now become a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I hoped that she would make the same decision for herself. I told her that I did not want her to become a Christian because of me and wanted her to take her time to consider the matter. A few days later Kazi told me that she had now sorted out her thoughts and feelings and that from the depth of her heart she also wanted to become a Christian. So we prayed and she received Christ into her life.
We have now been baptized and attend a local church regularly. We also attend an evening Bible study. I consider it a privilege to tell people about my best friend, Jesus Christ, and His faithfulness. I currently meet with several Iranians in my area and share Christ with them. By God's help and the prayers of God's pepople, their lives will also be changed. I tell my family, "Do not try to save your life for you will lose it; however if you give your life to Jesus Christ, you will have really gained it.
Dear reader, we can always label the events of our lives as coincidences or mysteries. Whenever I listened to Christian testimonies I used to be skeptical and would say to myself, perhaps the speaker was overstating and exaggerating things. However, there is no exaggeration of overstatement in what I have shared with you. It simply conveys the truth of God's unconditional love for us. Is it not ultimate love that Jesus shed His blood for our sins? Often our selfishness and self-righteousness prevents us from seeing the Lord and His love for us. We seek after status and glamorous life. We become unloving and judgmental. We think we are the source of authority and the master of our lives. come to Jesus Christ, the only one with authority over the things which can make a real difference in your life and let Him be your Lord and friend. Then you have gained your life.
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