Released to Tell Others
As a teenager, Sara was an Islamist prayer warrior, a Basiji—a member of a grass-roots Islamic volunteer group that answered to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. When she prayed in school, all the other girls always expected her to lead them. She fasted so long one time that she wound up in the hospital. To show her devotion to Islam during services, she and her friends would practice self-flagellation. Sara always had more bruises than anyone else, yet her deep spiritual needs remained unfulfilled. She found herself asking questions.
Why am I spiritually empty?
Why do I feel no personal connection to the god of Islam?
Why, during my prayer rituals, do I do everything right and still feel so terribly wrong?
“As a young girl,” she recalled, “I asked my mom and dad if I could learn how to pray the Muslim prayers. I would lay out my white prayer cloth on the floor, then place another cloth on top, then lay a handkerchief with a stone—a tablet of compressed dirt from Mecca. We have to put our nose on the stone. After I would finish praying, I would pick up the stone and the handkerchief and underneath would be money. But I didn’t want the money. I wanted the truth.”
A movie about the life of Jesus changed everything.
Shortly before Sara was to enter the university, one of her sisters returned to their small town from college. She brought a movie about the life of Jesus and dared to share it with Sara.
Sara went into a room away from her family and put the movie into the video player.
“I watched how Jesus loved people,” she said later. “I began to cry. At the end of the film, there is a prayer of repentance. I prayed it six times.” She rewound the tape to the prayer again and again—backward, forward, backward, forward. “I don’t think I realized what repentance meant, but I wanted to be near God.”
She fell to her knees and raised her hands. “I was jealous of my sister since she came from college, because she would kneel down and without any Muslim beads, cloth, or stone would lift up her hands and start praying. I wanted to pray and feel close to God like she did.”
“God,” Sara would pray, “I want to have a connection. With you.”
She kept praying. She cried and prayed, asking God over and over for just that—a connection. She wondered, Could this be what I am looking for? She wasn’t sure.
“Then I began to pray that I would be delivered from sin,” she remembered. “That day it was like God was talking to me, through me. He was saying, ‘This is the truth. I am the true God. I am the one God.’”
Sara raced into the kitchen to find her sister and tell her the news. Jesus had saved her!
When Sara began praying, it was as if she were learning to talk for the first time. “I had no Bible,” she recalled. “I knew hardly anything about Jesus. All I had was a colored picture of Jesus about six inches high with a frame painted with flowers. He was looking to one side. To feel close to him, I would sit on the side where he was looking in the picture. This way, I felt that he was always looking at me.”
She began meeting secretly with members of a house church and was given a New Testament. “I was so happy,” she said. When Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979, the Bible Society closed. So Christians or curious Muslims often had to travel hundreds of miles to find one.
The house church met in a tiny room with mud walls. “But from those walls,” she said, “love came out.” They talked about how they engaged with God without being caught. A young man spoke about how he would sit in the family car at night to read Scripture by flashlight. Sara shared her longing to tell others about Christ. But how would she do it?
Sara liked her life. She liked serving Christ. She just needed to find a way to tell others about him. She found a way during her commute to and from work.
“On the bus in the morning on my way to work and in the evening on my way home, I would witness to two or three people,” she explained. “In the middle of the bus is a big, long rail dividing the men from the women. I would be on one side witnessing to a woman, but the men across the rail would be listening. They would be very interested.”
Sara is well aware of the risk. Being a nominal Christian in Iran is one thing, but evangelizing is another—an invitation for persecution. Still, Sara said, “I can’t not share Christ with others. I must tell them what released me from spiritual bondage.”
Sara knows that finding Christ happened because her sister dared to share with her. So she knows how important it is to tell others about the good news. She courageously follows in the steps of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2–4).
Wherever we go, we take Jesus with us. In what we say. In how we act. In how we pray. May we be courageous in sharing him with others. May we be faithful in praying for courage for our fellow believers.
This post is an excerpt from Voice of the Martyrs latest book, I AM N.
© 2016 The Voice of the Martyrs. I Am N is published by David C Cook. All rights reserved