My name is Sahar. I was born and raised in Iran. I come from an educated and religious family that values and performs the Islamic duties.
One day, when I was four years old, my father came home from work and sat in the living room to wait for dinner. When my mom called him, he was unresponsive. She called our neighbors and friends for help, and they helped us take him to the hospital. The doctors could not give any explanation for his condition, and they did not know how to treat him. My father returned home, and we took care of him there.
One day, my mom met one of my dad’s friends who didn’t live in that city anymore. He had moved to a different country to escape persecution for his Christian faith. My mom told him about my dad’s situation, how he was still in bed 50 days later, unable to move. The man asked to visit our home and bring a friend who was a doctor. My mom was happy to invite them.
On the next day, my father’s friend came to visit. He was alone, which surprised my mother who had been expecting a doctor as well, but the man offered no explanation. After greeting my mom and brother and me, he went straight to my dad’s room. Kneeling down, he cried out in prayer to the Doctor of doctors to touch and restore his friend’s health. The room door had a gap, and I peeked through, watching everything.
After the man finished praying, he was saying good-bye to us when I looked over at my father and saw him moving on his bed. “Dad is moving!” I shouted. Everyone looked and was astonished. My father was waking up! As he regained consciousness, he began asking questions. A few hours later, he was back to normal. He did not remember being sick.
Everyone in the family was completely astonished. How was this possible? What had happened? Who was this God? Where could we find Him? My father’s friend started telling us about God, the Creator of all things, and about Isa Al-Masih (Jesus Christ), the Doctor of doctors, the Lord of lords, the Savior.
We looked for a Bible in our city, but there were none in our language. Bibles were prohibited in our country. However, my dad’s friend lived in Lebanon and was able to give us a Bible in Arabic. We did not speak Arabic, but my father started studying Arabic because he was thirsty to learn about the God of the Bible, the God who had healed him.
Our family studied the Bible in secret. As my 16-year-old brother read the stories of the creation and the liberation of the people of Israel and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, he was amazed by the promises and the peace he found. He wanted to share his new faith with his friends. Despite the danger, one day he told them that we studied the Bible and had met another God, a God who had created all things, a God of love who cared about our problems, a wonderful God, a merciful God. Some of his friends told their parents who informed the police.
The police came to the house looking for my brother and the Bible. My mother was cooking when she saw the police coming, and she hid the Bible in the oven. This saved our lives. If the police had found it, we all would have been killed.
The police took my brother away, and he was imprisoned and tortured for three months. He came back home without his teeth, crippled by trauma and flashbacks, and with his memory destroyed by all the electric shocks he suffered in prison. All this for talking with his friends about God the Father and Jesus his Savior. We couldn’t find any help for my brother in the country, so we sent him to Europe for treatment. A few months later, we received news that he had died.
Despite all the pain and suffering, our family held onto our faith and reliance on our loving Father. We had to stay far away from the rest of our extended family because they had promised to kill us for betraying Islam.
During my high school time and as a teenager, I had many questions. Once in school I questioned something about the Qur’an. My teacher immediately warned me that the Qur’an should never be questioned. A few months later, I again questioned something in the Qur’an. The teacher immediately called the police. They took me to a secret location, and I found myself in a very dark room without any windows. For days I was cursed, insulted and tortured. One day, they shaved my hair. This is one of the most humiliating things in my country, for a woman’s hair is her honor, and a shaved woman is excluded from society.
Another day, they pulled my fingernail. But during all of it, I only trusted God. I asked Him to give me comfort and faith and to fill my heart with the blessed hope so I could endure such humiliation and such physical pain. I stood faithfully for my God and Savior Jesus Christ, and He protected me.
My family paid a very expensive bail to release me. When I returned home, the police put a stamp in my passport that meant I could no longer study or work. The only solution my family saw was to send me out of the country. I ended up traveling by bus to Damascus. I didn’t know where to go or whom to meet, but I knew my Heavenly Father would take care of me.
In Damascus I had no money and no one to help me. Then I remembered a pastor I had seen on a TV show who lives there. I found his number, called him and told him my story. He offered me a place in a monastery. I lived there for four years, cleaning the rooms and taking care of the children without family who went to the monastery. I wasn’t able to leave. While living there, I met a man who had escaped persecution in his home country. His body was scarred and broken from the tortures he had experienced. We were married in 2008 and lived in Damascus a few more years. Then the war started, and we left Syria in 2013 after our house was destroyed by a bomb. During this period, we were introduced to Seventh-day Adventist families and studied the Bible with them.
Since returning to either of our home countries would put our lives at risk, we tried to flee to the country of Georgia through Turkey. However, at the border, the Georgian authorities refused to give my husband a visa. We spent a few day in the cold without a roof. In desperation, we decided to go to my husband’s country. At the airport, the authorities separated us because they did not believe my husband would marry a woman of another nationality. Various agents interrogated us for four hours. After we paid them money, I finally got a visa, but only for three months.
Remembering our Adventist friends, we searched for an Adventist church to see if anyone could help us. The church welcomed us and treated us with love. We took Bible studies and got baptized.
As my visa expiration approached and I was faced with having to leave the country, God worked in a miraculous way. The church helped us to communicate with the foreign embassy, and I got a new visa. Now I am a student in an Adventist college, studying theology. My husband and I are waiting for our refugee applications to be processed so we can become citizens in our new country. Due to the torture my husband suffered, he cannot work. And what of my future? I am working with AFM to translate websites and evangelistic materials into Farsi so I can share the Good News with my people, and they can know my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To follow Jesus is to participate in His sufferings. Yet, the blood He shed for me is worth infinitely more than anything I can do for Him. And one day when Jesus returns, my husband and I will get new bodies. Hallelujah!