*Name changed for security reasons.
What was your life like before you were a Christian?
I was very unhappy. There were many pressures in my life, social, economic – so much pressure! I had tried to live a good life, but the harder I tried to be a good person, the less hope I had. I felt like my life was a treadmill. I was very angry with God.
I am from Iran and the government had many religious rules which they wanted everyone to follow. I had gotten into trouble with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Their rules didn’t make any sense to me, so I ignored them. This led to my life being in a very bad place. Fortunately, after 3 months some influential friends got me out of this trouble.
Although I believed there was a God, I came to a place where I said to myself, “If this is religion, I don’t want it!”
I was working as a taxi driver. Many of my regular customers were Orthodox Christians. One day, one of them said to me, “I can see you aren’t happy – what’s happening in your life?”
So I shared about my situation and he invited me to spend time with some of his friends.
I was empty, needing to fill up my life. For a time, God kindly let me fill my life with their friendship. But it was illegal for a Muslim like me to attend their church. When I asked they’d say, “no”. In fact, they were so worried about getting into trouble with the authorities, they wouldn’t even let me have a Bible! Still, they did tell me some basic facts about the Bible and what it said.
Then I got into trouble with the Revolutionary Guard again. They told me, “If this happens again, you’ll be in really big trouble.” So I decided to flee Iran. A friend put me in contact with some smugglers who got me into Turkey. From Turkey, I flew to the UK.
How did you become a Christian?
Looking back, I can see everything that happened to me was part of God’s plan to bring me to a place where I would hear the message of the Gospel.
In London, I was put up in a hotel with all kinds of people! There I met a disabled Iranian man who “happened” to be a Christian. He invited me to church because he could see I had nothing to do.
So on the first Sunday morning of being in the UK, I found myself in church.
That evening I saw an Englishman come into the hotel yard. His name was John Freeman – aka “Mr John”. He was taking people to another church, using his minibus. I asked if I could go too.
At this church, I met a lot of “normal” people. After the service, everyone went round to Mr John’s house to have some refreshments, friendship – and a Bible study.
I shall never forget that first Bible study. It was about Jesus’ parable of the wise man who built his house on a rock. Even though it was hard work, his house lasted. The foolish man’s house was easy to build, but because it was built on the sand, it collapsed with the very first flood.
On my second Sunday, I did the same as the first. I went to my Iranian friend’s church in the morning and Mr John’s church in the evening.
A few days later, on 21st of September 2002, the Home Office sent me to live in Derby.
Mr John put me in contact with a Christian in Derby, called Peter Fry. One day, when I got home, I found an invite to Castlefields Chapel waiting for me from Peter.
During that week I tried to use the map on the back of the invite to find the church building, but I couldn’t find anything that looked like a church! I thought I must have come to the wrong place.
I asked a passing stranger where Castlefields Chapel was.
“It’s right here,” he said, pointing at the building in front of me, “and I left that invite for you. I’m Peter!”
The first meeting I went to was the Wednesday night Bible study. Peter was teaching about the salt of the earth and the Water of Life. I didn’t understand everything, but the bits that I did have stayed with me ever since.
From then on I kept coming to Castlefields on Sundays and Wednesday nights, and God’s Word began to sink in. The more I learnt, the more I wanted to learn. I was so thirsty! After the meetings, some of my friends – Peter, Richard and Andrew – would try to answer the questions I had.
I found this Christianity different from anything I’d encountered before. Most English people said they were Christians, but these people were very different.
Sometime over the first two weeks, I realised I had become a Christian myself. I began to know the happiness real Christians know.
What has changed in your life since then?
Everything has changed! I feel like I am a dirty dish made clean. I now have hope. When I became a Christian I felt like a man who had been groping around in darkness who suddenly saw the light. Or like a boat on the sea on a dark and stormy night who sees the lighthouse. I finally had peace in my mind. All my questions about religion have left.
When I heard about baptism, I realised this was something I needed to do. On 9th February 2003, I was baptised.
How has God been faithful to you?
In so many ways!
God has taken a weight off my shoulders. When I was first saved, I still worried about immigration – though I wanted to trust God over this. Eventually, I was given asylum in the UK. I couldn’t have gone through that time without my God and my church family.
When my parents visited me, they couldn’t believe how much I’d been blessed. They said they couldn’t understand how there could be friends like my Christian family. How could people like that live in the West?
I don’t feel my old worries anymore for I have a living hope of heaven to come, I have my friends and I have my God!
What does Jesus mean to you?
Everything! My rock, my refuge – everything. I can’t put it better than that.