was raised in a Muslim family in Tehran, Iran. My mother was a teacher and the principal of an elementary school. She knew a lot about Islam and did her best to follow its teachings. She helped me learn to read the Qur’an, taught me to pray at least three times a day, and encouraged me to fast during Ramadan.
As a Muslim teenager, I remember being full of fear—specifically, the fear that my parents would die. This was because my Islamic beliefs gave me no sense of security on whether they, or any other practicing Muslim, would be saved. I had big questions about the afterlife experience that my faith couldn’t answer. Thoughts of losing my parents would scare me to the point where I would go into their bedroom late at night just to ensure they were still breathing.
One day, when I was 17, a relative of ours came to visit. She had recently become a Christian through her relationship with a missionary working in Iran. And so she decided to come to our house and attempt to share the gospel. “Jesus is Lord!” I recall her saying. “And he has come to save us from our sins!” She supported her claims with several Bible verses, including John 3:16 and John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
As a young Muslim, I had been taught that the Bible was corrupted, that the version we read today is a distortion of its original contents. But as I listened to this woman read from Scripture, I felt something of its power—and I felt sure that a book capable of grabbing my heart that intensely couldn’t be corrupted after all.
Typically, my mother would get offended if someone disagreed with her Islamic values. On that day, however, something surprising happened. Instead of fighting back, she listened peacefully and asked questions. There wasn’t a trace of defensiveness; it appeared that she simply wanted to know the truth. (Later on, our relative revealed that she had been praying for our family before coming to share the gospel, and I’m convinced those prayers worked to soften my mother’s spirit.)
Something else in our relative’s gospel presentation stood out: her claim that “Jesus can set you free from fear and save you from eternal death.” These words were medicine for my soul and food for my hungry heart. I had never heard such words of peace and reassurance from any spiritual leader in the Islamic world. In some strange but powerful way, I thought I could sense God’s presence and authority in what she said.
At the time, I had no understanding of anything like praying a salvation prayer. I didn’t know how to repent of my sin or receive Christ as Savior. But as I went upstairs to my room, I couldn’t stop reflecting on the idea that Jesus held the key to eternal life. Suddenly, I found myself on my knees. As I looked up, I said, “Jesus, I know you are Lord. Save me and set me free from my fears!”
Initially, I was reluctant to tell my mother I had become a Christian, because I feared her reaction. As it turns out, however, she was experiencing her own spiritual awakening at the very same moment. Soon enough, when she confessed having come to faith, I dared to tell her I had done the same. Remarkably, my father and younger brother converted to Christianity as well.
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