As-salam alaykum, my friends.
Haletun chetur e?
Let me tell you a brief story about a young man who must be included in the prayers of all our Idaho churches, spoken about in the classrooms of our schools, and be recorded in our Idaho history books.
Saeed Abedini is a brave, Idaho brother, a strong Persian shir, and ten years younger than I. With a Shi’ite Muslim background in Iran, he converted to biblical Christianity. Miraculously, Jesus found him and redeemed him. He married a beautiful girl named Naghmeh, who grew up here in the American Northwest. Together in Iran, they spread a message, something like this:
eisa masih dost dar shomast. عيسي مسيح دوست شماست
eisa masih rah nor va haghighat ast. عيسي مسيح راه نور و حقيقت است
Jesus Christ loves you. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light.
But in sharing this good news gently and meekly among house churches in Iran, the powerful clerics and mujtahids looked upon Saeed as a serious, national threat to the state. The reality is this: all Muslim background believers (MBB) are under serious persecution.
Saeed became an American citizen in 2010, and in a 2012 visit to see his parents and work on an orphanage, the Revolutionary Guard arrested him. Presently, he is tortured in a prison cell solely because of his desire to spread the love, forgiveness, and joy of Jesus Christ.
What is the backdrop? When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini began a series of lectures in 1970 on The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, the tide shifted. Revolution came. Leaders had a voice for their historical suffering and martyrdom, and anger and passion – so notably revealed in the National Anthem. Strict interpretation and rule followed, especially upon the women. The government demonized America and Israel. And hence in 2014, Saeed is a victim imprisoned within a complexity of fears and falsehoods governing the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is rapidly approaching the second anniversary, September 26, 2014, of his imprisonment. How long can he survive such conditions?
What should we do? We should pray for the Supreme Leader and the Assembly of Experts. We should pray for the Iranian President and the Council of Guardians. We should pray for the Iranian Christians who meet secretly and especially for those who are imprisoned. We should pray for Saeed and his family.
What else can we do for our Idaho brother? Rio Tenango would like to exchange his life for Saeed’s. This is a very unlikely, unreasonable proposal. But I am reminded by the words of persecuted believer, Richard Wurmbrand, written back in the year that I was born, 1969. He challenges us to love.
My mind is getting more and more confused. Probably I shall yell soon. My mind jumps about from molecules to rats. Now it has forgotten the rats and thinks about Western Christians. I remember the tragic word in Philippians: ‘No church communicated with me.’ Why are we abandoned by the Western Christians? Their reason, probably, tells them that they could do nothing practical for us. But why do they follow reason, which Luther called ‘the beast’ and not love? Why don’t they come free us, with the risk that they will be defeated and suffer the same fate as us? Their strategists may tell them that the balance of power is not in their favour. But since when has love constrained strategists? Why does not a group of a thousand Western Christians come as tourists, attack our prison, rush into the corridors and tell us: ‘We have not forgotten you. We love you’? It may be a foolish enterprise. But from our side it was also a foolish thing to bang on a cell door when our brother was beaten. And then, the Western Christian all have their guardian angels. Each had six wings, which means that they are prepared to fetch messages. Why don’t they send their guardian angels to caress our weary head and to tell us about love? I feel the nearness of such angels, but when I ask them where they come from they are nearly always from another prison cell or from a brother in Rumania itself. Can angels from the West be stopped at the Iron Curtain? How big are their wings? Are they the wings of a chicken, which cannot fly, or the wings of an eagle? Where is the unreasonableness of love? If they are partakers of the divine nature, why are they not also partakers of the foolishness of God? Foolish questions, dear brothers and sisters. If I spoke to you tonight it was to teach you one thing: dare to walk in the foolish, completely unreasonable, paths of love! St. Augustine said: ‘Love God, and do what you will.’ Love, and your foolish actions will be wiser than the wisdom of men.
Maybe God might be calling you to boldly step out and love the people of Iran. May the desert of Daht-e Kavir blossom like what God in His mercy has done among the deserts of Southeastern Idaho. May God’s glory and grace rise higher than Mount Damavand. May the Iranians treasure Jesus more than all the rials in the land. Certainly, our sovereign God is doing a mighty work. As He turned the heart of Persian King Cyrus in ancient times, He is establishing His purposes in Iran today.
And mark this down. There are famous, contemporary Iranians listed in our modern books. Anousheh Ansari is the first female private space explorer. Pierre Omidyar is the creator of Ebay. But for you who live in this state, write down this name: Saeed Abedini. Idaho brother. Choice servant of Jesus Christ. Prisoner for the gospel, presently tortured in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, 20 kilometers west of Tehran.