London: Iranians in Diaspora Trip - Hope of Christ
by Jen Haddox, for the team
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Today I heard these words preached in a whole new context. I heard them spoken at the Iranian Christian Fellowship in London, among refugees and immigrants from Iran. We observed as they warmly greeted one another as family and welcomed strangers like us as friends. They passionately sang songs of joy, surrender, and hope to their Savior. And the preacher, Brother Robert, who himself was imprisoned for his faith in Iran, spoke about the seemingly paradoxical nature of God’s blessings as they come to us in Jesus Christ. “Poverty of spirit is a gateway to experience God’s blessing.” It is in our willingness to humbly recognize our need for God’s grace that we are blessed.
Many of the joy-filled worshippers and church leaders we met today are a living demonstration of this verse. They have had to leave their homes and families to come to a distant land. They have faced arrest, interrogation, imprisonment and emotional anguish. In fact, organizations based here in the UK provide training for how to face persecution and provide trauma healing counseling for those who have been imprisoned. Though these Christians have suffered persecution for their faith in Jesus, and experienced pain that is hard for me to even imagine, I can see the joy and hope of the Kingdom of God so tangibly in their midst.
And their hope is contagious! Jesus is finding a welcome in the hearts of many young Iranian immigrants in this place. The North London Iranian Church is discipling many Muslim Background Believers, several hundred of whom gather in rented space at an Anglican church building. They are training 40 lay pastors and mentoring home group leaders to serve the current and future Iranian church.
These two congregations where we worshipped today are leading the way for a network of Iranian Christian fellowships across Europe. They are sharing the gospel and discipling young people so that “when” (not “if”) Iran is open, they can return and bring the hope of Christ to all the country. Their love for one another, and for their own people who are suffering without the hope of Christ was a testimony to me.
Lord Jesus, may we also live with such hope and love, not only for own lives, but for the lives of the lost.
ECO Director of Global Engagement