London: Iranians in Diaspora Trip -
by Dana Allin, for the team
And he said to them, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Luke 10:2
This passage struck me in a new way today as our group learned more about the ministry of Pars Theological Seminary. Pars is led by Mehrdad Fatehi as its founder, president, and executive director. His daughter, Shadi, is the director of programs and our wonderful and attentive host.
In the morning, we learned about the changing social, political, economic and spiritual landscape for Iranians. What struck me was that while there are a lot of challenges in Iran related to these factors, there has never been a greater openness to the gospel. The harvest is indeed plentiful among Iranians. When Iranians, both inside and outside of the country, are presented with the gospel the response rate to Jesus is six out of ten people coming to faith over time. More people have come to faith in Jesus in the last two decades in Iran than in the previous 1,400 years combined! There is a deep spiritual hunger among Iranians that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
One man remarked that before the revolution, when it was legal to distribute Bibles in Iran, no one seemed to be interested. Now after the revolution, when distributing the Bible and Christian materials is illegal, there seems to be a greater hunger than ever before. This hunger for Jesus is also present in Iranians living outside of Iran. We have met dozens of Muslim background believers who have come to faith through these churches in Iran. The harvest is plentiful!
The laborers, however, are few. We heard stories of those laborers for the gospel who have been martyred for their faith and work. We watched the documentary A Cry from Iran. It is available on Amazon, and I highly recommend watching when you have the opportunity. It recounts the story of the martyrdom of Haik Hovsepian, an Iranian pastor who had the opportunity to leave Iran but stayed in order to see his people come to know the Lord. We have had the opportunity to interact with Haik’s brother, Edward, who is now a pastor of an Iranian church in North London. After we watched the video, Edward shared about the continued work that he is involved with in London and in Iran.
We met another woman, Rashin, who is working in ministry with her husband here in London. Rashin was 13 years-old when her father was martyred in Iran. We also met Sarah, who became a Christian in Iran when she was a teenager. Her enthusiasm for the Lord prompted her to do evangelistic work in Iran despite the danger. She would sometimes travel six hours one way to meet someone who was interested in hearing more about Jesus. Because of her ministry, she was imprisoned along with other underground house church leaders.
In the midst of this incredible harvest, I am thankful for Pars’ work in preparing people for the harvest. I was blown away at the research and intentionality that has gone into developing their programs. The seminary trains people from a variety of educational backgrounds and offers a depth of biblical teaching, skills for contextual ministry, and most importantly the spiritual formation needed for leaders. My posture shifted during the presentation from wanting to learn about the way Pars approaches training to wanting to learn from Pars in the way I approach leader development.
I am encouraged on this trip to take diligently the call of God to pray for and work to release the workers needed for the harvest.
Rev. Dr. Dana Allin
Synod Executive, ECO