London: Iranians in Diaspora Trip - More Precious than Gold
by Brian Stewart, for the team
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold,…” Psalm 19:7-10a
I’m not sure but I must have a heart for theological education given all the tuition I’ve paid for my three theological degrees. Now I’m studying for a fourth, and my father half-jokingly asked me once whether there was not a pension plan available for career students like me. My answer, of course, was “no,” but there are no doubt incredible dividends for Christ and his Kingdom when leaders are trained to faithfully teach and embody his Word.
All of my degrees were earned in kind of a classically “settled” situation: Dormitories and lecture halls. Neatly divided subjects taught by very academically successful instructors, and loads and loads of books to read so that I could learn loads and loads of information.
But the question is how do you theologically equip a people group who are not in a “settled” situation? What if a good portion of your students are in a country that is officially “closed” to the Gospel? What if the rest are scattered across the world in a way that would never allow them to take up full-time residence on a central campus? And what if many of these students, no matter where they are, still carry with them the physical and emotional wounds of torture and imprisonment? Answer: you bring together a couple of teams of some very passionate and creative people and you let them loose prayerfully to create two of the most inventive and subversive enterprises in the world for the Kingdom of God.
The 26-member team at the Pars Theological Center (Pars = Iranian), under the direction of Dr. Mehrdad Fatehi, has committed itself to being the premier resource for equipping church leaders in the Persian-speaking world both in and outside of Iran. Using a curriculum based upon the need for both biblically and theologically-based faithful information AND spiritual transformation, they are currently training 360 students in an online, secure learning environment and a series of required student conferences (one per year) around the world. In 2017 Pars led 20 of these conferences across the globe – each one filled with worship, instruction, fellowship and pastoral counseling. In between the online lectures, textbook readings and one-week conferences, students are mentored by the Pars team on to how to integrate the principles they are learning into their ministry and personal spiritual lives.
In another nondescript office building west of London, the small but intrepid Pars SAT7 team produces a wide variety of satellite Christian programs that are beamed all over the world in the Persian language (Farsi). Some of these shows feature teaching segments from the Pars Theological Center. Others touch on such serious issues as addiction, suicide and abuse offering wisdom and love rooted in the Gospel. Some of these shows are “live” and allow viewers to share questions and comments via cell phone, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Hundreds of these viewers contact them every month affirming Christ as their Savior and thanking them for speaking truth and hope into their lives.
Both of these teams radiate an infectious joy that I must confess was missing from much of my own theological education. Clearly they have found something that is more precious than gold.
Rev. Brian Stewart
Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Mission
First Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC
former Outreach Trustee