London: Iranians in Diaspora Trip - From London to Liverpool
by Rev. Lisa Johnson, for the team
“The Iranian Diaspora wants to bless others and receive from others for the sake of the Kingdom. It is not hard to see that we are not the only broken people.”
-Pastor Shapoor, Liverpool Iranian Church
Early this morning our team boarded a train in London and rode a picturesque two hours to Liverpool where we were greeted warmly with flowers and hugs from the two bi-vocational pastors of Liverpool Iranian Church, Shapoor and Mehrdad. Their church is made up of 120 people all of Muslim background and they are uniquely blessed that 30-40 of those church family members are youth and children.
They drove us to their “House of Prayer” which is a modest flat owned by a friend of the church. Over the door hangs a gold plate on which the Lord’s Prayer is written in Arabic. Inside awaited a home-cooked Persian feast, warm hospitality and miraculous testimonies of God’s Kingdom work.
Shapoor is an evangelist. Mehrdad is a shepherd. Together they beautifully care for people and offer the hope of Jesus to spiritually hungry refugees who find their true home in Christ.
Shapoor is 34 years old and started going to the mosque in Iran with his dad when he was eight. By age 13 he was faithfully memorizing large chunks of the Quran. By age 18 he was seeking God desperately by praying to Allah five times a day plus an extra two hours after midnight, but feeling no peace. He was quite successful at an early age. A technicality in his engineering job caused a political problem with the Iranian government and Shapoor was forced to leave everything and everyone behind and flee to Turkey. Struggling, alone and depressed, he found his way to a refugee camp in Liverpool, England where his friend dragged his hard heart to church. As the worship service began, he was mocking the worshippers to his friend, when all of a sudden he saw a church banner that read “Jesus you are the Prince of Peace” and he felt the presence of God literally fall upon him. For the first time in his life, Shapoor felt true joy and deep peace and he fell instantly in love with Jesus. His favorite hymn is Amazing Grace - “I was blind but now I see.” He says, “If I have experienced God’s amazing grace then I should tell others!” That is what he passionately does everyday. He has a heart for people of all ages, but especially for teenagers.
The fruits of his work with the Iranian teenagers were crammed into the narrow living room and we had a chance to hear several of their testimonies. Having begun my ministry as a youth pastor many years ago, I was deeply moved by the depth and conviction of their faith at such a young age. One beautifully spoken 15 year old girl shared that she and her mom and younger brother left the dangers of Iran without her father and came to England three years ago. Her family was invited to the Liverpool Iranian Church where they were introduced to Jesus for the first time and their lives were changed. She fell in love with Jesus as her Heavenly Father and allowed him to fill the hole from the physical absence of her earthly father. The three of them were baptized together, but her Muslim dad in Iran did not approve. After he finally made it to Liverpool, he too was baptized two weeks later! She also shared about being bold in her faith at school and not wanting to live the way most of her classmates were choosing to live, but instead wanting to live for Jesus.
I was so humbled hearing these students speak, who have endured so much more than I can comprehend in their short lives. I knew I did not have much to offer them, but I wanted to encourage them so I shared with them that I have two teenagers at home and that I wished that they could be sitting here today and hearing their testimonies and the depth, passion and maturity of their faith because I pray that my teenagers will have faith like theirs one day.
We ended our time in the England Diaspora with our hearts (and our bellies) full. My eyes have been opened to the amazing ways in which God is working in and amongst the Iranian people both in Iran and in the Diaspora.
I have been so moved and changed to see firsthand what the Lord is doing here in the Iranian refugee communities in England and how those who have fled Iran do not forget those who are left behind. My eyes have also been opened to the many ways in which we can partner with our Iranian brothers and sisters to do the Kingdom work that has already begun. May God lead each of us on this team to use what we have seen and heard this week to further his kingdom.
Rev. Lisa Johnson
Director of Discipleship, ECO