Thursday, November 7
I was in my late teens and eager to help in the ministry of the Presbyterian church in downtown Tehran. One Sunday I was asked to stand at the entrance of the church and invite the passersby to join our worship service. I invited, among others, a woman who rejected my invitation because our church building “did not have a cross.” To her, a church without a cross was impossible.
I have been thinking a lot about what that woman said to me 60 years ago. Now I think I know what she might have meant.
The Presbyterian church in Iran, planted by Presbyterians from the U.S., was part of a privileged minority in the previous regime. It had little worry about costs. Support for preachers, teachers, evangelists, and programs came from the mission budget of the church in the U.S. Bearing the cross meant little in the life of most believers.
When I was back in Iran in 2004, everything was different. A new generation of pastors, teachers, and writers—well aware of the restrictions and the costs—carried out their indigenous ministry. The cross they carried in their hearts was more apparent than a wooden cross on the top of their buildings. One of their best sons and leaders, the Rev. Tatavos Mikaelian, the well-known martyr, had given his life for his faith 10 years earlier. Despite all the restrictions and the high rate of Christian emigration, the church continues its witness and ministry.
The church is free to worship and have its rituals and holidays. It may not thrive, but it surely is surviving. In Paul’s words, they “are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; . . . always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in [their] bodies” (2 Cor. 4:8–12).
—Mehdi Abhari, former member of the Evangelical (Presbyterian) Church of Tehran
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Dear Lord, we thank you for your church in Iran and its witness and ministry. Be with the ministers and servants who love you, carry their crosses, and bear witness to your love for the world. Do not let them get discouraged in their ministry. In the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church. Amen.