Every Day In Prison Was A Lesson From the Lord

February 9, 2016 by Janelle P in Middle East

*representative image used

Pastor Reza* is a follower of Christ in Iran. He has a leading role in a house church and was imprisoned for this. Through these most difficult struggles, he came to know the deep peace of the Lord.

It was like a stranger looked at him when he saw himself in the mirrored glass of a car just outside the court. Dressed in a blue-white prison uniform, his hair shaved off and with a long beard, he could hardly recognize himself. He asked himself, ‘Reza, is this you?’ “This was the moment I realized that everything can happen to you when you do ministry in Iran,” he said. “Therefore, I must depend on God’s grace always.” Just months before this court day, Reza’s life had been so different. Along with his wife and two children, a boy and a girl, he lived in a comfortable apartment in a big city.

Reza was involved in leadership at one of the churches serving believers with Muslim heritage. “You must realize what you’re putting at risk when you do ministry inside Iran,” Reza shares while sitting down in the quiet atmosphere of our agreed upon meeting place. “It’s not a joke; it’s not a game. It’s your family at risk. A matter of life and death.”

One morning, about eight years ago, Reza had to pay the price for his passion. Reza’s wife had already left for work and Reza was taking a shower. “It was around 7 o’clock when they knocked the door,” he remembers. “My teenage son opened the door. When he saw it was the authorities, he was afraid but knew he had to let them enter.”

Reza’s words come at a calm pace as he shares what happened next. “They took me to a clinic for examination, shaved my head, and gave me my blue-white prison uniform. Then they blindfolded me and pushed me into a car that was waiting outside.” It was then Reza realized that he was being sent to one of the country’s most infamous prisons, a place where the name alone causes any Iranian to shiver with fear —Evin prison.

For hours upon hours Reza sat in his cell alone. His loneliness only interrupted by harsh interrogations. Every two or three days the shuffling feet found a way to Reza’s cell, only to see if he was willing to give information.

There was no Bible in prison, and in his solitary cell, there was no one to share his faith with. But Reza had memorized a lot of scripture verses. “I was in prayer almost all the time,” he said.

Reza went through valleys so deep he sometimes wondered if he would survive the experience. He remembers one night in particular. The night the guards beat up his neighbor. “It made me think ‘what if I’m next?’ and ‘what if they beat me so hard they kill me?’”

“It was a time of repentance really,” Reza continues with a serious look in his eyes. “Sitting there in that cell, feeling so completely naked, I realized how much I had been dependent on worldly goods.” In the deepest of his misery Reza, got to the core of his faith. “I realized that the only ‘capital’ I had left was the one living inside me —Christ. I only had Jesus. And this was all that had ever been really important.”

Days and weeks in that little room followed. Reza prayed and struggled to get from one day to the next. Until one day he is released.

Reza certainly doesn’t wants to downplay the harsh realities of life in prison in Iran, yet he sees the hand of God in what he experienced. “I realize it wasn’t the authorities that were in control. It was God who brought me to prison to learn and feel his presence.” Reza smiles. “Yes, spiritual warfare is very real in prison. The enemy whispers temptations. But I also got to know the very deep peace of the Lord in prison.” Unfortunately, Reza’s story isn’t an exception. At least 90 Christians are currently imprisoned for their faith in Iran, some might be in solitary confinement like him. Please continue with us in praying for these believers.

*Name and some details changed for security reasons