When you first meet Ali and Zahra and their two sons, Daniel and Samuel, you probably wouldn’t notice anything remarkable about them.
But talk to them for a bit longer, and you start to sense that these four believers living in Turkey aren’t quite your average family.
None of them are able to work legally. They need police permission to travel more than a few miles from their home. They don’t speak fluent Turkish.
When you discover the reason behind their current situation, everything clicks into place: Ali, Zahra, Samuel and Daniel were forced to flee their home in Iran, leaving behind their house, their family and everything they’d ever known.
All because they follow Jesus.
Heading toward rock bottom
Ali didn’t grow up as a Christian. Like most Iranians, he was raised in a Muslim family. But he also grew up in a family troubled by emotional strife: “My mother’s family were all into drugs, crime, fights, prison or other sorts of trouble.”
This toxic legacy also impacted Ali, who began using drugs as a teenager. “Drugs and alcohol were really common in my family.” Soon Ali was addicted to heroin, an affliction that would continue even after he married Zahra—and after they had their sons.
Ali’s addiction was devastating to his family. “My husband was mostly not at home and was at places that he could take drugs,” Zahra remembers. “I was alone in raising my kids. Because of his drug problem,, we lived in poverty .”
As the years went by, Zahra grew deeply depressed. “I could not keep myself together and couldn’t control my tears [even just walking in the] streets,” she says. She didn’t even want to be around her children because she didn’t want them to see her so sad.
As a deeply religious Muslim, she turned to God to try to find answers. “I also cried while saying prayers to God, and I used to spend hours complaining to Him and ask Him, ‘Why did this happen to me?’”
But then, Jesus changed everything.