Part 3: “Paying it Forward”
Impact Middle East team members had gathered in Erbil, the provincial capital of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, seventy-five miles from the Iranian border. We had gone down to the hotel’s small dining room for breakfast, where the waiter brought us a large plate of bread. Three young men arrived at another table. Seeing that we had the only bread, one of the young men approached and asked in English: “May we have bread?” (Later, the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 came to mind. Jesus told the disciples: ““They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat”-Mt. 14:16). It felt like more than just a request for bread that perishes.
We discovered they were Iranians, in Erbil to take an exam for application to graduate school. We eventually identified ourselves as Americans and believers. Before they left, we asked if we might pray with them about the next day’s exam. They were eager for us to do so. There we were, Christ-followers, praying with three Muslims from the ancient home of Zoroaster, founder of a major religion in Iran (Persia). Over the next several months, I maintained contact with one of the students, Mohammed, He is now in a PhD program in Turkey, and has invited me to visit him in Iran.
Meanwhile, I find myself back here in the USA, giving leadership to a new church targeting the nations in our growing metro area. Can you guess what group is at the core of our new church? Yes, Iranians! They seem to possess a kind of cultural “DNA,” a prevenient grace, that encourages a positive response to the gospel. God has enabled us to “pay it forward” here in our own backyard, by sharing Jesus with a people who 2,500 years ago kept alive the promise of the Messiah.
Impact Middle East has no formal presence in Iran. While such places remain closed and offer only “limited access” at best, the Lord God who is sovereign over the nations, may be opening some surprising “back doors” to those with little or no exposure to the good news of Jesus Christ.