The Cost of Celebrating Pentecost
Pentecost has special significance for Somayeh*, because it was the day that she became a Christian. It was also the day, several years later, when she was arrested for worshipping Jesus. This was the start of a journey that led her to flee her home country of Iran and seek refuge in Turkey.
Somayeh was taking an afternoon nap when she first had a dream about Jesus.
“I saw a dream of the end of the world – everything was destroyed,” Somayeh remembers. “Suddenly three people came towards me. They took me and crucified me upside down. Then I saw a man coming towards me, but I didn’t know that he was Jesus. He came to me and brought me down from the cross, put my hand on his knee and said to me: ‘Somayeh, don’t be sad, because I love you. I am Jesus. You don’t need to be worried because I’m here, just take my hand.’”
When Somayeh woke up, she immediately went to visit an old friend, the only Christian she knew. “I didn’t explain to her what happened to me, I didn’t think she would believe me. I just said I want to be a Christian.”
As it happened, her friend was meeting with other believers that day to celebrate Pentecost, so Somayeh joined her. She received prayer and gave her life to Jesus that day.
FINDING ANSWERS THROUGH SAT-7
Shortly afterwards, Somayeh’s younger sister, Roya*, also had a dream about Jesus and became a Christian. The sisters, along with a few other believers in their small city, began to meet together in their homes.
“All the lessons in the beginning were from SAT-7,” Somayeh shares how the group watched SAT-7’s Persian-speaking satellite television channel, SAT-7 PARS, to learn more about Christianity.
“We watched it together, we wrote it down, and shared the teachings with others. The teaching programs were very helpful for us because we had many questions about the Bible and there was no-one to answer them; it was the only way to answer our questions.”
However, it was not long before Somayeh started to experience problems.
“One day, the police called me and asked me to go to their office. They said to me, if you want to continue to be Christian, you don’t have any right to work for the government. I had started a degree and they said you do not have any right to continue this education.”
“They said if you want to continue we can kill you right now, and nobody will know about it. I was so afraid, I felt so alone and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t tell my sister what had happened because I didn’t want to scare her.”
Roya, who was still at school, was experiencing her own issues as her teachers threatened to expel her if she talked to the other students about Jesus.
CAPTURED ON PENTECOST
Despite the threats, the sisters continued to worship together. It was during a small celebration for Pentecost, when the house group were worshipping and praying together, that they were interrupted by the police.
“Suddenly the police broke the door down, came in with cameras, and arrested us,” Somayeh remembers. “They brought us to the court but they didn’t let us say anything. They called us terrorists, and insulted us. Then they sent us to jail, with criminals who had received the death sentence. It was terrible, we didn’t even have a place to sleep.”
Lawyers predicted that they would go to jail for at least five years. The women could not afford the high legal costs, so they were forced to defend themselves.
But what happened next surprised everyone.
“The day of the court was amazing!” Somayeh exclaims, her eyes shining.
“The judge told us – you shouldn’t be here, you are not guilty. It was amazing that he was talking to us like that. He did not charge us, and we were free to go. My sister was crying because she saw Christ standing behind the judge.”
Somayeh and her sister smile at each other as they remember the moment.
“It was the first time I really saw Jesus and I felt the presence of God,” Roya recalls. “I felt the Father, I felt protection.”
Despite a positive outcome, the sisters decided to leave Iran because they knew that their problems with the authorities would continue.
It was a hard decision to leave their mother and brother, but they felt it was the only option. Despite their concerns that they would not be allowed to leave the country, they managed to travel to Turkey where they applied for asylum.
A NEW LIFE
Two years on, the sisters are still worshipping together in their new home in Turkey, with other Iranian refugees in the community – many of whom have also fled persecution. Although they do not have satellite television, they still watch SAT-7 PARS online, and especially enjoy the worship songs.
Somayeh and Roya excitedly share that, just six months ago, their mother came to visit and also gave her life to Jesus. They hope that their mother and brother will also be able to come to live with them in Turkey.
Somayeh’s eyes fill with tears as she finishes sharing her story, reflecting on all that has happened over the past few years.
“Now we wait for the decision,” she says, referring to her asylum application. Her interview date is in just a few weeks.
“If they accept me I can stay here, but if they reject me I have to go back to Iran because I have nowhere else to go. But we hope in Jesus. God protected us many times in Iran and also Turkey. We trust in Him.”
* Names changed for security purposes.