This chapter is a sample of what the stories are like in Hidden Heroes #6, Living Water in the Desert: True Stories of God at Work in Iran. It is an original chapter, based on the book The House I Left Behind, by Daniel Shayesteh.
An Inferior Religion?
“I know a good game,” the boy said.
Ten-year-old Daniel Shayesteh and his other classmates watched as the boy pulled out a piece of notebook paper and tore it into pieces and wrote something on each one. He folded them and put them into a box.
“Everybody pick one,” he said. “The paper you pick will tell your future.”
Every boy picked one. “I’ll become a doctor,” boasted one.
“I’ll be an engineer,” said another.
Daniel waited till last. When he opened his paper, the blood drained from his face as he read it aloud. His paper said, “One day you will become a Christian.”
All the other boys burst into laughter, pointing at Daniel and jeering at him. “You’ll become a Christian! Ha ha ha!”
Daniel jumped on the boy who had written the prophecy. “Why did you write this disgusting thing about me?” He began to beat the other boy with his fists. How dare he? How dare he?
“Listen!” the other boy cried, trying to protect himself from the flying fists. “I didn’t do it! You know yourself that no boy knew which paper he was choosing! They were all mixed up! And anyway, it was just a joke! It was just a game!”
Daniel sat on the boy, breathing hard. He knew the boy was right. But . . . how could that happen? How could that be prophesied about him? Becoming a Christian! There was no greater shame!
Just fifteen years later, in 1979, Daniel helped to overthrow the government of Iran and bring in the new leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini. With tears of joy in his eyes, he watched the holy man come to the microphone and speak about the perfect peace and justice that real Islam would now bring to Iran. The prophecy of his childhood was far from Daniel’s mind as his heart filled with hope in real Islam.
But perfect peace and justice didn’t happen. The country became so filled with violence and corruption that it was like a nightmare. When Daniel finally tried to stand up to the corrupt leaders, he was seized in the middle of the night and taken to be tortured in prison.
When Daniel was released for a few days, he had to run for his life, leaving his wife and children, to escape out of Iran to the country of Turkey. Homeless and helpless, he wandered the streets.
In Turkey, Daniel found another man who had escaped from Iran.
“What’s that book?” Daniel asked when he was visiting in the man’s small apartment. The title said Holy Bible.
“Oh,” said his friend, embarrassed. “It’s the holy book of the Christians.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Daniel. “You know it’s illegal for Muslims to have that.”
“Yes, but I don’t really believe what it says,” said the man. “A group of Christians from Iran gave it to me. They’re helping people who escaped from Iran.”
“Christians from Iran?” Daniel asked. “Do you mean the Armenians?”
“No, they’re people who used to be Muslims.”
“Christians who used to be Muslims?” Daniel said. “That’s impossible!”
“No matter what you say,” said the man, “it’s true. And they’re brave, since in Islam of course the penalty for becoming a Christian is death. And . . .” the man added, “they’re kind.”
Daniel’s heart filled with confusion. How can Muslims leave the perfect religion and go back to an inferior religion of tribal people? Mohammed was the prophet who came to finish what Jesus and the other prophets couldn’t finish!
The friend’s words interrupted his thoughts. “They help people,” he said. “They’ll help anybody. They invited me to a Christmas party last year, and that’s when they gave me this Bible.”
“Yes, they’re brave,” Daniel had to admit. But to ask the Christians for help? Unthinkable!
Day after day, as Daniel struggled to survive in Turkey, he became more and more angry with Allah. “Why aren’t you helping me, God?” he cried out in his struggles. “I know you’re powerful and can help me. Why don’t you?”
Daniel remembered how when he was young, he had memorized more of the holy Koran than any other boy in the village. He remembered staring at the night sky as a boy, longing to reach Allah. Back in those days, he thought if he just kept trying harder and harder, someday he would be able to reach him.
He had tried so hard for so many years. So hard.
“Where are you?” he now cried to the sky. “Why won’t you answer me?”
The very next night Daniel had a dream. In his dream, he stood the middle of a raging storm, a hurricane and a violent wind. People ran in all directions, crying and screaming as their houses collapsed.
In his dream, Daniel stood in the house where he had grown up, crying out to God as he had the day before. “Where are you? Why aren’t you helping me? Don’t you see that I’m all alone?”
Suddenly, in his dream, a bright light appeared in the sky. A voice spoke. “I am Jesus. Come out of your father’s old house. Don’t be afraid. I will help you.”
In his dream, Daniel ran out of the house as fast as he could. He turned to see his father’s old house collapsing.
And then he woke up.
What could it mean? If his father’s house was being destroyed, that must mean that everything he loved would be lost, ruined!
Daniel had already visited the Christian church once, when he desperately needed help. He had been disgusted by the singing of this inferior religion, and hadn’t wanted to listen to the preaching But he had to admit that he had been drawn by the Christians’ love for each other, and how kind they were to him. And they talked of the love of God.
Now, he had to go back.
The next Sunday Daniel walked quietly into the church and sat in the back. The pastor was telling a story from Luke chapter 6.
“Jesus said that anyone who comes to Him and follows His words will be like a man who builds his house on a solid rock.”
“When a flood came, it couldn’t move that house, because it was built on the rock. But the one who doesn’t follow His words is like a man who built a house on the sand. When the flood came against that house, it collapsed and was ruined.”
Daniel could hardly believe his ears. How could the pastor have known Daniel’s dream?
“You must leave your old house, your father’s house!” the pastor preached. “That house is built on sand. You must build your house on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ! Nothing can destroy this house—it is the house where Satan cannot reach. Come to Him!”
Had God told the pastor Daniel’s dream?
In secret Daniel began to read the New Testament. He saw that Jesus, who came to die for the sins of all people, was nothing like Mohammed. Jesus Christ had come to take people out of darkness. You cannot be in darkness and light at the same time.
As Daniel continued to read, he saw that when the guards came to take Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to a secret trial, Jesus said, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me.” Daniel could hardly believe it. These were so similar to the words he himself had said when those wicked soldiers came in the middle of the night to take him to prison! He knew how Jesus had felt.
He kept reading.
Days and days he read, and as he read, more and more truths became clear. The true God stands for justice! The true God is personal and knowable! The true God will reveal Himself in order to save people from the tricks of Satan!
One by one, Daniel’s old ways of thinking fell away. He knew that he was being drawn by the love and saving power of Jesus Christ. As he read through the letters of the New Testament, he realized that Allah was disappearing from his heart and was being replaced by the true God, the holy God of love.
But how would Daniel’s wife, Mary, and their three daughters respond? When his family members were finally able to join him in Turkey, Mary was shocked at the news. “You’ve become a Christian? An infidel?”
But even though she was afraid, Mary didn’t leave him. She saw how kind Daniel had become. She even went to church and was amazed at the other women’s true relationships with Jesus Christ.
One morning Mary said, “I had a dream about Jesus.”
“A dream about Jesus?” Daniel asked in surprise. “What happened?”
“I was walking with Him, and with some others too, in a beautiful green field. The others kept walking, but I stayed back and saw a deep canyon in front of me. I didn’t follow them because I was afraid of falling in. But then Jesus said to me, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just take the first step.’ So I did, and just as I did, the low place was raised up and became level with the green field. Then we walked on.”
Mary paused, pondering the dream.
“Listen!” Daniel cried, running to get his Bible. “That’s in here!” He read Isaiah 40:4-5. “ ‘Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill be made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.’ ”
As Daniel read, Mary began to cry. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I need to trust in Jesus,” she said. “I need to give Him all my fears and worries. He will level all my ways and heal me of my fears.”
Within moments the whole family was changed, from fear and anger to love and gentleness. Even the three daughters came to Christ and became bold witnesses to those around them.
Ha ha! The words of his boyhood friends came back to him. One day you will become a Christian! Ha ha ha! Little did he know, back when he was a boy, that it was in Jesus Christ that he would finally discover true hope, true love, and true peace.
Daniel Shayesteh and his family moved from Turkey to other places and eventually Australia, where he conducts his ministry, Exodus from Darkness, to reach the Muslims he loves with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
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