Many SAT-7 viewers in Iran live with fears of arrest and betrayal in addition to the economic pressures faced by all Iranians. Yet their testimonies to God’s grace and goodness are an inspiration, says Hephzibah, who has translated many of their messages.
Seeing the messages sent by SAT-7 PARS viewers is both “heartbreaking” and “inspiring”. So says Hephzibah, a US-based Iranian who, until recently, was the person responsible for translating many of these into English for the benefit of non-Persian-speaking colleagues.
She says, “I don’t think we understand the scale of the emotional pressures they face. But at the same time, there are wonderful testimonies that inspire and very much challenge my own life.”
Iranians are turning to Christ in Iran at a faster rate than at any time since the 7th century and are estimated to number up to a million believers.1 But they live with the constant risks of arrest and imprisonment, severe fines, and surveillance.
Behzad2 wrote recently: “Please pray for my brother and my sister. They have been summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. I don’t know what to do. I’m also being watched.”
Trust is a huge issue, including whether to trust others who seem to be believers”.
“There are a lot of security issues and fear,” Hephzibah says. “Trust is a huge issue, including whether to trust others who seem to be believers, so people feel lonely.”
But the act of banning Christianity is actually having a reverse effect: “People are curious and want to understand this faith that they are not allowed to know”, Hephzibah explained.
Yahya2 told us how he called by a friend’s house and when he put on his satellite TV, by chance, a Christian programme came on. His friend was suspicious of the channel but Yahya was engrossed and persuaded his friend not to switch over. Yahya said he had been “in turmoil and weary of life” but that broadcast set him on a journey to Christ. Now a regular SAT-7 viewer, he thanks God that “ever since then my life has greatly changed”.
The Gospel message of a gracious God who loves us and longs to know us intimately contrasts starkly with what most people in the Persian world have been taught, Hephzibah says.
This is why SAT-7 PARS teaching shows including the live Principles of Faith, and the support provided by the audience response team is so vital. “They don’t have mentors, people to call or speak to helping them to grow,” she explains.
A recent flood of requests tells of deep financial hardship. “There is no water, no electricity, no money to pay the rent. People are very tired; they feel despair,” one viewer wrote..
For many non-believers, the struggle to survive and loss of hope drives them to drug addiction. “We get a lot of requests from parents, from husbands, from mothers who are addicted themselves,” Hephzibah says. “The pressure also increases cases of domestic violence, especially where one partner is not a believer.”
But there are many courageous, faithful believers. “I’ve been unemployed for six months,” wrote Mehrad2, but added, “In the last year I’ve shared the Good News with three hundred Iranians who have repented and given their hearts to Christ. Please pray for this ministry.”
“We will be sharing the Gospel with a family whose members belong to the Islamic guard,” writes Fardin2. “Please pray for us.”
Despite all the struggles and dangers that SAT-7 PARS viewers face, Hephzibah says the faith of a true child of God shines through their requests. “At the end of two prayer requests I read today the writers added ‘But I know that God will take care of me.’
“You can see the Holy Spirit present in their lives,” she says, “You can see this is someone who has tasted the goodness of God.”
This article appears in SAT-7’s Spring 2019 Insight magazine. Sign up to receive Insight
2Operation World: conservative estimates are over 100,000, optimistic estimates as high as a million
2Names changed for security