“I think SAT-7 was part of God’s plan for my life. Even when we don’t know God, He knows us,” says Sadegh, an Iranian believer, now living in the UK.
In the last five years, Sadegh’s life has undergone a revolution. Today he is on fire for God; five years ago – in his early twenties – socialising and playing in a rock band were his life. With these came alcohol and drug taking, even though his father was a religious man always urging Sadegh to go to prayer.
Sadegh says, “In my heart I always knew if God exists he would not be happy with what I am doing because I am doing what I want…” But he was always arguing with his father and had become disillusioned with his own religion after seeing “religious people who say religious things in public but live very different lives at home”.
“For me,” he says, “Islam wasn’t the answer, Zoroastrianism (Iran’s historic religion) wasn’t the answer, Buddhism wasn’t the answer and metalism (heavy rock music) wasn’t the answer.”
Thirst for reality
Yet he knew there was “this gap in my heart” and a longing for a spiritual reality that could “change me from the inside out”.
As a drummer, Sadegh loved to watch Arab music on TV. He first came across SAT-7 by watching its ARABIC music programmes such as We Will Sing with popular Egyptian musician Maher Fayez.
“Sometimes I found myself watching several hours of SAT-7 although I didn’t understand what they were saying,” he remembers. “Then I found the Farsi channel (SAT-7 PARS) and started watching that.”
Surely Jesus was more than a prophet if he raised the dead and healed people?”
Around this time, Sadegh received an email message from a friend in England that included a Gospel of John. As he read this, a flood of questions came: surely Jesus was more than a prophet if he raised the dead and healed people? But, when he raised this with his mother, she asked “Who are you listening to now, what TV are you watching?”
Sadegh realised he would have to continue his spiritual search in secret. As he carried on reading the Gospel he had hidden beneath his carpet, his belief that God was aloof and distant was blown apart.
“It was when I came to this point in John 3:16. It said God so loved the world, I thought ‘I am part of this world so God loves me. He loved me so much that He sent His Son.
“I found myself on my knees,” Sadegh says, “I cried out to God: I want to live for eternity, I don’t want to die.” He describes how he felt “covered with love” as he “spent hours on the floor crying with joy. It was like something very deep coming out of my heart – this root of selfishness, pride, hatred,” he recalls.
The old Sadegh was gone: the new one became a secret believer, constantly reading John’s Gospel, but afraid to ask others about Jesus or try to obtain a full Bible because of Iran’s secret police.
On one occasion, he intervened with the driver of a shared taxi who was angrily swearing at another passenger. As he spoke of God’s love to calm the driver down, “someone put their hand on my shoulder and said ‘Who are you? Why are you talking about these things?’ I thought this was not good so I leapt out of the car and ran away.”
Having an American engineering qualification, Sadegh decided to leave Iran in the hope of travelling to America and enjoying the freedom to follow his new faith in Christ there. But God’s plans were a little different.
Eventually, after a long and harrowing journey across Europe, he arrived in the UK and claimed asylum there. Attending Bible studies in Kent and then at the Elim Pentecostal church he attends in West Yorkshire where he now lives, he says, “I learned who I am and I learned who Jesus is. The Holy Spirit is walking with me, changing me to be like Jesus.
Now married to an English wife and the proud father of a one-year-old son, Sadegh works as a volunteer supporting other asylum seekers. He uses every opportunity to tell others how God has blessed him and wants the same for them.
“Before I didn’t have any hope and thought I would die by the age 30,” Sadegh says. “But I am a new creation, I’ve got a new identity and I walk every day with my eyes opened to see.”