From Loss to Gain: International Testimony Links Iran to France to Freedom

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Global Strategy, Global Testimonies

By Sarah Hunnicutt

The story of Mohammed, Zahar, and Sarah is one of great loss but even greater gain. When their family left Iran, parents Mohammed and Zahar and daughter Sarah knew something was missing. They thought it was the freedom to live in peace. They learned it was the inner peace that comes from freedom in Christ.

“Financially and socially [when we were in Iran], everything was good,” said Zahar. “[But], so many things were difficult for women to do…. There were some liberties [we lost] at a certain age. Now that I see my daughter has [these liberties] and can use them, it makes me happy that she can have them, even if I couldn’t.”

Growing up in Iran, both Mohammed and Zahar faced societal pressure to perform and conform. Acceptance to university or a job could be granted or denied based on what their neighbors thought of their performance socially and religiously. “I personally tried my best,” said Zahar, “to be accepted by my family and society…. [My generation] is called burned or wasted. We wasted our youth trying to live up to these expectations.”

Mohammed remembers he was expelled from university for disagreeing with a professor. He also recalls when he was fifteen: “It was during the time of Ramadan. [My friends and I] were hungry, so we bought snacks and ate the snacks. …[We were arrested] and whipped because of that, [me] specifically more for wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt.” This stayed on his record and followed him to university and beyond. Each time something happened in the city, whether he was involved or not, the local authorities investigated Mohammed, and another infraction would be added to his record.

“The last time,” Sarah recalls, “They started taking fingerprints from my parents for absolutely no reason. …They did this in front of the whole building. This was humiliation for them.”

“These things that kept happening,” said Mohammed, “forced us to leave everything behind…to have some peace of mind.”

When Mohamed, Zahar, and Sarah finally left, they spent three years going back and forth between Sweden, Italy, and Norway, eventually landing in France after difficult experiences in Italy as immigrants.

It was while in Paris, France, that Mohammed first encountered the Holy Spirit and realized his desire to know Jesus. In 2018, his family crossed paths with Samir Salibi and AtHome, a network of Christians reaching the immigrant population. “AtHome was like a ladder for me to get closer to Jesus,” said Mohammed. “When I started going to AtHome, I realized I didn’t really understand who God is, but at AtHome…I started to know God truly.”

“I was really happy to start Bible study [with AtHome],” said Zahar, “but I was worried because I didn’t know French, but they said, ‘No, we are going to do it in Arabic.’ …We started learning things that we could use for real. We could understand Christianity and God.”

Sarah eventually found peace through Christ after her own battles: difficult school transitions, a brain tumor, and deep depression. “We were under a lot of pressure and stress [after Italy]. …When we came [to Paris], I was really hopeless. …I had a really hard time trusting God, …but it was the best thing that happened to me. [I learned] no matter what I could stay calm. ….I know that God changed me and made me who I am today.”

Today, Mohammed, Zahar, and Sarah know that God is, as Mohammed puts it, “guiding our life. He’s moving our lives forward, and that’s full of goodness. …We might have had everything in Iran, but we didn’t have peace. We might not have so many things, but we do have peace.”

Story produced from Episode 9 of Season 4 of A World of Good podcast. Tune in for the whole story:

Sarah Hunnicutt recently served the Church of God as a missionary for Global Strategy to Roatan, Honduras. She also serves as a freelance writer for Church of God Ministries.

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