I was born in a Muslim family in Iran, and grew up in a city named Shiraz. While I was a child, the 1979 revolution transformed Iran from a monarchy into an Islamic republic. There was a lot of bloodshed, fear of persecution, and major constitutional changes that revolved around the Islamic sharia law. Shortly after, Iran and Iraq went to war against each other in the name of God, although both were Muslim nations. The renewal of religious zeal influenced me deeply, and I was challenged to be a better Muslim. I tried to earn holiness by going to the mosque and praying, but I did not feel anything change in me. As a matter of fact, I still felt anger and a desire for revenge, as I grieved for some of my friends who had been killed during the Iran-Iraq war.
After a short time of practicing Islam, I was unsatisfied and bored. Since I was a teenager, I looked for sources of entertainment instead. I was introduced to drugs at a young age, and enjoyed the temporary satisfaction I got after using them. Drugs became a part of my life, and since I was a frequent user, I also became a drug dealer. The cost for this lifestyle was estrangement from my family, who was embarrassed by my behaviour. I realized that I had lost their trust and my reputation among them. I lost many good friends as well, with the exception of those who had the same addiction as me. Life was meaningless, and last of all, I lost my hope.
In the meantime, I was still an angry man and became involved with street gangs. While in Iran, I was sent to prison several times, on criminal activity charges. I realized that life was becoming too dangerous for me in Iran, and so I left the country and went to Pakistan. My lifestyle, however, did not change, and I soon made friends similar to those I’d had in Iran. After a few months, I ended up in prison in Lahore, Punjab. I saw it as a good opportunity to meet the head leaders of criminal activity. Seven months later, I was released, and promptly joined a Pakistani gang. I learned the language and adapted to the culture quite easily, since I had often watched Indian movies as a child, and dreamt of being part of that particular lifestyle. While working for the Pakistani film industry, I was able to meet famous actors and see my childhood dreams come true. When I came home at night, however, life was still meaningless. Even so, this realization did not prevent me from pursuing more worldly pleasures.
After gaining some notoriety within the criminal network, I was offered a job by the Pakistani security agency. They wanted me to work as a spy over missionaries who came to Pakistan as teachers, engineers, doctors, and other such “tent-making” jobs. As a Muslim, I was very eager to report them and cancel their visa, because I believed that Christians who converted others to their religion were committing a huge blasphemy. To be honest, I thought that I was finally doing something noble for God. I felt as if there were two angels watching me – one on my right shoulder, who took notes of my good deeds, and one on my left, who recorded my bad deeds. Spying on missionaries would certainly be on the list of the right angel. Therefore, I was very happy and immediately accepted the offer. Besides being a drug dealer and doing a multitude of other things, I now had to attend churches and look for Bible studies I could join. After a while, I met a missionary who had lived in Pakistan for years, on a mission visa. He never spoke against any governments or religions, and so he never got into trouble. All he talked about was the love of God. I pretended to become friends with him, and began recording everything I could find out about him. I wanted to find something that would cancel his visa and get him deported. I got a better opportunity to do so when he asked me if I wanted to live in the home where he had his ministry. Once I started living with him, something in my heart began to change. As I carefully observed his behaviour and prayer life, my own life was transformed and I surrendered myself to Jesus. I began to see purpose in life, and to find real love and respect. I finally knew who God was, what His love felt like, and how my soul could be satisfied. Fulfillment was no longer a temporary feeling, but a permanent reality, because Jesus had given me new hope. The love of God changed my life, because I was once an enemy but am now a lover of Jesus.
Ever since then, my life has been constantly changing. Once I became a Christian, I gave up many things that I once found temporary satisfaction in. I moved to Canada, and gained an academic education in order to better serve God through my gift of teaching. Today, I have five beautiful children and the best wife in the world. We serve the Lord as a team. We do not try to “convert” people or convince them of what truth is, because I’ve realized that is not our job. Instead, we try to demonstrate God’s love, and we function as a bridge between Christ and the Persian community, as well the other nationalities that God brings to our doorstep. I have great peace in my heart even when I face challenges, and now I know who my God is. I am finally satisfied and more than happy.
May God bless you in the name of Christ,