Stepping Beyond Fear • Susan’s Story
In July Pastor Emily Hamilton asked me to coffee. She shared about an opportunity to travel to London and Istanbul to learn about Pars Theological Centre, a potential mission partner focused on the under-ground church movement in Iran. But she knew few details, and my initial reaction was to let her know I wasn’t her gal. There was no agenda, so many unknowns, and I was very concerned about my safety traveling to the Middle East, meeting with people who worship in hiding.
I thought about this trip SO much. I tend to overthink things, which may have been a reason Emily asked me to go, so I could be helpful in discerning if this is something CPC would want to partner with. But I was nervous, and my husband, Tim, was concerned too. I played a lot of games with myself, saying, “If this happens, then I’ll consider going.” But I also felt that I should listen to the fact that she was asking me. Why did God bring me to her mind? And then Pastor Rich Phenow spoke about getting out of our comfort zone! So finally I said, “FINE.” All these hurdles I was putting out there were being met and answered with yes, yes, yes.
When I finally decided, with Tim’s support, to go on this trip, our troops were immediately pulled out from along the Syria border. Turkey was on the front page of the news every day. I was so nervous; my friends and parents didn’t want me to go. But I knew that CPC wouldn’t send me somewhere that wasn’t safe. It was a huge step of faith for me to say yes to this trip because I was scared, and it would have been easier to stay home. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. But I can’t imagine not going now.
Our first days in London were spent learning about the history of Iran, the current culture, and about the work of Pars. We heard story after story about how these believers in Christ are going to prison for their faith. They are just simple, everyday people, who find themselves in solitary confinement because they were at a Bible study in someone’s home and it was raided. People like you and like me. They are forced to sleep on the floor of a tiny cell with a toilet next to them. They are interrogated each day, physically and emotionally abused. And why do they risk their lives? Because they need HOPE. They need Jesus.
The conference we attended in Turkey was for these Iranian Christians who are worshiping in secret. They don’t have a lot of solid teaching—they are yearning for it. And Pars is training and equipping these leaders. Their knowledge of Scripture is amazing, though. They memorize Scripture so that WHEN—not IF—they are arrested, they have something to cling to.
One of the most precious times at the conference were the times we spent in worship. I was so aware of what a privilege it is to come to church, for these Christians are part of an underground church, where they meet on different days of the week and in different homes so nobody gets suspicious. Their passion as they worship was incredible to witness. They sing at the top of their lungs because they were finally free to do so. It was beautiful.
The last night they wanted to pray around us. I was just crying, thinking of where I started. I had been so unsure of what the Middle Eastern people were like. I remember thinking, How could I have been so afraid? I had nothing to fear, and they have everything to be afraid of. But I sensed so much hope from them . . . the hope we share in Jesus.
SUSAN has been a MEMBER of CPC for 24 YEARS and CURRENTLY serves as an ELDER.