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He Escaped from Iran but Not from God

In an issue of CT magazine, David Nasser shares the story of his escape from Iranian religious zealotry and coming to faith in Christ:

I was nine Wyears old when I decided that I hated God. I hated him because I believed he hated me first. It was 1979, during the middle of the Iranian Revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini and his religious zealots had recently overthrown the existing government and seized political power. My father was a military officer in the previous regime. A couple of weeks into the revolution, I was at school when we were called outside. A soldier read off three names, including mine, and called us to the front. Removing a gun from his holster, he quoted from the Qur‘an and told me he would kill me to deliver a message to supporters of the old regime. Fortunately, the school principal intervened, and the soldier relented.

Traumatized, I rushed home to tell my father what had happened. Despite his usual sternness, he took me into his lap and pledged to keep us safe. He devised a plan to leverage my mother’s heart issues as a means of escape. We met with a few trusted doctors, offering everything we owned if they would risk helping us. One day my mother began faking chest pains. She was rushed to the hospital, where the doctors “assessed” her and recommended a trip to Switzerland for open-heart surgery.

One day my mother suggested praying to the “God of America” named Jesus. Maybe he would let us into “his” country. Her plan sounds silly in retrospect, but it worked: One week later we were flying to America.

A few months after graduation from high school, a friend asked why I seemed so down. I explained that all of my friends were moving away, and I was feeling isolated. He suggested coming with him to church the next morning. I conceded that I would go—but only with my parents’ permission. To my utter shock, they didn’t immediately shoot down the idea.

Unbeknownst to me, some people from this church had been dining at the restaurant my father owned. When they noticed he was shorthanded, they left their seats and began waiting and busing tables. For days, they kept returning and serving. Their kindness touched my father’s heart. And so I walked into that enormous Baptist church one Sunday morning as a youth rally was taking place. Within five minutes, everyone was dispersing—everyone except Larry Noh.

Everyone in our town knew Larry. He was a local legend—a linebacker from a rival football team who was outspoken about his faith. Throughout the Bible study, he made sure I felt included. One Sunday night, the preacher invited people forward to give their lives to God. Afraid, I slipped out quickly and drove home thinking I was finished with this “church stuff.”

Arriving home, I wanted to show God who was boss of my life, so I took one of the youth group’s Bibles, and doused it with lighter fluid, but I couldn’t find a match! Frustrated and curious all at once, I opened the Bible and began reading. When I came to the story of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus, it came alive! God was calling me to step out—out of myself, out of my excuses. That night, in my bedroom, I trusted Jesus.

My father immediately reproached me: “You can’t be a Christian,” he said. “We are Muslims.” But getting baptized sent them over the edge. When I arrived home, my father had a duffel bag packed. I was dead to him, he thundered, and I had to leave.

That night I called Larry Noh and told him I was homeless. He invited me to come live with him and six other interns in a house that belonged to the church. In the months to come, they helped me grow tremendously in my walk with the Lord. Meanwhile, one by one, God started saving my family. First my sister came to faith. Then my mother and brother were saved. We prayed relentlessly for my father, and eventually he too gave his life to Christ.

God, in his amazing grace, has turned my family’s tragedy into testimony. Though I hated him as a child, I can see now that he was holding us all along.

Editor’s Note: Today David Nasser is senior vice president for spiritual development at Liberty University

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