This Sunday I went to visit a popular church located downtown about 10 minutes from where I live. As I entered the sanctuary, I observed all the believers inside praising God with their hands lifted as they sang songs along with the praise and worship team who lead them into worship. I found a seat and also communed by lifting my hands and thanking God for keeping me, it was a rough week for me. After praise and worship we gave our offering and then the pastor came to the podium and began to speak.
The pastor exclaimed that he was going to continue on in the series of telling stories and that he had invited a special guest. Two men brought out chairs and the pastor called his special guest to the alter and they both took their seats. The pastor continued and expressed that the special guest who is Gilbert Hovsepian an Armenian from Iran would be telling his testimony and stories about his country, his father who was a superintendent of all the Iranian assemblies of God churches in Iran , and those who were persecuted on behalf of the gospel message.
Brother Gilbert was asked by the pastor to tell a little bit about his father and how he got started out in ministry and so he began by telling us the audience that his father was a born again believer in Iran, he started a church with just him and his wife and one other member. Well the other member left and went to the bathroom and never came back. After this happened his mother pointed out to his father that it was just the two of them and his father replied that God called him to preach and be faithful over a few things not to be faithful and successful.
Brother Gilbert further stated that his dad’s church grew to over a thousand members over the course of about 20yrs and that many of the Christians there suffered greatly for believing in the Gospel message, which brings us to the subject of living to suffer. I learned through his testimony that many of the believers were beaten, thrown in jail, and even killed for what they believed. Even brother Gilbert was beaten by the Muslim army. He had no choice but to join, it was nonnegotiable and for two years he recounted seeing people sign up to willingly kill themselves for their Muslim faith thinking that they would get honor for their sacrifice of death, he exclaimed that he thought they were crazy. In addition to being beaten he recalled a time when he was thrown in jail for 3 days without food or water and stated that the Muslims had beaten him in front of the church that his dad had started.
The Muslims there want the Christian converts to recant their faith and rejoin the Muslim faith. Brother Gilbert continued in his story and stated that many people believed in the gospel and often times their families would disown them, wives would leave their husbands, and they were left for dead and ostracized by their communities. There was one story in particular that really struct me with awe which was about a prominent Muslim who was a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad (He started the Muslim faith) who had converted into Christianity. The man was jailed for 10yrs simply because he chose to believe in the gospel message. The Muslims wanted to kill him, but brother Gilberts dad came to his rescue and got the United States involved and for fear of going into war with the U.S. they released him. 12 days later brother Gilberts dad was found dead he had been stabbed 26 times and soon after that so was the descendant of the prophet Muhammad and several other believers.
Furthermore, I listened as brother Gilbert continued to explain how the Christians in Iran at the time when his father was alive knew what they were signing up for when they decided to take a stand for Jesus Christ. Many of them cut their hands and wrote letters in their own blood to brother Gilberts father stating that they too were willing to die for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After hearing all of these things I paid close attention to brother Gilbert as he got emotional explaining how the death of his father had affected him. As tears rolled down his face, he stated that for a long time he hated the Muslims and how he had terrible nightmares of the horrible things he saw and went through. He said that it took God to help him forgive those who killed his father and that even though his wounds were healed the scars were still there. These days brother Gilbert has been in the United States of America for several years proclaiming the gospel and live streaming his services to those who believe in his country Iran. He said that the believers there are still afraid and many of them gather in each other’s households to worship together and hear the word of God. Many false believers have joined those worship meetings disguising themselves as Christians only to be touch by the power of God. Many who once was a persecutor of the church, had an Apostle Paul experience where God knocked them off of their high horse, opened up their blinded eyes and pierced their heart. and now they too have been proclaiming the gospel.
In Iran currently there are many believers who have denounced the Muslim faith because they know it is incorrect; they know that the God of the Holy Bible is one of peace, love, joy, and understanding and that the sacrifice has already been given through the precious blood of Jesus Christ when he died for us sinners and reconciled us back to God, but they still continue to engage in their cultures customs because they are afraid that they will be persecuted, killed, or thrown in jail. Brother Gilbert said he gets thousands of letters and emails from true believers needing advice from him. He is currently plaining to go back to his country even though the Muslims there are threatening his life because he is a believer and wants to help other people like him. He is a singer and has an album out titled Send Me Out. His ministry is titled SEND ME OUT MINISTRIES and people from all over the world donate to his cause in support of him and his service to those in his country.
I learned a lot from this brother in Christ , and want those of us in the United States to recognize how good we have it here, we have more freedom than we realize and we should not take it for granted. Our pastors and elders should not have to beg us to give, pray, fast, or to come to church we can all learn from this story and support our brothers and sisters in other countries who are really suffering for the good news something we know nothing about truly. Here in America we get mad if someone looks at us funny or takes our favorite seat in the church and we leave, or we fight and for what? does it really matter where we sit? God has been good to us let’s celebrate daily the Goodness of his Son Jesus.
The last message I will leave you with is more from brother Gilbert the story about the time in his teenage years when he was still in his country. He would pray to God and tell Him that he had not suffered enough on His behalf and that he was jealous of those who had died for the Gospel. I thought it was amazing that someone asked to suffer death because it is a great honor in Christian faith. I thought about the Apostle Paul when he stated in his letter to the Roman church that to live is Christ and to Die is gain. Christ died for us; Muhammed was merely a false prophet who the devil used to persecute the real church. Please remember that true Christians live to suffer; it comes with accepting the Good News concerning our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.