Iran is one of the countries that has been hit hard by Covid-19 – possibly 20 times worse than the reported figures, according to Open Doors UK and Ireland.
Like most churches around the world, believers had to stop meeting – but, for Iranian Christians, meeting together already had to be done in small, secret house churches.
“As soon as the outbreak of the virus was announced, we stopped all our face-to-face meetings,” says Salomeh*, a secret believer in Iran. “Everyone is obeying the rules and doesn’t even visit his or her family.”
But Iranian Christians haven’t been left isolated. Open Doors says through their support, they have been able to worship together online – and they’ve received food and aid that they desperately need.
“In this time of crisis, we have over 10 hours of prayer meetings every day,” says Salomeh. “We created a special prayer schedule that we call ‘Frontline’ where prayer members can virtually walk in and out to come to pray together.”
Open Doors partners have helped equip the church with these online resources. They’ve also responded to the dire economic conditions in the country: “The situation is not good at all,” reports a believer. “Inflation is so high that people cannot afford to buy meat, poultry, or even fruit.”
In these dark times for the country, the underground church is shining brightly. Thanks to the gifts of Open Doors supporters, and from their own means, they share their food and sanitizing items with their communities.
Members of the underground church in Iran report how blessed they feel to be able to do this work and how much impact it has: “The distribution was a fabulous and unbelievable experience,” says one Christian. “People were astonished when we gave them the food. They praised God with thanksgiving psalms, crying, hugging and shouting. The relief packages were a big blessing and God had guided us to the right people.”
Another believer shares the joy she had at sharing the food packages: “We went to distribute the food today, and there were people who obviously were so in need. They thanked us so much – they were so happy!”
She continues: “There were two children who were very weak and sick because they hadn’t been eating well. And there were some old people, one of them was blind. And they couldn’t believe they had so much food, because they hadn’t had such an amount of food since the start of the crisis. I thank God for this work. I will never forget the happiness of these people today. And truly glory be to the Lord!”
Building a strong church in the area – even if it’s one that has to remain underground – is key to supporting the whole community. And that’s why the local churches are distributing aid to anybody who needs it – Christian, Muslim or anyone else.
There have been stories of great generosity: a church leader reports how a poor Christian family decided to share half their food package with a neighbouring family that was struggling financially. Their neighbour asked how it was possible to be this kind in such dark times: they told him that it wasn’t them helping him, but that it was Christ that helped this neighbour through them.
This poor family wasn’t unique in being able to show the light of Christ through this relief. Another church leader shared how the non-Christian family members of believers are encouraged by the packages. A 17-year-old boy said: “I had almost reached the point to say the world is absolutely dark, but now I see there are still some good people with good hearts living in this world and they are Christians!”
The daughter of another church member said: “If this is the God who thinks about and takes care of His children then I would like to know Him more!”
Salomeh is just one of the many Iranian Christians who wants to emphasise how happy she is with the support she received from you, Open Doors supporters, through a local partner: “Your support and prayers result in the growth of the kingdom. The church in Iran is still alive, even though church buildings are closed, even though a pandemic is terrorising our country. I pray that one day we will all be standing in front of God’s throne knowing we’ve done our part in the kingdom.”
For other believers, it’s simply too dangerous to tell them the source of the food packages and funds – but they do want to thank whoever made it possible to serve their community. One Iranian Christian in an underground church says: “I just want you to thank your friends on our behalf for making such a wonderful moment for the body of Christ. May our Lord bless you so much.” — ASSIST News
*Name changed for security reasons.