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This morning in Sunday School, our teacher taught us a verse, Hebrews 12:1. It says that we are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses.” (KJV) I didn’t know what she meant at first, but she explained.
It’s not always easy to live like a Christian. There are days when you just don’t want to do the right thing. Sometimes other people make it really hard for you to do what’s right. And, do you know what? It’s always been that way. Clear back in Bible times, there were times it was hard for the people to live the way they knew God wanted them to. But, the author of Hebrews reminded them to keep their eyes on Jesus. He told them to keep remembering how much Jesus did for us, how He died to save us, and how much He loves us. And because Jesus is stronger than death and lives today, He helps us live for Him.
The book of Hebrews talks about some people in the Bible who were brave and kept trying to do the right thing, even when it was really hard. That’s what it means when it says, “so great a cloud of witnesses.” All those people who have lived for Jesus and kept on trusting Him have proven that it is possible to live for God, no matter what. Sometimes they made mistakes, and sometimes they were sad or scared and wanted to give up. But, they hung in there, and with God’s help, they made it. They lived their lives for God.
Our teacher said that we’re going to spend the next few weeks learning about some of the people who are being brave and living for Jesus today, in places that make it very hard to live for God. The first person she told us about is Mehdi Forootan.
Mehdi lived in Iran. On December 26, 2010, police came to his house early in the morning and arrested him. They dragged him out to a car and turned on a video camera. They had already taken his books and his computer. Now they wanted him to confess to his “crime” on tape.
But, he told them he didn’t know why they were arresting him. He hadn’t done anything wrong. They asked him again, and he told them he didn’t know. Then, they turned the camera off and threatened to hurt him if he didn’t tell them what they wanted him to say. When they turned the camera back on, Mehdi admitted he was a Christian. The police officer gave him a chance to give up being a Christian and follow the religion of the state instead. Mehdi said no. The officer said they would take him to a prison called Evin.
That’s when Mehdi knew things were going to get very bad. He knew some of his Christian friends had been arrested, kept for a short time, and released. He had hoped that was all that would happen to him. Maybe he’d be home later that day. But, when the officer said “Evin,” Mehdi knew he would not be coming home today. He might not ever come home. Evin was one of the worst prisons in all of Iran. Terrible things happened there.
After they got to Evin, they treated Mehdi like a murderer. They locked him up in a tiny cell all by himself. He didn’t have a bed or a chair. All he could sleep on was the cold floor, with just a thin blanket to try to keep warm.
Some days, the guards would come and ask him all kinds of questions. One would threaten to kill him. One would promise everything would be OK if he would just tell the guards what they wanted to know—who were the other Christians he knew, how big was the secret church in Iran, and lots of other things. Mehdi didn’t want to tell them anything that would hurt anyone else.
There were other days when the guards wouldn’t come at all. Day after day after day, Mehdi would just sit by himself in his cell, with no one to talk to. He would try to pray, but he still felt sad and lonely. He missed his parents, his fiancé, and his friends.
Sometimes, he got to talk to other Christians who were in the same part of the prison as he was. A guard might leave him alone for a minute in the hall, and someone would whisper to him from another cell. Finally, after thirty-eight days, the guards moved him to a cell with other people. He told as many of them as he could about Jesus’ love.
Finally, after one hundred and five days in prison (over three months), on April 9, 2011, the guards released him. He still doesn’t know why he was let go. He eventually escaped Iran to the country of Turkey. He and his fiancé were finally able to get married. They were married for two months when she had to leave to live in another country. He hopes they will be able to be together again someday and have a family.
Mehdi knows how hard it can be to live for Jesus. But, with God’s help, he is living for Him each day.
“Dear God, please help Mehdi and his wife be together again soon. Please help all the Christians in Iran who are sad or lonely to trust You. Help them be strong. And, please help each of us to live for You, no matter what. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
If you would like a printable copy of today’s story, click here.
The facts of this story are based on a World Watch Monitor news article published on September 6, 2011.
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