August 9: Live Dangerously (1927)

Today’s post is on missions in Persia in the late 1920’s. At that time the editor added the following prefatory note:

Persia is in the midst of many upheavals both political and religious. The Moslem world is at last awaking to the pressure of Christianity, and is realizing that it must fight to maintain its position. For this reason there is active danger to the Moslems who venture to become Christians.

And as much as I was struck by the editor’s note in our previous post, those words, though the national reference would be changed, seem all the more appropriate here, as an added preface to the following brief report.

…In this article Miss Brook emphasizes the thought that God’s key-men are “even His witnesses that He is God.” It was precisely because missionaries failed to realize that it is a greater privilege, and a greater obligation, to witness to God than to lead a soul to Christ, that there was so much evasion of that primary obligation in the Japanese Empire. Missionaries and Christians alike failed to realize that in trial comes priceless opportunity, and therefore, save for a very few, missed a glorious opportunity to testify to the very highest officials in Japan that Jehovah alone is God.

by a Persian Missionary
[THE PRESBYTERIAN, 6 January 1927, pp. 12-13.]

As is usually the case, the story of the experiences of our converts is the story of our work for the past few months. Three of them in three different places have been hazarding their lives for the sake of Christ and thrilling us with joy and anxiety. One of these men we will call A. His father was a very popular religious leader a few years ago, to such an extent that his name still survives as indicative of the location of the bath, street, bridge, and what not, most closely associated with him. Once the son of such a man accepted Christ, he would not keep the fact a secret. Almost immediately this convert requested permission to speak on his new faith in the meeting of the Sabbath-school at the city chapel. Following two such talks, brief and to the point, and marked by no disturbing consequences, he asked permission to speak at a larger public service.

He was a member of the socialist party, and soon received an official letter of inquiry relative to his conversion, which he read at this service. What did he have to say for himself? In reply, he opened the drawer of the secretary’s desk, drew out a copy of the Constitution, and asked them to read for him Article I of their programme. Article I reads, “Freedom of Convictions.” There was simply nothing to be said, and he took his stand on his constitutional rights. This incident, plus the stir that his previous testimony had made, drew a crowd of some eighty Moslems to hear him speak. I remained on the platform where I could keep an eye on the audience, and I will frankly admit that my heart pounded more blood to my brain in that half hour while he spoke than during the ordinary hour and a half.

He is rather tall, deliberate, and fine looking, and the hush that fell on that assembly as he mounted the platform, removed his white turban, and prepared to speak, could be felt. He spoke simply on the need of a religion, and necessity of making a careful investigation, and finally on the superiority of the teachings of Christ. He spoke tactfully and respectfully of the Koran, but left no doubt as to where he himself stood.

Two days later he came to us to say good-bye. Crowds of excited Moslems had gathered in the governor’s palace, informed him of A’s apostasy, and the order had gone out for his arrest. He had no thought of flight. Together we bowed in prayer, and refusing to let me go with him through the bazaars, where men were threatening to kill him, he went down to turn himself over to the police. Twenty days later, guarded by two policemen, he came out again, climbed into a waiting automobile, and was rushed off to the Persian-Iraq border, an exile, with neither passport nor money. Whenever he tried to return, his lack of a passport prevented his permission, until at last, in another city, he found a Persian consul who was a heart a Christian, and who assisted him to return to Persia, though of course not to his own town.

Of the two others whom I mentioned, we have less information. One—B—is in prison. The third—C—a member of our church here, who left for a distant city about two years ago, is holding the fort there, alone, waiting for whatever fare God may have in store for him.

For more on earlier missions to that part of the world, click here to read an article about the missionary Shushan Wright, written by my friend Barry Waugh.



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