Shiva and Petros were both born in Iran. It has been 22 years since they moved to Cyprus. “That we came to Cyprus is God’s plan, not ours,” is the couple’s firm conviction. Shiva and Petros have experienced God’s call, grace, and power in a concrete way in their life together.
THE ROAD TO FAITH
Sometime after arriving in Cyprus, he and his wife came into contact with a Christian family who told their new friends about the Bible and the Christian faith, and took them to visit their church. Shiva recalls, “It was very difficult for us since we were Muslims. We were brought up with completely different beliefs.” Petros began to read the Qur’an diligently and he also began to read the Bible, in order to compare the two books. Six months later, Petros found himself confused. According to Islam, both the Bible and the Qur’an come from God, with the difference that the Qur’an is considered the latest and most complete and reliable revelation. Had God revealed His Word in the Bible only to change His mind some centuries later and give completely different revelations through a new prophet? “Finally, I began to think that there is no God at all,” says Petros. “I became an atheist.” Nevertheless, he continued attending church for some time.
At the time when Petros first started visiting the local Orthodox church, he didn’t know much Greek. However, as the priest began to teach, something strange happened. Petros listened to the priest’s sermon held in Greek, but he could hear the words spoken in his mother tongue, Farsi, and thus understood every word that was said. “He spoke Greek. I heard Farsi!” This is the only explanation Petros can give concerning his experience. After the service, Petros was not able to discuss his questions concerning faith with the priest. “I didn’t understand him anymore.” This peculiar experience – Petros hearing the priest speak Farsi in church although he was actually teaching in Greek – happened on three different occasions.
“We asked ourselves what was going on,” says Shiva, “and it all made us participate more diligently in the church’s teaching sessions about the Christian faith. Fourteen months later, we stated that we believed in Jesus and wanted to be baptised.” Shiva, Petros, and their son were baptised at the same time together on February 26, 2002.
After the baptism, the family was hit by some sudden challenges. Petros confesses that he was not prepared for difficulties. “I had put my life completely in God’s hands when I [was baptised] and felt assured that now God’s blessing would rest abundantly on my life.” In retrospect, both Petros and Shiva can testify that God indeed has blessed them, but also that the blessing did not exclude challenges and difficulties along the road of faith. On the contrary, it has often been precisely through the difficult moments that the door opened to deeper levels of God’s grace.
From 2011 to 2013 Petros struggled with serious heart problems that made it impossible for him to work and function as usual, and doctors considered the risk too high to operate. Eventually they found a heart surgeon in Switzerland who would operate.
ANGELS IN THE DARK
Shiva and Petros recount how the events surrounding their meeting with the Swiss surgeon bore witness to the fingerprints of God’s grace amid hardship. Various people helped with caring for their children, provided accommodation in Geneva and financial support. Even the surgeon turned out to be a devout Christian. He pointed out that there was only a 10% chance that the operation would be a success.
In the operating room, Petros lay thinking about his life. “Then, in that moment, I saw Jesus. The real Jesus. It wasn’t a dream. I saw him with my own eyes,” he says. “Everything was bright,” is the only way to describe what he experienced on the operating table.
A MIRACLE AT CHRISTMAS TIME
The operation lasted eight hours. One hour after the procedure was completed, Petros woke up. Doctors and nurses filled the operating room, eager to see the patient who had woken up so quickly and in perfect condition. “This is a miracle!” exclaimed a nurse.
Ten days later, at the congregation’s Christmas party, Petros was present in the church and could testify to what he had been through. It is one of the greatest of many signs of God’s grace and faithfulness that he, Shiva and their sons can look back on. Today, Petros is completely healthy and does not need any medication.
Today, both Petros and Shiva work for SAT-7 PARS, which aims to spread the message of Jesus Christ among Persian speakers. “We don’t know how many days we have left,” says Petros, “But now we have to do what we can in order for the Good News to reach those who need to hear about God’s salvation and find hope for eternity.”
(This story was shortened.)