The Terror Factory and the Deep Secret of Suffering

05/18/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)Back in 2009, Maryam and Marziyeh were arrested for their faithful efforts to spread the Gospel throughout Iran. They were sent to the notorious Evin Prison, commonly known as Iran’s “terror factory.”

During their time in prison, they made the surprising discovery that they were more free behind bars than they were outside of prison. With nothing to lose, they were free to share the Gospel with inmates from all walks of life.

Only when they embraced the call to suffering, did God provide true freedom.

To write letters of encouragement to prisoners in similar circumstances, click here.

Transcript:

Jeff King:

I want to tell you about two of my favorite people, Maryam and Marziyeh, two Iranian women and they were former Muslims. They got saved, radically saved, and like so many others they said, “Oh my gosh, we found the answer for life. I’ve got to share it with others.” And so they devoted their life to ministry and they got involved in evangelizing and smuggling Bibles and they were blanketing Tehran with Bibles, and eventually the police caught up with them. The secret police are always looking at these guys. These ladies were very active.

Marziyeh:

At that time, we didn’t have any Bible. We just called our pastor who was in London and we asked them to send thousands of New Testaments to Iran. It wasn’t easy for them to provide all those New Testaments because they had to find an illegal way to smuggle those New Testaments to Iran. And praise God, after a few months, they had provided all those New Testaments. They smuggled them to Iran and we received them and we started our first mission in Tehran.

Marziyeh:

For that mission, we bought a big map and it was the map of Tehran, the capital of Iran. And we put it on the wall because we decided to cover each area of the Tehran. And usually at night we would carry all those New Testaments in our backpack, about 140 New Testaments each night. We would take them to different areas and put them in the mailboxes. And I remember sometimes it was during the winters because in winters in Iran we have lots of snows, and we had to walk through snow to distribute all those New Testaments. And after finishing each area, we would draw a cross on the map and then we would pray for that area, that God use those Bibles to talk to people’s hearts. And sometimes we had to go to that area several time because it was a big area. Praise God, nothing happened to us and after almost three years, we could distribute 20,000 New Testaments in different parts of Tehran.

Maryam:

Everywhere we go, we had Bibles in our purses, like 10 New Testaments, very small New Testaments. And even we went for shopping, everywhere we went, we had those Bibles and we would hand them to people. It was in March 2009, we believe because of the activities we had for four years, the government was monitoring us. And also we were so open about our faith. We had two house churches in our apartment; we were evangelizing people. And we don’t really know who reported about our activities, but one day early in the morning, Marziyeh received a phone call from a stranger. He had some questions about our car documents and asked her to go to the police station.

Maryam:

They entered, they ransacked our apartment, and they took both of us with all our belongings, like Bibles, Jesus movies, everything they had discovered and was related to Christianity. And they transferred us to the police station that first day. We just hugged each other. We said goodbye to each other because we thought it was our last day on earth and we didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t even pray in Farsi because we were so scared, and we didn’t know how to ask God to help us. But I remember after that person threatened us to physical torture, we started praying in tongues. We really praise God for this gift because we could see how in those difficult moments, the presence of Holy Spirit really strengthened us and helped us and prayed on our behalf.

Jeff King:

And so they get arrested and they get sent to Evin prison. And if you’ve seen some of my past videos, you may have heard me talk about Evin prison. It’s an infamous place and it’s known as the Terror Factory, and for good reason. It’s associated with the torture and all kinds of abuse that they use there. So anyways, think about their mindset. They’ve been involved in ministry. The Lord saved them. They’ve been so productive in ministry. Now what happens? They’re going to prison. And you would think it’s game over for their ministry, but that wasn’t it at all. Because what happened was they get sent to prison. Now think about who’s in prison. Who’s in prison at the Terror Factory of all places? People who were hopeless, who were going through extreme stress and who were desperate. And that’s a recipe for a hungry heart. Because all the crutches are gone, right, and the people had been really without resource and they’re hungry for God. Hungry.

Jeff King:

And so that’s where Maryam and Marziyeh were put. They were assigned there. And the funny thing is, outside of prison they were always worried about being caught, right? Well, once they’re in prison, they’re already caught and they don’t have to worry about that anymore. And so if anything, ministry is probably more productive for them. And they spent a lot of time sharing the gospel, brought a lot of people to Christ. They also lost loved ones there. They saw friends taken from them and murdered. And so a very rough time, but a very productive time spiritually.

Marziyeh:

After 14 days of being in that detention, they transferred us to Evin prison in charges of apostasy, blasphemy, anti-government and promoting Christianity. We already heard about Evin prison because Evin prison is very notorious for arresting, raping, torturing and executing of many innocent people. That’s why we knew about this prison, what is going on inside that. And even if you talk to any Iranian, they would tell you about this prison. Everyone would scare of the name of this prison.

Marziyeh:

But the day that we entered Evin prison, it was interesting that we were surprised because we saw many respectful and intellectuals like students, lawyer, journalist, and even doctors. They were in that prison just because their beliefs was against the government. And also we were shocked when we saw some children among prisoners and we couldn’t believe that. And those children were in that prison because of the crimes of their mothers. They had to stay in prison and the government wouldn’t care about their future.

Marziyeh:

Among those prisoners are the other prisoners as well, like murderers, criminals and all these prisoners had to live together in one place. Praise God, as Maryam shared, again, inside Evin prison we had many great opportunities to share our faith with other prisoners. And we believe that inside Evin prison, we were more free rather than outside prison because we could talk to anybody and nobody could stop us. Before going to that prison, we had to pray and ask God to show us a right person to speak. But inside Evin prison we could talk to anybody.

Marziyeh:

And I remember one day, one of our interrogator was very angry because they heard that we talked to prisoners about Jesus and he shouted at me and told me during my interrogation, he told me that, “I heard that you are talking to prisoners about Jesus. You should shut your mouth here, not talk about Jesus. You’re brainwashing people.” And I told him, “I’m so sorry. I believe this is not our fault. This is your fault because you arrested us. You put us in this prison and prisoners are curious. They ask us, ‘What is your charge? Why you are here?’ So we have to explain to them why we are here. That’s why we talked to people.” And they were so desperate. We could see that. That they couldn’t do anything else because we already were in that prison. That’s why we believe we were more free inside prison.

Jeff King:

So now here’s another angle though to their story. While they’re in prison, people from around the world are sending letters to them. And so now think about this. Put yourself in the place of the jailer, and all of a sudden these people you’re torturing and you’re guarding and treating terribly, people from all over the world, thousands and thousands of letters are coming into them. And so all of a sudden it makes you a little nervous; you’re put on notice. It’s like before this person was anonymous, you could do whatever you want to them and then all of a sudden everybody knows.

Jeff King:

And so that had a tremendous effect. They got better treatment, and at the same time the guards were deeply touched because the guards were reading this stuff, they were reading the letters, and so it had a deep effect on them. And that’s a very common occurrence. And by the way, we have our own letter campaign; we want you to get involved in writing to prisoners, including an Iranian prisoner. But we’ll show you the link.

Marziyeh:

For the first few months that we got arrested, we didn’t have any connection with the world outside. They didn’t allow us to have a lawyer for six months and we thought that we completely forgotten by the word outside. But after a few months, when we could contact our family members, we heard through our sisters that many Christians from different parts of the world, they were supporting us by their prayers, by sending letters to prison. And that was so encouraging for both of us because we realized that we are not alone. Instead, we have a big Christian family that are supporting us every day.

Jeff King:

So anyways, think about this. Think about that perspective that they think life is over because of suffering or tragedy, and then look what happens to them with ministry. God continues it and it’s a different sphere. And I think there’s a lesson there for us because you and I are not going to go to prison for persecution, Lord willing, and yet we do go through plenty of suffering and despair in life. And if you’ve lived long enough, if you’ve lived a few decades, that’s no surprise to you. We all know that suffering is part of life and sometimes very deep suffering. And it’s in those periods though that God can really get into our hearts and work. And yet our response, if you’re like me, is that we desperately want to escape those times. We cry out, “Oh my gosh, Lord, get me out of this prison.”

Jeff King:

And so I just have a lesson internally from me and what I’ve seen with the persecuted, and I want to share it with you, and it’s this. That I want you to pray if you’re going through deep struggle, and I want you to pray and I want you to ask the Lord, is this an assignment for him? Because if it is, you need to treat it differently. And I would say this. If you feel in your heart that the Lord has given this to you as an assignment, then I want you to embrace it. Okay? You got to stop running from it and you’ve got to stop trying to escape and you’ve got to sit. And want to embrace it means you say … you come to the point in your heart where it’s not just words, but you come to the point in your heart where you say, “Lord, if this is your assignment, that I am your servant and I will be in this prison for the rest of my life.”

Jeff King:

And I can tell you from interviewing a lot of prisoners, and my own history, that when you get to that point, that’s usually when the assignment ends, when the suffering ends, that lesson is learned. But the Lord is always trying to do something, and in suffering is usually the only time he can really get us to grow. Because what happens is, look, in the end we really don’t have resources on our own. We don’t have strength on our own. We don’t have life on our own. That comes from Him. And yet all the time we rely on her own resources, and we’re relying on her crutches and our idols, and we don’t even know it.

Jeff King:

And when all that’s stripped away, then we fully embrace, we fully call out for God and he comes in, and we have a time of relationship with him that you would absolutely treasure and you’ll never experience again. It’s connected with the deepest suffering. So anyways, think about that. If your suffering is a sign from God, you ask him, you pray about that. And if so, you embrace it and say, “This is my assignment. I’m going into prison, and I will be here and I will serve you, Lord.” So I’ll be praying for you. God bless you.

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