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God’s Story in Iran

God is doing something remarkable in a place you might least expect. Hear about the revival happening in Iran from missionaries to the Middle East in this episode of Grounded.

Episode Notes

“God is at Work in Iran” podcast

“Praying for Those in the Middle East” Grounded episode

Find out more about Tat and Patty Stewart


Introduction: Christianity in Iran

Dannah Gresh: “Iran's Christian Boom.” How is that for a Monday morning headline? I'll tell you, when I first read it, not only was I excited to hear the good news, but I was impassioned to pray. We are about to download some encouragement and passion in your heart today. I'm Dannah Gresh. And this is Grounded, the podcast and videocast brought to you by Revive Our Hearts.

Erin Davis: Man, anytime we start with “boom,” I'm in. I'm Erin Davis. We're here to try and tell a story today. I promise, scouts honor, that it is going to start your week with hope and perspective. And here's what it is: It's the story of what God is doing in the nation of Iran.

Dannah: Yeah. Oh, Erin, I gotta tell you, I am not the current events junkie in our house. 

Erin: I know. I’m always trying to get you to read the news. 

Dannah: But I do watch the headlines with a heart to pray. I'm looking to see where God’s at work so I can join Him there in prayer. Well, a few weeks ago, I found a headline that got me so excited. I actually texted it to you, Erin. Right. 

Erin: You texted it to me. I do remember. And I am the news junkie at my house. So I read the whole story, trust me. 

Dannah: Well, let me take us back to the headline, the headline,“Iran’s Christian Boom.”Okay. Now first, I gotta say this is from a major secular news outlet. 

Erin: Don’t be picturing your local Christian news outlet. This is a secular news outlet.

Dannah: Exactly. So, this is what the secular news is reporting on what's happening in Iran. Let me read this first sentence to you. It says: 

Something religiously astonishing is taking place in Iran, where an Islamic government has ruled since 1979. Christianity is flourishing. [There's the boom.] And the implications are potentially profound. 

That's what it says, “potentially profound.”

Erin: I'm already really excited. 

Dannah: But I gotta say, I doubt this particular publication is going to hire me as an editor anytime soon. But I would have edited out the word “potentially.” 

He is on the move. God, what He's doing in Iran is profound, no question about it. Revival is happening—and in one of the most unlikely places on the planet, the Middle East.

Erin: Yeah. What secular news calls “religiously astonishing,” that's what we call revival. That's what we call a movement of the Holy Spirit. 

And that's what we're talking about. Now, Dannah and I seem extra energized this morning. That's because there are a few things we like to talk about more than revival. But Dannah, you know this, I don't know if our Grounded people know this. But I used to be a high school history and social studies teacher. So I'm going to slip back into that mode for a moment this morning with some fast facts about the part of the world we're talking about. Don't worry, there is no quiz at the end of this episode of Grounded

Iran is a nation with a population of more than 85 million people. Now, that is a big number. It can fly right over our heads. Think about it this way for a moment. 85 million men, women, and children, and every single one of them without exception is made in the image of God. 

Dannah: Amen. 

Erin: And this next number is changing a little bit. That's what we're going to be talking about. That's what we're going to be talking about in this episode because Iran is the global epicenter of Shia Islam. In fact, it is the largest concentration of Muslims in the entire world. And historically, it has been a nation where less than 1% of those 85 million people were non-Muslims, which means there are millions of people within the borders of Iran who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ is right.

Portia Collins: Okay, girls . . .

Erin: There’s our girl, Portia. 

Today’s Good News: The Gospel and Iran

Portia: Scoot over, I’ve got to pop in here, because I'm dying to share today’s good news. One missionary in Iran recently said that “Iranians have become the most open people to the gospel.”

Dannah: Come on.

Portia: Sit in that for a minute. 

Dannah: That is good stuff. 

Erin: Makes me want to whoop.

Dannah: Yeah. Another recent news piece that I saw found that millions of Iranians . . . Iranians, did I say that wrong?

Erin: Our guests will help us.

Dannah: Did I mention I'm not the news junkie? 

Erin: You did. 

Dannah: But anyway, many people from Iran are watching Christian satellite TV. And this piece concluded that Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Public of Iran than in any other country on the planet.

Erin: I'm shaking my head. It means like, what? 

Portia: Wow.

Erin: What is the Lord doing? That Iran would be the nation where Christianity is growing faster than any other country? So, here's that hope and perspective that I promised. And it's the hope and perspective I need today . . . and every day. Jesus Christ is building His Church and nothing can stop Him—no pandemic, no violent nation. He's building it in a corner of the world that has been spiritually dark for a long time. 

We do talk about revival here on Grounded. It is something that we long to see Jesus do, that we pray for Him to do, and we should do that. But I don't want us to miss this opportunity. And that is to praise Him for the fact that He is doing it. He is reviving hearts around the globe. And today is really a worship offering in praising God for the work He's doing.

Dannah: We’ve got a stacked episode today. You're going to hear from multiple guests. All of them are part of the movement of God in Iran happening right now. And they'll be the first ones to tell you this story isn't about them. It's God's story.

Interview with Sabrina Aslan: TheHeartache of Women in the Middle East

Portia: Amen, amen. Well, time to bring in a good news correspondent. Sabrina Aslan grew up in Iran. She moved to the states as an adult. Interesting fact . . . Sabrina is the voice of the Revive Our Hearts podcast in Farsi. She's amazing. She is passionate about seeing Iranian women come to know Jesus. So welcome, Sabrina.

Sabrina Aslan: Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor to be with you. 

Portia: Oh, it’s a joy to have you. So, Sabrina, I know that you have such a heart for Persian women. I want you to tell us more about them. What are the lives of women like in Iran? What are their greatest needs?

Sabrina: I would say Persian women are no different than any other woman around the world. They are looking to define their identity through something—their appearance, in their happiness, in their education, in their career, in their family or anything else. Yes, they love to look pretty. They are relational, and they look for good relationships. They love to be able to pursue their future dreams. 

So many of them define their identities in higher education. The statistics actually show that in Iran, women are more highly educated than men, and the new generation is pursuing their satisfaction in secularism, atheism, and Western movements like feminism. 

Yes, they want to find their identities. But unfortunately, Islamic laws have opened the door for women to be more discriminated, overlooked, abused, oppressed, and marginalized in every aspect of their lives. Women's rights are violated most, and the most of the Islamic laws are against women. For example, men are allowed to bring home temporary wives whenever they like. 

Many women suffer sexual abuse, but feel under pressure to remain silent in order to protect the honor of their family. Women are not allowed to leave the country without the permission of their husbands. Domestic violence is so common, and the law doesn't do anything for women. Divorce is easily granted to a husband with a simple request. But women must fight legal battles before they can be released from a marriage.

Child custody is immediately granted to the man. The brothers are entitled to twice as much inheritance as sisters, and the list is going on and on. 

Altogether, Iranian women like any woman around the world, have this deep, deep, longing to be loved, to be valued, to be cared for, and to be treated as equal as men in their homes and in their society. 

The culture in the Middle East is a shame and honor culture, and that makes them be more lonely and overlooked. And honestly, to me, the Iranian women look like the woman at the well in Scripture, as she tried to quench her thirst with different false choices. Yet, she probably was abused, shamed, lonely, and overlooked. But Jesus gave her birth, new identity, and honor when He saved her soul. So, these Iranian women really need Jesus, they need the gospel. And honestly, when they find Him, He really satisfies their inner bank.

Portia: Amen, amen. You know, you're really sharing some things to help us see that part of the world through your eyes. I mean, just everything you said, honestly, I had no idea. Often, all we see are the headlines of war and conflict. And so, I kind of want to dig in here. What evidence do you see of God turning women's hearts toward Him?

Sabrina: The fact is, yes, there is news of war, terrorism, different levels of conflicts. But the reality is, God brings revival and great awakenings through adversities, sufferings, and even persecution. 

Once someone said that suffering or persecution works as a catalyst for the growth and advancement of God's kingdom rather than an obstacle to stop the growth. God still redeemed the women like Rahab behind the closed walls through the precious blood of Christ. He brings them to His own family and then uses them mightily to be fruitful for Christ. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can stop His redeeming plan. He is still in the business of using for good what evil intends to harm. And as He has promised, He builds His Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

Erin: Amen, Sabrina. You know, I can feel detached from the Middle East. I haven't been there. I don't have plans to go there. I can hear these numbers, and it can just go over my head. So, I wonder if you could put a face to it. Can you think of a woman who has been transformed by the gospel there in Iran, and tell us her story?

Sabrina: Yes, sure. Several years ago I met a group of Iranian women who all had come to Christ from a Muslim background. I asked them to share their stories. All had amazing stories. But one of those stories still resonates with me. This is a story about a woman whom I call Mariam for security reasons. 

At the time I met her, she was probably in her thirties—a beautiful woman full of energy, excitement, and joy. Her face was glowing, and she was on fire for Christ. She said years ago she used to be so, so depressed to the point that she had to take very strong anti-depressant medications. I couldn't believe that once she had been diagnosed with depression, because right now I could see a woman in front of myself that was radiant with joy. 

I was asking myself, how? How could it be that this energetic, joyful young woman is talking about experiencing deep depression? She continued, “I was super religious and so committed to Islam, and all the rest of Islamic rituals.” She knew the Quran very well to the point that she would gather other women and teach them from the Quran regularly. 

But doing all these religious things wouldn't make any difference in her life, and she always felt an empty gap in her heart. And worst of all, these religious acts couldn't help her to cope with depression. In fact, it got worse and worse. And this created so many other problems, including: serious problems in her marriage and her relationship with her husband. To the extent that they would seriously think about divorce. But right at this time one of her childhood friends whom I call Sarah moves to Mariam 's town. Sarah and her old parents were looking for a place to rent. Mariam invites them to come and stay in their basement until they can find a better place to rent. Sarah accepts the offer, and she moves to Mariam’s house. So now, they were neighbors, and their friendship from old days became refreshed, and they could spend more time together, and have a lot of conversations with each other.

Through the years that they were far from each other, apparently Sarah had come to Christ, and secretly and cautiously was practicing her new faith. So, Sarah was cautious and even afraid of sharing the gospel with Mariam as she knew Mariam was a super fanatic Muslim.

During those friendly conversations they had as Mariam was in tears, suffering from her depression and panic attacks, Sarah offered to pray for her. Mariam accepts her offer. And Sarah started praying for her. 

And Mariam says, “I would love Sarah to pray for me, because it seemed there was power in her prayers. It is the kind of power that would give me peace and joy that I had never experienced before.” Later on, Sarah gives Mariam a New Testament Bible. Mariam says, “I started reading it critically and with curiosity and with a sense of investigation. But the more I continued reading it, the more I felt a sense of hunger, satisfaction, and enthusiasm in myself. I kept on reading and reading, and I was mesmerized by the character of Jesus.”

Erin: I love that, Sabrina.

Sabrina: She said, “I literally couldn't put aside that magic book. And I kept on reading until I reached the book of First Corinthians. One day in the middle of the month of Ramadan, in the middle of the day around 1 p.m., I felt so tired with no energy. So I decided to go to bed and take a nap. I fell asleep. In my dream, I saw a man with a white robe and a golden band around his chest. His face was glowing like sun, a kind of powerful light. I had never seen such a thing. I was so afraid, because He came closer and said to me, ‘Fear not, fear not.’” 

And then she wakes up. Mariam continues, overwhelmed with a sense of it all and at the same time, curiosity. 

“I immediately went straight to Sarah and told her what I saw in my dream. And Sarah, astonished with my words, asked me, ‘Do you know whom you have seen? Do you know whom you have seen? You have seen God. Yes, you have seen Jesus Christ who is God.’ And she immediately fell down on her knees, and with stretched arms started praising Jesus. And then she brought her Bible and opened it to a page which was the first chapter in the book of Revelation.”

As she started reading about the dream that the apostle John had in Patmos encountering Jesus with a wide roll and a golden band around His chest. Mariam says, “I told her this was exactly what I saw in my dream.” Do you remember she stopped reading when she reached First Corinthians. She had never read Revelation. 

She says, “‘Sarah, this is exactly what I saw in my dream. Somebody has written my dream on this page.’ Right there I joined Sarah falling down on my knees praising Jesus. Later on that day, Sarah shared the gospel with me. And I surrendered my whole life to Jesus, my Lord. I went back to the bookshelf, and took the Bible, that magic book, and opened it again to the first chapter of Revelation. And verse three, I read, ‘Blessed that is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy. And blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it. But the time is near.’” 

“And yes. From then on. I promised to read that book every day. Right from the following day, Sarah started teaching me and discipling me. Since then, Jesus has been on the business of transforming my life. He saved me. He opened my eyes to his amazing light. He healed me from depression and gave me sight and gave me such an increasing joy. The transformation and change in my life was so radical and visible that when I shared the gospel with my husband, he immediately surrendered his life to Jesus. And with the passion Jesus put in his heart, and our hearts, we share the gospel with the rest of our family.”

“After a while our house that used to be a place of chanting and teaching Quran turned to be one of the house churches. Jesus had completely brought us from darkness to his amazing light. So many of our relatives and surrounding people saw the power of transforming love of Christ in our lives, they came to Jesus.”

Mariam and her husband, after leading a couple of house churches in that town, realized that the secret police were after them badly. After being arrested a couple of times, they were forced to flee from the country. But even after going through so much hardship and persecution, her face was still glowing. I never forget the joy and excitement in her face. She knew that she had found a precious treasure, that she wouldn't exchange it with anything else in this world.

Erin: The Lord knows her name. The Lord knows Sarah's name, and I'm so grateful for his work in their lives. Thanks for being with us. We're gonna drop a couple of links in the chat where you can hear Sabrina and her husband Albert, talking more about the movement of God in Iran.

Dannah: I couldn't help but think of that Scripture verse that says the Word is alive and active. The Bible is not a magical book, but it is alive and active and powerful. I loved hearing that, also just the burden to pray for the women in Iran specifically. And I hope that you'll be burdened to pray for them too because the gospel is exploding there, and women's lives are being changed day by day, hour by hour. 

And you know what's happening in Iran today isn't just all of a sudden. It's because there were seeds of faithful fearless servants planted years ago. I'm talking about missionaries who served God in absolute abandon. 

Interview with Tat Stewart: Church Planting in the Middle East

Dannah: And you're about to meet one of them. Tat Stewart grew up in Iran as the son of medical missionaries. When he left and trained for ordination as a young adult man, he had no plans to return ever. But 1978, he received a letter from the Evangelical Church of Iran asking him to come back as their pastor. When he and his wife Patty, who also grew up in Iran, finally arrived back in Tehran, it was the summer of 1979. And if that sounds like . . . oh . . . that's because the revolution was in full bloom in Iran. 

Welcome Tat. We're so glad to have you here with us today. 

Tat Stewart: Thank you, Dannah. It's just a great privilege and joy to be with you and your guests today. 

Dannah: Take us back to 1979. What was Iran like when you first arrived back after having grown up there and been gone for some time?

Tat: Having grown up in Iran, I kind of expected to find an Iran that was excited and joyful to see a Westerner because that was our experience before the revolution. But when we got off the plane in Tehran, we had to walk through a group of young men in camouflage uniforms, holding machine guns and scowling at us and chanting, “Death to America.” So, it wasn't exactly a warm welcome. When we got to Iran, we found a city that had no real government at the time, because the revolution had just completed. Ayatollah Khomeini had just come back from France on his Air France jumbo jet. It was a city that during the day looked normal, but you didn't dare go out at night.

Dannah: Yeah, chaos, danger at night. So Tat and his wife, Patty, weren't there very long. That call was a pretty temporary call. But during that time that you were there, starting in ’79, you planted two churches, and they became a seed among many for what we're seeing today. Tell us about those two churches you planted while you were there?

Tat: Well, I wouldn't exactly call it planting churches. I was called to first pastor the remnant expatriate church, an English language church for Westerners, for Americans. It had 600 members. When the revolution occurred, most of them had left. So, I inherited a church of six members. But we were able to put ads in the local Tehran Times in English. And before you know it, we had about 60–70 people from 11 different countries—mainly diplomats, business people, and some teachers. 

And along with that, I was invited by the Evangelical Church of Iran to be a youth advisor. So I began to work with the young people. It was a little tricky, because I hadn't spoken Farsi for 15 years. And the Farsi that I had learned as a child was not exactly the same Farsi that was appropriate for leading Bible studies. 

But I did begin to lead Bible studies with the Iranians. And so, we did begin to see a great interest in the gospel. We saw in the Persian church that we attended, the church that Sabrina and Albert are members of in Iran, that members were leaving. But Muslims were coming into the church at the risk of their own danger. So it was interesting to go to church and find out that on a Sunday or Friday when we worship, a lot of Christian were fleeing the country. They did not feel that was much of a future for them in an Islamic Republic.

Dannah: So even then, Jesus was drawing—the same Jesus that you just heard Sabrina talk about drawing one woman to himself. That same Jesus was drawing men and women from the Islamic faith to Himself back then. You have a special connection to Sabrina and Albert Aslan, tell us about that.

Tat: Well, they are Iranians, but they are also Assyrians. They were part of the Assyrian Evangelical Church in Tehran. And the second summer that I was there, we had sort of a national conference for young people from the evangelical church or the Presbyterian Church as well as the Anglican Church. And Albert was in that conference. 

And you have to picture this: Here are these young people in their late teens and early twenties. They're living during a complete transformation of their country. The women were fearful of what their futures were going to be, the young men did not know where they'd be able to go to college or what they would be able to do. And so, it was the perfect storm in their lives. 

We led a conference in guided evangelism which was a conference ground in North Tehran. We had 97 young people, and right from the beginning, I sensed the work of the Holy Spirit in amazing ways. Because I being an American youth pastor, I wanted to play games. I wanted to have all kinds of fun things. And all they wanted to do was read the Bible and pray. And I said okay.

Dannah: They were serious about it. 

Tat: They were serious about it. We did play some games; I don't mean that we didn’t. But I noticed that they dug into Scripture. I did a study in Romans, and we read the book of Mark. And each day, it just seemed that it was building to the last night. 

Now, you have to understand it was about 110 degrees in Tehran in the summer. But you know, you can't have a youth conference without a bonfire. So, we had a big bonfire, and I gave each of the kids, I call them kids, I gave each of them a three by five card. I said, “Go sit down and write down whatever it is in your life that is keeping you from giving your heart completely to Jesus Christ—if it's a sin, if it's an attitude. Then come back. And when you're ready, cast this card into the fire, and commit your life to Christ. And over the next couple hours, all 97 of them knelt before that fire and consecrated their lives to Christ. 

It was interesting, some of them were part of Christian families. They were sort of nominal Christians in the sense that their parents are Christians. But that day, they gave the hostage price. One of those has been martyred for Christ. And many of them I'm in touch with today, around the world as they're serving God from Australia, to North Africa, to Turkey, to Canada, and to the United States.

Dannah: Wow. And of course, one of them was Albert.

Tat: One of them was Albert.

Dannah: Sabrina's husband. I think I was about to say, knowing that Albert was one of them, and how fruitful Sabrina and Albert's ministry to the people of Iran is today . . . They're located in the United States, but they're ministering powerfully there, and they're very fruitful. I was thinking, I wonder what those other 97 have gone on to do for the Lord? And then you said one of them actually gave their life for Jesus. Well, my heart is stirred to pray for these men and these women. I'm thinking of Hebrews 13 where it says, “Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them and the mistreated as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.” 

Friends, Grounded sisters, that's how I want to ask you to pray for missionaries like Tat, for missionaries like Sabrina today. Pray as if we were there with them being persecuted. 

Fast forward with me to today. Tat, you're still missionaries to the Farsi-speaking people of Iran, but you actually had to leave. And you only had 10 days to get out, because that whole “Death to America” thing was escalating. And it wasn't safe for you to be there any longer. But you have set up a mission organization where you're pastoring a Farsi-speaking congregation in Colorado. I believe you planted a Farsi congregation in Washington, D.C. And today, those sermons that you're preaching are reaching back out into Iran. Tell us briefly about that.

Tat: Yes, well, when I came back from Iran, I could not get an American organization to support me to work with Iranians because of the hostage crisis. There was such hostility in America towards Iran. And I want to say that, because sometimes that was in our patriotism to our country interfered with our understanding of kingdom of God realities and kingdom opportunities. 

So, I pastored a Presbyterian Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. I discovered many Iranians there. I began to involved and we planted that church.

In 1994, God called me to leave the American church. I realized that for every million Iranians there was only one trained Christian leader. And so, I realized that I spoke to the languages of Iran, and how was I going to stand before Jesus and say I had this nice, cushy job in an American church and its staff and everything like that. 

So I left that church to pastor 18 Iranian Muslim converts. Everybody said that was professional suicide. I said, “I don't care. I'm obeying God, and I'm going to do that.” In 2000, we moved to Colorado, and we established a ministry called TALIM ministries. Talim is the Arabic or Persian word for teaching. I didn't want to start a Tat Stewart ministry. I wanted to start a teaching ministry where the Bible was central. 

I began to visit young Iranian leaders around the world and develop personal relationship with them. We spend the night in their homes. I get to meet their wives. I've listened to their wives complain about what it was like to be married to a pastor, all that kind of stuff. I just kind of become a father figure for many younger, middle-aged Iranian men and women around the world just through relationships and sharing their struggles with them and sharing biblical truths with them and trying to model my own marriage and my own relationships with it.

Dannah: I love it. Tat thank you for what you've done. When I read that headline “Iran's Christian Boom,” that's the fruit of your work. That's the fruit of your fearlessness. That's the fruit of your faithfulness. And we are so grateful to catch up with you in that fruitfulness in prayer today through the Grounded network. Blessings, we're gonna drop a link to Tat and Patty Stewart's mission organization because we want you praying for them. Thanks for being with us today, brother.

Tat: I just want to say it wasn't me. I just had a front row seat to what God was doing. 

Erin: Praise God.

Dannah: It's not your story, it’s God’s story, right?

Tat: It’s God’s story. Thank you very much. God bless you all. 

Erin: Glory to God alone. So good. You know, when I pray for Grounded, which is my first responsibility here on Grounded, often I picture a beacon of light shooting up because that's what I want Grounded to be on YouTube. There's a lot of junk on Facebook, there's a lot of junk on our social media feeds. May there be a lot of Grounded shooting up like a beacon. 

Tat and Sabrina have certainly shot a beacon of hope and perspective this morning. But we're not done talking about what the Lord's doing in Iran. Tom and JoAnn Doyle are also with us this morning. They are the founders of a ministry called Uncharted Ministries. I'll let them tell you why it's called that. It exists to inspire the body of Christ to engage with what they call the new great awakening in the Middle East, and in other territories around the world. Welcome to Grounded, Tom and JoAnn. 

Interview with Tom and JoAnn Doyle: How Jesus Is Moving in the Middle East

JoAnn Doyle: Thank you. It's so great to be with you today. 

Tom Doyle: It's a pleasure. Thank you. 

Erin: Oh, we're honored to have you. Hey, I would love for you to tell us . . . you can both tell us or one of you can tell us . . . where did your love for the Middle East come from? Where was that birthed in your hearts?

Tom: Well, initially it was doing Bible tours in Israel. I went to Dallas Seminary and was invited by some of the staff there to go on a Bible tour in ’95. It just was life changing. I got to bring JoAnne and all of our children. And that really just changed our lives.

JoAnn: God had to give us an understanding of what life is like for people that live in a male-dominated culture, for the women, and also a heart for Muslims. And before 9/11, we didn't have a lot of understanding; we had more misconceptions. But then God opened our eyes by breaking our hearts hearing what life is like for so many, especially the Muslim women—how difficult life would be. Now our hearts reach out to those living in the Middle East and Central Asia, places like that.

Erin: So sweet. I started to tell you, Tom, that I am starting my first semester at Dallas Seminary in the fall. I'm really excited. But I've been resistant to going to the Middle East because JoAnn, you said it breaks your heart. I'm just not sure I'm up to the task of seeing what's over there. But you're making me eager to accept that opportunity. When you launched a ministry specifically for those Middle Eastern women, you clearly talk about it with passion, and you call it Not Forgotten. Do you feel like Muslim women are forgotten?

JoAnn: Oh, my gosh, absolutely. Yes. And of course, we can't say 100% across the board. But for the most part, yes, Muslim women have been forgotten. Their lives are back in the shadows. They don't have a voice. So, God has called us at Not Forgotten to elevate these women to the biblical place of honor that Jesus has reserved for them, as we see in the Scripture. 

Erin: Precious. Well, it's hard for us to get the scoop on what God's doing in the Middle East. You can't see it by watching mainstream television or scrolling through social media unless you know who to follow. So, I'm going to count on you to be our eyes and ears. You've said that there is a new great awakening happening. I want to believe you; I want to know about it. How do you see God at work in this Middle Eastern part of the world?

Tom: Well, it's truly astonishing what's happening, because starting to go to the Middle East 25 years ago, we did not see the receptivity we see today. I think with the growing, alarming rate of terrorism throughout the Middle Eastern countries, the failures of the government, many young people have looked outside of the religion of Islam. In fact, about 70% of the Middle East is 30 or under. 

Erin: Yeah, I read that. That's amazing to me. 

Tom: Yeah, social media connected. They’re talking to people online. They're seeing things on the Internet, and then God started doing something that just shocked us. We were not prepared for it. Muslims around the world started having dreams about Jesus and asking questions. 

Erin: I want to know all about that, because I've heard that, and Sabrina told that story of a man in white with the gold sash appearing to live in a dream, which I know is Jesus. But tell me some stories about Jesus appearing to people in dreams. 

Tom: Wow. I mean, it's just all over the place. We kind of resisted it. We weren't looking for it. But then, now we see it in our work. We have about 70 Middle Eastern leaders that are a part of Uncharted. About half of the Muslims that come to faith in Christ say that they had significant powerful, you'll-never-forget-it-in-your-life dreams about Jesus. 

And so, we have so many of them. We actually wrote a book called Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? I'll just give you a quick story. 

There was a young woman, Laila, and she was in Iraq. Her husband used to beat her every day. They're really dedicated Muslims. And night after night, she'd go to bed, he would just beat her, and she just had a broken heart. He was getting violent with their five-year-old son taking cigarettes and burning him. This was horrible. This was demonic what was going on. And every night Laila would pray, “God, where are you? God, Allah, where are you?” She's Muslim; she's committed. 

Finally, one night he hit her with a frying pan. She was knocked out on the floor in the kitchen. When she came to, she went and laid down on the floor to sleep. She didn't want to even be in the same bedroom with him. She laid on the floor. She said, “God, every night I say, ‘God, where are you?’ I'm going to change one word in my prayer tonight. I'm going to say, ‘God, who are you?’ Because who I've been praying to is either too busy or does not care about me. So God, who are you?” 

And what do you think would happen that night? That is an honest, heartfelt prayer. Jesus came to her in a dream and put an arm around her and said, “Laila, I love you. I've given my life for you. Follow Me. You're going to be safe with me.” And that started her journey to the cross where she thoroughly accepted Jesus. I'm telling you, you cannot get Laila to not talk about Jesus with Muslims. She's so filled up with the joy of the Lord.

Erin: I sometimes have to just put my host persona on because I'm the one talking on this show. But I want to lay down on my floor and weep over the goodness of the Lord in situations like that. And I know that's not an outlier. I've heard that many people are seeing Jesus in dreams and responding to Him. He's going after them, even into that dark country. It’s so precious. Your ministry is called Uncharted Ministries. Why’d you name it that?

Tom: So Uncharted is going into uncharted waters. We're by God's grace reaching the unreached. We have a heart for the unreached people groups and standing with the persecuted. And so, when Muslims come to faith in Christ, they will be persecuted. So, we always want to keep that component in mind, and especially for the women, right, JoAnn?

JoAnn: Absolutely, absolutely. But what happens is, when you are praying to a god your whole life that doesn't answer your prayers, you don't feel closer to god through praying five times a day. And then you meet Jesus, all of the sudden you have hope. Inside you have peace. You have joy. You have all the fruit of the Spirit. So now these men and women have a holy boldness, they are ready to serve Jesus, even if it means to death. Now they have confidence to know where they will spend eternity. Their lives are utterly transformed by our loving God. It's so exciting to see. It has challenged me in that way.

Erin: They inspire me in that way. It’s so challenging. I'm glad you mentioned the persecuted church. I just read a headline this weekend about persecution in Nigeria. I know we're talking about the Middle East, but this was listing the number of Christians who have been martyred in Nigeria in the past year. I took a quick screenshot because I did not want to just keep scrolling. Those are my brothers and they are my sisters. But at the same time, I feel a real sense of hopelessness. What can I do about Christians being killed in Nigeria? What can I do about my Muslim sisters whose husbands are beating them because of their faith? All over the world God's people are experiencing persecution. What can we do here where I sit in America or in other Western countries? How can we respond?

Tom: Well, the first thing that we do is we’ve committed to pray every day for persecuted believers. And so, we have a Facebook page—838, the number 838. And then, 838 prays for believers in prison, persecution, and danger every day at 8:38, with a fresh new story on what happened today. Because it is a daily thing, believers are being persecuted every single day. 

We named the page after Romans 8:38–39: For we are convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor demons . . . Paul names like nine things shall not be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. So, we may not be called to persecution yet. But we're called to stand with our arms around our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted right now. And that's a daily thing. That's a good start. 

Then there's other things you can do. There are ministries like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, and Uncharted that support persecuted believers. And 100% of what comes in goes to them to help them with their needs. Many of them can't get jobs, or that's it, but they have Jesus and they're strong.

JoAnn: Another thing that we can do which I think is so important, is God has brought the nations to us. We can look at our neighborhood, our schools, and our workplaces, and we see every nation accounted for. One of the things we love to say at Uncharted and Not Forgotten is, every soul matters. So when you see a Muslim, perhaps a woman veil, engage her in relationship, try to get to know her. Don't be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. If she asks you a question, you know, who you are? Are you a Muslim? or whatever. Say, “No, I am a follower of Jesus.” Don't be ashamed. But if you build that relationship that can turn into a friendship, you may have the opportunity of leading a Muslim to faith in Christ, which would be exciting. So again, we don't have to go over the ocean. God has called us to do that even here in our own backyards.

Erin: Yes, where I live, there's a large state science university, and truly the nations are here. I see women in their head coverings picking their little ones up from the bus the same way I do. I would love to have an interaction with those women. 

Well, would you pray, JoAnn, both of you. I can feel your heart for Muslims. I'd love to hear you pray. So, Joann, would you pray for the Middle East? Show us how it's done? We'll pray with you. 

JoAnn: Yes, thank you. 

Jesus, thank You that our brothers and sisters in Christ are not separated at Your throne, even though we're all in different places. If we’re listening online, watching online, together we stand at the throne of grace interceding for our brothers and sisters who are trapped in Islam. 

Father, remind us, help us to understand that Muslims are not the problem. They are victims. The problem is Islam. Would You open up the eyes or ears of Muslims worldwide to discover the truth that Jesus, Isa, is not just a prophet. Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. 

Would You remove the veils not only from the heads of women, but from the hearts both of Muslims, those who don't know Jesus, but also followers of Christ who are afraid to engage Muslims with the love of Jesus. 

Father, reach each one of them where they are, whether it's in a dream or a vision, lead them to faith and understanding of who the True Jesus is and set them free. And for us as believers who are praying right now, open our hearts, remove the veil from our hearts, and give us the holy boldness to lovingly reach out to Muslims all around us, to show them that we see them, that we care for them, and that we want them to know Jesus, the Author and the perfecter of their faith if they would just give their lives to Him. Thank You for everyone listening today. Encourage us and challenge us to be a bold witness for You, Jesus. We pray in Your holy and resurrected name, amen. 

Everyone: Amen. 

Erin: Oh, Tom, JoAnn, I know it was a sacrifice of time and energy to be with us today. I'm so glad you did. Thank you.

Tom: We’re thrilled to be with you. Let's do a live one from the Middle East sometime. 

JoAnn: Yes. 

Erin: Okay. I'm in.

Dannah: I am in too. 

Conclusion: Worldwide “Christian Boom”

Dannah: Wow. I am definitely in for that episode of Grounded. My heart is so stirred. It was before we started, but I feel like our guests today through their gentleness, their gentle words, have really just been breaking down stereotypes I think that I may have had before—an indifference and a lack of understanding of how to pray. 

I hope you heard the same thing I did through Sabrina Aslan. I heard about the depth of heartache that women are facing there in Iran. Through Tat Stewart I heard what kind of hardship it is for those who are planting the gospel in Iran—incredible hardship that we cannot imagine. But now through Tom and JoAnn Doyle, what a joy to end with the true hope of how Jesus is moving. I can't help saying it, I guess because I'm a Chronicles of Narnia girl. It feels like Aslan is on the move.

Erin: Aslan is on the move, and He is causing revival. And what humanly speaking looks like a very dark spot on the map, God is sending revival. So, as we praise Him for that, we also want to cry out for continued revival in Iran. I'm not satisfied until those 85 million people know Jesus and have given their lives to Him. 

But we also want to cry out for revival where we live. We know you're watching from around the world. I want to read headlines about America's “Christian Boom.” I keep hearing that America's post-Christian, and I think, Not on my watch. I'm gonna pray for the Lord to revive us. Or, Canada’s “Christian Boom.”

Dannah: Yes, that American’s start to have dreams, that Americans start to say, “Who are you God?”

Erin: Yes, absolutely. Who is that man of the cross? South America's “Christian Boom,” everywhere around the world, because people in every nation, we all need the gospel. So, Lord, send revival to our globe.

Portia: Yes. Amen. Lord, send revival. Well, we're here to hand out hope and perspective. I definitely got a bucket of both of those this morning. It's been awesome. I'm sure everybody else is saying the same in the comments. I'm delighted. 

We want you to come back next week. My dear friend, Kim Cash Tate, will be with us and we'll be talking about what it means to claim to Jesus. So, let's wake up with hope together next week on Grounded.


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About the Hosts

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

Portia Collins

Portia Collins

Portia Collins is a Christian Bible teacher and writer/blogger who enjoys studying and teaching Scripture.  Portia is the founder of "She Shall Be Called" (SSBC), a women’s ministry centered on helping women understand and embrace true biblical womanhood through solid study of God's Word. To learn more about SSBC, visit  Portia and her husband, Mikhail, have a daughter and currently live in the Mississippi Delta. 

About the Guests

Sabrina Aslan

Sabrina Aslan

Sabrina was born and raised in Iran. She came to faith as a teenager and then finished theological studies in Tehran. After moving to the United States in 1996, she and her husband, Albert, served in two Assyrian congregations. Sabrina loves the global Farsi-speaking Church and now invests in edifying Farsi-speaking converts through teaching through FACT Ministries.  

No Photo Avaible for JoAnn Doyle

JoAnn Doyle

In 2017, God called Tom and JoAnn Doyle to begin a new ministry, Uncharted. With Uncharted Ministries’ vision to sound the alarm and inspire believers to join God’s great harvest among Jews and Muslims, Not Forgotten fit perfectly under this new umbrella.

JoAnn is also the guest on various national TV and radio programs such as Focus on the Family, Moody Radio, and Mission Network News. JoAnn was recently invited to host “Flourish,” a brand-new women’s TV program broadcasting the name of Jesus into Iran, home of the fastest growing church per capita which is predominantly led by women.

She and Tom co-authored Women Who Risk: Secret Agents for Jesus in the Muslim World, and Breakthrough: The Return of Hope to the Middle East.

No Photo Avaible for Tom Doyle

Tom Doyle

Tom’s experience in the heart of the Islamic Middle East is extensive. A gifted storyteller, Tom brings God's astounding work in these nations to light. Whether in his books, on television (FOX News, Glenn Beck, The 700 Club, 100 Huntley Street), on the radio (Focus on the Family, Janet Parshall Live, American Family Radio), at conferences (Epicenter, Passion, Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, Calvary Chapel, The Crescent Project), or in local churches, Tom shares fresh, compelling, and thought-provoking reports of God's activity. In 2020, Uncharted launched I Found the Truth. This powerful video ministry shares stories of former Muslims who now love Jesus passionately! Tom and JoAnn have six children and thirteen grandchildren.