OM began serving in Iran in 1963 and, for 17 years, teams crisscrossed the country sharing the gospel. Partnering with local churches and international mission agencies in these efforts, OM workers were often arrested and deported. In 1979, when the Khomeini Islamic revolution took place, the OM team evacuated, leaving behind tons of Bibles and other Christian resources for the local church. At the time, there were only 300-400 known Iranian believers from a Muslim background.
Today, church leaders guess there are over one million followers of Christ inside Iran. “The growth of the church in Iran is, without question, one of the most unexpected surprises in the last 1,400 years of missions,” Stuart*, an OM leader, says.
This tremendous growth is the work of the Holy Spirit. One local church leader says the literature left behind “launched some of the greatest opportunities we ever had to distribute the good news as we daily sold and distributed the Word of God openly on the streets for the next few years reaching thousands of Muslims and then started a literature ministry that continued for years.” OM also supported the local church by archiving and preserving Christian resources translated into Farsi outside of Iran. When the secret police raided the church and confiscated all of their materials, OM helped repackage the resources onto thousands of flash drives and SD cards, making them available once again to the growing church.
Today, discipleship and leadership training are critical needs for this exploding movement. “Seventy-five % of Iranians are under 30 years of age,” Stuart explains. “There's this huge generation that's looking for freedom. They have the internet, they have satellite TV, they see the rest of the world, and yet they're stuck inside Iran.” The online Christian resources and translated leadership development materials are key to seeing many of these young people find hope and joy for the future. OM has partnered to help produce and distribute the Bible and New Testaments, as well as Christian resources for discipleship and leadership development, through social media and websites.
“It's interesting that the first few books that were downloaded the fastest and that went viral, were on 'How do we overcome grief and trauma?' and ‘How do we overcome guilt and shame?’,” Stuart shares. “We're finding, as we address some of the issues that are exacerbated by the oppressive government and the trauma caused by the Iraq/Iran war, that people are hungry – and that in the middle of all this hopelessness, people are continuing to turn to the Lord.”
In the past few months, about 40,000 books OM translated for evangelism and discipleship were downloaded from the OM web site, www.farsilibrary.com, by Iranians inside Iran and around the world.