Every single person that is part of SAT-7’s ministry has a unique story of how God’s love has become visible in their life. Husband and wife Petros and Shiva who work in the SAT-7 PARS studio in Limassol recently shared their testimony, which has been translated into English. We hope their story encourages everyone who reads it.
Shiva and Petros were both born in Iran. It has been 22 years since they moved to Cyprus. Back then, their older son was only one and a half years old. The family sought the West for similar reasons as many other Iranians over the years, namely to find improved job opportunities and seek to build a good future for their young family in a new country. When Shiva and Petros look back on the past decades and the path they walked together, a picture emerges that neither of them could have foreseen or imagined when they set off from their homeland in search of a new future. “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.
“When we came to Cyprus, we didn’t know anyone in this country,” says Petros. Sometime after arriving, 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 more and more 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, Petros wondered, 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 concluded that it would be good to continue attending church for some time, with the purpose of seeking truth.
At the time when Petros first started visiting the local Orthodox church, he didn’t know much Greek and therefore wondered how much of the priest’s teaching he would be able to understand. The concern was justified. 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!” is the only explanation Petros can give concerning his experience. After the service finished, 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 baptized.” Shiva, Petros, and their son were baptized 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 baptized] 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.
One of the biggest trials for Petros and Shiva and their two sons has had to do with Petros’ health. From 2011 to 2013, he struggled with serious heart problems that made it impossible for him to work and function as usual. “All the doctors said there is an 80 percent risk for an operation to end badly; therefore, no one wanted to perform the necessary intervention,” Petros explains. The doctor started contacting colleagues in other countries to find someone who could help in the difficult situation. He eventually found a heart surgeon in Geneva, Switzerland, renowned for his skill. After a period of communication between the doctors, the Swiss surgeon wanted to see Petros. So, the Iranian couple prepared to travel to Geneva for a possible operation.
Shiva and Petros recount how the events surrounding their meeting with the Swiss surgeon bore witness to the fingerprints of God’s grace in the midst of hardship. Shiva recalls how two women offered to move into the family home during the time she and Petros would be in Geneva. “They lived with our sons for two weeks and took very good care of them,” Shiva remembers. “They cooked, cleaned, and constantly drove our boys to school, activities and the gym.” Today, Shiva does not know the whereabouts of these two women. “They were like angels that God sent to us in our difficult situation.”
Additionally, God used several other people in the lives of the Iranian family during that difficult time. A stranger who heard about Petros’ situation and upcoming trip gave him a check and forwarded his phone number to one of his friends living in Geneva. This man, previously unknown to Petros and Shiva, met them at the airport, took them to his home, and arranged for Petros to have his own room in the hospital.
“We received financial support from churches both in Cyprus and Lebanon,” remember Petros and Shiva. “To this day, we don’t know who these people were who helped us.”
At the hospital in Geneva, the surgeon, who turned out to be a devout Christian, openly explained to Petros that he considered the chance of a successful operation to be less than ten percent. “For my own sake, I didn’t care if I died or not,” says Petros, “but I thought of Shiva and the children. How would they fare if I were gone?” On the other hand, Petros did not know how the family could continue as it was. Shiva was already toiling hard under her workload to support the family.
One evening as Petros was reading his Bible, he was confronted with Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew about not worrying about tomorrow. “I was forced to search my heart and ask myself if I really believed that God had my life in His hands,” explains Petros. He had made his decision, sent text messages to his friends, thanked them for their friendship and asked for forgiveness for anything he needed forgiveness for.
The next day, Petros received an abundance of messages from people all over the world who assured him that they were praying for him. When the doctor entered the room and asked if Petros was ready for the operation, he replied that he was. “I had put my family in God’s hands.”
In the operating room, he lay thinking about his life that had been and what was to come, whatever it was. “Then, in that moment, I saw Jesus,” says Petros. “The real Jesus. It wasn’t a dream. I saw him with my own eyes.” When Petros wants to explain the wonder that he experienced in his most difficult moment, the meeting with his Lord Jesus, it is as if words are not enough. “Everything was bright” is the only way to describe what he experienced on the operating table.
The operation lasted eight hours. One hour after the procedure was completed, Petros woke up, much sooner than most patients of this type of operation awaken. Doctors and nurses filled the operating room, eager to see the patient who had woken up so quickly and in perfect condition. “We have worked here for many years and have not seen anything like this,” they said. Shiva remembers how a nurse burst into tears and hugged her. “This is a miracle!” exclaimed the nurse. “If this is a miracle to you, how much more is it a miracle to me!” was Shiva’s reply.
The operation had taken place on December 11, 2013. At the congregation’s Christmas party ten days later, 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.
For Petros, the operation represents a clear turning point in his life. He is convinced that it was not for no reason that he was given additional time on earth. Today, both he 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.”