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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Mania Masoudi: "Safe in the arms of God."

Living in the oppressed culture of Iran, Mania had no hope and no future as a woman. Then one day, God brought a special person into her life that would take her on an incredible journey to a living hope in Christ. Mania's incredible story will be featured in my book, "Dear God, please bring freedom to Iran."

               Growing up in Tehran, Mania’s childhood memories were not filled with the laughter and innocence of a normal girl as typical of so many, but rather they were filled with the painful memories of a culture that was oppressive to women. Her family was not religious, but Muslim in name only, and from the very beginning Mania had no interest in reading the Quran or practicing Islam. She was offended by the way her culture treated women. Men and women were not equal but segregated. The husband treated his wife as a possession and she had no other alternative but to obey. He had the freedom to marry up to four wives, but she must remain submissive and obedient to his every sexual desire. The wife could not travel alone and had to have the husband’s permission for everything she did. She was forced to wear a hijab when going out publicly and was constantly under the scrutiny and control of her husband.

                When Mania observed on a daily basis how dominating and controlling Islam was, especially to women, she decided that if this is who God really is, then she didn’t want to have anything to do with him. She was saddened by the way women were treated like birds in a cage, with no choice and no freedom. For Mania, Islam was a religion of fear that gave men total control over a woman. She felt trapped in a culture of oppression and discrimination with no way out and no future for her as a woman.

            Hearing the tragic news of her brother suffering a stroke while serving in the Iranian army brought more misery and sadness into Mania’s already troubled world. Now she had the difficult task of helping her mother be a caretaker for Milad who was partially paralyzed. Each day she had to help him shower and dress. Overwhelmed by feelings of worthlessness, Milad tried twice to commit suicide, but fortunately was unsuccessful. Watching her brother emotionally deteriorate everyday caused Mania to sink deeper into her own darkness of depression.

            Learning to play the piano became a serious passion for Mania as she tried to cope with the sadness and depression that dominated her life. Her parents hired a personal piano teacher to give her daily lessons. When Mania was introduced to Rambod, she was immediately impressed by his kind and gentle spirit. Unlike Mania, Rambod was a religious man, and he loved to talk about his faith. He was a Christian that belonged to the Armenian Church, a church that had been shut down by the government. Rambod eagerly shared his faith in Christ with Mania. Even though Mania had completely given up on God and religion, she found herself being drawn to what Rambod said and was curious in learning more.

            Rambod invited Mania to church and she was shocked to discover that instead of meeting in a huge cathedral building, that instead his group met in a small house. Rambod was part of the house church movement in Iran which was constantly under the surveillance of the government. Christianity was not a welcome religion in Iran. It was against the law for Muslims to convert to Christ and if caught they would be arrested, imprisoned, and in some cases put to death.

            While attending one of the house church meetings, Mania confided in Rambod about her brother’s paralysis and together they prayed for him to be healed. Two days later, Mania’s world was transformed forever! Milad had been miraculously healed and could now dress himself and take showers. He was no longer paralyzed! Mania was astonished by what appeared to be a miraculous answer to prayer and this amazing event compelled her to become a Christian.

            Mania’s life had radically changed! She had discovered a God who gave her hope and a future. He was not a God of fear or violence, but rather a God she could talk directly to and feel his love. Most importantly she discovered that the God of Christianity treated women with respect and compassion. However, the good times did not last very long. One evening, government agents burst through the doors and began arresting the Christians during their worship service. Panic-stricken, Mania quickly escaped through a back door and fled down the street toward her home. It would be the last time that she ever saw her dear friend Rambod.
            The very next day at
 her photography studio, Mania received a frantic phone call from her mother. The Police had been at their home looking for her. Her mother instructed her to immediately leave Tehran and go to a friend’s house where she would be safe until the heat died down. After staying at her friend’s home in the countryside, once again her mother called. This time the news was even worse! Her father had been arrested. It was no longer safe for her to remain in Iran. Arrangements had been made by her mother for her to meet a man who would take her to the airport and smuggle her out of Iran.

            Frantic with the fear of being arrested and put in prison, Mania followed her mother’s instructions, and rode with the strange man to the airport. Within a few hours they were airborne and enroute to London. Mania was amazed of how smoothly everything was going. She had not been stopped by the police for questioning, but instead had made a miraculous exit from a country that was looking for her because she was now a Christian!
            After landing at Heathrow Airport in London, the man that had accompanied her mysteriously vanished! She was now all alone, in a strange country, exhausted, and shaking with fear. Unsure of what do next, Mania introduced herself to the airport staff and explained that she had escaped from Iran because the government was going to arrest her. Mania was now a refugee, an illegal alien knocking at the back door of the UK pleading for asylum.

            The Airport staff transported her to at Detention Center Zone temporarily until she could be properly processed. The detention zone was a frightening place filled with strange men and Mania quickly discovered that she was the only woman there! The overnight stay was one of the most frightening experiences of her life. She couldn’t sleep, shaking with fear, that at any second, she would be raped by one of the strange men. It felt almost like being back in Iran!

            Three days later, after being ill from the horrible food and the fear of being raped, Mania was finally transferred to Stockport City in Manchester. Stockport City quickly became like heaven on earth to her. It was a huge hotel with much better sleeping conditions and much better food. During her hotel stay, an extensive background check was done on Mania and she successfully passed. Now she qualified for the next step in the process. She was transferred to Liverpool and applied for a formal application as an asylum seeker.

            Since 2015, Mania has been living in Glasgow, Scotland in a government furnished flat with two rooms and a lovely roommate from Nigeria. In January 2017, she was officially baptized and became a member of the Easter House Baptist Church. Reflecting back on the incredible events that have transformed her life in the past three years, Mania summarizes everything with one word, “Grateful."

            Mania is grateful to God for her new life, because now she has hope. When she lived in Iran, she was bitter, depressed, and without hope. She had no future, but Christ has given her hope and a future. Her heart is filled with gratitude that her life was miraculously spared. Instead of being tortured in a dirty prison in Iran, she is instead studying for the future at a university in the Scotland. Mania was attracted to Christianity by its love. The God of Christianity filled her heart with love instead of fear and gave her hope and forgiveness instead of depression and despair. Mania describes her present situation as, “safe in the arms of God.”