Article of the week: Brothers in Christ
25 September 2021
FEATURE I A warm Winsford welcome
Major Gareth Dickens (Winsford) celebrates the welcoming of new Iranian adherents at the corps
ON 15 August we at the corps had the enormous pleasure of welcoming seven adherents, all of whom came to the UK as asylum seekers. Over the past 18 months, they linked up with us in person and via our weekly Sunday afternoon Zoom meetings, held in Farsi and English.
The corps has been offering support to asylum seekers for more than two years, with a number from Iran, in particular, becoming actively involved in volunteering and supporting regular activities.
In July 2020 some of the Iranian asylum seekers were moved to accommodation away from Winsford but wanted to keep in contact and share in prayer. As a result, Corps Treasurer Jean Craven started Sunday afternoon prayer meetings on Zoom, with two asylum seekers translating into Farsi and music support from other corps members.
The Zoom meetings have since evolved further. Still led by Jean, Joy and Nigel Turner provide music and technical support and I share a Bible message. We include Farsi worship videos as well. More than 30 individuals have joined these online meetings, with many actively participating in prayer and Bible reading. A Farsi WhatsApp group was also established for members to share prayer and supportive Scripture verses.
Several of the group were Christians in Iran and their faith has been a significant factor in their seeking asylum. Others have come to faith on their journey or through the witness of other Iranian Christians.
For some of the seven new adherents, the welcome ceremony was their first opportunity to worship at the corps in person because of the distance they have to travel. Despite this, they are all very firm in their faith and were keen to witness to it publicly. The meeting included worship videos in Farsi or with Farsi subtitles.
Rad, who helps with the translation into Farsi for the Zoom meetings, gave his testimony in both languages.
‘A friend of mine, who is Armenian, with his comforting words gave me understanding and talked about God and the relationship between the Son and the Father,’ he explained. ‘He gave me a book. When I read that book I was very motivated and curious about Christianity and the Holy Spirit. That book was about trusting in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
‘If you ask him, he will give it to you. If you knock on the door, the door will open to you. Then I was introduced to an Iranian priest and the conversations I had with him put me on the path of life and enlightenment. It was then I found the meaning of the way to live in peace and communication with God.
‘In my country the sentence of someone who changes his religion is death. This is how problems arose for me and I was forced to flee my country and my family.
‘When I arrived in England, I was greeted warmly by the people and members of the church in the town of Hoylake, and later on in Winsford. I want to thank God for getting me to know about the Salvation Army church. I pray that God will protect all members of the church in the name of Jesus.’
After the meeting a feast of wonderful Iranian food was prepared by friends of the new adherents, which was shared by all present, including about 20 Iranians who regularly join the Zoom meetings.
More people from the Zoom fellowship have expressed an interest in becoming adherents and cementing their links with The Salvation Army.
One of the new adherents later shared a message in the WhatsApp group: ‘The love I got from being with you was unparalleled. I am happy to be with you in the Salvation Army family. Thank you for the beautiful moments and memories you created for me.’
One soldier, a former sailor with experience in the Persian Gulf War, was overheard greeting each of the new adherents after the meeting by saying: ‘We’re all brothers now!’