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Tutor’s gift of Scripture later draws Muslim to Christ

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Afshin Ziafat knows firsthand how even the most gentle exposure to Christianity early in life can bear fruit. In 1980, when he and other Iranian-Americans were experiencing persecution because of the Iran hostage crisis, a Christian tutor gave the young Muslim boy a New Testament.

“She said, ‘Afshin, you won’t understand this book, but I want you to hold on to it and read it later in your life.”

Ziafat rediscovered that book as a senior in high school and eventually made a life-altering decision to follow Christ. Now a college evangelism associate for the North American Mission Board, Ziafat shared his testimony with NAMB trustees during the board’s Oct. 3 meeting in Alpharetta, Ga.

As Muslims around the world are dealing with the repercussions of recent terrorist acts, he said, the time may be right for God to reach others like himself.

“I believe we can impact many people with the love of Christ at this time, and I think that’s what impacted me,” he said. “I’m so glad that there was a second-grade teacher who loved me enough, in the midst of hate, to give me a Bible and lead me to Christ.”

After having grown up in a devout Muslim home, Ziafat said he became curious in high school about Christianity. After some searching he found the New Testament in his closet.

“I opened it up to the first book of the New Testament, Matthew, and I read the whole book in one sitting. And God just developed a hunger in my heart to keep reading,” Ziafat said. He later accepted Christ during a Jay Strack evangelistic campaign.

Like many other former Muslims, however, his decision bore huge consequences. His father, a prominent leader in the local Muslim community, finally discovered the decisions Afshin had been hiding.

“He said, ‘If you are going to be a Christian, you cannot be my son,'” Ziafat said. “And it hit me like a ton of bricks, because here’s a God I’ve only known a year and a half and here’s my dad, my hero. And I want you to know that I was ready to throw up my hands and say, ‘Forget it. I’m a Muslim.'”

But Ziafat surprised himself by telling his father that if forced to choose between his earthly father and his heavenly Father, he would choose Jesus. It was only later that night that God led him to Matthew 10, where Jesus says, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men I will disown him before my father in heaven.”

From that point, Ziafat said God started doing “amazing things” in his life, including providing a roommate who also was a former Muslim, tuition support for seminary and an opportunity to develop a nationwide speaking ministry on the staff of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. Even the relationship with his father, he said, improved.

“So I just want to encourage you that we have a God who is faithful, even in the midst of persecution,” Ziafat said, adding that he remains confident that God can draw other Muslims to himself as well.

“I just know that there are many Muslims who live their life in fear of God — not the holy fear we read about in our Bible, but the fear that God will condemn them if they don’t do enough good deeds,” Ziafat said. “But as Christian leaders we must remember to tell our people that we have the greatest power at our disposal. And that’s the love of Jesus Christ.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: AFSHIN ZIAFAT.

    About the Author

  • James Dotson