By Rev. Derek Mathers
On a Sunday in March, 22 individuals were baptized into the family of God at the Church of St. Luke – Lutheran in Toronto, Ontario – an English District congregation of the LCMS. The individuals are Persians from Iran and they are facing the altar so they cannot be identified outside the congregation – which shares their concern for family members still living in Iran who might be in danger because they have converted to Christianity. Mr. Daryoush Bahrami, Servant leader of the Persian Fellowship, and Pastor Derek Mathers, are facing the camera.
How does it happen that 127 adults and children have come to be baptized at St. Luke over the past three years? One testimony unfolds like this.
Imagine going on vacation to another country overseas for a couple of months with your family. While travelling and seeing the sights, you receive news from friends and family that security officers of your home country’s government have entered your home on the suspicion that you have become a follower of Jesus. In their search, the officers find the only Bible you own – a gift from the leader of the underground Christian fellowship you are attending once a month. Now you and your family are facing prison if you return to your home.
You apply for refugee status in the country you are visiting. You attend a Christian congregation which has a fellowship group that speaks in your language. You can hear God’s Word openly and freely without fear every week. God’s Spirit draws you closer to Jesus Christ and you ask the question, can I be baptized? Following instruction, together with 21 others, you receive God’s grace through baptism amidst sounds of celebration and clapping. You are anointed with oil, receive salt on your tongue, and a new cross is placed around your neck. You have received the gift of new life. But the question remains, will you be allowed to stay in this country?”
Of the 127 baptized people at St. Luke, some are now citizens of Canada and many are in the process of waiting for a judgement from the Refugee Board of Canada. For a few, this process has been going on for three years. It is our prayer that these few will soon be citizens – and they have our continued support.
Rev. Mathers is the Assistant to the Bishop/Mission Executive of the English District Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. If you have a mission or ministry story you’d like to share, please submit for consideration via email to Lynne at firstname.lastname@example.org.