Persian ministry fuels couple’s future service abroad
Lauren Pratt | December 17, 2018
Whether sharing a meal in a home or spending hours of fellowship and Bible study together, *Azah and Haley see their ministry with Persians living in Raleigh-Durham to be of great value as they prepare to serve long-term in Central Asia.
“I’ve learned so much more through actually sitting down with people and having face-to-face conversations,” said Haley, a former student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).
It was in 2015 that Kambiz Saghaey, director of the Persian Leadership Development Initiative at SEBTS, met Haley after a SEBTS chapel service at which he spoke. Haley connected Saghaey and Azad while he was living in Denver and working with Iranians. After moving to Wake Forest to pursue a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies at SEBTS, Azad began helping Kambiz start up a non-profit ministry called Mojdeh, a ministry which launched in 2017 and currently has more than 800 Farsi-speakers receiving theological education all over the world.
Through this connection, Saghaey has had the privilege of watching Azad grow as he has served for the past two years at a Friday night Bible study. The Bible study was started 17 years ago by Pastor Assad Hoshemi and continues to this day with around 30 or 40 in attendance every week, most of whom are unbelievers.
Azad translates the Bible study from Farsi to English and consistently shares the gospel with non-Christian Farsi-speakers.
“The most important thing for any minister is to have a heart and passion for the people they are going to work with,” said Saghaey. “… [Azad] has a heart for lost people. In any situation, he uses this [it] to share the gospel,” he said.
Kambiz as well has helped lead worship and translate for the Bible study, noting it as a great ministry opportunity as he is able to visit with people outside of Bible study to further answer questions about Jesus.
“I feel like us being able to serve so much and do so much ministry alongside school has been so good,” said Azad, noting that approximately 7,000 Farsi-speakers reside in Raleigh-Durham, including Iranians, Afghanis and Tajiks. “Everything we learn in our classes [has] made it so much more real and applicable as we’ve been able to do those things.”
It was not until high school that Haley began to see that Christianity was a holistic heart and life transformation. This life change came for Haley when she began to see the model of Christianity lived out in her youth pastor and his wife. Through this model and through studying the Bible, Haley accepted Christ as a young teenager.
“The Lord really used their family to show me that Christianity changes you and it’s something that’s real, not just a religion that you claim,” said Haley.
For Azad, who is Iranian-American, his conversion did not come until college when a classmate invited him to attend a Bible study. However, the influence of an older deacon whom he called “Uncle Jimmy” had a tremendous influence on his life as a senior in high school. At this point in his life, Azad’s parents had divorced, and his dad was getting ready to take a job in Dubai. Jimmy, who was a close friend of Azad’s father, offered to house Azad until he graduated from high school. His father agreed and during this time, Jimmy brought Azad to church every time the doors were open. He experienced rich community within the youth group, a major reason that he decided to pursue finding a church in college, even though he had not yet become a believer. A classmate invited him to a Bible study in his apartment and that is when Azad encountered the reality of the gospel.
“I was really just going to meet people and have that community,” said Azad. “Seeing their faith lived out was huge … I decided to follow Jesus through that Bible study.”
Through the influence others have had on them, Azad and Haley want to influence Persians for Christ in The Triangle and to the ends of the earth.
Earlier this year, the couple traveled to Central Asia with SEBTS to partner with an International Mission Board team working with Persian people. The trip was discipleship-driven, with the goal of SEBTS students coming alongside nationals to encourage and pray for them as they shared their faith.
“I thought it was going to be a scary place, but it was probably my favorite place I’ve ever been,” said Haley, explaining that their calling to serve in Central Asia was further confirmed through the trip. “… hearing about their work and how many Iranians that they’re reaching, how many people are downloading the Bible and making decisions and all that was super encouraging.”
Azad and Haley feel that their education at SEBTS paired with hands-on ministry in Raleigh-Durham has equipped them for their future ministry overseas. One class in particular that greatly shaped Azad’s approach to missions was his contextualization class in which he learned how to deconstruct his beliefs to see how much culture plays into his faith.
Through theological education and spiritual transformation, Azad and Haley not only continue to serve the nations in their own backyard but one day hope to extend that influence around the world.
*Names changed for security reasons
*Photo courtesy of IMB at https://www.imb.org/?p=27869.
From our local community to the outermost parts of the world, Southeastern students and alumni are reaching people with the gospel by fulfilling the Great Commission. Using the model of Acts 1:8, we want to highlight these stories of how our Southeastern family is serving in North Carolina, North America and around the world. Acts 1:8 Stories create a collective and consistent way to tell the story of Southeastern, one person at a time. From local pastors to missionaries among the unreached, God is doing a great work among students and alumni. Where are they now and where are they going? We can’t wait for you to find out!