Following Jesus leads to finding refuge in Spain

After worshiping secretly in Iran, their life now is a 'new experience of freedom'

Jan 18, 2016 by and

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Koroush and his mother, Maryam — refugees from Iran now living in Spain — lost everything but believe they have what they need with Jesus.

“I saw the Jesus miracles with my own eyes,” Koroush said.

(To protect the family’s safety, this article does not use their real names.)

Maryam, Connie Byler and Koroush enjoy tea at the Byler home. Once living comfortable lives in Iran, Maryam and her son, Koroush, now are following Jesus with a Mennonite community in Spain. — Dennis Byler/MMN

Maryam, Connie Byler and Koroush enjoy tea at the Byler home. Once living comfortable lives in Iran, Maryam and her son, Koroush, now are following Jesus with a Mennonite community in Spain. — Dennis Byler/MMN

He said that when Maryam began to pray — after deciding to follow Christ — his grandfather, who was gravely ill, slowly got well. His aunt, who couldn’t get pregnant, became pregnant.

And they, Koroush and Mary­am, were able to escape from Iran, though it was very hard.

They have found a community with Comunidad Anabautista Unidas, the Mennonite church in Burgos, Spain.

In Iran, Maryam and her family led a pleasant life. They were from an educated, middle-class background, and Maryam worked in a hospital where she was very much loved. Eighteen-year-old Koroush enjoyed conveniences such as a smartphone, going to parties and being with friends. When he looked toward the future, he hoped to study pharmacy in a university in Europe and return to his country to begin his own business.

However, around two years ago, Maryam became depressed after her family faced some medical and economic challenges.

“At the same time, I felt belittled simply for being a woman, and began to resent the teachings that promoted that way of thinking,” Maryam said.

She didn’t feel at peace or that her prayers were being answered. She felt trapped, lacking the freedom to decide what to wear or what to think.

A co-worker noticed she was not acting like herself. This person revealed she was a Christian and shared her testimony.

Maryam immediately decided to follow Jesus too, and her life changed. Soon, five family members also accepted Jesus. Together with a small group of other followers, they met on Sundays in the evening, taking turns in varying safe-houses. During their meetings, they spoke in hushed voices as they studied stories from the Bible. When able, they would sometimes sing and often would watch Persian-language Christian TV.

Discovery and escape

One night, Maryam and Koroush were on their way to a worship meeting — running a little late — when they saw two police vehicles in front of the secret meeting house. They knew they had been discovered. After a phone call to a close family member, they went into hiding. After traveling and hiding in six locations, they arrived in Spain, hoping to continue on to Great Britain.

After a few days in Madrid, Koroush said, “We were not allowed to travel anymore. It was frightening to be discovered at the airport with false passports and to be taken aside. And even more frightening to spend the night in a cell, not understanding the language and not knowing what was going to happen. The following morning, we had to go to court, and the judge gave us political asylum.”

The Spanish authorities connected them with a Spanish nongovernmental organization, which supports and resettles refugees.

Loud but comfortable

Now Maryam and Koroush are kept busy through connections to the community and their church. Their time is filled with language study, cultural classes and building new relationships.

“People in Spain are incredible,” Maryam said. “We can trust them easily, as they are usually honest, very friendly, relaxed, talkative and like to be helpful. People are comfortable not following all the rules, just trying to achieve a better life.”

Maryam and Koroush feel that their needs are completely taken care of.

“In our culture when we help a person, he or she helps back when possible, and that is what we do,” Koroush said. “We are getting much help here.”

Connie Byler, a Mennonite Mission Network worker in Spain, said members of Comunidad Anabau­tista Unidas have been making Maryam and Koroush feel loved and welcomed.

“The church has come together in giving Spanish lessons and reaching out in friendship and hospitality,” she said.

Maryam calls the church “a new, different experience of freedom. The singing is loud, but we feel very comfortable.”

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