Susan and I recently listened to a book on tape called ARGO, the story of six Americans who escaped Iran in 1980 while 53 fellow Americans were held hostage in the U.S. Embassy. The attack on the American Embassy took place on November 4, 1979 during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Millions in Iran protested the protection our country gave the Shah of Iran, who fled his nation months earlier. He was diagnosed with cancer and was allowed to take refuge in the U.S., causing outrage in Iran where he was accused of many crimes. On January 20, 1981, immediately after Ronald Reagan took office as President and 444 days after being captured, the 53 hostages were released. ARGO is the story of those who escaped a year earlier.
After being rescued by Canadian diplomats during the November 4 attack, the six Americans were hidden in homes in Tehran for nearly three months. Tony Mendez, an operative in the CIA, used friends in Hollywood to devise a plan to create the cover of a Canadian film company visiting Iran to scout the location of a science fiction film. In 2012, Ben Affleck directed and starred in the movie called ARGO, which won three Oscars, including Best Picture. The book, also published in 2012, is much different from the movie as Tony Mendez details the people involved and the steps required to execute the incredible escape.
Remembering the hostage crisis from college days, my interest has been recently rekindled because of a missionary’s encouraging report of the number of people presently turning to Christ in the nation of Iran. Our son Taylors’s mother-in-law, Ruth, was the daughter of missionaries to Iran and lived in the country 10 years. Her older brother Tat was a one-year-old when the family moved there and he has ministered to Iranians most of his life. Tat, his wife and their two children were four of only 300 Americans living in Tehran during the fall of 1979. He visited the U.S. Embassy November 3, the day before the attack.
After being accused of being a spy and having his picture on the front page of a newspaper, Tat and his family left Iran during the summer of 1980. He had pastored Community Church of Tehran with only a handful of members. It is thought there were only 3,000 believers in the entire nation, though missionaries like Ruth’s parents from America and others from England had labored the previous two hundred years. Now Tat is one of several voices reporting that Iran may be the nation with the fastest growth of Christianity in the world. Some estimate there are anywhere between a half million to eight million followers of Jesus in the country, despite constant threat of persecution.
Fluent in three languages, Tat and his wife Emily have planted two Iranian churches in the States but reach multitudes in Iran, the Middle East, and Europe through the internet. Some of the young people they led during their years in Tehran serve as courageous leaders in the Body of Christ today. Incredibly, in 1980 it looked as if the Church in Iran was totally decimated. But after foreign missionaries left, Muslim-background believers carried and spread the flame of Christ. Such bold witnessing coupled with the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit through dreams, visions, and healings remind us that “with God, all things are possible.”
In a recent podcast, Tat encouraged Christians in our country to draw close to God, surrendering every area of life to Him. Revival often comes through times of difficulty. God desires every living soul to experience the life only Jesus can give. Let’s pray a hunger and thirst for His Kingdom and His righteousness overshadow the fear, discouragement, and hopelessness so prevalent today. May the world know: “Jesus reigns!”
“The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15
Happy New Year!
(Special Invitation: If you are interested in this story and implications for believers today, reply to this email and I will send details of a one-hour ZOOM meeting this evening (December 31, 2020). I believe we will all be encouraged in the Lord on this New Year’s Eve. Feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested…)