All was well at home until my brother and me became Christians in our teens. Before then, we had been a respectable Iranian family.

My parents were angry. My mum felt she had lost her sons. My Dad worried how he would look our relatives in the eye. They also knew the risks of converting in Iran and were scared.

Leading my sister to Christ was the last straw. My parents disowned me: Mum said she wouldn’t open the door to me again.

I was devastated by these broken relationships, but I knew I couldn’t turn back. Jesus had found me, and I was called to ministry. I threw myself into leadership training with Elam.

Later, I began planting house churches with a small team. Over five years, we planted 48 churches across 20 cities. Every month, we gave out thousands of scriptures and we saw so much thirst for the gospel. During all these years, I was praying for my parents.

It was Boxing Day 2010 when our churches were raided by Iran’s intelligence police. Knowing that all my fellow leaders had been caught, I turned myself in. I spent the next 361 days in solitary confinement, facing regular interrogation.

When I was finally moved to the main prison ward, it was such a surprise that Mum came to visit me. For 24 years, she had been a devout Muslim who had taught other ladies in the mosque, but now I could see she was broken. She later shared that she felt her life was sinking and she had nothing left to cling to. One day, while on the bus on the way to visit me, she prayed to Jesus. She said she felt peace for the first time in years.

My father also came to visit me in prison and he was so surprised to find that my face was happy, and my demeanour was calm. This prompted him to start considering Jesus again.

After five long years, I was released from prison. It was then that I learned that Mum and Dad had been reading the New Testament together. Soon after, I led them in prayer as they committed their lives to Christ. Then, after 20 years of intercession, I had the joy of baptising my parents.

If only for the salvation of my parents, I believe it was worth spending five years in prison.

Those years were dark in many ways, but when I look back, I do not see it as a dark period of my life. I remember it as a time when I experienced God’s faithfulness. People sometimes say to me, Well done, Farshid, for being faithful in prison,” but that’s not right. He was faithful to me.

I spent 1,820 days in prison. On each of those days, I thought about freedom. Over time, God gave me a wider perspective. Now, I am convinced that our calling as Christians is to stand up for the freedom of all, not only Christians. Moreover, I have come to see Christian ministry as largely a fight for freedom – a fight for freedom in Christ for those held captive by sin or the challenges and pain of life.

Today, I’m involved in training new church planters and evangelists for Iran. I am struck by how casually many of them talk about being arrested and interrogated. The church is growing faster than ever and the government is scrambling desperately to contain it, so being arrested for the gospel is a pretty common experience for this generation of leaders.

However, this shouldn’t be normal. It shouldn’t be normal for Persian-speaking Christians to have no safe place to worship. It shouldn’t be normal for Christians to be arrested and interrogated, and for some to face 10 years or more in prison. It shouldn’t be normal for it to be hard to get hold of the Bible.

That’s why I pray regularly that God would soften the hearts of Iran’s leaders to see the gospel for what it is: good news, not a threat. That’s why I pray for organisations that are fighting for religious freedom in Iran and beyond. Would you join me?

With eyes of faith, I anticipate days of greater freedom coming. While we wait, please pray that those who are called to suffer would experience the faithfulness of God like I did, and would afterwards be able to join me in concluding, it was worth it.”

In the first and fourth episodes of Elam’s new podcast ‘Jesus Speaks Farsi’, you can hear Farshid candidly share his reflections on his years in prison.