We serve Christians around the world whose brave faith in Jesus means they are, beaten, threatened, imprisoned, tortured, falsely accused, disowned and hated.

“I STARTED TO KNOW LOVE”: SARA’S STORY

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When Sara* became a Christian, her father said: “I would have preferred if you ran away with a man to get married, and not done this,” he told her. 

It’s hard for many of us to understand quite what a brutal statement this is. Being from a Muslim family in Iraq, Sara’s dad was effectively disowning her – calling her worthless. It was terribly painful for a young woman who had always enjoyed a close and loving bond with her dad to hear. She says, “I felt very scared and shocked, as my father has always been kind to me.”

Finding Jesus as a teenager

Sara grew up in a Muslim home, but faith wasn’t discussed much. She hadn’t expected such a strong response, especially since her father didn’t regularly read the Quran or go to the local mosque. Sara grew up in a neighbourhood with many Christian families – before conflict and Islamic extremist violence caused many believers to flee. And Sara has always been curious.

When Sara was 15, she decided to go to church with her Christian best friend – just to find out more. The security guard on the door wouldn’t let her in. Muslims weren’t allowed. In Iraq, anybody converting from Islam to Christianity is likely to face significant pressure – and anybody encouraging Muslims to convert is equally vulnerable. Sara’s presence in the church could have caused them danger.

But Sara’s curiosity wasn’t thwarted. Her friend gave her a Bible, and she eagerly read it. “I felt confused about what I read,” she remembers. “Many questions started building up in my head: how can God have a son? What does it mean that Jesus died for my sins?” She went to her father for answers – but he refused to discuss it. “Leave it, and don’t read it anymore,” he demanded. But she couldn’t stop.

Rejection by family

Despite these obstacles, Sara continued to explore Christianity. Her friend taught her the Lord’s Prayer, and Sara started praying and worshipping. Eventually, she decided to give her life to Jesus. It was so transformative that she wanted to share her new faith. She was excited to tell her parents about Jesus. She took a chance during a family dinner.

“God loves you, and He wants you to come to Him.” Those are the words she shared – and that’s when her dad first showed her his anger. He flipped the dinner table over. “All this time you are asking about Christianity, I thought it was just some teenage phase,” he shouted. “But apparently I did not raise you right!”

Sara was put under house arrest immediately. Her dad took her phone and locked her in her bedroom without food. “Let’s see how your God will get you out,” he taunted her. Sara wasn’t allowed out for ten days.

GOD PROTECTS SARA

Sara’s father put her under house arrest and organised for her to be married to a Muslim man against her will – but on the day of the wedding, she was miraculously rescued. After refusing to go home, she was a vulnerable single woman in Iraq’s conservative culture. God protected her, but she was anxious and worried, until she was in a restaurant and shared her story with the owner. It turned out he was also a Christian, and took Sara in as part of his family.

Throughout all her ordeals, Sara never stopped believing God would support and comfort her. He has been her true Father, when her earthly father disowned her. She even found out that her father had erased her name from the family record. Losing her family continues to be extraordinarily painful for Sara, but she still knows that choosing to follow Jesus was and is the right decision.

“Before knowing Christ, my life was empty,” she says. “I didn’t have the joy and peace that I have now in my heart. Yes, in my old life all material things were provided. But I had no real stability.

“After I found Christ, my life transformed completely. I started to know love.” Despite what she’s experienced, Sara praises God. “I am grateful for all the bad things and experiences I’ve been through. I got to know Him better, and I was transformed into His image. I have never regretted the decision I made.”

Open Doors support

Today, Sara is thriving on a discipleship course for women, run by an Open Doors funded Centre of Hope in Iraq. “My ministry is to taxi drivers,” she says. “I talk with them about God and distribute Kurdish Bibles to them.” Her prayer is that she’ll be able to change her legal status – a very difficult barrier in Iraq: “My hope and dream is that I get an identity card that says I am a Christian; that I belong to Him in my ID as well.”

Show Sara she’s valued today

Sara’s future can look more hopeful, thanks to the ongoing support of people like you. She now has a new family – at the Centre of Hope, but also Open Doors supporters around the world. There are countless other women and girls in Iraq and many other countries who need the same help.

People told Sara that she was worthless. There will always be persecutors to tell Christian women that they’re worthless. Today, will you show women like Sara that they are valued?

PRAY NOW...
1

For Sara’s prayers for a new ID card declaring her a Christian to be answered

3

That local Open Doors partners would find strength, joy and wisdom as they offer themselves as Jesus’s hands and feet.

2

That each persecuted Christian woman around the world would be seen, valued and empowered to reach her God-given potential

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