Greetings, Reader Friends! David Telbat here to wish you a Happy New Year!
A friend recently asked me what foreign Christians might think of all the energy and money we American Christians put into ourselves, especially this time of year, rather than centering on Christ. Perhaps the following story can help us gain some insight. I trust all of you have enjoyed the holiday season, and that your festivities have kept Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, at the center. God bless you all. Enjoy this New Year’s story–
No Better Holiday
by D.I. Telbat
Jeremy Knox peeked through a crack in his Iranian prison cell door. Out in the corridor, the guards were watching television again. Occasionally, he could hear the buzz of a bad digital signal but he couldn’t quite see the screen itself.
This was Jeremy’s fourth New Year’s Eve in the dark levels of the prison—a prison that had only a number for a name, as far as he knew. He’d been arrested in Tehran. His charge had involved anti-Muslim propaganda against the state, but he’d really only been an American tourist.
Placing his ear to the crack in the door, Jeremy smiled and closed his eyes at the sound of English on the TV. The guards had changed the channel and were now watching an American channel. The ball in New York City was about to drop.
Four years earlier, Jeremy might have been among the partiers in Times Square. He might have held up a cocktail and toasted to some resolution he’d forget two weeks later. But that was the Jeremy of then. Today, he had newer priorities, and the Iranian Secret Police had helped him become a new man.
“Are you guys ready yet?” Jeremy asked his cellmates without turning around.
“Not yet,” Brother Tahib answered. “A few more minutes.”
Brother Tahib and three others shared the small cell with Jeremy. As Jeremy listened to the television—hearing English for the first time in years—Tahib and two others helped one of their cellmates bathe, using a trickle of water from the wall. The man was an invalid now, the victim of many sessions with the Secret Police. But the man’s spirit hadn’t been broken. He hadn’t denied his Lord Jesus.
Sometime in the future, Jeremy knew the time would arrive when he would be that man being helped by his cellmates. The interrogations had grown much worse. However, he wouldn’t complain against the treatment. It was this treatment that had opened his eyes to the Savior in the first place.
Having been raised in a Christian home, Jeremy had rebelled and run away from the church. Jesus and the Cross were stories he had known well, but stories he hadn’t felt like personalizing back then. His arrest, of course, changed his focus.
While Americans were struggling to send out missionaries to other countries of the world, Jeremy had raised a little money to do some sight-seeing. After being falsely accused of being a smuggler of Christian literature, he had met actual Christian Iranians who were already in prison!
There was some irony to the whole situation, Jeremy even now recalled. He knew the Bible better than the Iranian Christians in the cell with him, but they had been the ones who led him to Christ. If there had once been an opportunity to leave the prison, to contact his family, to live a “normal” life again—Jeremy had ruined it by his zealous preaching these last four years. Over twenty men and two guards had received Christ since Iran had put him away mistakenly.
Brother Tahib touched Jeremy’s shoulder, and Jeremy realized then that they had been calling out to him.
Jeremy turned and smiled. It was New Year’s Eve in America, and the ball was about to drop in New York City. It was also New Year’s Eve in Iran, but the men in Jeremy’s cell didn’t place much significance in it. To them, this was another day they could share the Bible stories they could still remember from when they had last read the Bible—for some of them, it had been many years ago.
To Jeremy’s amusement, he’d lost track of the days and weeks, so hearing that it was almost a New Year was a bit of a surprise. Though reminded of a holiday season with the family back home—who surely believed him dead—Jeremy now saw every day as a holiday. Any day when Jesus could be shared with broken hearts was a holiday.
Sitting in a circle with his cellmates—the disabled man lying next to them so he could also hear—Jeremy began to tell the story of Joseph and Mary, and a wicked king who did his best to destroy the Savior of the world.
In the back of his mind, Jeremy thought he could still hear the TV, and the ball dropping. But he said nothing to these men. They were more intent on memorizing the stories Jeremy had known since his childhood—before the guards would force them to change cells, and Jeremy would be given another captive audience.
“Tell us again about the wise men,” Brother Tahib requested. He leaned forward with anticipation. “Do you really think they could have been Persian?”
Jeremy, in their own tongue, told of the wise men from the east. The hope of glory in the men’s eyes confirmed what he already knew quite well: Jeremy wouldn’t rather be anywhere else but sharing such Good News with these men on this night. For him, there was no better holiday.
Let’s keep praying for real Persecuted Christians being held in Iran and other countries. Visit the PrisonerAlert site to learn more.
David wrote custom covert adventure short stories for recent contest winners. “Tunnel Vision” features Brenda as protagonist, and “Counting the Cost” features Ralph’s son, Royce. You can find other custom stories here.