By Rudee Becerra —
Growing up in Iran, Padina memorized the Quran before she started school. She faithfully recited her prayers every day.
“I hated Christians and I became very happy when I found out that they were being persecuted. They always told us that if they killed a Christian, we had a one way ticket to heaven,” she told Hormoz Shariat, president of Iran Alive Ministries.
She was fastidious about applying the Quran to her life. If she forgot the ceremonial washing before prayer, she would stop mid-prayer, go back and wash correctly and start all over again.
“I was a very strong Islamic believer,” she affirmed.
But all her religious piety was in vain. She grew depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide.
“I felt so distant from Allah,” she confided to Hormoz.
Meanwhile, her mother, afflicted by multiple sclerosis, grew deathly ill.
Padina confided to her mother about her suicidal tendencies. Instead of discouraging her, she shocked Padina by asking her to kill her also — a double suicide!
“I will do this for you, and we will both die,” she told her.
But then one day, mom in her deathbed tuned in to the satellite broadcast of Hormoz Shariat, who has been called the “Billy Graham of Iran.”
“If you are hopeless, if you are oppressed, if you are planning to commit suicide, the Lord says, ‘Stop.’ He has a hope and a future for you,” Hormoz said on the broadcast. “If you’re planning to kill yourself, stop and call me right now.”
Padina’s mother was so desperate that she didn’t care that Islam punishes with death those who convert to Christianity. She didn’t care that the Koran dooms all “apostates” to hell. She didn’t care, so she dialed.
After conversing for half an hour with Hormoz, she repented of her sins and received Jesus into her heart with the prayer of faith.
Meanwhile, her daughter was watching from the kitchen with alarm.
“I was furious,” Padina recalled.
She began to attack her mother.
“Why in the last minutes of your life you decide to do this?” she accused. “Now you’re going to hell.”
Mom begged Padina to get on the line and converse with Hormoz.
“Jesus can do nothing,” Padina retorted. “Jesus is nothing. I will not blaspheme by speaking to this infidel.”
Mom broke down in tears. She still hadn’t hung up.
Seeing her mother in tears, Padina relented and picked up the receiver.
She spoke coldly. “I’m going to kill myself,” Padina told Hormoz. “And your Jesus cannot do anything for me.”
Hormoz begged and pleaded with her for an hour to no avail.
“You said it yourself: Allah has done nothing for you. Give Jesus just one chance,” he implored, and then, gambling on divine intervention, he tried to buy time. “You can always kill yourself next week.”
Hormoz had thrown down the gauntlet, and “giving Jesus one week” intrigued Padina.
“When he gave me this challenge, I thought, ‘This is the best way I can serve Allah’ this one last time before I commit suicide,” Padina said.
She countered Hormoz with an ultimatum.
“Ok, I’ll pray,” she told Hormoz. “And next week at this time, if Jesus has not done anything for me, I’ll call live on the air, and I’ll tell everybody, ‘Look, I tried Jesus for a week, and nothing has changed. And I’m going to kill myself tonight.’ And I will do it.”
She would prove to others the Jesus was a fake. She would remain faithful to Allah.
But the next morning, she awoke to a strange sound. It was her mother’s footsteps.
“I saw my mother walking,” an astonished Padina recalls. “And she was walking perfectly.”
Padina panicked. What was going on? She took her mother to the hospital.
Doctors conducted blood tests and an MRI.
“This is a miracle,” the doctor said. “There is nothing wrong with her and she had been cured. There is no MS in her body.”
Padina was disconcerted: “That is impossible. Something must be wrong with her.”
“There is nothing wrong with her,” the doctor insisted. “This is a miracle.”
Then he added: “What Imam did you pray to?”
Padina blinked, disbelieving, trying to process the news and the implications. She flashed back to her conversations the night prior with Hormoz. She remembered Mom’s conversion. She saw in her mind’s eye, in an instant, years of fruitless praying to Allah and ceremonial washings.
Her countenance softened.
“It wasn’t an imam,” she said softly to the doctor. “It was Jesus.”
In an instant, the hardness of her heart disappeared. A lifetime of being drilled to hate Christians and submit fearfully to Allah vanished. She wanted to live, not die.
Padina lives in Iran with her mom today. They are part of the surging underground movement of Christianity within Iran.
They practice their faith at great risk to their lives.
While the world focuses on Iran’s threat to develop nuclear missiles, behind the headlines, despite the repression of the religious police, the flame of revival continues as God grows the church.
Rudee Becerra studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in West Los Angeles.
Note: All pictures are from the re-enactment video.