Young American church starts church among Iranian refugees in Turkey
Pastor & writer
Church planting & multiplication
Thousands of Iranian Christians who fled to Turkey might feel like Joseph during his dark moment, trusting in God but unsure if others will remember them.
Several Iranians who started Church of the Eternal King in 2020 have clearly spoken: they created a sister congregation, entirely online, for these refugees in Turkey. Last year, the second Church of the Eternal King began in Ankara, Turkey.
"God gave me this vision to establish churches in other countries," Reza Pezeshkian said about the second congregation.
The original Church of the Eternal King began in late 2020 in Washington state, where more than 10,000 Farsi speakers have resettled in the Puget Sound region. But they only had a worship space once a Converge congregation loaned their building.
From their earliest gatherings in 2020, the people at Church of the Eternal King felt motivated to plant other churches among Farsi speakers worldwide. They didn't know when or how. But they trusted God to supply the finances and equip them for ministry.
Using modern technology to share God’s eternal love
Through relationships in virtual space, Pezeshkian said several people at the Washington church have built close relationships with believers at a refugee camp near Ankara, Turkey. As those relationships grew, Church of the Eternal King created online worship and discipleship opportunities for the refugee Christians.
"They were Muslims before, but now they believed in Christ," Pezeshkian said of the 50 people at the second church. "There was danger of death for them in Iran, so they fled to Turkey."
These believers are now waiting for the UN to transfer them to another country. In the meantime, Pezeshkian continues teaching them. He and others are inspired by Mark 16:15-16, which says believers are to go throughout the world, teaching and proclaiming the gospel.
"I have been serving online for many years, and I am in contact with many Iranians in other countries," Pezeshkian added.
He uses Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and YouTube to start and deepen relationships so people know Jesus and follow him as Lord. He said the teaching of Mark 16 is plain: If people don't proclaim the gospel to Iranians and they don't trust God, they will be condemned. So it's essential for disciples to make disciples, he believes.
"I teach them the Holy Book," he said. "I have been teaching them online for a long time."
In 2011, the 57-year-old left Iran, where he had been a national weightlifting coach, with his family to be refugees in Turkey. He still remembers the experience of being a refugee, even though it was more than 10 years ago.
"There are thousands of Christian refugees in Turkey who are in bad conditions," he said.
While in such an experience in Turkey, he once attended a church. Then he started listening to online preaching and reading the Bible. A few months later, he chose Jesus as Lord and Savior and has followed him ever since.
The Pezeshkians were in Turkey for three years until he, his wife and his children moved to Washington. He continued relationships with Iranians worldwide to help them step toward Jesus and trust Him.
In 2020, a Bible study for Farsi speakers became the first Church of the Eternal King with support from Converge Northwest and the church planting assessments and tools Converge offers.
Now, with the believers gathered as the second Church of the Eternal King, Pezeshkian continues the beneficial path of spiritual growth and transformation he first experienced.
First, he does Bible teaching for groups and ministers to people as individuals based on their gifts and challenges. Evangelism is also a regular practice, he said, because that's where discipleship begins. He said he led many of the second church's believers to Christ.
In addition, Pezeshkian said he practices Christian counseling for people struggling with mental and emotional pain and hardships after their life experiences.
"We are not just a church," he said. "We are a global ministry."
Not done yet
As with the first Eternal King congregation in Washington, other Converge churches and the region are welcomed as supporters. In particular, a church for Iranians has to be very careful about teaching people to tithe, Pezeshkian explained.
He said Islamic leaders often ask Muslims for money, which can confuse or even deter Iranian people from coming to Christ. So he said the churches try to operate their ministry without asking the new believers to give until the disciples understand the Lord's perspective on giving.
In the meantime, he said the prayers of other churches are beneficial, as is using low-cost and widely available technology.
The Lord's goodness, power and inevitable victory through Christ fill Pezeshkian with confidence. He believes this won't be the last new congregation of the Church of the Eternal King among Iranians scattered worldwide.
"I am thinking of establishing a church in other countries where there are Iranian refugees," he said. "There is only a financial problem that God will solve."
Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.