Annahita Parsan, 47, now lives in Sweden where she pastors two churches. A former Muslim herself, she actively reaches out to Muslim refugees in her adopted country and trains other churches on how to reach those of the Islamic faith.
Over the last 15 years, Parsan estimates she has led 1,500 Muslims to Christ.
In an interview with Foxnews, Parsan tells how she was born into a Muslim family in Iran and was married at age 16, Two years later, her husband died in a car accident shortly after she gave birth to their son.
According to Iranian law, on the death of a husband, the husband’s father becomes responsible for raising any boys. This required Parsan to take legal action to win her son back.
During what is referred to as the Islamic Revolution, in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini took power in Iran. The country dramatically changed over night. Parsan remarried and in 1984, her husband decided they needed to flee to Turkey where they were arrested for illegally entering the country.
On their release, the family moved to Istanbul where they worked to raise enough money to travel to Denmark. Though Parson had a daughter with her second husband, he was beginning to beat both her and the son from the previous marriage.
Frustrated and angry, it was in Denmark that she had her first encounter with the Gospel when a Danish woman shared Christ. Though Parsan initially said she wasn’t interested, the next day the woman dropped off a Bible. Parsan began reading it and started praying to Jesus for help.
In Christmas 1989, her situation took a dramatic turn. After a severe beating by her husband, Parsan tried to commit suicide with sleeping pills, but was rushed to the hospital in time to spare her life.
But the police who were investigating the incident discovered her husband was planning to leave her and return to Iran with the children. With this information, Parsan left her husband and fled to Sweden.
Once there, she pursued her new faith. Parson was water baptized and after surviving a serious car accident felt God wanted her to preach the Gospel and after training was ordained a minister in the Church of Sweden.
She has not only led hundreds of Muslim refugees to the Lord, she has also “secretly” baptized many people visiting from Iran and Afghanistan, who then returned home.
She receives a couple serious death threats a year (including bombs) and now has security present during her church services. The police have also dedicated an officer to her case.
After the Day of Pentecost, women began to play an increasingly important role in the early church. One of them was a woman by the name of Phoebe who served the church at Cenchrea, the city where Paul made a Nazarite vow (Acts 18:18).
16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2 NASV)
In this verse, Paul describes her as both a servant and helper of many. The word servant is the Greek word diakonos from which we get the word deacon. It is uncertain if this reflects her official position as a deacon in Cenchrea, but in the early church the word describes a leadership position as Jesus said those who want to be leaders, must be a servant of many (Matthew 20:26).
But it is the second word ‘helper’ that is most interesting. “Prostatis” was a word used to describe an athletic trainer. This person often a former athlete themselves was a mentor and trainer preparing a person for success in the Olympics.
In this case she was helping many develop in their Christian faith and she proved to even be a ‘prostatis’ for the Apostle Paul.
And because of this, Paul tells the church in Rome to provide her with any help she requires. This statement is most telling as it clearly reveals the vital role Phoebe held in the early church.