In a hotel conference room in Denizli, Turkey, about 60 Iranians sing along to songs praising Jesus mixed with Iranian pop music. When the music stops, American pastor Karl Vickery preaches with the help of a Persian translator.
“I’m not famous or rich. But I know Jesus. I have Jesus,” he says, with a Southern drawl. The Farsi-speaking Christian converts shout “Hallelujah!” and clap.
Vickery, who’s part of a visiting delegation from Beaumont, Texas, then offers to pray for each person in the room.
Women with hair dyed blond and short skirts and clean-shaven men in slacks stand up to pray in unison. Vickery puts his hand on one woman’s head and speaks in tongues. One man closes his eyes as tears fall. Another woman raises her hand and shouts “Isa,” Jesus’ name in Arabic and Persian. The room smells of sweat.
Among the parishioners are Farzana, a 37-year-old hairdresser from Tehran, and her daughter Andya, 3, who runs around, taking photos with her mother’s cellphone.
“It feels good. Our relationship to God becomes closer,” Farzana says. She doesn’t want to give her last name because she says her family in Iran might face persecution for her conversion. Her family knows she is a convert and they’re scared for their own safety inside Iran.
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