Raised in a Muslim family in Iran, Annahita Parsan experienced the turbulence of the Shah’s expulsion from power and the rise of radical Islam in the late 1970s. As a young girl accompanying her grandmother to prayer at the mosque, Annahita understood that her grandmother “prayed in fear to an angry God, not out of faith that she would be helped.”
Annahita dreamed of having a loving marriage and family, but fear clouded her life when she learned about the brutality her grandmother had experienced in her marriage.
It seemed that Annahita’s desires had been granted when at 16 she married a man she loved. Tragically, his death left her widowed, a single mother at 17. When soon afterward she married Asghar, who supported the Shah, her life descended into hellish abuse, even as her country became a dangerous and volatile place to live.
Forced to leave Iran because of Asghar’s political leanings, the family escaped over the mountains into Turkey and eventually made their way to Denmark. There, strangers gave Annahita a Bible in her native language, but the words were so antiquated she was unable to read most of them. Yet when life with Asghar became unbearable, Annahita would secretly hold the Bible, smelling and kissing it, and praying desperately even though she didn’t know to whom she was praying.
In many quiet ways, Annahita began to hear the call of Jesus and to sense his loving presence and help. Through the Holy Spirit’s leading, she submitted to him. Today, Annahita lives in Sweden and leads two congregations in the Church of Sweden, especially ministering to former Muslim refugees.
On the one hand, this memoir is very difficult to read because of the shocking brutality that Annahita endured at the hands of Asghar and the political regime. One wonders how she survived, realizing at the same time that she came through by God’s grace alone. On the other hand, the book inspires joy and hope in our great God who sent Jesus to seek and save people who were lost, the God who cares for refugees and people who are oppressed.
Banner readers who are in relationship with Muslims who are inquisitive about Jesus will find in Stranger No More a valuable resource and an inspiration to journey with them. (Thomas Nelson)