Sep 12, 2006

Afshin Ziafat, former muslim, speaks at Liberty

by Joanne Tang, News Editor
In the shadow of Sept. 11, an entire nation remembers the trials and tribulations of that day and the days after.

There are many Christians remember who the difficulties they suddenly faced from a nation that embraced patriotism but who they believed was still faltering spiritually.

The hope for a nation as a spiritual power lies in the speakers, preachers and educators that live in this very country.

One does not have to travel to the far reaches of Asia or Africa to find people without direction.

For Liberty students, college is one of the great uncharted territories, one of the new experiences that promise growth and enlightenment about the world around them. Whether students have been called to the farthest regions of the earth or a classroom in their hometown, each person has a mission to fulfill.

Afshin Ziafat’s mission was clear when he received Christ his senior year of high school.

Born in the United States, his family moved to Iran when he was 2 years-old, but had to leave when he was 6, because of the revolutions taking place there.

They settled in Texas, where it seemed Ziafat was on his way to becoming a Muslim, just like his father.
It was not until that fateful year that he picked up a copy of the New Testament given to him by a teacher in the second grade that he saw that he was destined for other things. Under the cover of a blanket, armed with a flashlight, Ziafat read the Bible constantly, even reading the book of Matthew in one sitting.

When he did accept Jesus as savior, it was difficult to keep it from his traditionally Muslim family.
“I kept it from my father for about a year,” he said. When his father discovered he had become a Christian, Ziafat had to choose between his family and the life he knew and Christianity, which was new and different. When Ziafat gave his answer, he was disowned. “Basically, I walked away from family,” he said.

While his heart was filled with passion for God, his wallet only contained $4 when he arrived at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was there that he found the giving nature of God, as he was able to finish school with the help of many contributors, many of whom he did not know.

Ziafat took an internship with Prestonwood Bible Church in Plano, Texas, and spent two years there under the tutelage of Pastor Jack Graham. He began speaking around Texas and became involved in college ministry.

Being a public speaker meant traveling around the country. On Sept. 11, Ziafat was working with the North American Missions Board in Alpharetta, Ga., 30 minutes from Atlanta.

“(It’s) not a ‘us versus them’ mentality, an ‘America versus terrorists’ mentality. It’s a deeper spiritual battle,” he said.

He kept his schedule busy by speaking at youth camps in the summer, churches on the weekends and leading Bible studies in the Houston area.

His biggest passion right now is using his heritage to train and influence others for Christianity. He would like to train potential pastors and work with people to go overseas to the Middle East, as he has done. In fact, a few days before speaking in front of students at Liberty, he was in Turkey. It is his second trip to the Middle East in three months.

“The Lord has opened the door for me to work with my own people,” he said. He encourages students to pray for Muslims, love them and work on “getting the message out.”

Not only does he want to “shed light on what Islam teaches,” he sees the need to “show what we can do.”

Contact Joanne Tang at jtang@liberty.edu.

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