“Can I have a Bible?”

The guard studied Qasem. “If you paint the walls of every cell in this prison, I’ll get you a Bible.”

“Where is the paint?”

And so Qasem, enduring what would ultimately be a three-year sentence for running house churches throughout Iran, began the weeks-long process of repainting the walls of the prison that had become his home. The time passed quickly, so great was his longing for the Word of God.

His path to faith in Jesus Christ had been hard. His parents, who were Muslims in Iran, divorced when he was little. As a 13-year-old, he woke up one day to discover his mother lying next to him, dead. Over time, he turned to drugs to cope and fell into a deep depression.

At the height of desperation, Qasem asked Allah, the god of his childhood, to end his life. Instead, he had a chance encounter with a distant relative…who shared the hope of the gospel. Qasem instantly fell in love with Jesus, and his heart finally felt peace! He was discipled in the faith and started many house churches. One grew from four to 200 members—all converts from Islam—in a matter of months.

Then the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence raided one of his house churches. Qasem was arrested and mercilessly blindfolded, interrogated, and charged with apostasy from Islam and conspiring against the government.

In the midst of everything, a surge of hope rushed through Qasem when the prison guard promised him a Bible. When every inch of prison walls gleamed with new paint, he went to the guard and asked for it.

“No, of course not!”

Qasem’s face fell as he thought back to the weeks of labor. Perhaps it spurred the guard to a rare moment of compassion.

“But you normally get six minutes of phone time each day. I’ll give you fifteen from now on.”

It was enough.

Day after day, Qasem smuggled a pen and paper to his phone time, where a friend would dictate the Bible to him in their native Persian. Soon, he had most of the New Testament. He shared it with his fellow inmates, many of whom came from extremist Islamic backgrounds and had never heard about a compassionate, loving God. Conversions to Christ came in droves.

The guards, alarmed by the growing number of Christians in a country where people are executed for apostasy from Islam, quarantined all the Christians in a single block in the prison.

Unable to evangelize, Qasem grew weary and discouraged in his faith. When his Christian friends were denied their rightful release, he went on a hunger strike that lasted 60 days to get the judge’s attention.

On one of his worst days, battling extreme hunger and sadness, Qasem received a postcard in the mail from Denver, Colorado. He later learned that hundreds of postcards had been sent to him over the years, but only this one ever arrived. It said, “I prayed for you today, that our heavenly Father will comfort you, give you peace, and heal you.” Knowing that someone on the other side of the world was praying for him strengthened Qasem’s heart. To this day, he says this postcard saved his life.

Qasem’s friends were released, and a few months later, he was, too. He was told if he remained in Iran, he would be imprisoned again—or worse. He fled to another country where he serves persecuted believers, many from Iran, with Help The Persecuted, which Rescues, Restores, and Rebuilds the lives of persecuted believers in the Islamic World.

Help The Persecuted has on-the-ground ministers, including Qasem, in 13 countries, the vast majority of whom have faced imprisonment, torture, and death threats for their faith in Jesus. Every week, they meet with persecuted believers like themselves, providing spiritual support and tangible help. In addition, they record the specific prayer needs of each person.

We invite you to join our Prayer Network and commit to praying weekly for the specific needs of persecuted Christians as well as for the growth of the Church in the Islamic World. There are so many more believers like Qasem for whom prayer makes all the difference.