Global Engagement
October 12, 2023

Reflections Following a Visit with PARS in Vancouver


By Rev. Jonathan LaBarge, Pastor, River of the Valley/Rio de Valle Church, Canoga Park, CA

Iranian Muslims around the world are among the most likely people to enter a conversion journey into Christianity. Their shared experience of the hand of Islam upon their beloved country has broken their hearts. A majority have arrived at the conclusion that they will no longer stand upon a Muslim faith foundation. The question then becomes: as they take the step off that foundation, where will their foot land next? This is the major reason for a call to invest in Iranian ministry leaders right now. Harvests are seasonal, and the time is now to send workers into the Persian field. 

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Mat. 9:37, 38).

Over the previous 7 years our small-sized church has baptized approx. 20 Iranian adults. As I guided them through a conversion journey, they have unanimously shared with me a common narrative of oppression and detest with the nature of Islam. We have offered countless prayers for family and friends still in Iran striving to leave the oppression and join us in LA. Just this year, one of our first brothers to move his faith to Christ 7 years ago was able to secure a visa for his mother. We rejoiced in the celebration of her baptism this past Palm Sunday. However, when it comes to the further discipleship and evangelism among the Farsi-speaking diaspora around us, there is a critical need. We are in a position to attest to the vital importance of the work that PARS exists to carry out. 

I was therefore enthusiastic to travel with the group of ECO pastors and leaders to the PARS formation conference in order to meet these crucial “workers” being raised up and sent. Meeting with the students had an even greater impact than I had anticipated. Each morning and evening they poured out their hearts to the Lord in worship and prayer for Iran, for Afghanistan, and for the global diaspora. They spent the fullness of each day together in class, engaging the next module in their theological curriculum. This conference alone showcased the depth and holistic approach to raising ministry leaders that PARS provides.

We were provided ample opportunity to sit with the students and hear their stories. The amount of personal persecution that they have endured creates a sober calling for the work ahead of them. They know all too well what is at stake. 

This is a key season of harvest! Therefore, may each of our churches consider the possible financial implication if there is any conviction to support PARS as they train these workers. May we also be open to the Holy Spirit’s formation and leading of our own witness to the diaspora here among us. I am personally praying for the means for the future possibility that a PARS student might serve as an intern or missionary here in our Los Angeles church for discipleship and evangelism (LA likely has the world’s largest Iranian diaspora). 

For Christ & His Kingdom,

Jonathan LaBarge

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