Elam has been dedicated to ministering to Iranian women for many years. Led by experienced female ministers, Elam's women's team has been able to show hundreds of women their value in Christ. The team has been privileged to witness countless women be healed and transformed by the love of Christ, and then released into Christian ministry. We praise God that women are now increasingly at the heart of the growing Iranian church.
In Iran a woman is less valuable than a man. In the eyes of the state religion, the law, her neighbors and even her family.
Whilst women tend to be highly educated and active participants in society, still their value is largely dependent on their appearance. In courts of law, a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man. Men are allowed to bring home 'temporary wives' whenever they like. Many women suffer sexual abuse, but feel under pressure to remain silent in order to protect the honor of their family. Often women are treated as domestic servants in their homes. Some find they cannot leave the house without their father's or husbands' permission.
Every day women are told they are second-class citizens, and so the root of the problem is their lack of self-worth.
Elam's women's team host regular residential conferences for ladies in the Iran region. These conferences range from large gatherings to intimate circles, and can last for a week or just a couple of days, but the focus is always on showing the women their true worth and dignity in Christ. The abuse and devaluation that many have suffered are addressed biblically and compassionately and there are dedicated ministry times for prayer and healing.
Some conferences also tackle thorny issues like abortion, which is -perhaps surprisingly- a common problem in Iran. Many women in Iran have had an abortion or even multiple abortions, and many Christian women have no idea that God cares about the vulnerable lives of the unborn. With compassion and grace, the Elam team guide the ladies through a biblical understanding of this painful issue.
The team also works to release women to play key roles in evangelism and church planting in the Iran region. Women often become the most passionate and dedicated evangelists of the church.
A New Initiative
While it is good to teach women about their true identity in Christ, unless the men understand this too, women will continue to suffer as a result of sexism. They will continue to endure domestic violence and harsh treatment within the family. They will continue to be viewed as sexual objects. They will have limited opportunities for education, as well as ministry.
That is why Elam launched a new initiative in 2013 to challenge men directly to love and honor women as the Bible clearly instructs. The message is given in no uncertain terms: men and women are created equal before the Lord and men must put an end to sexism in their families and churches.
In July 2013, 53 pastors gathered for the first ever men’s conference all about women. The confessions from the past were astonishing, as men repented from harsh treatment of women and committed to becoming advocates for women. This is having a profound impact on the lives of women and girls.
Elam's women's ministry is being graciously used by God to impact Iranian women in profound and lasting ways. Have a read of Maryam's story to learn about how an Elam women's conference fitted into her remarkable journey.
Maryam cannot believe her ears. These kinds of things only happen to other people, don’t they? She leaves the doctor’s surgery feeling numb; a formidable choice is before her. Words ring in her ears: “No hope of recovery…It would be better to terminate.” As she heads home, a different message comes to her remembrance, from a women’s conference she attended a few months ago. The child in her belly is a person, and her life is precious to God, Down’s syndrome or no Down’s syndrome. Maryam and her husband grapple long and hard: they cry with and listen to trusted friends. One day Maryam notices a card on the pavement as she is walking. She picks it up and sees Psalm 31:3 “You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger” A few steps ahead she notices another small card with another Bible verse. This time it’s 1 Tim. 2:5-6: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” The Lord is speaking to them, but how can they possibly raise a disabled child? The day of decision dawns. You are my rock and my fortress. At the surgery, the doctor awaits Maryam’s answer. You are my refuge. She takes a deep breath: “We are keeping our daughter,” she says as the doctor shakes his head. Months of anguish, desperate prayer, and regular trips to the doctor follow. The doctor is highly concerned, but Maryam is steadfast. Lord, I have trusted my baby into your hands. You heal her! I trust you and you alone. A cold morning in November, Maryam’s baby comes into the world. The doctors are completely dumbstruck: the child is perfectly healthy and happy. Maryam and her husband are overjoyed, pouring out their praise to the Lord and naming their daughter Elisa, which means ‘consecrated to God’. Maryam later reflects with the head of Elam's women's ministry team that even if God had not healed Elisa, she would have no regrets about her courageous choice: “I can boldly say that with disability or without disability I love her and am thankful to God for this amazing gift”.