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The TV studio hums just a few feet from his church office in northern California, but pastor Hormoz Shariat is still a last-minute arrival to his own show. Behind the scenes are teams of phone counselors and hip young producers.

Waiting behind an Islamic veil 7,000 miles away is an exploding house-church movement in Iran, whose compatriots eavesdrop on the illegal satellite programs produced daily by Pastor Shariat's Iranian Christian Church (ICC).

If there is a budding missional community of Muslim-background believers in America, it is the Iranians. These believers' passion is to reach Muslims worldwide, and they are being energized not by the now-grown children of the Islamic Revolution, but by their bicultural kids longing to discover their Persian roots.

On Sunday mornings in the church's bright sanctuary in Sunnyvale, California, 200 smartly dressed adults worship with traditional tambourines in their native Farsi language. Down the hall, a rhythmic Persian beat fades into David Crowder rock lyrics through a door diminutively marked English Worship Center. Gathered in the dimly lit room are 50 young people with spiked hair and stonewashed jeans.

This house-church plant evolved several years ago when ICC's original youth group began growing their own families and careers. "They weren't comfortable in their parents' Farsi culture," Shariat said. "But they didn't fit into purely American churches either. We were losing them."

His own daughter, Hanniel, announced at age 18 that she was leaving the church her father had painstakingly planted because it was "too Iranian." After two years of self-discovery in American megachurches, a curious thing happened: Hanniel wanted to know her Persian story. She recognized her calling to ...

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In the Magazine

September 2008

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