Some of my earliest memories are about worship. We left our home in Oklahoma City when I was four years old and moved to a middle-eastern country, Tehran, Iran. Christianity was not recognized as a legitimate religious group in Tehran when we arrived in 1968. However, I don’t remember there being a question of if we would worship. Dad made the arrangements and we worshipped. My parents found other members of the Lord’s body by asking just about everyone they met, and advertising in a newspaper. Then my father and a two other men took the opportunity to prove to the government, by using scripture, that the church was a legitimate religious group. And thus, the church of Christ became the first “Christian religious group” listed on the government registry in Tehran, and we were allowed to worship “openly.” That meant, in our home. We would prepare for worship by rearranging all of the furniture in our living room, and constructing a pulpit out of tables stacked on top of our coffee table. I remember vividly watching my father, other men, my oldest brother, and J.C. Choate take their turn preaching behind that makeshift podium. I remember watching Mr. Choate, one of the most well-known missionaries in the Lord’s church, baptize dozens of people in our backyard swimming pool. Those were good times, blessed times.
I am grateful for the religious freedoms given by our government, and the sacrifices young men women, and their families have made to give us the opportunity to worship our God as He has directed, and to do so openly with like-minded believers. I understand the concern over losing freedom in our current political climate and my Facebook friends’ concerns about losing our freedom to worship. But, honestly, I just can’t find it in me to worry so much, primarily because the state of the government didn’t concern our Lord (see Mark 12:13-17; Matt. 22:15-22; Luke 20:19-26). He rarely discussed the government and the political landscape of the time, which was one of the most hostile to His religious teachings in history. Don’t misunderstand– I vote, I vote each time and I vote according to the teachings of my Lord.
But, I also remember vividly having Bible class in a bombed out castle where my wonderful Bible class teacher, Mrs. Sunny, who with her bright red hair and the prettiest smile I had ever seen started each Bible class with the same song that I now sing at the beginning of my Bible classes. Ironically, I don’t remember much about the airplane rides, or some of the other things that we have captured in beautiful pictures of the sites and architecture. But, all of these first memories of watching my parents faithfully worship their Lord in difficult situations at age four became the foundation for my faith at 46.
Because I had the opportunity to sit in that bombed out castle and look at the rubble all around me as Mrs. Sunny and I sang songs about how much Jesus loved me, I learned the most important lessons of all: I can worship under any government– oppressive, or democratic. I can, and must, serve the Lord under any circumstance– free or slave. Earthly freedom is not a necessity for worshiping and serving my God. Perhaps it is a little persecution that would help us to be more thankful and faithful in our service. I am thankful for my earthly freedom from physical pain and persecution, but am more thankful for the eternal freedom I have from eternal punishment I deserve (Ephesians 2; Romans 5:8).
Many assume my father was a missionary, a paid servant of God to go into other countries to help establish the church, but he was just a Christian; he was just a man who understood Matthew 28:18-20. He understood that no matter where he was, he was still obligated to remain steadfast to the teachings of his Lord and Savior, regardless of the conditions of his life, or permission from the governmental authorities.
We eventually returned back to the United States permanently. But when we left Tehran, the church was strong. However, I’ve been told, sadly that the church no longer exists in Iran, at least according to the missionary I asked. I hang onto hope that I have brothers and sisters there, perhaps worshiping in secret, but nonetheless, worshiping their Lord in spirit and truth, standing strong in their faith, because they were taught how important it was by their fathers, and their fathers, who perhaps learned from mine that earthly freedom is not necessary for a heavenly home.
By Tracy Frederick
Tracy is the wife of Greg who serves the Arkansas City church of Christ as an elder. She and Greg have one daughter who is married to a full-time pulpit minister in the Lord’s church, serving the New Madrid, MO community. She manages the page “Sister to Sister“ and the Sister to Sister Facebook page. She teaches Bible class, interprets worship services for the deaf members, assists with Ladies’ Days and speaks at Ladies’ Days. Tracy holds a Ph.D. in communication and is a full-time Professor of Communication at a nearby college.