Shahram Parvani was born in prerevolutionary Iran. His father, a 30-year veteran of the Iranian air force, frequently trained in the U.S. and came to love it. In August 1978, when Shahram was 16 years old, he moved his family from Iran to Dayton, Ohio.

During the previous 10 years, while Shahram was enrolled in Iranian public schools, he was taught Islamic doctrine. Those lessons would play a surprising role in his conversion to Christ. Shahram learned that human beings are basically good and that every Muslim can earn a place in paradise. They must simply be charitable, avoid sin, and do righteous deeds. But it became clear to him that he couldn’t do good. Even his best deeds, Shahram realized, were tainted by ulterior motives and a grasping for self-glory. He describes his life from 1978 to 1995 as a deepening spiral of sinful habits. It was a life, he says, that was headed for a “crash and burn.”

No one had told him anything about Jesus Christ. In fact, if any of his friends were Christians, Shahram says, they were “flying under the radar.” But one summer evening in 1995, as he scanned TV channels, he stumbled onto a program he’d never seen. Evangelist Billy Graham, as if he were speaking directly to Shahram, asked, “If you would die tonight, where would you spend eternity?”

Those words marked the beginning of a six-year search for the answers to life’s great questions. He read Graham’s books, then the Bible, then Bible commentaries, and the Koran.

His research came to a climax Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2001, when he realized that Jesus Christ is the only source of hope for eternal life. It was a Lazarus-like experience, Shahram says. “Lazarus was dead, put away in a tomb, and there came a moment, a divine appointment, when Jesus Christ cried out, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’

“‘Shahram come forth’ came to me on Jan. 17, 2001, and I became a follower of Jesus Christ.”

“It’s been a long journey as God has taught me the beauty of the Gospel,” he says. “The Gospel is so glorious, so magnificent, so big that one can spend an eternity learning about God and and thanking Him for what He has done.”

Shahram and his wife, Gina, are now members of South Dayton PCA, where Shahram serves as a ruling elder.