23 September 2023

Woman seeking Christianity sparks Iranian outreach in Box Hill 

Esther Zhang hopes to reach Iranian communities in the eastern suburbs. Picture: supplied 

Stephen Cauchi 

29 June 2022

Iranian Anglicans may soon have their first home in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, as St Peter’s Box Hill works to build up a congregation. 

It will join the existing Anglican Emmanuel Iranian Church in Dandenong, which has a second congregation in Keilor. 

St Peter’s Chinese congregation leader the Reverend Esther Zhang said the nucleus of the new congregation would be an Iranian family who turned to Christianity during the past two years. 

Before this, Ms Zhang said she had never thought of the Iranian community, but during her prayers in lockdown she heard God say the church needed to start another congregation. 

Ms Zhang said the seeds of the congregation were planted when an Iranian lady came to St Peter’s in 2021 to explore Christianity. She had only arrived in Australia in 2019. 

“She came to the office, she didn’t know much English, and she asked if anyone could teach her a little bit about Christianity and the Bible,” Ms Zhang said. 

“People introduced her to me. No-one was looking after her so I did.” 

Ms Zhang said the Muslim woman had approached the church for two main reasons. Firstly, she was despondent at Islam and what it practised, including the policies of the Islamic government that had ruled Iran since 1979. She was also concerned about her three children who remained in Iran, especially a daughter experiencing depression. 

The woman’s experience of Islam led her to be interested in Christianity while in Iran, where she had some Christian friends. She found that Christian families were different to Muslim families, Ms Zhang said.  

Ms Zhang invited the woman and her husband along to church. The husband was not initially interested, but changed his mind. 

The speed at which they encountered the Lord surprised Ms Zhang. Both of them committed to Christianity within two weeks. 

They were baptised at Christmas in 2021. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the woman and her husband had been unable to visit their children for more than two years. After they became Christians, they were able to share the gospel with their daughter over the internet – which she accepted. 

In another answer to prayer, her daughter came to Australia recently to live. Her other two children have also become Christians.  

Ms Zhang said so far the Iranian Sunday worship service and small group just consisted of the Iranian family, but she was determined to build that up – and was developing a plan to reach out to local communities. 

She said there were a large number of Iranian people in areas such as Box Hill, Blackburn, Forest Hill, Doncaster and Bulleen, as well as Iranian people at the St Peter’s Migrant and Refugee Women’s sewing programs. 

Both the Iranian worship service and cell group meet at St Aidan’s in Box Hill South, a church property owned by St Peter’s. 

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