When My Iranian Friend Took Mohler’s Parking Spot

The year before I got married was the only time I lived on campus at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during my studies there. Two single men from my church had an opening for a roommate, and it proved to be a great opportunity for fellowship as well as saving some money for marriage.

At the time, a group of us were attempting to get a Bible study going among Iranian refugees in Louisville. My roommates agreed that we could host the first one. The only problem was that the individual buildings on campus didn’t have separate addresses. This meant that we could only give the main campus address to our Iranian friends for them to navigate their way there. The plan was for them to call us once they arrived somewhere on campus and for us to direct them to our hall.

I was excited for this Bible study to begin, and while we waited I prepped some chai in the coffee maker and fried up some chicken. Soon, a couple of the attendees arrived. We waited to get started until another new friend, Reza*, had arrived. He seemed to be taking longer than he should. Maybe he had gotten lost?

My cell phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize.


“Hi, this is campus po-lees,” began the thick Kentucky accent. “Are you A.W.?”

“I am. Is everything OK?” I replied, suddenly nervous.

“Well… I got an Eye-rain-eeun here who says he’s comin’ to your place, but I caught him parkin’ in the president’s parking spot.”

I bit my lip so as not to laugh. Anyone who’s been around SBTS knows that the campus police and staff are very serious about guarding Dr. Mohler’s official spaces, parking or otherwise. Of the hundreds of parking spots on campus, how had Reza managed to park in the only one reserved for the seminary president of all people? I shook my head as the guard continued.

“When I approached him, he took off runnin’! But I caught him and he’s tellin’ me a story I’m not sure I believe. You got some kind of Eye-rain-eeun Bible study goin’ on here like he says?”

“Uh, yes sir, we do. You can let him go and send him over to Fuller hall.”

“Alright, then… well, tell him next time not to park in the president’s spot. Have a good day,” the officer concluded, sounding not quite convinced by our story.

Reza arrived, looking relieved and a little winded. We all had a good laugh as he described what happened.

“I just followed the address on the GPS and it took me right there! I didn’t know that was the president’s special spot!”

“But Reza, why did you run from the campus police?”

“I’m a Middle-Easterner and an Iranian! When the police are coming after us, we have learned to run!” To be fair, Reza’s father had been imprisoned in Iran and Reza had himself to flee the country while still in high school.

We all sat down, passed out the chai, and began our time in the word. We ended up in Romans 5 that day, discussing how in Adam, all die, but in Christ, all can be justified. I distinctly remember when our point landed home for Reza.

“So you’re telling me that I am part of the wrong human family, one that is condemned, and I have to join a completely new human family?”

He seemed very surprised and somewhat incredulous.

“Yes, that’s exactly it!” we replied. “You have to become part of a new humanity, to be born spiritually into a new family by believing in Jesus.”

That day may have been the first time Reza had ever clearly understood the claims of the gospel. Unfortunately, that particular Bible study group soon after fell apart as one attendee claimed that another attendee was a spy – a common reason for group implosion among this particular demographic. However, Reza and I continued our friendship. He later came to faith and is still one of my best friends in the whole world.

The next day I was walking down the hallway on the way to class when I overheard one of the missions professors asking a colleague, “Did you hear about the Iranian who parked in Mohler’s parking space?”

I smiled, quietly enjoying the small disruption our little outreach had caused. From the few brief interactions I’ve had with Dr. Mohler over the years, I’m sure that if he did hear of it, he would have smiled as well.

*Names changed for security

Photo by chris robert on Unsplash

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