Alumni News

Faith that Moves (from Azerbaijan to Phoenixville)

by Office of Marketing | Aug 27, 2013
Though Rasim Hasanov, Superintendent of the Assemblies of God (AG) in Azerbaijan, was able to study at one of the few ministerial training schools in the Caucasus region, he will now have the opportunity to complete his bachelor’s degree here at Valley Forge Christian College (VFCC). However, the road that led him here was one full of faith, miracles and trials.
Hasanov first came to Christ in 1994, at the age of 19; prior to his conversion he had never even heard the name of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, that is the case for most people in Azerbaijan – a country of 9.5 million people (about the same population as North Carolina, inhabiting an area the size of Maine), of whom 96.7% are unreached by the Gospel. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 98.4% of the population adheres to Islam, making it a subculture governed by the traditions and laws of Islam.
As a result, Christians (who refer to themselves as Believers, in order to avoid the label Christians because it is considered a derogatory term by Azerbaijani Muslims) often face a great deal of discrimination and persecution. In Hasanov's case, when he decided to follow Jesus, his father attempted to kill him twice and his mother brought him to the secret police.
Fortunately, the Lord delivered Hasanov from persecution by way of Bible college. In 1996 he pursued an opportunity (even though it meant secretly fleeing his home) to study in Kyrgyzstan – where he absorbed God's Word, learned English, and began to serve the local Church through preaching and worship.
Hasanov then returned to Azerbaijan to help a missionary plant a house church in the capital city, Baku. After marrying his wife Shali, then a new believer in Jesus as a result of Rasim’s evangelistic efforts, he went on to plant two more house churches and assist with many more. After 12 years of faithful service, Hasanov found himself leading a network of AG house churches throughout the country.
Then, last August, God called him to do something unthinkable. During a time of intense prayer, Hasanov felt an urging to transfer his leadership role to another believer and move his family to the United States. Without any idea of what he should do in the U.S., Hasanov decided to fly to Chicago last February, using free miles he had earned but only after miraculously receiving a visa for one year with multiple entries to the U.S. (something difficult to do through a Muslim country).
Upon his arrival, Hasanov traveled all over the country – praying for guidance every day. After spending weeks in Chicago, Minneapolis, D.C., Tampa and Springfield, he still had not received specific direction from the Lord. However, while praying in an office in Springfield, Hasanov heard God whisper “East Coast” in his spirit. It was then that he placed his finger on a map, between New York and D.C., and prayed, “If you want me to come to America, then send me here!”
Shortly thereafter, Hasanov met someone who had been through a similar situation; this person connected him to VFCC and paid his airfare to and from Philadelphia. While visiting the campus and meeting VFCC leaders, Hasanov knew that this was the place God had in mind for him. Upon learning that it would take two years to complete his bachelor’s degree, Hasanov decided to enroll and prepare for a move to the U.S.
After returning home and receiving unexpected, unsolicited financial help from friends, the Hasanov family received their visas in just two and a half days – a providential occurrence that Hasonov believes God ordained through a senator he had met in D.C.
“When He calls us, we have to trust in Him,” said Hasanov, “and when you trust in God, He will make a way. ... God is alive! He is not just the God of the Old Testament and New Testament but the God of Now.”
Hasanov and Shali, along with their two sons Ilyas and Nijat, are here on campus by the grace and favor of God. Hasanov will be majoring in Christian Ministry and is excited to start his studies at VFCC. “Praises to God,” exclaimed Hasanov, “and thanks to those who took part, are taking part and will take part in our lives and ministry. They are a part of this story!”