Pastor and Christian TV presenter Miltan Danil explains how his faith journey began after being told the people he called mum and dad were really his grandparents.
It wasn’t long after his mother’s funeral that 15-year-old Miltan Danil was approached by two complete strangers who claimed to be his aunt and his actual mother.
This was just the beginning of a series of shocking revelations that shattered everything Miltan had believed about his family and propelled him down a road towards drug addiction.
Born into an Assyrian, nominally Christian family in Urmia, north-west Iran, Miltan was three years old and too young to understand what was happening when his parents divorced. He spent most of his childhood being brought up by his grandparents. But to him they were his mum and dad.
All this changed the day his mother re-entered Miltan’s life.
“One hot summer’s day, as I was walking along a street, a very nice car stopped in front of me. Two tall, beautiful ladies stepped out. ‘Do you know us?’ one of them asked me.
“I was very interested that she spoke Assyrian,” Miltan explains. “‘No’, I replied. But, without any introduction, she said, ‘I am your aunt and this’ – pointing to the woman next to her – ‘is your mum!’”
“I had a lot to process,” he explains. “The person I had known as father became my grandfather. The person I thought was my mother was really my grandmother. My eldest brother was really my father. And a woman who was a total stranger to me turned out to be my mother.”
The emotional storm that engulfed him was more than Miltan could handle. He started drinking and smoking and became a drummer to ‘pour out’ his anger on the drums. Along the way, he began mixing with drug users and, aged 17, began a ten-year addiction to heroin.
“I hated my parents,” he reflects, “because I felt that I was the victim of their broken relationship.”
Despite his inner turmoil, Miltan persevered with his education and graduated as a laboratory technician. It was around this time that Miltan heard about an Armenian Christian pastor. And what he heard made him furious.
As a proud Assyrian – one of the ethnic minorities allowed to practise their religion in the newly Islamised Iran – Miltan knew that Syriac and Armenian were the languages used by the Orthodox Churches of these two communities. Persian, on the other hand, was the language used by Iran’s Muslim population.
When Miltan heard of a Pentecostal pastor who was preaching in Persian, he saw this as a denial of the pastor’s ethnic Christian identity.
“I wanted to destroy this man,” Miltan says. He even got his gang to attack some of his property, including his car. At one time Miltan even thought of killing the pastor.
But his own inner conflict was overwhelming him. His heroin addiction and drug dealing made him homeless and landed him in prison several times. Despite drug rehabilitation treatments arranged by his father, nothing worked.
Then, one day, Miltan’s twelve-year-old stepbrother pointed a finger at him and said, “Miltan, Jesus can save and heal you.”
“What must I do?” Miltan asked him and was told, “You must come to our church.” “Which church?” he asked. “Brother Edward’s church,” he replied.
Miltan gives a wry smile: “Brother Edward was that Armenian pastor.”
Miltan found that the church had been waiting for him: “I didn’t know that he and the whole church had been praying for my salvation for one year.”
Their prayers and Miltan’s long search for peace of mind were answered together. “Aged 27, I was miraculously saved by the grace of God,” Miltan says. “From the moment I submitted my life into his hand, I promised to serve him with all my strength, talents and whatever he has given to me.”
Miltan married, and he and his wife, Shemiran, served the church in Iran for a number of years before eventually leaving for the UK. Today he pastors churches in London and Brighton. He broadcasts live on the Persian-language channel of Christian satellite channel SAT-7 twice a week, giving pastoral counsel and biblical answers to thousands of viewers.