Meet Your Fellow Deacon: Shabehram Irani

by Allison Groot, CDM Administrative Assistant

Shabehram “Billy” Irani grew up in a Zoroastrian home. The Zoroastrian religion is fixated on the supposed ongoing battle between good and evil, god and spirits of wickedness. Steeped in beliefs inundated with works-based righteousness, it was not until he was invited to Franklin Square OPC that Billy heard the true gospel of Jesus Christ. 

In 1995 his now-wife, Gaitry, invited Billy to her church, not only introducing him to the OPC but more foundationally to the Christian faith. There, he says, “I was born again.” He writes, “The Lord Jesus, through His word, changed my heart and I was baptized at that Church.” Billy was welcomed by the church and found a home among the believers there. When he and his family moved to Ronkonkoma, NY in 2005, the Irani’s began attending Bohemia OPC in Bohemia, NY. They were welcomed just as they had been in Franklin Square.

Over the years, the church has become family to the Iranis. It didn’t take long for Billy to desire to serve that family. As an accountant and banker, it made sense for him to take up the work of church treasurer. As a man with a servant’s heart, it made sense also for him to take up the work of deacon.

Bohemia OPC is a smaller congregation, comprised of about 30 communicant members. Though small, the congregation has experienced more than their share of trials. In 2020, their Pastor, Meint Ploegman passed away suddenly in a tragic accident. Through this tragedy, the diaconate was blessed with many opportunities to serve the congregation. Yet, this was only the beginning of difficulties for the small church. Soon, Covid would force the church to move services online, and low attendance threatened to close the church completely.

As the leaders of the church, the elder and deacons (along with many others from the church) earnestly prayed for the Lord to provide them with a pastor who would care for the church. In time, the Lord surely provided. Billy writes, “We were all praying every day, and the Lord helped us find a pastor to shepherd our folks in Bohemia.” Rev. Adriano Silva, previously an associate pastor in Orlando, FL, recently transferred his credentials from a sister denomination to the OPC and will be installed as Pastor of Bohemia OPC by the end of July.

The arrival of Rev. Silva has been a much-needed encouragement to the congregation. However, even in the absence of a shepherd, the deacons of Bohemia OPC continued leading their congregation to pursue mercy ministry. Possibly the most significant ministry of this kind is the food pantry which Bohemia OPC has been operating since 2015. Led by their three deacons, the congregation is thankful to be able to serve their surrounding area in this way. Billy and the other two deacons view this as an invaluable ministry in their community, as it is as busy as it has ever been.

Beyond this, it seems that cheerful giving is a usual characteristic of the congregation, as they are quick to contribute to the deacons’ fund each month, which Billy says “goes to various ministries of the denomination and to the needs of our members.” 

Though giving is easy for many, Billy shares that receiving is what many people struggle with, as many deacons can understand. “The biggest challenge is helping our members financially. We know that some need financial help but we don’t want to offend them,” he writes. And yet, the Lord has always blessed his servants in ministering to the needs of his people. The deacons of Bohemia OPC are thankful that the people in their congregation have always graciously accepted assistance when it is offered, and this has proved to strengthen the church as a whole in their care for one another. 

Despite all the trials that they have faced over the past three years, Billy attests that by the grace of God the people of Bohemia OPC have grown even closer. From joining with his fellow members to joyfully serve at the food pantry, to rallying a group to clear out the church’s backyard for an outreach picnic, to relying on his relationships with members to approach them with assistance in their time of need, it is clear to Billy that the Lord has used these strong bonds to help carry out His ministry of mercy. 

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