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Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini, has spoken out about the heartbreak her family is going through while her husband remains in prison in Iran, but is holding on to hope that his story will be used by God for "eternal purposes."
Abedini is currently serving an eight-year sentence in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, but an international campaign, including an upcoming prayer vigil on Sept. 26 marking the one-year anniversary of his arrest, is determined to see him home safe.
Below is an edited version of a phone interview on Tuesday that The Christian Post did with Naghmeh Abedini:
CP: How is your family holding up, and what is the latest news you have heard from Pastor Abedini?
Abedini: Saeed's parents visit him every week, on Mondays, so the last we've heard, he's doing better physically, but he's been very emotional. My daughter just celebrated her seventh birthday, and this is the 2nd year she has celebrated without daddy.
For me, my daughter told me "how many more birthdays, mommy?" I didn't know what to tell her. He wrote her a letter that I got to read to her, and for me as a wife, it has just been heartbreaking not being able to share these moments – birthdays and Christmases, the kids losing their teeth, learning to swim – just seeing our kids grow up and not being able to share it with my husband.
It's been difficult being a single mom. It's been a difficult, hard journey, I've spent many lonely times in airports and planes, my kids have spent a lot of time with their grandparents raising them. With Saeed in prison, our family has been torn apart.
It's been by God's grace and the strength He has given me that I have been able to carry on every day. It's been Christ giving me the strength, I look at myself continuing and having so much peace, and strength, and I know it comes from Christ. He has given me so many opportunities to share the Gospel, and ultimately that's what Saeed and I wanted – to know that this painful time in our lives is used for His Gospel. Life is so fleeting, and to know that this is used for eternal purposes allows us to endure this hard time.
CP: You had a chance encounter earlier this week with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York. What was that like, and what did you say to him?
Abedini: I happened to be in the same hotel as the President, which was not planned, but it was a divine appointment. I had a meeting yesterday afternoon with another Christian media magazine, and during our meeting I could hear a lot of movements from the Iranians, and they were talking about securing the area. Within the next few moments, I saw a big crowd of security surrounding someone, which I thought might be the Iranian president, and I grabbed a letter Saeed had written to the Iranian president.
I pursued them, and when I got to the elevator, I was able to reach one of the security guards and I handed him the letter and introduced myself. They were very shocked that I had gotten so close, and that I was there as a wife of an imprisoned pastor, and I was attempting to deliver the letter. But they were respectful, and the guard said that he would deliver the letter. Soon after I encountered another high-up delegate for the U.N., and was able to hand her a letter again.
CP: What are your hopes from the upcoming prayer vigil on Sept. 26?
Abedini: Beheardproject.com has a list of prayer vigils. Over 86 cities across the U.S. and 16 countries are joining us on that day, on Sept. 26, which marks the one year anniversary of Saeed's imprisonment in Evin (Prison).
I believe in the power of prayer. I know what governments can't do, our prayers can do. Ultimately, God controls all the governments and all the powers. He hears the prayers of his people and I would encourage those who can to join the closest city near them.
I've voiced my concern and disappointment especially with our president, for not speaking out about this. Legally we don't have any more options in Iran – Saeed's appeal was rejected. But we know what governments can't do, God can do. So I'm really looking forward to this day of prayer, and I just know there are blessings when we get together as the people of God and pray.
CP: Is the worldwide support for Pastor Abedini keeping you optimistic for his release?
Abedini: You know, my ultimate hope is in God. I can't think of the 8 years – it just paralyzes me. God has given me continued hope to take it a day at a time. I know that with so many praying. I am grateful for all the people signing the petitions, ultimately the time Saeed is in that prison is not decided by the Iranian government. But it's appointed by God.
I am very optimistic and hopeful that he will be freed soon. My prayer is that Jesus will be glorified from all of it, and people will know that it is God who has delivered Saeed. At this point there are no more options with the legal system in Iran – at this time, it has to be a miracle.