It’s been more than a year and a half since Naghmeh Abedini last saw her husband, Saeed.
“I can’t even express the depths of pain,” Naghmeh said. “One, as a wife seeing your husband being tortured, and two, as a mom seeing your children suffering.”
Yet, as she stood before the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association staff in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday morning, Naghmeh exuded strength, beauty and peace.
“It’s not possible to pretend peace,” she said. “When my whole world is falling apart … I can’t fake peace. It has to be supernatural. It has to be from a real God.”
BGEA President Franklin Graham has been vocal in his support of the Abedini family, calling for believers to pray for Pastor Saeed, a 33-year-old American who was arrested in Iran in September 2012.
Franklin Graham believes Saeed’s case highlights the need for believers to pray for persecuted Christians around the globe, in an age when faith in Jesus Christ is met with opposition and even violence in different parts of the world.
Each morning, a photo of Pastor Saeed is displayed at BGEA headquarters, reminding the team to continually pray for the family. Last September, to mark the one-year anniversary of Saeed’s imprisonment, the BGEA featured the Abedinis as the cover story in Decision magazine and urged believers to take part in prayer vigils around the country.
With two young children—Rebekka, 7 and Jacob, 6—and the full-time job of keeping her husband’s story alive, Naghmeh says she must decide every morning to trust God and cling to Jesus.
“When we cling to Him, we receive this amazing, living God and His joy and peace and favor,” she said. “And the world wants it, because they are going through trials without Jesus. So they say, ‘How are you thriving in these trials?’ I say, ‘Because I have a relationship [with Jesus]. I don’t have religion. I have relationship.”
The God They Were Looking For
When Naghmeh accepted Christ at the age of 9, her family had just moved to the United States to escape the war raging in their home country of Iran.
Naghmeh and her twin brother had many questions about God, but she said they never found the answers in Iran. Then something happened when they settled in California.
“My brother, within days, had a vision of Jesus,” Naghmeh said. “He came to me so shaken and moved by this. He said, ‘I’ve found the God we’ve been looking for.’”
After attending college, where she hosted Bible studies for spiritual seekers, Naghmeh sensed God calling her to the international mission field.
“I would pray for the nations, and I’d pray for Iran,” she said.
Naghmeh met Saeed Abedini in Iran in 2002. Like her, Saeed was born in Iran and had discovered the love of Jesus.
After getting married in 2004, Naghmeh and Saeed made their home in Boise, Idaho, but traveled to Iran regularly to visit family. As Christians who were open about their faith, they had been arrested several times but were always released. So when Saeed left for a trip to Iran in June of 2012, Naghmeh expected to see him again soon.
“It was a quick goodbye at the airport,” she said. “He was leaving for three weeks to finish up a government-approved orphanage.”
But this time, Saeed was arrested when he tried to return to the United States.
“They said his crime was undermining the national security of Iran,” Naghmeh said.
She and thousands of supporters including The American Center for Law and Justice insist Saeed, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison, was only arrested because of his Christian faith.
Strength in Weakness
Naghmeh describes herself as shy and soft-spoken, and she has walked far outside of her comfort zone this past year.
Tuesday night, she’ll speak in front of Charlotte-area pastors, who were invited by the BGEA to hear the Abedinis’ story and join in praying for Pastor Saeed’s release.
No longer a stranger to public speaking, Naghmeh has shared her husband’s story with millions, through outlets including FOX News, BBC Farsi and Voice of America Persia. She has also spoken at the United Nations and is scheduled to speak to several European parliaments in a few weeks.
“Mr. Franklin Graham really helps me a lot by mentoring me in that area,” Naghmeh said. “He has been like a father, a mentor and a friend.”
“The Lord has opened up a door for her to take the Gospel to places we probably wouldn’t be able to go,” Franklin Graham said Tuesday, as he urged believers to continue to pray for Pastor Saeed, Naghmeh and their children.
Pastor Saeed is currently hospitalized and in need of medical care. Relatives in Iran have said he is suffering internal bleeding from beatings.
That news devastates Naghmeh, who says that without Jesus, she wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. But she’s holding fast to the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 as she fights for her husband—and, in the process, takes the Gospel to the nations.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Looking for peace? Naghmeh says she found supernatural peace when she accepted Christ. If you’re looking for peace and hope, visit www.peacewithgod.net to explore what a relationship with Jesus could mean for you.