(VOP) I was introduced to Naghmeh Abedini, on a cold December 2012 morning, while getting ready, I turned the television on to find a woman speaking of her husband who was imprisoned in Iran, for nothing more than being a Christian. I stopped everything and watched more. Naghmeh, whom I learned was his wife, shared that Saeed was in Iran to start an orphanage and how the Iranian Guards forcibly took him. It wasn’t until I learned of Rebekka and Jacob, his two children that I thought, there must be something I can do?
As a father of three young children, in similar ages, my heart hurt for Saeed. Naghmeh shared of the upcoming January 27, 2013 sentencing and how confident she was that he’d be home. I ran into the living room to find my wife preparing my girls for school, i.e., brushing hair, etc. I told her of the story I heard and said I was going to start a prayer facebook page to encourage others to pray for Saeed. The facebook group page “Praying for American Pastor Saeed Abedini” was born.
After inviting all my friends and my wives friends to this page, it began to attract others. It wasn’t until I noticed Naghmeh’s name requesting to be a member when I thought I have a responsibility to encourage this woman and trust others will with this group page. As I encouraged her, I was being encouraged, I noticed more people submitting encouraging prayers, verses, and thoughts. Through this facebook group, we assisted in yellow page letters campaigns to the Secretary of State office, we’ve shown support by having yellow within your profile picture. The most memorable was the “Endure for Saeed” 5K that Boise, Idaho hosted. My wife Amy stated something about it in May 2013, we both said “we should do that?’ 5 months later, in October 2013, we hosted one here in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where Naghmeh came and spoke.
Endure for Saeed 5K was held October 19th at Northfield Church of Christ, Fort Dodge. 160 people endured the 40 degree weather, the drizzle, and the 15 mph winds for Imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini. Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed, was there to share his story: on September 26, 2012, Saeed, an Iranian born American citizen, was jailed in Iran and thrown into one of the worst prisons in the world – Evin Prison – simply because of his Christian faith. Saeed has been beaten, tortured, and put under great psychological and emotional pressure. Pastor Saeed has stood strong in his faith in Jesus Christ and has become for many the face of the persecuted church around the world and a symbol for religious freedom and human rights. This message was presented by a woman who has received peace from God. 160 people from Fort Dodge and surrounding communities and as far as Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa and Overland Park, Kansas came to support, love, and encourage Naghmeh.
It was an exciting time to meet and hear the woman I have been praying for. My whole family prays for Saeed, and we still do. We circle up in the morning to “pray in” and always close with Saeed’s immediate release and safety. It was this visit from Naghmeh to see and hear her passion and love for the persecuted church, it was an awakening for me. They were brothers and sisters in Christ who for their faith had to find refuge in other lands. So I prayed steadily for Saeed and the persecuted church.
I admire Naghmeh, I respect her, and love that she is Saeed’s voice. I truly believe God is using her as the face to the religious freedom in the United States. I enjoy what Dr. Charles Stanley has said,
God isn’t looking for impressive people; He wants willing ones who will bow the knee in humble submission. Being weak and ordinary doesn’t make you useless. Rather, it positions you for a demonstration of divine power in your life. He takes insignificant ones and delights in making them great.
If you’d ask Naghmeh, she’d tell you that she was not “impressive” but meek, quiet, humble. Not a fan of public speaking, enjoyed being supportive, but now God is using her. He has allowed her to speak to 196 nations about Jesus Christ, while sharing Saeed’s story. Therefore I add her to the praying points. I am confident she’d probably not want the attention, as humble and grace filled as she is. Even in the midst of concerns, there are many praises to God for the situation that Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini find themselves in. Psalm 143:1 (ESV), reads “Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness.” Although there has been many changes in Saeed’s situation, one thing I know that is constant, our prayers. I’ve taken the privilege to extend seven prayer points that was prayed at vigils across 500 cities and 35 countries adding detail to them for guidance in praying for Saeed and the persecuted church. Please pray for the following;
- For Saeed’s immediate release.
- For the Abedini support, for one another that we may never tire on waiting for the Lord to be glorified.
- For Saeed’s Health; for medicines to be received.
- For the pain to cease from his injuries.
- For Saeed to receive treatment for his injuries.
- For Saeed’s peace of mind, for his mental regulation and his wellbeing.
- For Saeed’s safety in prison, that cellmates will not danger him.
- For prison guards, wisdom and discernment as they oversee Saeed’s ward.
- Pray for cellmates and guards to come to know Christ through Saeed’s testimony. For spiritual support.
- For Naghmeh’s faith in Christ to grow, to remain strong and humble in spirit.
- For Naghmeh to know when to rest. Her peace of mind, and emotional regulation.
- For Saeed’s children, Rebekkah & Jacob that they will enjoy life and know their dad is safe in Christ.
- For Saeed’s imprisonment will point to Christ and souls saved around the world, changed hearts.
- For the Iranian country that many will come to know Christ and their world view will change to Christ.
- For the unity of Christians, for revival to occur, for our voice to be stronger in Christ for souls to be saved.
- For President Obama’s voice to be louder and stronger for the release of Saeed.
- For Secretary of State John Kerry that he will begin to consistently ask for the release of Saeed.
- For the Iranian Supreme Leader’s heart and mind to be changed and clemency to be given.
- For the preparation of Saeed’s release when that time arrives that events are in order.
- For the persecuted church, around the world, that God will provide a hedge of protection around them as they worship and share Christ.
I am confident all of you have been praying (Col 4:2); as we continue, let us watch and as each prayer is answered let us praise God and rejoice. As detailed as the above requests are for Saeed, I encourage you to continue to pray for the persecuted church in this manner:
- That the Lord would give them Grace and strength to endure the abuse and persecution that they may be a shining light for Jesus wherever they are at.
- Families of persecuted Christians. That their children would grow strong in their faith in Jesus and not be resentful. That the Lord would give the spouses strength and patience to wait and to be light of Jesus to their communities and to the hurting world.
- Revival in our cities as we gather in unity to pray for the persecuted Christians. That the Lord would use this time to awaken the churches and the Body of Christ in our cities and in our countries.
These prayer requests provide a concrete foundation for prayer for Saeed and the persecuted church, as well as for us the church. To find unity and revival in our hearts, who are we that we should pray earnestly for Saeed and Persecuted Church and not for revival in our hometown. Encouraged by Naghmeh to share Saeed’s story to share Christ, as strange a concept, it can be done. Some Christians may have an easier time sharing Saeed’s testimony then Christ’s gospel. But as you tell Saeed’s story, peppered in it the love he has for God, and the joy he finds in being imprisoned, the gospel is shared.
I pray that as you pray that you will grow in your prayer life and know that in doing so, you will have a better opportunity to resist the devil (James 4:7). The benefit of prayer is drawing closer to God and as you draw close to Him, what does He do? He is drawing closer to you (James 4:8), your relationship with God is strengthening and your love for Him deepens.
Rom 12:12 (ESV), “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Phl 1:9 (ESV), “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,”
I leave you with this charge: continue to pray, for Saeed, the persecuted church, and for each other that through our experience of prayer our relationship with God grows, and we surrender to His will for our life, that His Kingdom in all that we do is glorified. Pray on.
by Dr. Jim Seward
Voice of the Persecuted would like to welcome Dr. Seward to the team! His heart breaks for and is called to serve the persecuted Church. For this reason and for the commitment he has shown, we have asked Jim to press forward with us in the mission. He will being joining VOP by sharing a monthly call to prayer helping us to remember and stay focused in our much needed prayers for our persecuted family. Please keep him in your prayers asking the Lord to lead him, as he embarks in this extremely important part of our mission, the power of prayer.
Lois Kanalos and the VOP team