I had the honor and privilege of meeting Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, the Iran born, American pastor who has been in prison in Iran for almost two years. He was captured and taken to prison because of his faith in Jesus Christ and the fact that he was sharing the hope he found in Christ with others. I had heard a little about his case from the ACLJ’s Jay Sekulow but I was not very familiar with the details. Naghmeh came to Hoffmantown church in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week to speak at our annual Missions Conference. I was blessed to hear her share her story two different times during the conference. Before the second meeting time, I spoke with her privately and asked if I could do an interview with her. She conceded and immediately after speaking, she joined me in my office and shared with me. I would like to share what I learned here with you via this article.
Erik Brewer: How did you and Saeed meet since you both have such different backgrounds?
Naghmeh Abedini: I went to Iran as a missionary in 2001. I was scared to go to an established church because all the churches were being monitored by the government. I started my own little Bible study group with my cousin. Out of that group, four or five people came to know the Lord. I had another cousin who was there and she had already come to know the Lord before I came. Someone had given her a Bible and she began to read It. She was going through a difficult period, actually considering suicide and then the Lord revealed Himself to her. She had been attending one of the churches and she was telling me about this guy who was on fire for the Lord. His testimony is like the apostle Paul’s. I was afraid so I kept telling her that I did not want to go to an established church. My time there was supposed to be a year and the end of that year was about up so I was getting ready to leave. She was so persistent that I decided to go. Since I was leaving shortly, I decided it would be okay if the government spied on me in the local church. When I arrived, I met Saeed. We had a nice initial meeting. He actually took over the Bible study that I had started since I was about to leave. I realized that he was a teacher with a shepherd’s heart. I asked him to shepherd these new believers. He accepted and then I left for the USA. I was in the States for a few months and I felt the Lord telling me to go back to Iran. I went back and joined Saeed and my cousins in the house church movement. I began working with the ladies. As we served together, God drew us together as a couple and we were married. So, we ministered in Iran from 2002 until 2005. In all, we were there for about 4 years. Our departure from Iran took place because of the coming to power of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
EB: How has your walk with the Lord changed since experiencing this intense persecution?
NA: My walk with the Lord has changed tremendously. I feel closer to Him than ever before. I feel like I am living out what John 15 teaches. I am connected to the vine and God’s love, mercy, and peace now flow through me like never before. I have to depend on Him every day from the time I get out of bed until the time I go back to bed. I am now able to rejoice at all times no matter what circumstances I face. God has used this trial to break me and now that I am closely connected to Him, nothing else can break me, no matter how difficult it may be. Before experiencing this persecution, I was afraid and close to a control freak. I wanted a plan for everything. Now I know that God has a plan and He wants to work through me. I am open to His plans, even when they change my own plans. I am no longer afraid of anything. In fact, I have learned to embrace trials instead of trying to run away or avoid them. They make me depend on God even more. I have learned that God’s grace is renewed everyday and is there for me to appropriate.
EB: What keeps you going day in and day out during this difficult time?
NA: I know that God is in control of all things. He renews His grace and mercy every single day. I depend on Him and stay connected to the source for His nourishment. I have the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace of which Saint Paul spoke in his epistles. I am also able to continue on because I see how God is using this situation for His glory, to draw people to Himself. I have always wanted God to use me but I never knew what that answered prayer would look like and I never imagined that it would be in this way. God has taken this trial in my family’s life used it to open doors for me to share the Gospel with people of all different religions and races. Before experiencing this trial, I would search for people with whom to share the Gospel, and now, people come to me and want to know what my secret is, how I am able to keep going, so I am able to use those questions as an opportunity to share about my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I was able to share the Gospel with 50 million Muslims at one time, on live television. It was simply the grace of God. He opened another door to be able to share with 196 Nations’ leaders at one time. I never dreamed of anything like that but God knew that He wanted to use me in that way.
EB: What is the most difficult part of going through this trial?
NA: For me, the most difficult thing is seeing my children suffer. They miss their father and need him. When we go places together and see other fathers spending time with their own children, they begin to ask about Saeed. My greatest fear was that they would not understand what was going on and that they would end up rebelling against God. Praise the Lord because the opposite has happened. I sit and cry with them sometimes because we miss Saeed so much and then, we decide to pray for him and ask God to give us peace and comfort. God never fails to deliver. My children realize that God is using this for His glory. I have seen the children grow so much closer to God in the midst of this trial. They amaze me sometimes at the faith that they have. They have come to own their faith. It is not just something that they have received from Saeed and me. They could not have made it without Christ. I tell them to give everything to Christ because He can carry your burdens. He has never failed and never will fail.
EB: How are you able to manage?
NA: Jesus manages it for me. I just cast everything on Christ. My family has really helped out. They are believers. God opens the doors. I have not been able to plan. God planned it all and is leading on day by day. I go where He leads.
EB: What is your message to the church, those who are free to preach the Gospel?
NA: Pray for Saeed. Pray that God would continue to use him in a mighty way. Pray for his health and safety. Do not take your freedom for granted. Instead, use your freedom to proclaim the Gospel boldly. Embrace suffering for the Gospel. Do not run away from trials. See them as an opportunity for God to work in you and through you for His glory. Please do not have a “part time” faith. Live your life sold out for the Lord because you do not know how much longer you will have this freedom. Your message is a message of hope and love. Most of the other religions of the world use control and fear to enslave people. Christianity offers freedom, freedom to love and serve the Lord. Use that freedom to serve the lost, dying world around you. God has blessed you with amazing resources. Please use them for the furtherance of the Gospel in places that are in need.
EB: Can you give us an update on Saeed?
NA: Please continue to pray for him. He was moved to a different prison about 5 months ago. His dad is able to visit him and then send updates to me. He was sent to a maximum-security prison, a place full of hardcore criminals. Pray for him as he still has to endure beatings and the brainwashing techniques that are being used on him.
There are personal testimonies that are phenomenal. I am sorry that I cannot share them. Keep praying for God’s will to continue to be done and the Gospel to continue spreading.
EB: How can you encourage the persecuted church?
NA: I can give them what I have experienced. Desperately turn to Jesus and He will not disappoint. Jesus removes your fear. Stay connected to the Lord. Trust that God is in control. He allows things to happen and He will use them for the kingdom. Your life is in His hands. The world is watching you. Use this as an opportunity to share the Gospel.
EB: What can we do to help?
NA: Please continue to pray for him. The prayers of the righteous accomplish much good. You can contact ACLJ and they can tell you more about how you can help. There is also the Be Heard Project. There are tangible steps that you can take. Use his story to share the Gospel with others. Preach the Gospel to all creation. Please do not forget about the persecuted church. Remember us and pray for us.