Unshaken In the Midst of the Storm

When the emails to confirm the interview details are full of things like summer camp schedules, you realize Naghmeh Abedini is not just a tireless advocate for her imprisoned husband, Saeed, but she is functioning as a single mother trying to simultaneously balance the challenges of their two young children, Jacob and Rebekka, and the challenges of every-day life.

Naghmeh explains, “I really have so much compassion for single mothers, military wives or people who are handling their life and kids alone. When Saeed was taken in Iran, I realized how much of life I processed with him– how much of my joy and my excitement came from sharing life and the kids with him.”

“It’s not just the financial or even physical part of caring for your children but not being able to go to your husband to share with him.” Naghmeh continues, “But at the same time, the Lord has stepped in, and that’s been my biggest discovery.”

 

The arrest

Naghmeh’s husband, Pastor Saeed, an American citizen, was arrested in Iran in September of 2012 and sentenced to eight years in prison allegedly for undermining national security with his religious activities. If you have seen Naghmeh in one of the countless television interviews she’s given or addresses to Congress or Parliament she’s made, you have probably seen not only a self-assured, passionate and articulate campaigner for her husband’s release, but you have also glimpsed a modern miracle.

Naghmeh describes exactly who it is Christ has chosen for this battle. “The weight of Saeed’s imprisonment and all my fears coming true in my life has made me dependent on Christ in a way I would never have been. I grew up for the first nine years of my life in Iran so the war meant missile strikes and airplanes bombing the city. Before Saeed was taken, I struggled with the thought, What if a trial comes my way and I can’t handle it? What if it just takes me over? Will it make me question God’s goodness?”

Naghmeh continues, “Whether we’re married or single, there will be relationship issues, job issues, stress of this world over your finances, whatever. Those are the times where it’s a great opportunity for us to realize, I’m so weak I could break down right now. I could just lose it. Then we have the chance to run to Jesus and discover His strength.”

“For someone who for thirty years was deathly afraid of airplanes and speaking in front of people, I am living a life where I daily see His grace. Isn’t that what the Christian life is about anyway? It is not to live a life of complacency but to really dig deep to know Christ and to know His heart.”

 

A passion to live for Christ

As Naghmeh shares the details of their first meeting and even the details of their wedding, you quickly realize the day to day reality of Saeed’s passion to live in the shadow of the cross. A passion that was apparent from their very first meeting.

“I came to the United States when I was nine and I grew up here as a Christian. When I went back to Iran when I was twenty-four, to be honest, I was afraid of being noticed by the Iranian government. On the plane, they give you an immigration form where they ask your religion. I think I left it blank or I might have put, ‘Muslim.’”

“I was so afraid I would be thrown in prison, but soon I started sharing Christ with my cousins, and they started to believe. I prayed God would provide someone to disciple my boy cousins after I returned to the U.S. but I didn’t know any other Christians.”

Naghmeh continues, “One of my cousins was already a Christian, and she kept inviting me to a government church. And that’s where I first met Saeed. I just saw this person among probably five or six hundred people and he was worshipping and praying. It was the first time someone had grabbed my attention like that. I didn’t know exactly what it was, and I was afraid to open up my heart to it.”

“After the service, I asked Saeed to disciple my cousins, and he agreed. I was back in the states for three months praying, fasting and asking the Lord what was happening as these emotions for Saeed just swept over me. Finally I went back to Iran and Saeed asked me to help minister to the women of the church. After several months, Saeed proposed and we were married in June of 2004.”

 

The Gospel in Tehran

“Saeed refused to have a Muslim wedding, so he went to the government for permission for a Christian wedding. We were given permission, and I thought it would be just a few people, but when I arrived, the church was full with almost six hundred people. We did say our wedding vows, but then Saeed started preaching the gospel. Right in the middle of Tehran, across from the largest mosque, next to the largest university, worship music and the word of God was being blasted out into the streets.”

“I want to say that from that moment, I’ve seen God’s grace on my life like it was on Peter’s. When I first returned to Iran in 2001, it was like I denied Christ because I was afraid to say I was a Christian on the immigration form. But then just three years later in 2004, Saeed and I were arrested and had guns pointed to our heads. The interrogator said, ‘If you say you’re a Muslim, you go free right now. If you say you’re a Christian, you will die.’  And he looked at me and said, ‘You will be tortured and raped and your death will not be easy.’”

“And at that moment God gave me the grace to say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ Even to this moment, my life has been a chance to experience God’s grace as He has slowly grown my faith. He takes my hand and says, ‘You know Me, you can trust Me. Don’t deny Me. Stand up for Me’”

 

Here Naghmeh in Fort Lauderdale

To learn more of Naghmeh’s story and how God has sustained this ordinary woman through extraordinary times, she will be speaking at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, September 19 as part of the Unshaken Conference. For details and to purchase tickets, go to CalvaryFTL.org or call 954.977.9673.

 

Anitra Parmele is a writer for Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and an on-air host for ReachFM. You can contact her at [email protected]

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