Nagmeh Abedini: Iran Can't Take Saeed's Faith

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WASHINGTON -- Nagmeh Abedini describes herself as a normal, everyday mom. But for the past year and a half, her life has been anything but normal.

The life she and her family have led can only be described as extraordinary.

Earlier this week, Nagmeh testified to Congress on behalf of her husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen who has been incarcerated in an Iranian prison.

After the hearing, she spoke with CBN News about the ordeal, sharing how the struggle has affected the family and strengthened her faith in God.

Be sure your voice is heard. Add your name to the hundreds of thousands calling for Pastor Saeed's release at BeHeardProject.com.

"I'm sure anyone going through any trial, it's just reassuring to know there are people standing with you. And really this hearing today was one of those moments where I knew I wasn't alone," she told CBN News.

The family's ordeal began last summer during a trip to launch an orphanage for young, unwanted girls in the Islamic Republic. Iranian authorities arrested Abedini and charged him with threatening the country's national security.

But the real crime, according to his family and attorneys, is something most of Americans take for granted: his deeply held faith in God.

In 2000, Abedini abandoned Islam to become a Christian.

Now, he's serving an eight-year sentence in a prison reserved for the country's most violent criminals and suffering declining health from being tortured and beaten.

Despite everything, his wife says his faith remains strong.

"I know the government can't take the one thing he has and that's his faith in Jesus," she said.

Nagmeh made the trek from their home in Idaho to testify on Capitol Hill, telling lawmakers she feels forsaken by her own government, which failed to demand her husband's release as part of the recently brokered nuclear deal with Tehran.

"I was hoping with all my heart that our government would not abandon him," she said.

But in the end she felt it did, putting human rights and religious freedom on a back burner not only for Iran, but for all the world to see.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill expressed their outrage.

"We're hoping the administration will take the cue from the wife, Mrs. Abedini, and from those who are concerned, including both sides of the aisle, to step up to do more, and especially when you're sitting right across from the Iranian interlocutors who can make the difference," Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said. "They could say, 'Free Abedini today,' and he's on a plane back to his wife and children."

For Nagmeh, the government's failure to speak up reminded her of one of Jesus' parables.

"I was reminded today it's like leaving the 99 sheep and going after the one -- that's the heart of God. He cares about that one person -- that He's the God of justice for a nation, but also for one person," she said.

"And I pray that God gives whomever, be it President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry or woever it is around them making that decision, that they would get the heart of God," she said.

With two young kids, Rebekka and Jacob, she said it gets especially tough during birthdays and special occasions. And with Christmas just around the corner, it will be another holiday without a husband and father.

"What we've started doing is set an empty place for Saeed for celebrations to remember him, remembering him, praying for him," she said.

Through it all, Nagmeh has been encouraged by the prayers and support of fellow believers and human rights advocates.

She said she's been equally surprised that they, in turn, have been encouraged by her strength.

"I hope people can see you can cling to the Lord and just be okay with whatever happens in your [life] and just have that peace and joy," she said.

"And I hope people see that and they see that it's not me," she said. "When they say, 'You're a strong person,' I really want to say, 'I hope you see Jesus in this, because I'm not a strong person.'"

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John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.