American Pastor Imprisoned in Iran for Over Three Years Returns to U.S.

AbediniASHEVILLE, N.C. — An American pastor who was imprisoned in Iran for over three years and was among four U.S. citizens released on Saturday in a prisoner swap has now landed on American soil.

Saeed Abedini flew into North Carolina on Thursday afternoon, where he met his parents at the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville. His mother immediately burst into tears upon seeing her son walk off the plane.

Franklin Graham also was present for the reunion, and was embraced by Abedini, who was all smiles.

“We’re so glad you’re back,” Graham told Abedini.

“Thank you. Thank you,” the pastor replied, moments before offering up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His faithfulness.

Graham, whose ministry uploaded video footage of the emotional moment (see below), told Fox News that he wanted to provide a place for Abedini to rest before returning to his home state of Idaho. Abedini’s wife and children will be reunited with him on Monday.

“None of us in America can begin to understand or appreciate what Saeed has endured after being imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith,” Graham stated. “We want to provide him a quiet place to rest and visit with family.”

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As previously reported, Abedini, a former Iranian Muslim turned Christian, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and two children to find religious freedom after facing conflict with authorities for planting house churches in the county. In 2012, he traveled back to Iran to build an orphanage and visit his parents—and was about to return to the states—when he was taken into custody.

Abedini was later charged with threatening the national security of Iran, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity. He was then sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, but was transferred to to Rajai Shahr Prison in 2013, which was believed to pose an even greater threat to Abedini’s health and safety.

He has experienced numerous beatings behind bars ever since, and has struggled with severe physical pain and threats that he would not be released until he returns to Islam.

Nonetheless, Abedini has encouraged Christians from behind bars to stand strong for their faith.

“[B]rothers and sisters, the fact of the gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus,” he wrote in a letter in 2014.

“Today, we like Him should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the word of life and salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection,” he said. “We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world.”

Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, has worked tirelessly for her husband’s release, speaking several times before Congressional committees, and even meeting personally with Barack Obama last January along with the couple’s two young children.

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  • Josey

    Am thankful to God for bringing him out and keeping him through a horrible ordeal, what an inspiration he is, he reminds me of a modern day Paul.

    This has nothing to do with this article but I’ve noticed lately several wonderful Christian brothers and sisters are no longer here or at least not commenting, miss them, they encouraged my heart with their posts, Trump, lady greeneyes, jennilynn, becky, john33, chrissy and many others, I pray they are all well in Jesus Name. It seems the site has more unbelievers commenting on it than the people of God as of late. Sad 🙁 but I am grateful for those who still post giving glory to God and lifting up the Name of Jesus here in spite of the criticism which in the light of eternity is nothing as we all know the world is at enmity with God the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit our teacher. God bless the watchmen on the wall who stand up for truth and speak it out in the prayerful hope that their words will reach that one God is dealing with when most are walking down that wide road that leads to destruction. One sows the seed, one waters it but God gives the increase. You never know what word that God speaks through you will be the one that He uses to bring one to Christ or lift up a downtrodden soldier of Christ. Keep on keeping on in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ!

    • Becky

      Amen, Josey!

      Your posts have encouraged me a great deal and I praise God through Christ for that. Also, thank you for thinking of me in your prayer…warms my heart.

    • Chrissy Vee

      Amen sister. 🙂 ♥ Your zeal and faith have never ceased. You and your posts are a blessing here. I can not wait until we all meet in Heaven someday….our home! 😀
      ♪ I’ll fly away, oh glory ♫ I’ll fly away….♪

  • ChangeIranNow

    We should all be happy for the families of those who have been released from captivity. However, it would be foolish to think we’ve turned a corner in Iranian behavior. After seven years in office and seven years of fighting to get a deal with Iran, Obama still can’t supply an adequate answer to a simple question: How do you negotiate a nuclear treaty with a country that takes hostages; sponsors terrorism; wages proxy wars on its neighbors and executes thousands of its own citizens. The problem is that Obama’s policy of appeasement fails to recognize the real nature of the Iranian regime.

  • FoJC_Forever

    I wonder if he knew, prior to getting off the plane here, that his wife has outed him on alleged abuse and sin?

    • Miriam Luz

      So she says….I’ve known some so called Christian women who’ve made up horrible lies. He wasn’t around to defend himself. Now he has a chance to set things street. But then what she says could be true so we’ll see.

  • disqus_SUijHfDO8w

    Prayer can change the destinies of people. I believe God has heard the prayers of his people and set this man free.