The Tale of A Modern Day Paul
If you witnessed the sunrise inch above the picturesque town of Karaj, 20 kilometers west of Tehran, you may find its flinty mountain peaks indistinguishable from a Colorado resort. But despite its placid setting, it is home to Rajai Shahr, the most notorious prison in Iran. The infamy of the bricked dungeon is layered with tales of torture, murder, and sexual slavery. Men unable to pay for protection, are leased to in-house pimps, and whored out to other inmates. It is home to over four hundred condemned souls. Habitat for the most brutal and sadistic men of society. It is also the hellish abode of American Pastor Saeed Abedini.
Abedini was born and raised as a Muslim in Iran. After struggling with depression during suicide bomber training, he says God woke him one night and said “Saeed, I’m coming back soon. You’ve got to preach my gospel”. Abedini left Islam and became a follower of Jesus Christ in the year 2000, and thereafter met his wife Naghmeh. She was an American citizen, so the couple moved to Des Moines, Iowa in United States of America. Abedini became an ordained minister in 2008, and later obtained full United States Citizenship.
Abedini never lost his love for the people of his birthplace. In the spirit of a true shepherd, Abedini began to frequent Iran, and spread the gospel. However, the sleeping tide of persecution turned against the gospel in Iran, and in 2012 Abedini was arrested, subsequently tried and sentence to eight years in prison. The charge was “Undermining national security through private religious gatherings”, in other words, he started churches. In fact, he established over 100 churches in thirty Iranian cities.
The perceived outlook for Pastor Saeed Abedini’s situation is not promising, but as believers our focus must be on what is unseen. What is unseen is how God is using a man trained to murder innocent people by committing suicide, as a warrior for the gospel of Jesus Christ in his native land. What is unseen are people quietly accepting the Lord in Rajai Prison, based upon the enduring strength seen in Pastor Abedini. What is unseen is the rallying of the sons of God on behalf of our brother. And what is yet to be seen, is the better resurrection for a servant pastor sharing in the cup of Christ’s suffering.
It is easy to become complacent in our comfort, particularly in a land overflowing with distractions. However, let us be mindful of our brothers and sisters in diverse places, suffering in unimaginable ways. We and the Father are one, therefore the imprisonment of one, is of us all. Never forget that we advance the kingdom as a family. Remember that we were called to this, it is our creed: one voice, one way, one blood, and one God.
Editor, Tim Lollis