Naghmeh Abedini, whose husband Saeed Abedini continues to be held in an Iranian prison for sharing his Christian faith, explained to attendees at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower Conference that for her and her husband, evangelism is simply a matter of going after the one lost sheep. Naghmeh shared her testimony during a women’s session and a main session of the evangelism conference, Feb. 23.
The night before she spoke, Naghmeh had already arrived in North Texas for the evangelism conference. When she heard that a group from First Baptist Euless, which hosted the conference, would be going out to share the gospel through their Can We Talk? program that night, she decided to forgo her warm, dry hotel room and join the group. At one of the handful of houses the group visited, a Muslim woman answered the door and told them her husband was at the mosque.
While some might assume the Muslim woman would have been the most closed to the gospel of all those they encountered, Naghmeh said the opposite was true.
“The Muslim was the most open person out of the five, six or seven houses we went to,” said Naghmeh, who converted to Christianity from Islam as a young girl and later served as a missionary to the Middle East as an adult. “There’s the harvest, but we’re not seeing it.”
She reminded attendees that Jesus did not say to pray for a harvest. The harvest is already there, she said. Instead, Jesus said to pray for laborers.
The Abedinis have tried to embody the type of laborers to which Christ refers in Scripture—laborers willing to leave everything behind, even things as precious as family, freedom and life, to go after one more person whom Christ wants to save. Naghmeh said Saeed has been a prolific witness for the Lord in the Iranian prison and has seen so many place their faith in Christ that officials have had to continually move him in hopes of keeping him quiet. Nothing they do or threaten, though, keeps Saeed from sharing the news that Naghmeh says changed her husband’s life.
“I’m proud of him,” Naghmeh said. “He knows that sharing the gospel in the prison could cost him his life. In Iran the penalty of evangelism is death. Outside of his desire to see his babies and to see his wife and for his freedom, he desires that one more person would come to know Christ.
“As I was in the cold last night, I was thinking of all the things I have learned from Saeed and about the heart of God for that one sheep.”
It is that one sheep that drives Naghmeh forward, fueling her to abide in Christ and to love in a way that draws people to her Lord.
“I don’t care about having 30,000 in my church,” she said. “I care about going after that one sheep.”
The Muslim woman Naghmeh met on the frigid and wet night before the conference was one of those lost sheep who found new life in Christ. Naghmeh said the woman told her children to sit down and listen and shared about all the people she wanted to tell and bring to church.
Over the last two and a half years that Saeed has been imprisoned, Naghmeh has been afforded opportunity after opportunity to meet with government officials around the world on behalf of her husband. Recently, she met with President Obama.
“I sat down with our president, and I just knew I had a few minutes to either beg him for Saeed’s release or to share God’s love, and I knew why I was there,” Naghmeh said, noting that she chose the latter.
Naghmeh said she fights fear and anxiety each day and sometimes cannot even get out of bed before spending several hours praying, reading Scripture and listening to worship music. Sometimes that means waking up at 4 a.m. But through the days and weeks and years since her husband’s imprisonment, the Lord has upheld her and given her the peace to trust the his hand, no matter the outcome. She said she has learned what it means to abide in Christ.
Evangelism is not so difficult as people think, Naghmeh said. It doesn’t require huge plans or programs or lots of money and great strategies; it is not complicated or hard. It simply requires people who are convinced that Jesus is real, who realize their every breath is dependent on his existence, who love God and love others, and who put aside everything they thought they deserved to tell other people about the Jesus they know.
Naghmeh said she sees this kind of faith in her husband.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of my husband to be in the hands of radicals and still share, (even) knowing that this means he may never see our family again,” she said.
Even as she prays that the Lord will use Saeed’s gospel witness in prison and her witness to the millions who have heard Saeed’s story, Naghmeh is also grateful for others’ prayers to bring her husband home and to reunite her family.
“When someone tells me, ‘We are praying for your family. We are praying for Saeed,’” Naghmeh said, “it is more valuable to me than if they had handed me one million dollars.”
However, even more valuable, she said, is seeing one lost sheep come to faith in Christ.