American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been in an Iranian jail for his Christian faith for nearly two-and-a-half years, received an invitation from his son, Jacob, for his seventh birthday next week, and the pastor wrote a letter to him saying, "My chains are keeping me from you," and that he should invite Jesus into his heart and He will fulfill all his needs.
Saeed handed the letter for his son to one of his family members in Iran who was permitted to visit him in prison this week, according to American Center for Law and Justice.
It's a "heartfelt, and at the same time heartbreaking," letter.
"I saw your beautiful birthday invitation that you had made me and I know how much you want me to be there on your birthday," the letter reads. "Daddy loves you so much. I long to be there for your birthday and to make this reunion happen, but my chains are keeping me from you."
Pastor Saeed said it "breaks my heart as your father" that he won't be there for Jacob's birthday, "but I know the One who is there on your birthday who is there for you and cares for you more than anyone could imagine."
Saeed added that "on this special day, I want you to accept this gift of salvation," urging him to invite Jesus into his heart "as you have invited me to your birthday."
"So happy birthday to my big boy and my hero, Jacob Cyrus Abedini," he wrote.
ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow testified this week before the U.S. Senate on Saeed's case, and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein, told him the State Department remains committed to bring the pastor home.
President Obama earlier told Jacob he would "try" to bring Saeed home for his birthday, but Iran has not responded to any attempts toward his release. Obama also raised the issue of the pastor's detention during his first phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September 2013.
Saeed has sustained prolonged internal injuries due to beatings in the prison.
Saeed was recently "shaken" as six of his fellow prisoners were executed around him.
"Saeed was quite shaken as he had to witness 6 fellow prisoners being beaten and taken to be executed (hanged) that day," the pastor's wife, Naghmeh, said earlier.
"It was a hard and dark day having witnessed that and seeing life being taken. The prison visit was also very hard as the families of those who were executed were crying and wailing," she added.
Saeed grew up in Iran before converting to Christianity at the age of 20. He later traveled with his family back and forth between Iran and the U.S. to meet other members of his family and for Christian work.
During one such trip in 2009, Saeed was detained by Iranian officials and interrogated for his conversion. While he was released with a warning against engaging in underground church activities, he was once again arrested in 2012 while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.
Saeed was sentenced for endangering "national security," but the ACLJ believes the punishment has more to do with Saeed's Christian faith.