Pastor Greg Laurie's Harvest Church in California on Saturday joined Christians around the world in praying for the release of Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was arrested because of his Christian faith exactly three years ago in Iran, and also for the persecuted church.
Saturday marked the third year since Pastor Saeed was arrested in Iran, to be later sentenced to death, Pastor Laurie wrote on his blog, noting that his megachurch was holding two prayer vigils, in Riverside and Newport Beach.
Saeed, 35, has sustained prolonged internal injuries due to beatings in the prison.
Saeed grew up in Iran and was raised as a Shia Muslim 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 September 2012 while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.
Saeed was sentenced for endangering "national security," but the punishment has clearly more to do with Saeed's Christian faith.
Saeed's family in Idaho celebrated their son Jacob's seventh birthday in March – without the dad for the third straight year.
Jacob sent invitation to his father, and Saeed 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, according to American Center for Law and Justice.
"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 read. "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."
President Obama earlier told Jacob he would "try" to bring Saeed home for his birthday, but Iran didn't respond to any attempts towards 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.
Many Christians and rights groups had urged Obama to force Iran to release Pastor Saeed before the recent signing of a nuclear deal with Iran, but the issue was apparently not raised at the time.