Imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini has finally been allowed a visit by a family member in Iran after two months. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini, who was told about the visit, said that having to watch his two young children grow up only through photos is taking its toll on the pastor after nearly three years in prison.
In an update provided by the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Naghmeh, the imprisoned American's wife noted that the visit was "bittersweet," with Abedini being denied the opportunity to attend his grandmother's funeral, who died in the last few weeks.
What is more, Abedini also missed out on his daughter Rebekka's ninth birthday, and has come to realize how much of his children's growing up he has been away from.
"It was too painful for him to see pictures of how much his baby girl had grown up since he last saw her, from the 5-year-old little girl to the 9-year-old young lady she has become. A different kind of maturity covered his baby girl's face. A maturity that spoke of painful, tear-stained nights," Naghmeh wrote.
"The picture his family took to show Saeed told him of a girl who was trying to be strong and brave for her daddy. Many tears were shed and stories shared. So many stories that Saeed struggled to remember his babies and our family, memories that the prison walls were slowly stealing from him," she added.
"So many new memories were trying to form about what the kids liked to do now and how they had changed over the years. Saeed tried hard to hold on to something to take back to the prison once the visit was over; something Rebekka said; or something Jacob did."
Abedini is serving an eight-year prison sentence in the Islamic Republic. While Iranian officials have accused him of endangering national security, the ACLJ has said that he's being punished for his Christian faith.
The pastor, a convert from Islam, was put in prison in September 2012 while working on an orphanage for children in Iran.
Naghmeh has been fasting throughout most of the month, anticipating Sept. 26, which will officially mark the date when her husband was sent to prison three years ago.
During the recent visit with the family member, Abedini was told there will be prayer vigils for him and other persecuted Christians on Sept. 26, to let him know that he's not forgotten.
"His face lit up and he was encouraged to hear that so many are praying for him. He was encouraged to know that a date that brought so much pain had become a day when Christians united together to pray for him and the persecuted Church," Naghmeh revealed.
"I made sure that he was told that I had not given up the fight. That we had not given up the fight for his release. That despite government shortcomings, none of us were giving up. That we were getting on our knees and praying and fasting for him each day leading up to the prayer vigil. I knew that during the short prison visits he needed to know that he was not forgotten."
Naghmeh said that the many beatings and medical problems her husband has faced while in prison are also taking their toll, and he is in pain every day.
"Knowing his kids are growing up without him has made the journey that much more emotional for him. He always wanted to be the dad that poured into his kids every single day of them growing up. He was the more nurturing one of the two of us and cared about each and every milestone," she added.
"Saeed realizes that he has had to give up those things that were so dear to him for the sake of the Gospel and that is the one thing that brings him comfort. Saeed is holding onto hope that one day he will reunite with us again."
The ACLJ also reminded supporters that a letter signed online by over 260,000 people is set to be delivered to Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, which will call for the U.N. to do all it can to speak with the Iranian government and get Abedini released.