COLUMBUS, Ohio (B) — At a time when her husband is being silenced, Naghmeh Abadini told Southern Baptist women she wants to be a voice for the Gospel.
Since 2012, American pastor Saeed Abedini has been serving an eight-year prison sentence in Iran because of his Christian faith. It’s one of the worst prisons in the world, his wife said: “In three days, they’ve executed 50 people.”
Naghmeh Abedini spoke with Jeana Floyd, wife of Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, at the Pastors’ Wives Conference in Columbus, Ohio on June 15. She also spoke briefly to the Pastors’ Conference the same day. Both groups prayed for Saeed Abedini’s release.
“What’s the most recent communication you’ve had with Saeed?” Jeana Floyd asked.
“I haven’t seen him for three years,” Naghmeh Abedini said. “His dad visits him every week and that’s how I know that even though they’re beating him and sending him to solitary confinement, he’s leading people to Christ; so they exiled him to a new prison.”
If she returned to Iran, the government would not allow her to see her husband and would instead place her in an Iranian women’s prison, she told Floyd at the conference.
While speaking before Congress June 2, Abedini said she was able to share Christ, calling their family’s suffering a “platform.”
Many already know her international Christian testimony to Muslims on behalf of Saeed — how she spoke at the United Nations addressing people and ambassadors of 100 countries, a move which surprised her.
“In case you don’t know, the United Nations has to invite you to speak,” she said. “It has to be a door opened by the Lord.”
Today, she’s in airports “all the time” with “no more carefree days.”
“I’m gathering support,” she told 600 ministers’ wives from across the nation. “It brings more awareness and keeps his story alive.”
Earlier speakers included author Christine Hoover, a pastor’s wife from Charlottesville, Va., and Global Mission Catalyst Lori McDaniel of the International Mission Board, who guided women to avoid unbiblical thinking and depend on God’s direction. With that in mind, Floyd asked Abedini to reflect on how she overcame her fear of being “in an unwanted place that was never her plan.”
“I’ve always struggled with fear,” acknowledged Abedini, who grew up in a time of war in Iran. She later struggled with fear as a pastor’s wife in the United States, often worrying about finances and “the drama of ministry.”
“The fear actually left me,” she said, learning how to “enjoy the pain” for God’s glory.
“Sometimes I don’t feel like I can even breathe, but I’ve learned to take it to Jesus whatever the trial — maybe it’s not Christian persecution, but uncertainty of the future. The Lord wants to release you from that fear to discover Him in a deeper way,” Abedini told the crowd.
“The Lord doesn’t need money or our strategy,” she said. “He’s just looking for you to draw closer to Him. I wouldn’t have wanted this way to happen, but He’s using it and I accept it. I’m accepting His way.”
During the conference, Hoover warned wives of pastors to avoid making their role into their identity.
“I’m not saying it isn’t a wonderful role God has called us to,” she said, describing it as an honor and privilege with an opportunity to serve. “It’s sanctification on steroids for me, but not an identity to live by. It’s a role that gives us opportunities to serve, but doesn’t tell me who I am.”
Instead, Hoover encouraged pastors’ wives to focus on being a child of God. “That doesn’t change.”
From John 1:19-27, she warned of several temptations wives of ministers face — inflated self-importance, validation from others and privileged status. By looking to the example of Christ’s humility described in Philippians 2, women will be anchored to a biblically-based identity as a child of God, Hoover said.
McDaniel asked wives of pastors to look at the narrative of Scripture to seek God’s name being made known to all people.
“God has a specific plan for your life for specific people at a specific time,” she said. “We don’t need a call from God. We need a kick in the seat of the pants.”
She encouraged women to leverage their unique skills and lead others to make God’s name known locally and globally. “Let us be the ones who leverage our unique skills … change our thinking from someone else is on mission to I am on mission.”
Kathy Litton, the national consultant for ministry to pastors’ wives for the North American Mission Board, conducted a live poll of the audience on the subjects of marriage and ministry. Results will appear at www.flourish.me blog.