Matthew and Grace Huang celebrated their return to the United States after being cleared of wrongdoing in relation to the death of their adopted daughter in Qatar by worshipping at their home church in California.
The couple was accused by Qatari authorities of starving their adopted daughter, 8-year-old Gloria, to death. However, the Huangs maintained their daughter had died from complications of an eating disorder she acquired growing up in an orphanage in Ghana.
The Huangs finally left Qatar on Wednesday after the government lifted a travel ban, ending a nearly two-year ordeal.
When the pastor of Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California announced the arrival of the Huangs along with their children Josiah and Emmanuel on Sunday morning, the congregation of 3,000 people applauded and cheered.
"The situation these past two years has been extremely difficult," said Huang, with his wife and children standing nearby. "It's taught us a lot about patience and trusting God."
"We are really excited to be here and worship with you, it's something that we've longed for, for so long," he added.
Huang also said that their battle for freedom "taught us patience," and said that that his family is discovering "amazing, hidden blessings" God bestowed on them "through this crisis."
The Huangs have credited their strong Christian faith for carrying throughout the legal ordeal in Qatar, where the family had moved for Matthew's engineering work on projects related to the 2022 World. The couple spent about 10 months in prison after investigators accused them of plotting to sell Gloria's organs.
US State Department officials have said that cultural misunderstandings likely played a role in the couple's prosecution in a country unaccustomed to multiracial families and adoption.
Two weeks ago, church leaders asked congregants to stay an extra 45 minutes after each service to pray for the Chinese-American couple. They aired a BBC interview of the issue onscreen, then divided into small groups to pray for justice in Qatar and for more diplomatic aid from the U.S. State Department in lobbying for the Huangs' release.
"We link with people from all walks of life and cultures - and when any family member is in crisis - we try to be the hands and feet of Jesus in helping," says Jeff Mattesich, lead ministry pastor. Volunteers used the couple's story in the children and teen ministries to illustrate the power of prayer.
Because the Huang's legal battle in Qatar has disrupted their livelihood, Senior Pastor Greg Waybright said the church would collect a "benevolence offering" to provide financial support to the family.
"Just two weeks ago, [we] were praying ... that by Christmas, we'd have some of our family members back home, and it looked absolutely impossible," he said. "I either want to weep or to dance."
Another pastor, Jeff Mattesich, added that it was fitting that the Huangs chose church as the first place to re-enter public life.
"First Sunday back, they wanted to be with their church family," Mattesich said. "It shows the level of their faith in Christ. Yeah - it's powerful."