After arriving in the United States for the first time since his release from an Iranian prison, Pastor Saeed Abedini was warmly greeted by his parents, siblings, and the Rev. Franklin Graham.
As reported by the Gospel Herald, Abedini was released this weekend from an Iranian prison after more than three years of harsh imprisonment for his Christian faith. The pastor's release comes after than a year of secret negotiations, officials said, and was part of a prison swap involving seven Iranians held by the United States on sanctions charges.
Abedini was first flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where his wife, Naghmeh, greeted him and described him as being in "very good condition."
"Please pray for us as we will be spending weeks or possibly months healing as a family and going through counseling," Naghmeh Abedini wrote in a Facebook post shared on Thursday. She also asked for prayers "that we can heal and move forward united as a family."
She added, "I am thankful for Franklin Graham for coming along side our family through this next steps of the difficult journey ahead."
In a separate Facebook post shared on Thursday, the Rev. Franklin Graham shared several photos of Pastor Saeed stepping off a private jet in North Carolina and into the arms of his parents and sister.
Graham, who is the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, revealed that the Iranian-American pastor will spend some time at the Billy Graham Training Center, known as The Cove, a retreat center for pastors nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville.
"None of us in America can begin to understand or appreciate what Saeed has endured after being imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith," Graham, who is also the son of the famed preacher Billy Graham, said in a statement. "We want to provide him a quiet place to rest and visit with family."
The pastor will spend a few days with his parents before his wife and two children, Rebekka and Jacob, join him Monday, Naghmeh Abedini said. She also expressed hope that Jacob might even get his birthday wish to spend his 8th birthday in March at a Disney theme park with his dad.
Abedini's case helped put a face on the issue of persecution, especially in the Middle East, for Christians across the globe. His long-awaited freedom has been praised by a number of political and faith leaders, including the Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, President Obama, and many others.
Earlier this week, Naghmeh also took to social media to thank all who have helped raise awareness for her husband's case.
"I wanted to say thank you to all of you for having prayed and have wept with us, have signed petitions and have called your government officials. Thank you for having stood with our family during this difficult journey," Abedini wrote, going on to thank Obama, the Rev. Franklin Graham, and the many other political and faith figures that have stood by her family.
The Boise mother of two, who spent years campaigning for her husband's release, also expressed how deeply she appreciated all the American Center for Law and Justice has done for her family. "They did not stop and they did not give up until Saeed was brought home safely. They worked tirelessly. I cannot express my gratitude enough. They are a gift from God in my life."