KARAJ, Iran (Christian Examiner) – Pastor Saeed Abedini has had the unimaginably difficult task of telling his son Jacob that he will not be home for the seven year olds' birthday today.
Pastor Abedini is a dual citizen of Iran and the United States who was sentenced to eight years in prison on January 27, 2013 for "undermining Iran's national security" through his work as a Christian minister in Iran's house church movement.
Abedini's situation has become an international story with the United Nation's Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention releasing a report condemning Abedini's illegal detention and calling on Iran to "immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Abedini." Moreover, nearly 300,000 individuals from around the world have signed an online petition asking for his freedom.
President Obama joined that chorus of voices in January when, during a visit to Boise, Idaho, for a speaking engagement, he met with Abedini's family and Jacob asked the president to "please bring my Daddy home for my birthday."
According to Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, the president responded by telling her son, "I am going to try very hard to make that happen Jacob. I am going to try very hard..."
But the pastor remains imprisoned.
Undeterred, Jacob sent a birthday invitation to his daddy at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, Iran.
Tragically, the father had to send a letter explaining why he could not be home for the celebration:
"To my dear beloved son Jacob,
"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. 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.
"I want you to know that although I might NOT BE THERE and you might feel my absence, there is One who always IS. One who is always there with you and who can meet all of your needs under any condition. I might not be there on your birthday and that breaks my heart as your father. But I know the One who is there on your birthday who is there for you and cares for you more than anyone could imagine. HE IS THERE with you and His name is I AM WHO I AM.
"I AM WHO I AM. It means that God is there with you in every situation that you are going through. This is the name that God introduced Himself when meeting with Moses in the burning bush when God's people were crying out to Him and were feeling His absence. Today there are many people around the world who are experiencing the same things that the people of God were experiencing and that you are experiencing. They are crying out to God and might not be feeling His Presence. They are wondering where is God in all of this. But I want you to remember that despite what you feel, He is always there with you.
"Even though I AM NOT there with you, I AM is there with you. God came in human flesh in Jesus Christ all the way from heaven to the earth to give us the gift of salvation by being crucified on the cross for the punishment of our sin. So on this special day, I want you to accept this gift of salvation. Invite Jesus into your heart as you have invited me to your birthday.
"So happy birthday to my big boy and my hero, Jacob Cyrus Abedini. Thank you for standing strong with me in this battle for the Glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"Your proud Dad,
Saeed Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 while he still lived in Tehran. He moved to the United States in 2005 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2010. He was imprisoned in 2012 during a visit to Iran to build a government approved orphanage in the city of Rasht. Iranian Revolutionary Guard arrested him at his parents' home in Tehran on charges of starting churches.