Naghmeh Abedini: 'I'm Thankful for the Millions Who Prayed'
Pastor Saeed Abedini and two other Americans are making their way home Monday, just one step closer to reuniting with their families.
Iran agreed to release the men in exchange for several Iranians being held in the United States.
The prisoner swap happened the same day as the United States and E.U. countries lifted decades-long sanctions against the Islamic regime.
"I've been a single mom for three and half years, and the kids reuniting with him will be a precious moment," Naghmeh Abedini, Saeed's wife, said.
Pastor Saeed was arrested nearly four years ago for his work among Iran's house churches.
Matt Clark from the ACLJ shares what is ahead for Saeed and his family. Click play below to watch.
In an exclusive interview just hours after her husband's release, Naghmeh described to CBN News the moment when she told her two children, Rebekka and Jacob, that their father was coming home.
"They were jumping up and down and rejoicing! It was very loud, very joyful and I could see a heavy weight lifted off their little shoulders," she said.
For the Abedini family, it has been three and half grueling years of advocacy and lots of prayer.
"Outside my faith in Jesus Christ, I'm so thankful for the millions who prayed, who trusted God with me, who did not give up, who sent me messages and letters saying, 'We are not giving up; we have not forgotten him,'" Naghmeh said.
The American Center for Law and Justice worked for Pastor Saeed's freedom. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow called his release a "God moment."
"Even though our lawyers worked really hard and teams around the globe worked really hard, there were millions of people praying," Sekulow told CBN News. "Probably as many languages as they are people groups and those prayers were answered."
"God supernaturally intervened and we have the release of the Americans," Sekulow said.
The dramatic events happened over the weekend when Iran agreed to free five American hostages in exchange for several Iranians accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions.
"In a reciprocal, humanitarian gesture, six Iranian Americans and one Iranian, serving sentences or awaiting trial in the United States, are being granted clemency," President Barack Obama announced Sunday.
While nearly all Americans rejoiced at the news, some did so with caution. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton called the action "wonderful for the families" but said it was a "diplomatic debacle" for the United States.
"The Americans weren't prisoners in Iran, they were hostages," Bolton told Fox News.
"They had been taken by a state terrorist decision and were being held as bargaining chips," he said. "To say that victims of terrorism are the equivalent of criminals or alleged criminals gives Iran an enormous victory."
Bolton said he believes the exchange "incentivizes" Iran and other terrorist entities to take more hostages and to raise the price.
Within hours of the prisoner swap, Iran joined the global economy for the first time in decades after the United States and European Union agreed to lift sanctions following confirmation that the regime had kept its part of a nuclear deal signed last year.
While the president did impose some new sanctions because of Iran's recent missile tests, he praised the prisoner exchange.
"The freed Americans include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S Marine Amir Hekmati, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, and Matthew Trevithick," he said.
"These individuals were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses," he noted. "They're civilians, and their release is a one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances at play."
"It reflects our willingness to engage with Iran to advance our mutual interests, even as we ensure the national security of the United States," the president continued.
"And perhaps most important of all, we've achieved this historic progress through diplomacy without resorting to another war in the Middle East," he said.
Amelia Newcomb, mother of Mathew Trevithick, was "overjoyed" that her son was finally freed.
"We are just enormously grateful to everybody in the government," she said.
Not among those coming home is former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007.
"We are happy for the other families. But once again, Bob Levinson has been left behind. We are devastated," his family said in a statement on Facebook.
Abedini, Rezaian, and Hekmati are now at a U.S military hospital in Germany undergoing medical checkups before making the final journey home.