DES MOINES, Iowa - With the announcement this weekend of five U.S. citizens being released from Iranian prison, a local church is celebrating.
Living Waters Fellowship has been advocating for one of those prisoners, American pastor Saeed Abedini, to be released since 2012. Last fall, the church hosted Abedini's wife for a fundraiser benefiting her husband's release.
"This should be a day that we are excited in Christianity," said Rob Keller, a pastor at Living Waters Fellowship, Sunday morning.
United by faith, these Christians in Des Moines are celebrating the release of a man they've never met.
"Mainly because we're fellow believers in Christ, he's our brother in Christ," said Keller. "The word of God teaches us to come alongside those who are in prison being persecuted. So we come alongside them in prayer, and also in support."
Keller's congregation turned out in big numbers Sunday morning for worship service at River Woods Elementary School -- with an "extra" reason to celebrate.
"It's awesome, it's awesome. I can't even tell you how we felt yesterday morning. Texts were coming in, Facebook was going crazy. Just all over the world, people are celebrating today," said Keller. "Fellow Christians are celebrating because this brother in Christ was released from prison, who was not held for any other reason besides being a Christian and because of his Christian faith."
14 months of careful diplomacy brought U.S. officials to a point where they finally secured the release of five prisoners, including Abedini. These local Christians call it "God's work."
"It feels unreal. Yesterday, my husband was upstairs, and he screamed the news to me, and I just ran upstairs, and we were all just so excited," said Amy Orozco, a member of Living Waters Fellowship. "I know everyone from this church probably feels the same way. It's just like they're our own family. We just love them so much and what they're going through."
Though these people don't know Pastor Saeed personally, they say they feel connected to him, through Christ, and believe steadfast faith is what set him free.
"We knew that God would hear our prayers one day," Keller said.