(Voice of the Persecuted) A Turkish court has ordered the release of US Pastor Andrew Brunson. After two long years of detention on false charges, Andrew will be coming home and able to dance at his daughter’s wedding. Brunson and his wife, originally from North Carolina, moved to Turkey 23 years ago. Andrew led the Izmir Resurrection Church with a congregation of about 25. The couple had raised their family of three children in Turkey and had applied for permanent residency.
Case background: On Oct. 7, the couple was called to a local police station never imagining there was anything to be worried about. They went to the police station thinking they were finally approved for residency. At the station, they were initially told to leave the country because Andrew was accused of receiving funds from abroad to fund missionary initiatives that Turkey claimed would endanger the security of the country with their activities. Later, the Turkish press reported that the decree of expulsion for the Evangelical pastor had been transformed into arrest after a secret witness accused him of having ties with a terror organization. Later, more secret witnesses accused him of espionage. Many believed he was a political pawn used to force the US to extradite Fethullah Gülen who is considered an enemy of the Turkish government and living in self-exile in Pennsylvania for years.
Andrew spent much of his time in a cell with limited contact and his health deteriorated. Andrew lost 50 lbs., told he was forgotten and suffered from depression. The only thing that sustained him was his faith in God and love for his family.
Trial hearings: During the last 3 trials, Andrew shared his love for Christ and the Turkish people. He firmly denied all accusations against him and said, “My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting.” After the last hearing in July, he was taken back to prison, but due to health concerns he was released under house arrest and put under a travel ban. At today’s hearing, the Turkish prosecutor asked that Brunson be given a 10 year prison sentence,
During the today’s hearing it was reported that three witnesses withdrew their statements against Brunson after reports that the U.S. and Turkey were negotiating a secret deal for his release. Another report shared of the four witnesses who had earlier testified against Brunson, one claimed reading the allegations in the news, another said he was misunderstood by the judge, and the last two claimed that they first heard the allegations from one another. While the trial was ongoing, Former Turkish member of parliament Aykan Erdemir said that witnesses who have appeared at the hearing are now changing their testimony. This would clear the way for the judge to dismiss the case. Turkey has been suffering by the U.S. economic sanctions placed on the country when Brunson wasn’t released at the last hearing. Turkish agencies began reporting his release would be a partial unblocking of the terrible U.S.-Turkish relationship.
Today, Andrew told the court, “I am and innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey.” Witnesses at the hearing shared that Pastor Brunson wept when the court ruling was announced. We expect many happy tears are flowing with his in the Body of Christ, globally.
Homecoming: The U.S. military is expected to fly Andrew back to the United States., U.S. officials told Reuters that Brunson could return to the United States as soon as Friday. A Pentagon spokeswoman told Reuters that the expected plan involved flying Brunson through Germany on the way back to America but did not specify the timing.
Our Victory in Christ
Giving God all the glory, Christians around the world are rejoicing and singing praise to the Lord for this victory. Andrew’s release is an answer to many fervent prayers. We are thankful to all those who allowed the Lord to guide them for his release. Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch would like to thank those who prayed on yesterday’s prayer conference call event for Andrew. What beautiful prayer call full of joy and anticipation for what the Lord is doing. It felt more like a family reunion, in love and agreement, with some we’ve never met. The top key words throughout the day were, forward and dance. Lois Kanalos of Voice of the Persecuted said, “I kept seeing Andrew dancing in the courtroom like David for the Lord! I imagine he did, if only in his heart. Now he and the church in Turkey can move FORWARD…onward soldiers!”
We will continue to pray for Andrew’s transition and healing from his ordeal. Let us also pray for the church in Turkey to be bold and a shining light in the darkness.
Now in this present age or later in glory…victory!
(Romans 8: 26-39) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.