(Voice of the Persecuted) American Pastor Andrew Brunson recently spoke to members of the European Parliament in Brussels. Andrew shared what it was like to live as a pastor in Turkey since 1993. He described those 25 years as “twenty-three by choice, two by force in the prisons”, and as spending those combined years telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Though he and his wife suffered in Turkey, Andrew said they still loved the Turkish people and have no regrets they went there and did the work that made him a target for persecution. Andrew started several churches and had done this openly, with nothing to hide, in front of Turkish authorities. “It wasn’t a job for me. I fully believe in what we did, and I don’t try to hide that my call is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. I believe He is the only way of salvation and I don’t apologize for saying that. We spent 25 years in Turkey not to undermine the system in any way but to bring God’s offer of eternal life.”
Turkey has a large unreached people group who have never heard the Gospel of Christ, which is why Brunson agreed to go when asked all those years ago. It may surprise you that the Turkish people are often forgotten in prayer, but Pastor Brunson’s imprisonment has changed that. During his incarceration, Brunson was told about the unprecedented prayer movement taking place on his behalf. He said he didn’t feel worthy of it, but certainly needed prayer and was very grateful. As basically an unknown, he wondered why millions of people were praying for him. He concluded that God was using this with intentions to pour prayer into Turkey. “I rode a wave of prayer out of Turkey but…there was a tsunami of prayer that crashed into Turkey that is going to bring great blessing to that country…God was using my imprisonment for good in that way.”
Background: In 2016, the Brunson’s had believed they were called into the local police station to receive long term visa’s, but instead told there was an order for their arrest and they would be held for deportation. It was an unusual detainment for a Westerner who would normally be notified weeks in advance about deportation. They spent 13 days in the center under total silence without knowing why they had been detained and no legal or consular services. Andrew said that he remembers seeing the U.S. Consulate being turned away at the gates of the deportation center. They repeatedly asked what was happening and when they would be deported but only told, Ankara will decide. At the end of the 13 days, his wife, Norine was released but Andrew was imprisoned for “terrorism” for more than two years. Not wanting to leave him, Norine remained in Turkey during his imprisonment.
Attempts by Ankara to use Brunson as a political pawn for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed. The U.S. responded to the imprisonment and false espionage and terror-related charges against Brunson with sanctions. On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on two Turkish government officials who were involved in the detention of Brunson. Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had their assets frozen in the United States, they were prohibited from traveling to the U.S., or engaging in any financial transactions with American citizens. On August 9, the Trump Adminstration raised tariffs on Turkish products. Erdogan followed with tariffs on U.S. products. The U.S. sanctions proved to put a greater pressure on Turkey and on October 12, 2018, Brunson was convicted on the charge of aiding terrorism, but sentenced to time served. He was released from Turkish custody and immediately returned to the United States.
During the European Parliament meeting, Andrew thanked the MEP’s for there concern about religious freedom and using their position to advance it. He also warned of the heightened level of pressure now being experienced by Christians in Turkey. Many lies were often shared about Brunson in the Turkish media supported and controlled by Erdogan’s Islamic government. He some what became the face of Christianity in Turkey. Andrew said there’s been a significant increase of hate speech, tension and distrust since his case.
“I think the environment has been created so when there is increased persecution against Christians, now most Turks are conditioned to say, They deserve it,” he added.
As we at Voice of the Persecuted asked you to pray for Andrew from the beginning of his detention, we now plead with you to keep Christians in Turkey as well as the Turkish people in your prayers.
During the session, Andrew also told the MEP’s about an interesting dream he had in prison about Turkey, Iran and Russia. Andrew said he believed it was God inspired. Voice of the Persecuted highly recommends that you watch the video below of Brunson’s full speech in the European Parliament.
In his most difficult time as a prisoner in Turkey, Andrew wrote a song in Buca Maximum Security Prison only two weeks after the Turkish government falsely accused him of being a spy and helping to lead a coup attempt. These new charges carried an automatic three life sentences in solitary confinement with no parole. Andrew sang this song every day for the remainder of his two years in prison. Listen as Andrew’s explains the story behind the song.
With the help of Fady Gergis, Andrew’s song titled, Worthy Of My All – is now available as a free download. He recorded it at International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC). Gergis said, “This song carries such a powerful testimony of continuing to believe that Jesus is worthy while almost having no hope of getting out of prison.” You can download it for free at this link. Fill in your email address, and you will receive a link for the download.
Andrew recently published book. You can preview and purchase God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance here.