After two years of imprisonment in a Turkish prison pastor Andrew Brunson got out of the courtroom in the Oval office. And all this in less than 24 hours. The world watched as the pastor thanked the President of trump, and then knelt to pray for him.
The way the pastor began two years ago, when Turkish authorities detained Brunson and accused of attempting a government coup.
At the time this interview took place only a week from the time that the Turkish authorities released him. Pastor Brunson went through terrible things during the first year of imprisonment. The second year was much better. But the first year, first few months were very difficult. The truth is, his release is the answer to our prayers.
In an interview with “Global Christian news” and “Club 700” Andrew Brunson spoke about how God led him through this trial, and the wife of pastor Brunson, Noreen Branson shared how God had supported her, while her husband was in jail.
MHN Pastor Brunson, I am very glad to see you here at home in the United States. Many Christians have prayed for your release. You was placed under house arrest, and then, just 24 hours later, you were in the United States, in the oval office with the President of the United States. What do you feel?
Andrew Brunson: I feel like Joseph. Just a week ago I was standing in front of the Turkish judges. Suddenly, it became clear that they were going to judge me. We didn’t know what was going to happen. But it was obvious that they were planning to put me in jail. I didn’t know how many years they’ll give me and how will all this affect the political situation. I was officially convicted of terrorism in Turkey. I’m officially convicted. But I was released because I had already spent time in prison. And then, 24 hours later, I was in the White house, where they prayed with the President. It really is a situation that is similar to the case of Joseph. From prison to the White house. It’s amazing
MHN: Why, of all the places on earth you and your wife chose the Turkey?
Andrew Branson: Initially we had not planned to go there, but our mission asked us to go there. Having lived there for a while, we love this country. God put it in our heart. But there is another reason: Turkey is the biggest country in the world that have not heard the gospel. There are very few believers the Turks. That is what kept us there for many years. We sowed into this land, waiting for the great harvest.
MHN: three months after a coup attempt against the current President, you were arrested and put in solitary confinement. What was it like?
Andrew Brunson: within the first two weeks my wife and I were kept together. After that it was released, and I was transferred to solitary confinement. I think I was lucky that we were arrested together and we spent the first few days. We both experienced fear. We do not know what will happen to us. And when the wife was released, I realized that she will fight for me. When someone is in prison, especially for political reasons or because of persecution, then it can forget. But I knew that my wife would not allow that to happen.
I found it very difficult in solitary confinement. For a long time I didn’t have the Bible or some other books. Was only a bed. I was not able to do anything during the day. I was saved by the fact that there somehow was a brochure Michael Bike. Someone brought it for me, although we were not allowed to read books. It was the prayer points that have helped me to keep sane. I began to pray for those items. I went on the camera here and there for many hours, praying through these points, invoking the name of God.
MHN: were there moments when you lost hope?
Pastor Andrew Brunson: Yes, especially in the first year. Several times I felt myself on the very bottom. But this was the moment when I decided to turn away from hope and to turn to obedience. My obedience was manifested as: “God, if that’s what You got for me, know that I have no strength to go through this. I will not be able to withstand many years of imprisonment. I don’t want that. However, if that’s what You got for me, I want to fulfill my destiny. But I need You to strengthen me. I need You to pour me the courage, strength, and endurance of Jesus, because I don’t have it all.”
I prayed about it every day. I wanted to be worthy to stand before God, not regretting the things I did out of fear. “I don’t want to be a coward. I don’t want to leave the job, which You gave me. But for this I need Your strength.”
MHN: Before our interview you told me about how you began to dance before the Lord. Tell us how you came to this?
Andrew Brunson: I read the book of Richard of Rembrandt, in which he talked about being in solitary confinement. Jesus said, “blessed are you if people persecute you and falsely accuse you, say about you is bad things. Rejoice, rejoice!” Rembrandt danced before God, in obedience to this commandment. I thought, “I can’t feel joy, not feel joy now, but I will dance before the Lord, as did Rembrandt, as a sacrifice of praise.” It was one of the steps that I took. This was the second year of imprisonment. God began to restore my strength. Every day, I devoted five minutes to dance for the Lord, and to sing verses from Matthew 5:10 and 11. I said, “I dance before You, as danced Rembrandt. Here is my sacrifice.”
MHN: You say that the first year was the hardest, but then God raised you to a new level.
Andrew Brunson: the First year I was broken to such an extent that could not even imagine. I thought I was stronger, because we’ve been through some difficulties in Turkey. It was a surprise. I’ve read a number of biographies and thought that the prison would not be so difficult. I thought it will be a time of intimacy with God, joy in suffering. But I was different. I was a mess. And only in the second year, God began to restore me. I thought about my friends and said to myself: “They would have gone through this situation much better than me. They are men of prayer, intercessors. They’d just devote all their time to prayer.” I have said several times: “God, you chose the wrong. You picked the wrong person for the job. This is a mistake. I’m weak.” The Lord let me get through this is to break state. I believe that God made it. And then He began to restore me.
MHN: what did you pray for at this time?
Andrew Brunson: My prayers were not particularly deep. They were simple but from the heart. Me a few days back in solitary confinement when the court began in the prison where I experienced a very painful day, and I again began to lose himself. And although I always cried in solitary confinement, I said, “I love You, Jesus.” These words were in my heart. It was a difficult time. But it was a time when I held Him and proclaimed that He loves me, that He is faithful, good and merciful, even if I cannot see or feel it.
MAN: God encouraged you to share the gospel with other inmates?
Andrew Brunson: I tried. When I was in the cell where there were other people, accused of terrorism. At least, the Turkish government called them terrorists, Islamists. They were staunch Muslims. In fact, it was the missionary society of Muslims. They told me about Islam. And I told them about Christianity. But it was in the mosque. There is constantly heard the Muslim prayers and quotations from the Koran.
MHN: you bad attitude?
Andrew Brunson: No. In fact, these prisoners were in the same situation as I am. They were put in jail, and they didn’t know what will happen to them. But they never treated me badly.
MAN: Now that you’re free and can look at it all in perspective, I’d like to ask: “Andrew Branson, how much all of this affected your faith?”
Andrew Brunson: you Know, a week ago, I was convicted. I haven’t even begun to digest all that God has done in me. I believe inside of me has changed. I learned to go to the end, to hold on, despite feelings, to proclaim God’s faithfulness to me even when I don’t feel it. This is one of the key changes.
My main prayer was to be: “God, I want to serve Your purposes. And if for their sake I should be in prison, then know that I can’t do it himself. I am weak and broken. But I’m asking You to give me strength and courage Jesus to fill me and that I was able to finish the race”.
MHN: Andrew, how God has sustained you the last 18 months?
Pastor Andrew Brunson: I think He did it through the prayers of God’s people. Once I said to my wife: “where is all the grace I expected from the prayers of so many people? Where’s the grace?” But in the end I realized that God took me in a different way. He allowed me to feel the grace that supported me. It was imperceptible, invisible grace. But looking back on what God had me, I see my incredible weakness and say: “He was there the whole time. He was carrying me. Grace was. I just didn’t feel it”.
MHN: Noreen, you were in prison with Andrew for 13 days, and then they let you go.
Noreen Branson: Yes.
MHN: What helped you to survive these 18 months when you could see Andrew once a week for 35 minutes and then for hours?
Noreen Branson: first, the prayers of people from around the world. Some touched us in a special way. All the prayers have been wonderful. We were very touched by the prayer for the Turkish Church. We were touched by the prayers of the Iranians, the Chinese. Is the Church experiencing persecution. And I was humbled by the fact that they pray about our situation. There is no doubt that we’ve gone through all this only through prayer wave. Secondly, it is the search for God. This is what we do in difficult times. We begin to actively seek the Lord.
It was hard to get up in the morning. Every morning I would get up very slowly. I sleep well last night, but woke up and ended up in this reality. It was hard for me to start my day. And so I started it with the Lord. I prayed to the Lord about certain things: every day about something new.
I knew how much need it. But then I moved from “Lord, be with me this day” to “Lord, lead me. I’ll go on and on, but You lead me through this day.” Of course, I spent a lot of time in His presence. Sometimes I just sat in silence and thought: “my God, what can I say?” But I held on to Him tightly.
MHN: “Global Christian news” closely followed by your business. People from different countries – Afghanistan, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia – believers, who themselves were faced with serious persecution, knew about your story and prayed for you. What do you think about this?
Noreen Branson: It’s amazing.
Pastor Brunson: I never felt worthy of such prayer. It hit me. Noreen told me about it because I was isolated in jail. Noreen told me that people pray for my release here and there in other countries. And I thought: “Why?” For many years we served in a remote corner of Turkey, and few people knew about us. Why all these people are praying about me? And I saw that the Lord was just doing it for me. He gathered people to pray about Turkey, about Its objectives in this country and the middle East. I believe that has become a part of something great that God is doing. That’s why He has allowed this story to spread in other countries and encouraged people to pray for us.
And now we seek what God tells us to do. For many years we were missionaries, and our hearts ‘ desire to reach the lost. We want to do this before the end of his life.