On October 7, 2016, Pastor Andrew Brunson, a missionary originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was arrested in Turkey during the aftermath of a government coup. He was wrongfully imprisoned on charges of espionage against Turkey and aiding militant Muslim terrorists. His wife was also imprisoned at the same time but was released after almost two weeks.
In the past 18 months of Brunson’s incarceration, no formal evidence has been presented to substantiate those charges. In fact, the claims against Pastor Brunson were voiced in secret by unknown sources. He totally refuted those claims in a recent court appearance, and he stated he has never been involved in any illegal activity whatsoever.
Instead, Pastor Brunson has devoted the last 23 years of his life to loving and serving the people of Turkey in the name of Christ. He is only guilty of sharing the love of Jesus and administering humanitarian aid to those in need within the Protestant congregation of his Izmir Resurrection Church and its surrounding community.
Brunson awaits next month’s trial in reportedly inhumane circumstances. It has also been reported that he is never allowed to leave his cell at all, under any circumstance. And very few people have been allowed to visit Pastor Brunson during the past year and a half.
With all that said, I really do not intend to write yet another piece on the unjust, inhumane imprisonment of Pastor Brunson due to obvious religious persecution. And make no mistake, Brunson’s real crime, and those acts which his captors despise and fear the most, all center on his life-altering, world-changing Christian beliefs.
But establishing the root of Brunson’s religious persecution is not my purpose in writing this blog.
Instead, I simply want to ask a few questions of every reader: First of all, could we all pray for Pastor Brunson today?
Can we please just stop right now and join together as one body of believers, in order to speak Andrew Brunson’s name aloud in prayer? Can we imagine for just one moment that he is one of our own family, our own beloved child, husband, father, brother, or personal friend? Can we pray like that—like Pastor Brunson was our own?
After all, he is our own. He is a blood-bought brother in Christ.
But that leads me to another question. If you or I found ourselves on trial in a foreign land due to religious persecution, would there be enough evidence to convict us of sharing the gospel message of salvation?
Here’s another question, when was the last time you shared the plan of salvation with someone else?
And better yet, would such an accusation of blatant Christianity shock colleagues, friends, and families? Or would they readily know where we stand and what we believe from our daily lives?
I am reminded of an anecdote I read once online about a kindergartner who had been practicing spelling with magnetic letters on the refrigerator: cat, dog, dad, and mom had been proudly displayed by the 5-year-old for all to see.
One morning while getting ready for the day, he bounded into the room with his arms outstretched. In his hands were three magnetic letters: G-O-D.
“Look what I spelled, Mom!” he cried, with a proud smile on his face.
“That's wonderful!” his mom praised him. “Now go put them on the fridge so Dad can see when he gets home tonight.”
The mom happily thought that her teaching and training were certainly having an impact.
Just then, a little voice called from the kitchen: “Mom, how do you spell ‘zilla’?”
Like the little boy in this story, I can spell “God.” That’s not my problem. I can talk about God, read about God, sing about God, and even write about God. What comes after all that is my problem. The real question is what comes after all my talking is done? What do I add to the world after I speak His name?
Do I treat others like He has treated me? Do I forgive when forgiveness is undeserved? Do I love when love is unmerited? Do I care for the uncaring? Do I give to those who only seem to take? Do I encourage where discouragement abounds? Am I patient with those who are impatient and demanding? What do I add to the word “God?”
Not enough; that’s for sure.
Which brings me right back around to Pastor Andrew Brunson. He is a true example of someone who has added much to the kingdom of God. His name, the name of Andrew Brunson, is now well known throughout the world for his association with the name of God.
Indeed, Brunson has invested his life, his family—his everything—to ensure that the people of Turkey may know the loving and saving grace of God’s own Son. So much so, that Brunson now sits in a prison cell awaiting the verdict of next month’s trial.
So, today, let us pray for Pastor Brunson. Let us intercede on his behalf with urgency and compassion.
And more than anything, let us live like Pastor Brunson. Let our words, our actions, and our deeds add several things to His name, things like God loves. God forgives. God helps. God cares. And most importantly of all—God lives!
Editor's Note: As of Friday, April 20, Open Doors USA reported that Pastor Brunson was moved to better prison conditions. His move followed a tweet by President Trump.