October 15, 2018
By Matt Gibert
After two years in a Turkish prison, Andrew Brunson is safe on US soil. If you haven’t followed Brunson’s story, the Presbyterian pastor was arrested by the Turkish government on terrorism and espionage charges back in 2016.
Originally from North Carolina, Brunson and his wife Norine had lived in Turkey for 23 years, where Andrew served as the pastor of a small Christian congregation. In October 2016, the authorities took the couple into custody, accusing them of missionary activities “against national security.” Norine was released, but later that year Andrew was formally charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
In his trial, false witnesses claimed that Brunson was working to overthrow the government. He was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison, where he remained until July of this year; he was moved to house arrest until his release last week.
I share this story two reasons. The first is related to last Sunday’s passage, Ecclesiastes 5:8–6:9. I’ve asked myself, what if I were detained and charged for missionary activities? If toys scattered all over the floor can steal my joy, how would I handle two years in a Turkish prison? Andrew Brunson wrote a song during his incarceration. Consider the lyrics:
You are worthy, worthy of my all
My tears and pain I lift up as an offering
Teach me to share in the fellowship of your suffering
Lamb of God you are worthy of my all
I want to be found worthy to stand before you on that day
With no regrets from cowardice, things left undone
To hear you say, ‘Well done, my faithful friend, now enter your reward’
Jesus, my Joy, you are the prize I’m running for
This is a man occupied with joy! God’s Word and Brunson’s example have challenged me to choose joy too, so I’m turning to the only one who has the power to give it. I’m fixing my eyes on Jesus, my Joy, the only prize worth running for!
The second (brief) reason that I share Brunson’s story is an invitation to pray for our annual Global Missions Conference this week. There are courageous Christians like Andrew all over the world who are serving in difficult and dangerous places for the cause of Christ; eight will be with us. Please join us on Sunday as we gather to echo Andrew Brunson’s proclamation: He is Worthy!