In one of his first media interviews since his dramatic release from Turkey over the weekend, Pastor Andrew Brunson said he believes his prison ordeal was part of a much bigger plan God has for Turkey and the Middle East.
“We are so grateful to the people who prayed for us,” he told Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice on the “Sekulow Live” radio show.
But the 53-year-old North Carolina native said he believes that the impact of the prayers of many around the world went way beyond releasing him from prison.
“It’s almost like we’re looking at a puzzle from the bottom side. Someday, we’ll look from the top and see the full picture,” Brunson said.
“Right now we don’t see the full picture, but God was doing much more than using prayers to release me from prison,” he said.
“I think he was pouring prayer from God’s people into Turkey and into the Middle East, and there is going to be a great harvest from this.”
Brunson had been held since October 2016 on unsubstantiated charges of terrorism and espionage by the hardline regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wanted to exchange the pastor for a Muslim cleric in the U.S. accused by Turkey of masterminding the failed 2016 coup.
Sekulow, who assisted Brunson in his legal defense, remarked on the confluence of events, noting that at the same time he was representing Brunson, he also served as a personal lawyer for President Trump.
Trump said Friday after Brunson’s release that there was no “deal” made with Turkey, as media had reported. But the president said: “We spoke to Turkey. He went through a system, and we got him out.”
Brunson was convicted by a Turkish court Friday on terror-related charges the U.S. says are bogus and politically motivated, and sentenced him to a little more than three years in prison. The judge released him for time served, and he immediately was flown to Germany for a medical exam at Ramstein Air Base. He arrived in Washington on Saturday morning and soon found himself in the Oval Office, where he prayed for President Trump.
Brunson said that when he was arrested in October 2016, he was held in solitary confinement for a number of days.
“The way I survived that was just by spending hours in prayer, just to keep my sanity,” he told Sekulow.
Later, he was kept in a cell with 20 people that had a capacity of only eight.
Sekulow noted that while Brunson was accused of “terrorism,” in the indictment itself he was charged with “Christianization,” meaning an attempt to takeover a Muslim-majority country.
“It sounds bizarre to us, that running a church that had about 25 or 30 people in it would constitute a threat to the government,” Sekulow said. “But in the view of the Turkish authorities, they weren’t kidding when they thought that it was.”