By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL (BosNewsLife)-- After two years of detention, an American pastor was freed in Turkey and flown to the United States where he prayed with President Donald Trump who welcomed him at the White House.
The arrival of Andrew Brunson at the Oval Office in Washington D.C. was the ultimate culmination of perhaps millions of prayers from family, friends, and supporters around the world who were involved in a global campaign to keep his case on the front pages and in the hearts of decision makers.
Brunson was jailed two years ago and had been under house arrest since July. The evangelical pastor, who runs the small Resurrection Church congregation in the Turkish city of Izmir, was accused of having links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey's government for a coup attempt in 2016.
On Friday, October 12, a Turkish court sentenced Brunson to three years and 45 days in prison on terrorism charges but said he would not serve any further jail time and freed him. Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, denied the accusations. Washington had demanded his immediate release, prompting behind-the-scenes-negotiations.
He left the courthouse by car and returned to his home before departing for Germany, en route to the United States.
KISSING AMERICAN FLAG
Brunson and his wife first flew to Ramstein Air Base in Germany where they were greeted by U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell who gave the pastor a folded American flag. Brunson was seen holding the flag tightly to his face and kissing it.
They soon continued their journey to the U.S. where President Trump invited the pastor roughly an hour after he had landed there. In an emotional moment, Brunson told Trump that he and his family "pray for him often" and asked if he could pray for the president.
Surrounded by television cameras to record the event, the president was heard saying: "Well, I need it probably more than anyone else in this room, so that would be very nice, thank you." Brunson then knelt next to ask God to give the president “supernatural wisdom.”
In his prayer, Brunson said: "Lord God, I ask that you pour out your Holy Spirit on President Trump. That you give him supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans, you have for this country and him."
The pastor also prayed: "I ask that you give him wisdom on how to lead this country into righteousness. I ask that you give him perseverance and endurance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you protect him from slander from enemies, from those who would undermine."
FILLING WITH WISDOM
Brunson added: "I ask that you make him a great leader for this country. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance, and we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus' name, we bless you. Amen."
His wife, Norine, also followed in prayer, adding: "I pray that the Spirit of the Lord rests on the president. The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. Amen."
The pastor's sudden release after two years in detention came as the Turkish government was seeking help from Trump in its confrontation with Saudi Arabia over the disappearance and apparent murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post newspaper and critic of the royal family.
Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul but never emerged, and Turkish officials said he was killed and dismembered with a bone saw. Saudi Arabia has denied the charges.
Commentators say Turkey wants the United States to back it up in forcing Saudi Arabia to explain Khashoggi’s fate. But President Trump told reporters that Brunson’s release was not related. “The timing is a strict coincidence,” he said. “It really is.”
RECEIVING CRUCIAL SUPPORT
Brunson had high-level support from the Trump administration, not least because he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo belong to the same denomination of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the United States, according to sources familiar with the situation.
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While in prison, Brunson spoke openly about his faith in Jesus Christ. BosNewsLife earlier published a song he wrote there. "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," it says.
"You are worthy, worthy of my all Adopted as a son, a brother to my King. Indeed I will share in your glory if I share your suffering...Jesus, you are worthy of my all," Brunson also wrote.
"You are worthy, worthy of my all. But my heart faints, drowned in sorrow, overwhelmed. Make me like you, Cross-bearer, persevering, faithful to the end. To stand the trial and receive the crown of life. You are worthy, worthy of my all," added the song.
DARKEST HOUR PRAISE
"This is my declaration in the darkest hour Jesus, the Faithful One who loves me, always good and true. You made me yours; 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," another lyric says.
The song ends with: "You are worthy, worthy of my all. You are worthy, worthy of my all. What can I give to the Son of God, who gave himself for me? Here I am, you are worthy of my all."
In a statement seen by BosNewsLife, his wife Norine Brunson explained that "prayers have helped bring Andrew to the point of writing this song."
She stressed that "He sings it to the Lord all the time. Thank you for praying us through."
It is not immediately clear if and when Brunson will return to Turkey, the country he says he loves.