In this world of 24-hour news cycles and short attention spans, something that happened ten days ago is SUCH old news. But I cannot allow a momentous answer to our prayers and fasting pass without one more comment.
A week ago Friday, Pastor Andrew Brunson was in a Turkish court for the fourth time on trumped-up charges of espionage. Andrew was no spy. What he was was an American EPC pastor—yes, one of ours!—who served a small evangelical church in Ismir, Turkey, for more than 20 years. I’ve been to Turkey several times. I’m telling you, pastoring a Christian church there is hard hoeing! But he and his wife Norvine loved the Turkish people and devoted much of their life to sharing the gospel with them.
Following a coup attempt in the summer of 2016, Andrew was caught up in a legal dragnet of supposed “dissidents” as the president of Turkey consolidated his power. Andrew was accused of conspiring with the opposition and faced as many as 35 years in prison if found guilty. It was a sham. There wasn’t a scintilla of proof to support the charges. But he became a pawn in a political battle far greater than himself. Despite intense political pressure from the Trump administration, he languished in an overcrowded and hostile prison for months and was finally released to house arrest. But, despite the prayers and fasting of thousands of us, and the continued political pressure, he was still not free…until 10 days ago.
I wondered—we all wondered—why the Lord would allow this injustice to continue. Then we saw what happened in the Oval Office the day after he arrived back in the United States. After responding to President Trump’s questions and comments, Andrew asked the leader of the free world if he could pray for him. President Trump agreed, although I’m not sure he expected what happened next.
Andrew knelt down in front of the president…in front of a room full of dignitaries… in front of the world press…LAID HIS LEFT HAND ON THE PRESIDENT (I’m sure the Secret Service loved that!) and prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill our president and enable him to lead our nation well. I could hardly believe my ears when later, on ABC radio news, I heard that “Holy Spirit” portion of the prayer being broadcast to millions.
You might have noticed that Andrew had prayer notes in his other hand. It probably suggests that he was nervous; who wouldn’t be? But it also suggests that this was his plan all along! He saw this as an opportunity for Christian witness and ministry, and wasn’t going to squander this once-in-a-lifetime moment. When I saw that clip, I thought, “Maybe Andrew paid the price of two years of his life for that moment.”
Who knows how God will choose to answer that prayer. But wherever you are on the political spectrum, surely you must believe that a president with MORE of the Holy Spirit upon him is better than one with less, right? I am proud of Andrew and Norine Brunson. Proud of their witness, proud of their courage, proud that they are a part of our denomination. I am proud of our Stated Clerk, Dr. Jeff Jeremiah, who worked tirelessly to secure Andrew’s release. And I’m very grateful that, in this corrosive political environment, the Holy Spirit got His moment in the news!
This weekend we finish our journey with Jonah, ANOTHER believer in a VERY hostile land, whom God used in a mighty way. Although, I think the end of the book will surprise you!
P.S. Don’t forget that next week, October 27-28, we celebrate our Scottish heritage with St. Andrews weekend. Everyone wears tartan (plaid), we break out the bagpipes, and most importantly, we remember those of our number who have gone ahead of us to be with the Lord. Our Saturday night service will be at 6:30 pm in the Sanctuary (early Seahawks game the next day!), the Sunday services are at 9:00 and 10:45 am, and all will include bagpipes. Next weekend. Put it on your calendar!