WASHINGTON — Upon returning home to the United States on Saturday after being sentenced to time served in a Turkish trial, Andrew Brunson, pastor of Resurrection Church in Izmir, laid hands on and prayed for President Trump in the oval office.
“We would like to pray for you. We pray for you often as a family,” Brunson said during the oval office meeting, which included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton and various members of Congress.
“Well, I need it probably more than anyone else in this room, so that would be very nice,” Trump replied. “Thank you.”
Brunson then got on his knees and laid his hand upon Trump’s shoulder and began to pray, reading from notes that he had written on paper.
“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 for him. I ask that You give him wisdom on how to lead this country into righteousness,” he prayed.
“I ask that You give him perseverance and endurance, and courage to stand for truth,” Brunson continued. “I ask that You to protect him from slander from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that You make him a great blessing to 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.”
Brunson’s wife, Norine, added to the prayer, asking that “the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the president, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.”
As previously reported, the Brunsons, who are from Black Mountain, North Carolina, were detained in October 2016 after being accused of having “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” specifically, the military coup that attempted to overthrow the Turkish government that year. Brunson had served as a pastor in the country for over 20 years.
According to World Watch Monitor, Turkish authorities detained and/or jailed thousands in their efforts to find those behind the operation. While Brunson’s wife was released 12 days after being taken into custody, Brunson was escorted into court, being told that a “secret informant” had accused him of involvement in terrorism.
In September 2017, Brunson was informed via a video conference with a Turkish judge that additional charges had been filed, including espionage, acquiring secret political and military information, seeking to overthrow the Turkish parliament and attempting to change the constitutional order.
Brunson said that he was innocent and asked that proof be provided. He stated that he has been in Turkey for more than two decades to simply tell the people about Jesus and has nothing to hide.
In April, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported that an official indictment handed down against Brunson claimed that the pastor used “Christianization” as a “mask” to engage in “unconventional warfare” against the government.
“The indictment goes on to give accounts from ‘secret witnesses,’ one of whom is code named ‘Dua,’ or ‘Prayer,’ who gives his interpretation of Christianity,” outlined attorney Cece Heil. “Within the roughly 25 pages containing his preposterous allegations, he opines that, ‘In the Christian faith, the beginning of the battle known as Armageddon is mentioned.’ He goes on to say that Protestants believe that President Erdoğan is the antichrist and that American Protestants are ‘counting on being forerunners in the war to come…’”
Heil said that the “secret witness” cited in the indictment stated that the battle will be started by Israel, and that it is a Protestant belief that “all humans are slaves of the sons of Israel and Protestants.”
“Dua’s account makes up almost half of the entire indictment and lacks any substance or evidence to support any of his ridiculous claims,” she explained. “Furthermore, such claims are not only a gross mischaracterization of Christianity, but offensive. Pastor Andrew has spent over 23 years of his life peacefully serving the people of Turkey as a Christian pastor, and should not be imprisoned for simply living out his faith.”
In July, Brunson was placed under house arrest until his trial, scheduled for Oct. 12. Prosecutors initially sought a sentence of 35 years in prison.
“I am an innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey,” Brunson told the court in Aliaga on Friday, expressing bewilderment at the charges that were being brought against him. He particularly noted that one witness who was questioned was speaking of events that were unrelated to the pastor.
According to reports, some witnesses also told the court that their testimony had been misconstrued, and one witness said that she did not even know Brunson.
While Brunson was ultimately convicted of aiding terrorism, the judge, whose name has not been released, sentenced Bruson to three years in prison, but reduced the sentence to time served due to good behavior.
Both Trump and Vice President Pence had called for Brunson’s release, as did U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In February 2017, nearly 80 members of U.S. Congress signed a letter to Turkish President Recep Erdoğan expressing doubt over the charges filed against the pastor. Brunson’s daughter also spoke before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this year to plead for help for her father.
While visiting the oval office on Friday, Brunson thanked those who worked for his release, stating that he was “very grateful” for everyone who prayed and fought on his behalf.
“We welcome the pastor back to North Carolina,” said Sen. Richard Burr. “He’s been missed, but his work in Turkey—like everywhere else in the world—to spread the word of Jesus Christ is absolutely crucial and it’s a foundational thing about this country.”
“What a special man of Christ,” added Rep. Patrick McHenry. “When he comes to the oval office, instead of just saying ‘Thank you for your prayers,’ he says, ‘Let me pray for you, Mr. President.’ What a special statement.”
1 Timothy 2:1-4 reads, “I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men—for kings, and for all that are in authority—that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”