Richard White, Pastor of Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C., speaks to a reporter outside the Sakran Prison complex in Aliaga, Turkey, on May 7. White attended the second hearing of EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s trial. (photo credit: World Watch Monitor)
by Richard White, Pastor
Christ Community Church
Sad, angry, and resolute.
These are my states of mind as I wake after Andrew Brunson’s trial. After 10 hours in court, I am deeply saddened that the judge refused to allow Andrew’s request to return home and finish the trial under some form of house arrest. I’m sad at having to watch Norine be brave yet again for her husband and community. She is like Mary pouring her treasure out at Jesus’ feet. It’s her costly treasure of time, lost time with husband and children, her father’s death, and so much more. I’m also sad for the Turkish people and the blatant miscarriage of justice. This bleeds into my anger.
The judge allowed the most ludicrous witnesses to testify against Andrew. One young man, who had angrily left their church years ago, wanted to return to the church but was denied membership because he was such a troublemaker. He refused to repent. On the stand, this man admitted to creating a fake Facebook page in Andrew’s name and posting pro-terrorist items on it. The judge looked passed this and validated this man’s testimony of seeing terrorist flags in Andrew’s church. It was a total lie, but the judge said it carried weight. The judge not only led witnesses with his questions, but also linked all the witnesses at the end in an effort to maintain the case against Andrew. The most angering blow was at the end when the judge decimated Andrew’s witness defense list saying that most of his witnesses were also “suspects” and, therefore, could not testify on Andrew’s behalf. This, in effect, ties the hands of Andrew’s defense.
So, what to do with unresolved sadness and justified anger? This morning I am reflecting on 1 Peter 2:23—“When he was reviled he did not revile in return, when he suffered (unjustly) he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to Him who judges justly.” Also, Psalm 30:5— “Weeping endures for the night but joy comes in the morning.” And Romans 12:12—“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and constant in prayer.”
God did answer many prayers. Andrew spoke with clarity, authority, and boldness in the Lord as he refuted many, many lies spoken against him. Norine remained strong and alert. I had asked the Lord to be able to get into the courtroom. We got in. I asked to be a visible encouragement to Andrew and to have five minutes to visit with him. Everyone assured me that it would be impossible. No clergy of any faith have visited prisoners during this state of emergency in Turkey. BUT…then there was a technical difficulty with the jumbotron screens and while all were distracted, Andrew turned around in his seat and looked back at us as we sat in the back of the court. Norine said that this was not allowed. But with the judges distracted with the screen, Andrew was able to lock eyes with Norine and me and Sam and several others. I was able to communicate love, prayers, and blessings. It was a sacred and joy-filled moment from the Lord. We all wept. This technological difficulty lasted five minutes. It happened again later so we got another opportunity for eye–to-eye, loving contact. When Andrew was escorted out of the courtroom I moved to a place closer to his exit door and yelled out, “We love you, brother. We will never forget you. The whole church is praying for you back home.”
Joy, sorrow, anger, and resolution.
I remain resolute in standing with and praying for Andrew. I know you do as well. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Remember those in prison as though with them.” So we must keep praying. God is working something much larger than we can see or understand right now. I assured Norine and Andrew (in a note I left for Andrew with the U.S. consular) that our church is praying for them, even at 2:00 a.m. in Graham Chapel.
Thank you for praying. This is the hard work God has for us. Romans 15:30 says, “I appeal to you brothers and sisters by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered.”