Category Archives: People

Revelation 7:9 Task Force continues “listening tour”

 

Revelation79JanuaryMeetingMembers of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force continue to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves its neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language as described Revelation 7:9. The group met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, February 5-6.

Continuing its focus on “input” during its first year, the group spent a significant portion of its meeting in discussions with individuals outside the EPC. These include Léonce Crump, Pastor of the multicultural Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Michael Chen, National Director of Training and Cross-Cultural Ministry for the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO); and Michael Thornhill, CCO Associate Director of Cross-Cultural Ministry and Recruiting. The CCO is a strategic partner of the EPC.

“The hard and heavy work of listening—and listening well—is helped considerably by the support of friends and partners like Pastor Léonce and the CCO,” said Dean Weaver, Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in suburban Pittsburgh, Pa. “I know I speak on behalf of the entire Revelation 7:9 team when I ask everyone in the EPC to please keep us in your prayers as we continue this important work.”

The Task Force is co-chaired by Weaver and TE Rufus Smith, Presbytery of the West. Members are TE Tom Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Marc de Jeu, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE David Dwight, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Enid Flores, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Phyllis Le Peau, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Soon Pak, Presbytery of the Midwest; Beth Paz, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Brandon Queen, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Tim Russell, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Tom Werner, Presbytery of Mid-America; and Ted Winters, Presbytery of Mid-America.

 

 

Andrew and Norine Brunson to attend State of the Union address

 
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Andrew and Norine Brunson, pictured preparing to leave Turkey in October 2018.

EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine, will attend the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on February 5. The North Carolina natives will be guests of U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Tillis worked to help secure the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was held in Turkey for two years on charges of terrorism and espionage. Though innocent of the charges, he was convicted on October 12, 2018. He was released on the equivalent of time served and returned to the United States, where he met with President Donald Trump at the White House on October 13.

“The Brunsons demonstrated tremendous grace and unshakable faith during Andrew’s nearly two-year imprisonment and house arrest,” Tillis said in a statement released February 4. “His plight caused Americans from every corner to pray for his release and for leaders in both political parties to work together to apply pressure on the Turkish government to secure his return to American soil. It’s an incredible feeling that nearly one year after I first met Pastor Andrew Brunson in a Turkish prison, where he faced an effective life sentence, I now have the honor of welcoming him and his wife, Norine, as my special guests to the State of the Union.”

Trump will deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building. The address is scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. EST.

Nación Santa in Haines City, Fla., celebrates particularization as state’s first Spanish-speaking EPC congregation

 
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Leslee Quiñones (center) leads worship during Nación Santa’s celebration service on January 20, 2019. To her right is Pastor Luis Quiñones; to her left is Case Thorp, Senior Associate for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

Nación Santa (Holy Nation Church) in Haines City, Fla., celebrated particularization on Sunday, January 20, as the newest congregation in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

“I want to say ‘Thank you’ to the presbytery and the EPC,” Pastor Luis Quiñones told the gathering of more than 100 members and guests. “To God be the glory; we made it!”

The multi-national congregation—the first Spanish-speaking EPC church in Florida—has members from Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico. Nación Santa started as a mission church in Kissimmee in 2008, and relocated to the campus of First Presbyterian Church in Haines City in 2014. In early 2017, Quiñones approached David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, about leaving their denomination and coming under the oversight of FPCO and the EPC’s Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

“When we remember how we started our relationship with (FPCO), we have to say that God was moving in material ways,” Quiñones said. “Thank you for your love and support. You are one of us.”

Case Thorp, FPCO Senior Associate Pastor and EPC Moderator-elect, delivered a message from Philemon in which he asked the question, “What does it mean to be evangelical?”

Referencing verse 19, in which Paul reminds Philemon that he owes Paul “his very self,” Thorp posed two questions.

“Who do you owe? Who told you about Jesus?” he asked. “But further, who owes their life in Jesus to you because of your life and ministry? Who are you teaching and bringing up in Jesus?”

He noted that the answer to the second question “is why we are evangelical.”

In addition to Thorp, other guests included FPCO Ruling Elders Chris Phillips and Chris Morgan; Mike Gillett, Moderator-elect of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; and Juan Rivera, pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Rivera delivered the installation charge to Nación Santa’s first class of Ruling Elders— Esther Duque, Adalberto Negrón, Reinaldo Perez, and Kelvin Velez.

 

EPC pastors share victories and challenges, strengthen connectionalism

 

Pastors500-1000Pastors who lead EPC churches with membership of 500-1000 meet each January for networking, fellowship, community, and sharing best practices. At this year’s gathering, held January 16-18 at the Office of the General Assembly, 16 of these pastors discussed a variety of topics relevant to their ministries and settings.

Elder shepherding and discipling, discerning vision, strategic planning, leading through seasons of spiritual attack, self- and staff care, and the blessings and potential pitfalls of a congregation becoming more multi-cultural sparked rich discussion.

Mark Fuller, Pastor of Trinity Church in Plymouth, Mich., said the gathering “is the most encouraging thing I do all year. It is so refreshing to spend this time with peers; I go back home each year excited about how God is going to use what I get from being with this group.”

Others attending were Adam Barr, Peace Church in Middleville, Mich.; Scott Castleman, First Presbyterian Church in Ocean Springs, Miss.; Jeff Chandler, First Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; Scott Farmer, Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, Calif.; Bryan Gregory, Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Mich.; David Henderson, Covenant Church in West Lafayette, Ind., Scott Koenigsaecker, Sequim Community Church in Sequim, Wash.; Jeff Moore, First Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Ill.; Tony Myers, St. Paul’s EPC in Somerset, Pa.; Robert Perkins, Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church in Moraga, Calif.; Carolyn Poteet, Mt. Lebanon EPC in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Doug Resler, Parker EPC in Parker, Colo.; Tom Ricks, Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo.; Jeremy Vaccaro, First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.; and Richard White, Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.

Women’s Resource Council meets in Orlando

 
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Pictured (clockwise from left) are TE Sharon Beekmann, Presbytery of the West (Chair); Rebecca Duvall, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Heidi Bethel, Presbytery of the Southeast; Becky Melancon, Presbytery of the Gulf South; Joe Ann Stenstrom, Presbytery of the East; Kathy Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Mary Brown, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Kim Sinclair, Presbytery of the Midwest; and Melissa Cable, Presbytery of Mid-America. Additional Council members not pictured are RE Lynn Burge, Presbytery of the Central South; Kathy Marcy, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; and Tina Picard, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

The EPC Women’s Resource Council met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando January 14-15. Topics discussed by the group included exploring ways to better connect women across the EPC with each other, planning for the EPC General Assembly in June, and discussing resources for potential review.

Resources that the Council agrees to consider for review are vetted, and those approved for recommendation are categorized as Endorsed and Recommended as defined in the EPC Endorsement Policy. Completed reviews are posted in the Women’s Resources section of the EPC website at www.epc.org/thewell, and the Women’s Resource Council social media channels at www.epcthewellorg.wordpress.com, and www.facebook.com/groups/TheWellEPC.

Goal reached for Andrew Brunson recuperation fund

 
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Andrew and Norine Brunson, pictured as they are leaving Turkey on October 12, 2018.

Editor’s note: This article replaces an earlier version that contained potentially sensitive information.

As of January 2, the goal for the EPC’s “Welcome Back, Andrew!” Fund has been met. Donations to the fund will be used to assist Andrew and Norine Brunson in their recovery from their ordeal in Turkey. The Brunsons returned to the United States on October 13, 2018, following Andrew’s two-year imprisonment on charges of terrorism and espionage.

When the fund was launched in October, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said the fund would be closed to new donations when the target was reached.

“I know I speak for Andrew and Norine—and Christ Community Church—that starting 2019 knowing that Andrew’s year of recovery is fully funded is an enormous blessing,” Jeremiah said. “I am thankful for so many churches and individuals who gave sacrificially so Andrew and Norine can have this time to recover and seek what God has for them in their next chapter of ministry.”

Andrew is serving as Missionary-in-Residence at Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.—his and Norine’s home church. Gifts to the fund are financing the position (which was designed and created specifically for the Brunsons) for one year. Donations to the fund will cover court costs Andrew incurred with his conviction in Turkey of terrorism charges; relocation expenses; a travel allowance to help the Brunsons reconnect with their adult children (who live in three different parts of the U.S.); and seek medical and spiritual assistance as needed.

Merry Christmas from Jeff Jeremiah and the Office of the General Assembly staff

 

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We wish you a blessed Christmas! Left to right: Jeff Jeremiah, Wosene Scott, Phil Linton, Jerry Iamurri, Samantha Arcara, Jason Dunn, Catherine Rutter, Phil VanValkenburg, Jan Kelley, Cassie Shultz, Kristi Jeffcoat, Joan Smith, Pat Coelho, Zenaida Bermudez, Edward McDowell, Rebeca Santana, Bart Francescone, Caroline Swanson. Not pictured: Marti Brenner, Brian Smith.

EPC Chaplain Endorser uses Christmas display to benefit local food bank

 

For the fifth consecutive year, EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles has leveraged his home Christmas display to benefit the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. In 2016, he collected approximately 650 pounds of canned and dry goods from people who stopped in front of his house in Colorado Springs, Colo., to view the display. In 2017, donations exceeded his goal of 1,000 pounds by almost 40 percent, and more than doubled the previous year’s amount.

“Last year I received 1,387 pounds of food—which was tremendous—and this year I’m shooting for over 1,500 pounds of food,” Ingles said.

Ingles’ work has captured the attention of local media outlets.

KOAA News 5 in Colorado Springs broadcast a feature story on December 12.

Fox 21 News in Colorado Springs also highlighted Ingles’ efforts on its broadcast on December 12.

WORLD Magazine names Andrew Brunson its 2018 “Daniel of the Year”

 

BrunsonWorldDanielAndrew Brunson has been named the WORLD Magazine “Daniel of the Year” for 2018. The publication gives the annual award to an individual who exhibits bravery in defense of God’s authority by helping the persecuted.

Brunson and his wife, Norine, were missionaries and church planters in Turkey for 23 years prior to his arrest on October 7, 2016. At the time of his detainment he was serving as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church. His trial on charges of espionage, acquiring secret political and military information, attempting to destroy constitutional order, attempting to overthrowing the Turkish parliament, and membership in an armed terrorist organization began on April 16, 2018.

He remained imprisoned until July 25, 2018, when he was released to house arrest. On October 12, 2018, he was convicted on terrorism charges and released on time served. He and his wife, Norine, returned to the United States on October 13.

Click here for WORLD Magazine’s full-length feature on the Brunsons, their ministry in Turkey, details of his imprisonment, and their return to North Carolina.

Revelation 7:9 Task Force begins work

 

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Members of the EPC Revelation 7:9 Task Force met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, November 13-14. The group was appointed by Moderator Tom Werner (standing) in response to a recommendation approved by the 38th General Assembly “to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves its neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9).”

In its first face-to-face meeting, the group discussed the scope of its work, reviewed preliminary results of an online survey sent to EPC pastors in October, and explored a variety of opportunities and potential challenges that could inform their work over the next two years.

“I am excited about the work of the Task Force,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Their first year can be summed up in one word: Input. They are not working in a vacuum, but seek to learn about our churches and communities from pastors and leaders in the EPC, as well as glean from the experiences of other denominations and organizations that have navigated these same waters in recent years.”

The Task Force is co-chaired by TE Rufus Smith, Presbytery of the West; and TE Dean Weaver, Presbytery of the Alleghenies. Members are TE Tom Clymer, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Marc de Jeu, Presbytery of the Alleghenies; TE David Dwight, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Enid Flores, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Phyllis Le Peau, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Soon Pak, Presbytery of the Midwest; Beth Paz, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Brandon Queen, Presbytery of the Gulf South; TE Tim Russell, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Tom Werner, Presbytery of Mid-America; and Ted Winters, Presbytery of Mid-America.

Fund established for Andrew Brunson recuperation/recovery

 

WelcomeBackAndrewFundThe EPC has established a fund to assist Andrew and Norine Brunson in their recovery from their two-year ordeal in Turkey. Andrew will serve as Missionary-in-Residence at Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C., for one year, and gifts to the fund—dubbed the “Welcome Back, Andrew! Fund”—will be sent to the church to finance the position. Christ Community Church is the Brunsons’ home congregation.

Richard White, Pastor of Christ Community Church, said the role was designed and created specifically for Andrew and Norine.

“With the challenges of resettling back in the U.S. after 25 years in Turkey—plus the crush of requests we knew he’d receive—we wanted to provide Andrew and Norine the opportunity of a safe place to rest and recover,” he said. “Andrew’s primary responsibility as our Missionary-in-Residence will be to heal, and then to discern God’s direction for their future.”

In addition to compensation and benefits, donations to the fund will cover court costs Andrew incurred with his conviction in Turkey of terrorism charges; relocation expenses; a travel allowance to help the Brunsons reconnect with their adult children (who live in three different parts of the U.S.); and seek the medical and spiritual help they will need in the months ahead.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said the goal is to raise $160,000 and the fund will be closed when the target is reached.

“Throughout Andrew’s 25 months of unjust incarceration in Turkey, churches and individuals constantly contacted our office asking if they could provide financial help to the Brunsons,” he said. “Our response up to now has been that the time had not yet come, but we will be ready when it does. Now is that time.”

The fund was authorized by the EPC National Leadership Team. The Session of Christ Community Church approved the position on October 22, and Andrew accepted the offer on October 27.

“Let’s build on the memorable prayer, fasting, and advocacy efforts we made for Andrew and Norine by supporting the Missionary-in-Residence position at Christ Community Church,” Jeremiah added.

Click here to donate to the Welcome Back, Andrew! Fund.

General Assembly sermons, reports, Leadership Institute plenary session videos now available

 

GA2018VideosScreenshotVideo recordings of the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Memphis, Tenn., are now available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga/ga2018recordings. Speakers include:

  • Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary.
  • Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew Brunson.
  • Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk.
  • Eli Morris, Senior Associate Pastor of Hope Church, Cordova, Tenn.
  • Ken Priddy, Executive Director of the GO Center.
  • Tom Ricks, Chair of the EPC Church Planting Team.
  • Jennifer Ross, Director of Matthew’s Ministry at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City.
  • Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church, Cordova, Tenn.
  • Greg Thompson, Director of Research and Strategy for Clayborn Reborn in Memphis.
  • Dean Weaver, Moderator of the 37th General Assembly.
  • Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly.

The videos also are available on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80 in the playlist “38th General Assembly.”

#epc2018ga

EPC Chaplain Endorser participates in religious freedom award presentation

 
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EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles with Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo), recipient of the 2018 Chaplain Alliance Torchbearer Award

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Freedom presented its 2018 Torchbearer Award to Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) for her work in protecting the religious liberties of all military personnel and the chaplains that support them. Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser, is a founding member of the Chaplain Alliance and attended the September presentation in Washington, D.C.

“It was amazing to share the room with Rep. Hartzler,” Ingles said. “She so strongly advocates for religious freedom, and being there when she received this honor was so moving. It was an evening to remember.”

Hartzler chairs the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Service Committee, and also is chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Values Action Team, a group of lawmakers dedicated to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

Col. Phil Wright, now-retired U.S. Army Chaplain and Director of the Chaplains Alliance, said Hartzler “has strongly defended the military’s vocal support for our first freedoms and decisively taken action when the religious liberty of service personnel has been threatened. No one in our armed forces should be denied the ability to exercise the very freedoms they have volunteered to defend, even with their life. Her commitment not only benefits our chaplains and our armed forces, but their families, communities, and the entire country.”

Other who attended the presentation included Sen. Roy Blunt (R- Mo.), co-chair of the Senate Values Action Team; Michael Berry, Director of Military Affairs for the First Liberty Institute; Emile Kao, Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society; Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.); as well as numerous other denominational Chaplain Endorsers.

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty is an organization of chaplain endorsers (the faith groups that provide chaplains for the U.S. military and other agencies needing chaplains). The endorsers in the Chaplain Alliance collectively endorse more than two-thirds of the 5,500 military chaplains serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Brunsons leave Turkey, to have Oval Office meeting with President

 
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Andrew and Norine Brunson board an aircraft at a private terminal at Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport in western Turkey on October 12. The Brunsons are scheduled to arrive in the United States on October 13. (Photo credit: Family Research Council)

Andrew and Norine Brunson left Turkey on a military aircraft late on October 12, local time. They are expected to arrive at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C., on Saturday, October 13, after a stop at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. The Brunsons are expected to then go to the White House for a meeting with President Trump.

“This is the day our family has been praying for,” Andrew said in a statement. “I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States. My entire family thanks the President, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support.”

Trump was in Cincinnati, Ohio, for a campaign stop when told the military aircraft carrying the Brunsons had cleared Turkish airspace.

“We’re very honored to have him back with us,” the President said. “He suffered greatly.”

Brunson was convicted of terror-related charges and sentenced to three years, one month and 15 days in jail earlier on October 12. The judge then reduced the sentence to time served on good behavior, ordered him released, and lifted the house arrest and international travel ban.

After the ruling, the Brunsons went to their home in Izmir for several hours before being driven to the Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport in western Turkey.

Brunson is an EPC Teaching Elder from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey since 1993. He was originally detained on October 7, 2016, and held until July 25, 2018, when he was released from prison to house arrest. Brunson was indicted in March 2018 on charges of being a “member and executive” of the Gülen organization and supporting outlawed Kurdish militants. He faced up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of all the charges.

Administration, others celebrate Andrew Brunson release

 
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Andrew Brunson (left, wearing red tie and glasses) leaves the court in Aliağa, Turkey on October 12 after being convicted of terrorism charges but released on time served. (Photo: AP / Emre Tazegul)

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and others took to social media to celebrate the release of Andrew Brunson on October 12. Brunson was convicted by a Turkish court on terrorism charges and sentenced to 37 months in prison. The judge reduced his sentence to two years for good behavior, and ordered Brunson released on time served.

He was originally detained on October 7, 2016, and held until July 25, 2018, when he was released from prison to house arrest.

Brunson is scheduled to be flown to a U.S. air base in Germany by military transport on October 12 before returning to the United States.

In a statement to the court before the verdict was issued, Brunson tearfully refuted all the allegations.

“I’m an innocent man,” he said. “I love Jesus. I love this country.”

Brunson’s defense attorney, Ismail Cem Halavurt, said the verdict was “the best of a bad situation. He is going to go (to the United States) but I hope he is able to come back. He is someone who absolutely loves Turkey.”

RELEASED! Andrew Brunson convicted but released on time served; return to U.S. expected soon

 
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Andrew Brunson (center) is shown being transported from his home in Izmir, Turkey, to the court in Aliağa on October 12.

A Turkish court lifted the house arrest and international travel ban against EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson on October 12, while sentencing him to 3 years, 1 month, and 15 days on charges that he assisted the Fethullah Gülen organization. The Turkish government blames Gülen for the failed July 2016 coup attempt and considers the organization a terrorist group.

By removing the travel restrictions, Brunson is free to leave Turkey.

The October 12 hearing was Brunson’s fourth appearance in court.  At the close of the proceedings, the prosecutor asked for a 10-year sentence but requested that the court release Brunson from house arrest and lift the international travel ban.

“Finally, after two long years, Andrew has been released,” said EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “God has shown Himself faithful—as He always does—to Andrew, Norine, and their family, as well as to the thousands and thousands of people who have been praying for the Brunsons for so long. Let’s continue to pray for their safety and quick departure from Turkey.”

Turkish and other international media reported that at several prosecution witnesses retracted earlier statements during the October 12 hearing in Aliağa, Turkey.

News media around the world began reporting on October 11 that a “secret deal” between the U.S. and Turkish governments had been reached. Under the agreement, Brunson would be released after certain charges against him were dropped, in return for a commitment by the U.S. to ease economic pressure on Turkey. It is unclear if the October 12 decision is in response to the reported pact.

Brunson is an EPC Teaching Elder from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey since 1993. He was originally detained on October 7, 2016, and held until July 25, 2018, when he was released from prison to house arrest. Brunson was indicted in March 2018 on charges of being a “member and executive” of the Gülen organization and supporting outlawed Kurdish militants. He faced up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of all the charges.