Andrew Brunson (with Craig Borlase)
God's Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance
Authenic Media, Milton Keynes, UK, 2019
ISBN-13: 9781788931274

Gods Hostage Andrew Brunson big

 

"This, as Brunson points out, may not be the book people are expecting. He doesn't see himself in the same light of his heroes of faith, like the 18th century  Moravian missionary Count Von Zindendorf, but rather as one whose time in prison was characterised by weakness."

Arrested on 7th October, 2016, American pastor Andrew Brunson spent 735 days as a prisoner in Turkey - mostly in various prisons but in the latter part of his time under house arrest - before he was eventually allowed to leave the country fly back to the US where he was welcomed by President Donald Trump. This memoir tells the story of what happened during that time, taking a look behind the headlines and news reports that so many of us followed during Brunson's incarceration.

The story starts just a couple of days before Brunson's arrest. Brunson and his wife Norine, who have three children, all based in the US at the time of the events recounted in the book, had been working as a missionaries in Turkey since 1993 and was based on the coastal city of Izmir where he pastored the Izmir Resurrection Church.

While he notes that there was "never a dull day in Turkey" - among the few stories he recounts about his time in Turkey prior to his arrest is when a gunman had opened fire at him (and remarkably missed), Brunson says that nothing had prepared him for the experience he was to face after he was detained.

Summoned to a police station, Brunson and his wife were shocked to hear there was an order for their deportation. Initially placed under administrative arrest pending their removal from the country, things quickly went downhill and the couple soon found themselves imprisoned in a detention centre in Isikkent where they spent two weeks before Norine was abruptly released.

The book then tells of the increasingly tough struggles and challenges Andrew and his wife faced over the next two years - he as he was held in various prisons, she outside, fighting for his release - as he faced what were increasingly absurd national security charges relating to allegations that he'd supported terrorist organisations.

Facing isolation and then being forced to live in close proximity with other detainees - some of whom reacted poorly to his Christian faith, Brunson faced ongoing medical and mental health struggles which eventually lead him to question his faith amid feelings of abandonment. Such was his depth of despair, that Brunson recalls entertaining suicidal thoughts at one low point (and yet Brunson describes how, after reaching his lowest point, he did make a decision to "fight for his faith" which he says, subsequently "changed his directory".)

This, as Brunson points out, may not be the book people are expecting. He doesn't see himself in the same light of his heroes of faith, like the 18th century  Moravian missionary Count Von Zindendorf, but rather as one whose time in prison was characterised by weakness.

"In prison, I often questioned with distress why I struggled so much, especially in comparison to some of my spiritual heroes - or at least what their biographies say about them," he writes in the epilogue. "I decided that if I ever had the opportunity, I would be open and honest about my struggles, that my testimony would be one of weakness: my weakness, but God's strength. Maybe God chose a weak man to serve as an encouragement  to others who feel weak."

Brunson writes that what broke him was his "unmet expectations".

"I expected that God would intervene to carry me above my circumstances into joy, that even in grief I would feel strength and an infusion of grace, and most importantly that I would have a sense of his presence. Instead, I felt abandoned by God. The truth is, God's faithfulness and loyalty and love are never put to the test in our difficulties; it was my faithfulness, my loyalty, my love for him that was being tested."

This is the non-sugar-coated tale of one man's painful journey of faith through the toughest, most dehumanising time of his life. Not only do we read a detailed account of the deprivations Brunson experienced and the mental and spiritual battle he was facing throughout his imprisonment, we're also given new insights into how Turkish authorities handled his case as well as the behind-the-scenes efforts of all those who fought for - and eventually gained - his release.

A book for anyone interested to get behind the headlines in one of the world's most prominent recent cases of religious persecution.