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Missionary models in prison how we should live in quarantine


I read God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment and Perseverance during a unique time in our history. 

As a pandemic looms and we shelter in our homes for weeks upon weeks, avoiding contact with others, a sense of isolation and loneliness creeps in. 

Andrew Brunson. God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment and Perseverance. Ada, Mich: Baker Books, 2019. 256 pages.

Andrew Brunson. God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment and Perseverance. Ada, Mich: Baker Books, 2019. 256 pages.

I do not say that to compare our isolation with the experiences of author Andrew Brunson (whose story reads more like a Tom Cruise “Mission Impossible”-type drama than a missionary memoir). 

But I do hope that in a time like this we Christians can learn, much as Brunson did, to take our burdens to Jesus, to look to our Creator and to be faithful in times of trial. 

Brunson’s trials involved two years in various Turkish jails and prisons after he was wrongfully accused of political crimes. The missionary and his wife, Norine, moved from North Carolina to Turkey in the 1990s. There, they devoted their lives to training believers, helping refugees and leading a small congregation that met faithfully in their town of Izmir (ancient Smyrna). 

İzmir, Turkey

In 2016 they were arrested during a tense political coup. Norine was released after 13 days, but Andrew was held for more than two years. The Turkish government leveled charges against him including espionage and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government.

Brunson does not hide the fact that he faced great anxiety and mental breakdowns within the prison cells. He regularly was taunted by guards and other prisoners and quickly lost 50 pounds. He struggled to find strength and meaning in his trials and needed the help of medication from the prison doctors to withstand the worry and anguish in his mind. 

But I do hope that in a time like this we Christians can learn, much as Brunson did, to take our burdens to Jesus, to look to our Creator and to be faithful in times of trial.

Although he felt like a broken man, he said, “I realized I could not do much to fight for my freedom, but I could fight for my faith. …. I had no illusion that I could make it without God’s help. But insofar as it was up to me, I determined to persevere. … I will look to Jesus, not away from him. I will run to Jesus or, if necessary, crawl to Jesus.”

Brunson learned to allow the hard questions and doubts to come. Then he locked them in an imaginary box. He did not let the unanswered questions keep him from a relationship with God. 

He let the prayers and letters of faithful followers all over the world sustain him. He read about other Christians who were imprisoned and drew from their wisdom and practices to help him feel the joy of the Lord.

Katie Isenberg

Katie Isenberg

As he sat in a court with no jury — only judges — his soul must have taken a beating as he heard false witnesses speak lies about him. Yet he preached the gospel out loud in court and forgave by name all of those who spoke ill against him in the name of Jesus. 

Through God’s grace and the course of political action, sanctions and the pleas of many worldwide politicians, including our president, Andrew Brunson finally was released in 2018 after 735 days in captivity.

No matter our hardships, we can take them to the Lord. In the mission field, in a Turkish prison, in a world pandemic, God is the same yesterday and today and forevermore.

KATIE ISENBERG and her family live in Salem, Ore., where they worship with the Keizer Church of Christ.

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Filed under: Andrew Brunson God's Hostage Opinion Reviews

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