Before recounting her experience in Turkey where she and her husband, pastor Andrew Brunson, were imprisoned, Norine Brunson expressed gratitude.
“First of all, I just really need to thank you,” she told the SBC Women’s Session on June 10 preceding the SBC’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
“You need to hear it from my mouth. We’d love to thank the thousands, I don’t know how many, tens of thousands, maybe a hundred thousand people, who prayed for us” when her husband was arrested after 25 years of ministry in Turkey, imprisoned for over two years and finally released last fall.
She also spent 13 days in a Turkish detention center.
In an interview with Donna Gaines during the SBC Women’s Session at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, Brunson recounted how she met her husband Andrew at Wheaton College, married and later joined him as missionaries to Turkey with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a move she admits she resisted.
“I got on the plane and I cried. My life was done,” she remembered thinking, though knowing that God wanted her to go “joyfully and expectantly.”
But within four years, Brunson realized the Lord had worked in her heart.
“This was a huge grace, because He tied my heart there,” she said. “So, when there were hard things that came, we knew we were supposed to be there.”
And there were joyful moments as well, she said.
“The joy of being the first one to share the Gospel with somebody, to pray with them — they’ve never prayed with a Christian, they’ve never heard how we just talk to God,” she said. “These kind of things, you can’t beat them.”
Expressing gratitude to see God’s miraculous work among the Muslims in Turkey, she said, “This is the time for the Muslim world,” when many Muslims are “having dreams” and “supernatural encounters out of the grace of God.”
But with the miracles came major challenges.
The Syrian war caused a flood of refugees into Turkey, including the Kurds, whom even the Turkish believers disdained and did not want to reach with the Gospel.
Albeit a sensitive issue, the Brunsons’ Turkish church ministered to the refugees, which likely led to complaints and the subsequent attention of Turkish authorities. The Brunsons ministered in a police state, so it was normal to have secret police frequent their church.
“It’s just the way it is. It’s part of life. You don’t know exactly who is who,” with the risk for deportation always prevalent, she said.
One day, the Brunsons received phone calls indicating they needed to go to the police station. Initially thinking they were to receive their long-term residence permits, they “happily went.”
But upon arrival, “we were told that, no, we were not getting a visa; we were not getting a residence permit. In fact, we were being deported. In fact, we were being arrested,” she recounted. Normally, she said, expatriates are given 15 days to pack up their things, put their affairs in order and leave the country.
“It was a real shock to go from expecting to stay to all of a sudden we’re leaving,” Brunson continued.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press