Now that he's back in the United States and free from his two years of detention in Turkey, Pastor Andrew Brunson is opening up about the struggles of his imprisonment and how God was using it for His good.
Brunson, a North Carolina native who along with his wife spent over two decades preaching the Gospel in Izmir before being charged with terrorism in 2016, made the rounds with cable news networks this week after he finally landed back on U.S. soil last weekend.
During those interviews, Brunson shed more light on the details of his widely publicized detention that has soured relations between Ankara and Washington.
In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Brunson said that he might be one of the "most hated men in Turkey" right now because of the fact that he was falsely accused of not only supporting a terrorist movement blamed for trying to overthrow the Erdogan regime but also supporting Kurdish terrorists.
When Brunson and his wife, Norine, were first arrested in October 2016, Brunson said they were "shocked."
"We were arrested on our oldest son's birthday and this was for deportation. Then we were told that we were a threat to national security and within a very short time it became clear to us that this was unusual and that we weren't allowed to see a consular official and my wife and I were kept for 13 days with no contact from the outside," Brunson explained. "It just kept extending and extending. We were really shocked because we spent 23 years telling people about Jesus in Turkey. We did this very openly and had never had a problem with it."
Although Norine Brunson was eventually released, Andrew Brunson was not.
"Just being in prison is pretty rough. At the beginning, I was held in solitary confinement for a number of days. That was very difficult and the way I survived that was by just by spending hours in prayer just to keep my sanity," Brunson explained. "Then I was kept in a cell for eight people but there were over 20 of us in there. It was very crowded. I was very isolated both by language and by culture and nationality and also by religion."
Brunson explained that all of his cellmates were "very strong Muslims" who had been arrested during the crackdown on the same terrorist movement that Brunson was accused of supporting to overthrow the Erdogan government.
"So it was like living in a mosque in a lot of ways," Brunson explained.
The evangelical Presbyterian pastor elaborated further on his treatment in prison in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, saying that even though the fellow prisoners treated him well, it "was very difficult to be the only Christian among them."
During his time in prison, the only consistent contact Brunson had with the outside world was the half-hours each week that his wife would visit. They married couple could talk through a window and phone but Brunson said that his wife would tell him that people all over the world were praying for him.
There was much concern during Brunson's imprisonment about the fact that he had lost over 50 pounds and seemed to be suffering mentally and emotionally.
Despite the conditions, Brunson told ABC News that he began to realize in prison how God was using his situation as a "blessing."
"This is one of the very surreal things," Brunson said when asked about Christians in the U.S. rallying to push for his release. "[My wife and I] are not known people. We are not very important people. We have been working in Turkey in obscurity for a number of years. Around the world, I think millions of people in many countries were praying for us. Even though this caused us a lot of hurt, I think that God has used this or was planning to use this to bring blessing to Turkey. Now there are millions of people who are praying for Turkey."
After about a year-and-a-half in prison, a court ordered Brunson to be released and put in home detention in July. In response the U.S. government put more pressure on Turkey to outright release Brunson and allow him to return to the U.S. through use of sanctions and a vow to double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum exports. The pressure led to further declines in the Turkish economy.
Brunson assured Stephanopoulos that even in light of his two-year detention, he still "loves Turkey.
Upon returning to the U.S. on Saturday, Brunson prayed over President Donald Trump in the Oval Office and asked God to guide the president and give him "supernatural wisdom."
"My wife and I have prayed for every president," Brunson told ABC News. "We have just never had the chance to do it in the Oval Office. Before we went to the Oval Office, my wife and I prayed together that we would have the chance to pray for him. We believe in the power of prayer and we think this president needs a lot of prayer. Every president does. So we ask God to give us that opportunity."
Brunson told Hannity that Norine wanted to pray verses over Trump from the Old Testament book of Isaiah and to ask that the "spirit of God to come upon him."