(By Mark Barrett, The Citizen-Times). Andrew Brunson spoke frankly about his mission work when members of Montreat’s Christ Community Church traveled to see him in Turkey three years ago.
Some days he saw progress in leading his church of a few dozen people while also aiding refugees on the country’s border with Syria. Other days he felt discouraged.
Being a missionary in a foreign country is “a very tough row to plow,” the Rev. Edward Brouwer, a Brunson friend who made that trip along with seven other Christ Community members, recalled in a recent interview. Brouwer himself served as a missionary in the Philippines.
“He was quite honest with the fact that in the 20 years he had been there, he had been up and down,” Brouwer said.
Life for the minister with Black Mountain ties got tougher still last October when the Turkish government jailed him on a charge of belonging to a terrorist organization.
He has been there since, making his fate the subject of discussions among Turkish and U.S. government officials and the prayers of hundreds of people back home in Montreat and Black Mountain.
People who know Brunson say the charge is absurd.
“Somebody is making false accusations about him. To what end, I don’t know,” said the Rev. Richard White, senior pastor at Christ Community, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church congregation.
Brunson’s parents are members of Christ Community and the church financially supports the ministry of Brunson and his wife, Norine, in Turkey. She is in that country now, trying to win her husband’s release.
Some experts say internal politics in Turkey and the state of U.S.-Turkey relations means it could be a long time before Turkish officials decide whether Brunson, 49, has done anything wrong and whether to release him.