A faithful American pastor freed after two years in a Turkish prison dropped to a knee in the Oval Office Saturday and prayed with President Trump.
After thanking Trump and a host of dignitaries for his long-awaited release, the Rev. Andrew Brunson, surrounded by family and White House staff, knelt beside the President and prayed for his administration, the country and prisoners around the world.
“I ask that you give him wisdom on how to lead this country into righteousness,” Brunson, who had pastored a church in Turkey for 20 years, said in his prayer. “I ask you to protect him from slander from enemies. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance.”
Trump had joked moments earlier that he probably needed the prayer more than anyone else in the room.
Brunson, 50, who lived in Turkey with his wife and three children, was arrested in 2016 by the government which had accused him of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulenist movement, which Turkey blames for a 2016 failed coup.
In July 2018 he was released from prison for health reasons and moved to house arrest until his trial. A few weeks later, the U.S.-imposed sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers over his continued detention.
A Turkish court sentenced Brunson on Friday to three years in jail, but freed him because of the time he had already spent in detention.
“From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that’s not bad,” Trump said.
The issue strained relations between Turkey and the U.S., but Trump expressed hope that the two countries could get back on track.
“We’ve been negotiating long and hard,” Trump said at a White House ceremony. “We do not pay ransom in this country, at least not any longer. You’ll have big problems and lot of bad things will happen.”
“Until this we had a pretty good relationship,” Trump said. “I’m surprised we didn’t work this out a couple of months ago.”
Trump thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for helping with Brunson’s release.
Brunson, meanwhile, expressed his continued love for Turkey, though he would not commit to returning there.