Pastor imprisoned in Turkey for his Christian faith says youth aren’t ‘prepared for what is coming’

Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned for two years in Turkey before the Trump administration helped free him in October, told the Southern Baptist Convention Monday night he believes the next generation is going to experience more intense Christian persecution.

The North Carolina native missionary warned the thousands of pastors gathered in Birmingham, Ala. to be prepared.

Brunson, who prayed for President Trump in the Oval Office upon his return to U.S. soil, opened his remarks on a "Blessed are those who are Persecuted for Righteousness" panel by asking those in the crowd to raise their hands if they prayed for him so he could thank them and point to the importance of those prayers for the nation of Turkey overall.

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"Your prayers sustained both me and my wife," Brunson told them. "The Lord just made me a magnet for prayer, and I think someday you're going to see that it was really something tremendous that God was doing."

The evangelical pastor shared that he was suicidal during the two-year imprisonment but was sustained through Bible reading and prayer, especially from his wife, Norine. Brunson shared that the Lord spoke to him in 2009 about warned him that in Turkey difficult times were ahead.

"I don't think that we're prepared for what is coming," Brunson added. "Especially the next generation, I fear that many of us are complacent and we're unaware and this means that the people in our churches are going to be blindsided by what comes. You are the ones as pastors and leaders of churches who have the task of preparing the next generation."

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The missionary of 23 years in Turkey was arrested and charged with terrorism and espionage and accused of "Christianization," which was deemed a "hostile act." He told his fellow pastors that persecution is nothing new but they must be prepared for it.

"Many of you are going to have the opportunity to stand in that line of suffering and you have to prepare yourself for that," Brunson said.

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Brunson explained that his time in prison "tested my love for God," but that he resolved never to compromise his relationship with God.

"I made a decision towards the end of my first year in prison that was a turning point for me. I decided that I am going to fight for my relationship with God. If I lose my intimacy, my closeness to Him, then I've lost everything."

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The SBC annual meeting concludes Wednesday night with a panel on sexual abuse, a topic at the forefront of this year's meeting, as membership has been steadily declining among the 47,000 churches in the denomination.