Andrew Brunson’s first stop en route to the U.S. after being freed from house arrest in Turkey was Ramstein Air Base in Germany. There, the pastor from North Carolina was greeted by U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell and a folded American flag.
Fresh off of the airplane and with his wife Norine by his side, Brunson grabbed the flag and kissed it, as captured in a photo that Grenell shared on Twitter.
Before long the Brunsons were meeting President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, where the pastor dropped to one knee and prayed for the commander in chief, Associated Press reported.
Ambassador ?@RichardGrenell? welcomed Pastor Brunson and his wife to Germany on his way home. ?@POTUS? and many others within the administration have worked tirelessly to get this great American home. ?@usbotschaft? pic.twitter.com/rR2xtkT5zE
— USConsulateFrankfurt (@usconsfrankfurt) October 13, 2018
Brunson had been in jail or on house arrest in Turkey for more than two years before his release. He was arrested in October 2016 and accused of aiding terrorists through a small Christian church that he and his wife operated in the coastal city of Izmir.
The Brunsons had worked in Turkey for 23 years without incident until his arrest.
Brunson was ultimately freed through high-pressure diplomatic negotiations overseen by Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Trump has said he believed in July that he had a solid deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to free the pastor, who was said to be in poor health while in jail.
After Erdogan reneged on the deal, the Trump administration responded with a round of economic sanctions against the Turkish government.
Brunson’s court hearing Friday was his first since the sanctions took effect.
At the hearing, four government witnesses recanted their testimony that the pastor was aiding terrorist organizations.
In an apparent face-saving measure, the judge presiding over the case convicted Brunson and slapped him with a three-year sentence. The judge also lifted a travel ban against the pastor, allowing him to leave Turkey.
After leaving Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Brunson landed Saturday aboard a military jet at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
“From a Turkish prison to the White House in 24 hours, that’s not bad,” Trump quipped at the White House meeting with Andrew and Norine Brunson, Associated Press reported.
When the president agreed to Brunson’s suggestion that he pray for him, the pastor got up from his chair next to Trump, kneeled, and put his left hand on the president’s right shoulder.
As Trump bowed his head, AP reported, Brunson asked God to “give him supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him. ”
“I ask that you give him wisdom in how to lead this country into righteousness,” the pastor prayed, adding:
I ask that you give him perseverance and endurance and courage to stand for truth. I ask that you to protect him from slander from enemies, from those who would undermine. I ask that you make him a great blessing to this country. Fill him with your wisdom and strength and perseverance. And we bless him. May he be a great blessing to our country. In Jesus’ name, we bless you. Amen.
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