post written by Esther Filbrun
Title: God’s Hostage
Author: Andrew Brunson with Craig Borlase
Major Themes: Faith, Missions, Missionaries, Prison
Synopsis: After being a missionary in Turkey for 23 years, Andrew Brunson was suddenly arrested in 2016 on trumped-up charges. Can his faith in God stand firm through the following years of incarceration?
If there’s one thing I appreciate about the homeschooling my mother gave me, I think it would have to be the Sunlight Curriculum we used. It meant a lot of reading aloud for her—and lots of reading to myself in later years—but I got to travel to many different places long before I ever stepped onto an airplane at 11 years old, and that has been worth a lot to me. One of the big tenants of the curriculum is to give a missions focus to children, so every now and then there are missionary biographies included—and I always (or almost always!) enjoyed them. I know the Benges’ books came up every now and then, but there were also others—Catching Their Talk in a Box, And the Word Came With Power, In Search of the Source, and, later, Torches of Joy and Peace Child. I almost felt like I was back in school then, when I read God’s Hostage. The freshness of the story, the clear hand of God’s leading woven through it—all of it felt like something akin to a classic, which is what I loved and learned from from a young age.
After being a missionary in Turkey for 23 years, Andrew Brunson is hoping he can finally get permanent residency in the country. When he and his wife are called into the police station, they are sure that that’s the reason for their summons—but what was a hopeful visit turned into their worst nightmare. Told they were suspected of affiliation with terrorist groups, they were immediately shipped off to prison. Andrew’s wife, Norine, was released after just a week or two—and Andrew was left, alone, in solitary confinement. He went on to spend over 700 days in prison. Much of that time, he really struggled with his faith, to the point that though he knew he still trusted Christ, he was tempted to suicide to end the pressure placed upon him. Thankfully, other people around him figured out what was going on, and his life was spared—but that didn’t diminish the spiritual struggling he went through in his time there.
I think my favorite part of God’s Hostage, and perhaps the part most difficult to put into words, was the portrait of a child of the Lord struggling so much in his faith, but still not giving up on the One he believed in. For me, that was powerful. Many stories we read of missionaries and other people who have been put in prison for their faith tell of the great joy they’ve found in Jesus’ presence, the amazing uplifting they’ve had after being stuck in such a difficult position—and this wasn’t Brunson’s experience at all. Not for the majority of his prison time, anyway.
I’ve always thought that if I had to go to prison for my faith, I’d struggle—it’s the kind of testing I’ve spent a long time in the past fearing—but Brunson shows that God is still with us even when we are struggling. That was beautiful!
There was one other thing I feel like I’ve talked to my family about too much after reading this—the writing style. This story can be, really, a very sad, difficult one—when boiled down to its essence. Brunson didn’t go to prison with a very upbeat attitude (who of us would?), and due to his limiting beliefs about God, he really struggled to see outside of himself most of the time. He was surrounded by Muslims almost constantly, so didn’t even really have any Christian influences—and for a majority of the time, he was only allowed to visit or write to his wife, and even those times were few and far between. It wasn’t easy. He was ready to give up multiple times, and sometimes just barely managed to drag through. And this story could so easily come across as negative like that. But it didn’t. The author (or co-author) did an incredible job telling the story while letting the glory and hope in Christ shine through, too. I really appreciated that! It took a lot of skill, and I’m not sure it’s something I could do—but it was good.
After reading God’s Hostage, I came away encouraged to continue seeking Jesus—even if my feelings lie to me sometimes. I also feel like I can more deeply understand the Turkish/Syrian conflict going on right now, as this book gives a great backdrop to part of what has been going on in the lead up to what we’re seeing now. It’s a fresh story, one that just happened—and one event mentioned in the Epilogue is something that rocked my country earlier this year! Telling a story so new like this is a risk, I think, because you don’t necessarily have the perspective that even a few years can give. Still, God’s grace overruled in this story, and I was thankful to see that. If you would like a picture into modern missions, modern Turkey, and following the Lord even when it doesn’t seem to make sense, check this book out. I really appreciated it, and I think most other Christians would, too.
Most impactful quote:
“Whatever you do or do not do, I will follow you.” —Brunson
I requested a free review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: In chapter 1, a man is threatened by a gunman, and the man shoots several times. In chapter 3, a man faints. In chapter 10, a man is tempted to commit suicide; later, in ch. 13, he decides to do a hunger strike that could lead to death. Throughout these chapters—possibly earlier than ch. 10—he is struggling with panic attacks and depression.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults
Links to buy God’s Hostage:
AbeBooks: View Choices on AbeBooks.com
Book Depository: Hardcover
Keywords: Faith, Missions, Missionaries, Prison, Autobiography, Christian Non-fiction, Christian History, 21st Century, Asia, Middle East