This past Saturday I was arrested by the police during a routine ID check at the Ankara train station. I had arrived to speak at a youth event, and then to preach at the international church the following day. Others filled in and so that wasn’t a problem, though it did cause a lot of believers in Ankara to pray for me. 🙂
Praise God, I’ve been set free, and have a 15-day visa. Need to talk with the lawyers to decide next moves. Thanks to all who have prayed, I’m doing great, glad to be back with my wife and other loved ones.
Some of the members of the youth group spent several hours Saturday evening going from police station to police station, trying to find where they had taken me. I had been taken to the main police station’s terrorism department’s jail, which obviously was not open to visitors.
For many hours Saturday I was interrogated by multiple policeman, who painstakingly typed up my answers in their computer. One of the interrogators was obviously from the secret police, as he knew the names of all sorts of Christian workers and activities around the country, and asked about my connections with them.
They asked so many questions about so many things that several times I thought to myself that I wouldn’t need to write up my own memoirs later on, if only they would share with me all the copious notes they had written about me. 🙂
Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon I was released and given a 15 day exit paper, during which time I must leave the country. They told me I’ll have to pay a fine for overstaying my visa, but it wouldn’t cost much, and if I do they wouldn’t put an entry ban on my file, thus enabling me to return on a tourist visa.
My friends and coworkers were working feverishly to help me while I was in there. Andrew Brunson’s lawyer, Cem Halavurt agreed to help me, since my own lawyer felt that since they were apparently accusing me of a crime (doing things “linked to terrorist groups,” though they ended up not pressing any charges) that it was no longer an area she was able to help with. He sent another lawyer who managed to visit me in the prison Sunday morning for about 30 minutes. Cem himself had bought an air ticket to fly to Ankara today (Monday) to help, but thankfully didn’t have to because I was released yesterday.
It’s hard to know exactly why they decided not to deport me (as they were planning to do on Saturday). It could be that they don’t want to disturb relations with America right when things seem to be getting better now that Andrew Brunson has been released. Or it could have been the Supreme Court decision from February 2017, which explicitly prevents the government from deporting me until they have time to look at my case and make a decision. Maybe it was a bit of both.
Whatever the case, I was happy to take the many opportunities that arose to explain the good news of Jesus to various different policemen. Even now, just a few minutes ago, when Ulrike and I arrived at the train station for our return journey, two of the policemen with whom I had spent so much time on Saturday came up to me to greet me and wish me well on my return journey.
I’ve met with some church leaders, some of which seem to think that our time of ministry here in Turkey is coming to an end. Others are expecting I’ll be able to stay, somehow, someway. I got a call from a staff member of the US Embassy this afternoon, who also encouraged me to make sure I leave the country in 15 days. They are aware of my situation, and have also informed people at the Istanbul Consulate, in case I need any help from them.
Tomorrow will be an important day, as we meet with lawyers, ministry colleagues, fellow BCC leadership team members, members of the BCC board, colleagues and leaders from our mission sending agency, to decide what steps to take next.
It might be as simple as making an exit trip out of Turkey, returning shortly thereafter with a tourist visa, then applying and (highly unlikely) receiving a residence permit. Or they may let me come back in on a 3-month tourist visa, but then need to be away from the country for 3 months before coming again. Or they may put a one year, 5 year or permanent entry ban on me (despite promising not to–one never knows).
These last two days Ulrike and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, not only from believers here in Turkey, but from literally all around the world. It means a lot to us and encourages us greatly to know we’re not alone, that we’re a part of such a great family, God’s family.
It goes without saying that we value your prayers as we consider what to do in this situation. We’ll try to send more information in the upcoming weeks as things become clear. Our hearts are at peace. We long to stay in Turkey with the people we have grown to love here, but are resigned to do whatever God wants. To him be all the glory. Amen.
David & Ulrike