Pastor Bryan Nerren of International House of Prayer Ministries in Shelbyville was reunited with his family Tuesday night at the Nashville International Airport in an emotional homecoming after the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) helped secure his release.
"All my life, I have been an extreme patriot. I love my country very much. In the last twenty years returning from mission trips, it is a great feeling, coming home," Nerren told Fox News after landing. "But nothing can compare to today. When I watched out the window and saw the shores of New York all I could do was cry and thank God. The U.S. is my family’s home and family is everything."
The last time Nerren saw his wife, Rhonda, and his kids and grandkids was Oct. 3, 2019. It was a seven-month nightmare that began as soon as the pastor landed in Bagdogra, India, for conferences in the populous country and Nepal.
Nerren runs a nonprofit ministry called Asian Children's Education Fellowship, which has trained Sunday School teachers in India and Nepal for 17 years. He was accused of not declaring funds to customs for mission work.
The pastor told a local station, WKRN, that he was threatened with several years in prison and believes it was a crackdown on American Christians. Pastor Bryan Nerren of Shelbyville, Tenn., was reunited with his family Tuesday after being detained in India for more than seven months.
The ACLJ represented Nerren and his family throughout the ordeal, working with members of Congress, the State Department, U.S. embassy, National Security Council, and his attorney in India, to secure his freedom. And more than 200,000 people signed ACLJ's petition demanding his release.
“We are thrilled that Pastor Nerren has been allowed to return home to his family, who have desperately needed him,” CeCe Heil, senior counsel for ACLJ, said in a statement.
Nerren, who goes to India and Nepal twice a year for his mission, said he's not giving up on his work.
"India has one of the most abusive police systems in the world," he explained. "Daily they steal, extort and blackmail their own people. It was no exception for me, they told me from the beginning they would stop me, but the story is still being lived."
"God loves India and Nepal, so do I. I will double down and invest even more to help the children of India and Nepal. I will not give up."
Open Doors USA, a Christian persecution watchdog, lists India as number 10 on its 2020 World Watch List for "horrific levels of violence from extremists." Hindu nationalism "advocates for the belief that India belongs to Hindus and people of other faiths should find somewhere else to live, work and worship,” it said.
Nerren has been detained and spat on before, but many believers face far worse persecution.
“Today we celebrate the return of Pastor Nerren to his family in the U.S.,” Heil said. “But let us not forget the Christians in India and all over the world who are facing persecution daily, simply because of their faith. Please continue to pray for them, as well as all who suffer persecution for their faith. Our work for the persecuted Church does not stop.”