EXCLUSIVE Interview: Deported Evangelist Torben Sondergaard Warns Persecution Is Coming
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EXCLUSIVE: Deported Evangelist Torben Søndergaard Talks to CBN News
When Torben Søndergaard and his family fled religious persecution in Denmark in 2019, they thought they would find refuge in the United States. They never expected the treatment they would receive from the U.S. government.
Leaving Denmark with only their suitcases, Søndergaard continued his ministry, The Last Reformation, in America. Then last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials canceled Søndergaard's visa waiver without his knowledge and arrested him. First, authorities told him it was for charges of gun smuggling. Then it was changed to overstaying his visa.
Treated Like a Dangerous Criminal
The Christian minister was incarcerated in the federal wing of the Baker County Jail in Macclenny, Florida, spending his first 10 days in solitary confinement. He told us he was forced to wear a red jumpsuit, which is used to identify high-risk and violent inmates, even though he has no criminal background.
After 412 days in jail, more than a year, Søndergaard was deported back to Denmark, which he immediately left to reunite with his family in another, undisclosed nation.
Now, in his first media interview since being deported, Torben told CBN News how shocked he was to be imprisoned in America.
"I think the biggest thing was shock," Søndergaard said. "I did not understand how this could happen in a country like America, where there's so many Christians and churches and ministries."
Søndergaard told us that inside the facility, he faced a level of hostility and intimidation from ICE officers that was different from the treatment of other detainees.
He said, "I had people come to me and say, 'What is happening to you? What is happening here? They don't treat anyone else like this.' There was intimidation. I had some encounters with the ICE officers that were very unusual, and it was very frightening to be there. So, in that way, yeah, my case was different."
At a House subcommittee hearing in July, the Chairman of the Border Security and Enforcement Subcommittee, Congressman Clay Higgins (R-LA), accused the Biden Administration of targeting and persecuting Søndergaard.
Higgins told the subcommittee that Søndergaard "...is a legal immigrant from Denmark, came to our country legally, applied for asylum properly and no criminal charges. He was arrested for overstay of his visa. He's been incarcerated and in solitary confinement for over one year. He's been persecuted by this administration and targeted, we believe, because he's an evangelical Christian minister."
Prison Transformed and Humbled Him
Torben says despite the harsh treatment he experienced, his time in the prison transformed and humbled him, especially when Christian leaders he said he had been inwardly critical of were some of those who spoke out on his behalf.
"And when they spoke out for me, it really humbled me in a deep way. 'Did they really speak out for me?' And God used it to really humble me and my wife and to show like, who's our enemies and who's not our enemies. We have the same enemy. We are sure not the enemy against each other," Søndergaard said.
Torben says he was one of the few detainees in the facility who did not speak Spanish, but that did not stop a revival from spreading through his unit.
Revival Spread Through the Prison
Søndergaard recounted how, "I had a person from my first cell who came to my dorm and I asked him, 'Hey, are you a Christian?' "And he said, 'Yeah, yeah.' He said, 'Actually, in our dorm we are doing Bible study every day. There is a missionary someplace in this prison who has done some teaching. It's been translated and is going from dorm to dorm and we are doing Bible study in our dorm. And it's so good.' And he told me that and I said, 'I'm that missionary,' (and he said) 'You are?' And he was so excited to see me, so it really just grew."
Søndergaard said, "Many got healed, people were filled with the Holy Spirit, and many were set free in our cell. It was really powerful, and it was a very special time."
"The most beautiful communion I ever shared was on the prison floor with a new convert. The most beautiful baptism was in there. And the Word became alive in a very different way."
"It was really beautiful sometimes."
Søndergaard Believes Persecution Is Coming for All Believers
However, Søndergaard believes his experience is also a warning to the church that persecution is coming.
"We think (persecution) is for the few extreme (Christians) out there. And we think we are safe if we just don't do like them. And maybe it's just a few now, but it's a few now and then in a short time it will be the many. And in the future, it will be everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord."
Torben's asylum application is still pending, but for now, he has finally been reunited with his wife and family.
"I'm very close to my wife and my daughters, and my wife went through a very, very, hard time in all of this. It's good to be out. It's good to be free, so I feel excited for the next season. At the same time I feel a little homeless. I don't know, 'What now? What is going to happen now?'"
"I would say it was truly the best Bible school I have ever been in. I don't want to do it again, but I'm thankful for what God did through all of it. "
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