Why We Don’t Run Our North Korea Training School Like a Seminary

2015-06-10 18-150-0301 UU_UU Mission Trip in Thailand-UU students 03During my three years at seminary, I was trained to be a pastor through 90 credit hours of rigorous academic study.  While I’m thankful for my education, I’ve also realized that training is never complete when only book learning is involved.

At Voice of the Martyrs Korea, we facilitate a two year training school (UU) for North Korean defectors who want to be missionaries to their own people.  With 80% of all defectors still communicating with their family and friends in North Korea, it is one of the most effective ways to reach North Korea with the gospel.

At our two year training school, the students are required to be involved in much more than academics.  Hearing the word (academics) is extremely important, but doing the word (active ministry) holds equal footing.  For example, in any given week our UU students are visiting people in the hospital, leading worship in someone’s apartment, and going on a mission trip to work with North Korean orphans or defectors.

The below testimony is from KSS on her most recent trip to Thailand.  She is shown in the above picture preparing food for the NK defectors she was ministering to.  She has been in our academic classes for over a year now, but I want you to see the changes that took place in her through “hands-on” education.

After coming back from a recent mission trip to Thailand, KSS shared the life-changing lesson she learned. Along with one of our staff members and another UU student, KSS teamed up with a missionary in Thailand to meet defectors as they crossed the Laos/Thailand border. Once an NK crosses the border into Thailand, they are relatively safe, but they are often emotionally spent with no money and are easily taken advantage of. On the other hand, missionaries who work with NK defectors in Thailand are not safe. If they are caught, they face a sentence of twelve years in jail.

KSS had done missionary work before through UU, but she was deeply touched when she realized the selflessness and commitment it takes to be a full-time missionary in Thailand. As she observed the missionary from Thailand work, she understood that because of her own pride and selfish attitudes, God needed to do great work in her. We considered this a major breakthrough, as many NKs struggle with only wanting to be served and not wanting to give to others.

This is one of the main purposes in taking our UU students on mission trips. There is immense value in the service opportunity itself, but we are most interested in seeing them grow and develop through the service.

In early June, during our most recent Thailand training, the UU students ministered to five brand-new defectors who had just crossed into Thailand. Three of those defectors were from the same family – a mother (KO) and her two children. After defecting to China, KO had been sold three times to three separate Chinese men. As a result of being a victim of sex-trafficking, she had a total of four children, two of which are still in China. HO had difficulty walking because of her broken ribs and bruised waist that she received from one of these men. She was also just as damaged emotionally, and we saw her sorrow and anger bubble over during our time in Thailand.

KSS and BBS (another UU student) spent a considerable amount of time caring for her and sharing the gospel with her. Through the students’ efforts and more importantly the work of the Holy Spirit, KO received the Lord and started on her journey of a new life in Christ!

KSS has really blossomed during her UU training. She has become bolder in sharing the gospel and in praying for people. Whenever she senses that someone is sick, she will undoubtedly stop whatever she’s doing and pray for them. I don’t know how she would have done in my 90 credit hour seminary program, but I know that the ministry that she is doing today is beyond what most of my classmates would ever dream.

Posted in North Korea, Proclaiming The Gospel, Works of Mercy | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Why Loving Your Enemy And Loving Your Spouse Are More Similar Than You May Think

At first blush marriage hardly seems like preparation for Christian persecution except as a matter of jest. The disciplines required to kneel in holy witness before an ISIS executioner on a sandy beach hardly seem related to the disciplines required to kneel at a church altar and enter into the kind of matrimony that yields only to death.

But this may be because we do not fully understand either Christian martyrdom or Christian marriage, and thus we may not ultimately know how to be successful in God’s terms at either.

In the case of Christian marriage, it is given to us by God not for our satisfaction but for our sanctification. Marriage that satisfies but does not sanctify is not of the Lord; marriage that insists on the former in order to make the latter bearable isn’t either.

If this thought disappoints, it may be because we don’t fully understand sanctification either. Or, more accurately, we simply don’t enjoy it. Satisfaction is much more, well, natively satisfying to us, whereas we anticipate sanctification tasting like water being poured into the wine at a wedding feast.

That anticipation is not without grounds, since sanctification is a kind of divine drilling operation. It is at times profoundly unsatisfying because by definition it digs intentionally and unceremoniously beneath the only form of love that comes naturally to us, namely that rooted in our personal satisfaction.

But there is a reason for this digging beneath. Ultimately, sanctification in marriage allows us to tap into a source of love for spouse previously unknown and inaccessible to us, one much more abundant and far less seasonal than the superficial and easily depleted springs that bog about our psyches. The result of marriage-fostered sanctification is that love is enabled to flow out of us like living water, surprisingly independent of how much flows into us as a product of surface conditions. This is in contrast to our pre-sanctification state in which love must continually be pumped into us before some tithe of it can be siphoned back out.

Marriage sanctification, in other words, frees us from our spouse having to be the source of the love upon which we draw to love them in return. More and better love becomes resident in our marriages than either we or our spouse is capable of generating on our own. We are set free to vulnerably yet without reserve pass on the love for spouse that God gives–love that is patient, kind, not self-seeking, always protecting, always trusting, always hoping, always persevering.

Most interestingly, in giving it, we receive it as well: Divine love flows outward, yet it refreshes and renews the lover who loves in this way. This is the characteristic of divine love that differentiates it so fundamentally from its human counterpart. Human love is exhausted when it is poured out and not replenished by an equivalent pouring in. But divine love is fundamentally different. Contrary to popular understanding, it is not simply another exhaustible source of love that must be constantly replenished by us through, for example, Bible reading and prayer. These disciplines heighten our awareness of it, but they do not generate it. Divine love is its own replenishment–a river that refreshes the banks through which it flows, as it flows. Divine love begets love. It exhausts hatred, but not itself nor the one through whom it flows.

In marriage, divine love is sometimes though not always conveyed to us from or through our spouse. Sometimes it comes to us through the very act of our loving our spouse. In this way no Christian marriage is a loveless one for the Christian who loves, even if the spouse offers little or nothing in return. But, cautions the Apostle Paul, do not have low expectations for the one who is loved divinely. Just as receiving divine love sanctifies us (it is the only thing that can), it can likewise have a sanctifying effect on the one we love. Perfect love, even imperfectly received, can cast out a surprising amount of fear.

And so begins to appear the bridge between loving our spouse and loving our enemy. If in loving our spouse we become attuned to a source of love that begets itself anew in the act of loving, then gradually we come to recognize that the love we offer to any other need no longer be conditioned upon–and no longer sullied by–whatever they do or don’t do in response. In fact, we begin to recognize that it is in the act of loving that we are refreshed by divine love.

Far from the (peculiar and distorted) picture of martyrdom as Christian-against-the-world-standing-strong-for-his-beliefs, the centrality of enemy love in the Christian faith reminds us that if the martyr has not love for the persecutor, then even should he give his body to be burned, it profits him nothing. Paradoxically, we are renewed by loving our enemy, not destroyed. As with Jesus, the resurrection validates the cross; it does not reverse it. Moreover, it reveals the cross as the glory and the wisdom of God.

We do not prepare for martyrdom by protecting our theological convictions from those who would seek to compromise them. We prepare for martyrdom by loving our spouse and our friends differently–with a love rooted in sanctifying, not just satisfying, lover and beloved.

Posted in persecution | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Persecuted Church Teaches Us The Apostle’s Creed Is Not Dry and Outdated

Logo 071414Post by Pastor Tim – While talking to one of our discipleship partners recently, he was surprised to find that we regularly use the Apostle’s Creed and/or the Nicene Creed when we disciple new Christians.  He was more familiar with the Western style of more informal prayers, contemporary songs and faith-filled expressions of Jesus living in our hearts.

None of these are particularly bad, but these prayers, songs and expressions must be rooted in something more solid.

Those who don’t particularly like the creeds often say something like, “No creed, but Christ.”  While this sounds like a strong affirmation of the sufficiency of the Biblical witness, it’s hard to know what “Jesus” one is referring to.  For example, Jesus is recognized by people of many faiths including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and even Atheists.  Dr. David Steele of the Bald Reformer blog said,

One wonders which “Christ” the slogan appeals to.  Is this “creedless Christ” the figure portrayed in Islam, who is regarded as a mere prophet but stripped of his deity and majesty?  Or is he the Christ of Arianism, a mere created being whose blood is unable to forgive sinners?  Is he the Jesus of modern-day liberalism; you know the “cool Jesus” who tolerates sin and changes his mind about hell and eternal punishment?

Over sixty years ago, when NK church leaders saw persecution increasing under Kim Il Sung, they realized that they needed something more substantial than trendy sayings and shallow expressions.  They needed something which taught the essentials of the faith.  They needed something which guarded against cult activity.  They needed something to help them understand who God was in the event they had no Bibles.  They needed something that they could memorize and pass on to their children and grandchildren.  They needed something that could be used in evangelism to help bring someone to Christ.  They needed something which would connect them with Christians across the globe, even if they were physically cut-off from other believers.

What did they use?  They used the Apostle’s Creed.

That’s right . . . the same creed that many Western churches reject as outdated, moldy, and formal, the North Korean underground church considered essential for evangelism, important for discipleship, and a way to remain connected with other Christians.

J. Wesley Johnston in The Creed and the Prayer said,

Christ spreads His table with nutriment, not husks or syllabub.  Dry disquisitions and sentimental drivel cannot satisfy acute and intense spiritual needs.  Doctrines, creeds, and catechetical instruction are indispensable for making intelligent and biblically educated Christians (pg. 10).

Anyone who knows this creed thoroughly, who really understands it, who comprehends its full meaning, is a Christian in the largest application of that term (pg. 15).

What’s the secret to the Apostle’s Creed that the NK underground church understood that we don’t?  Why is it so meaningful to them, but so dry and lifeless to us?

During the kick-off to our 100 Days of Worship with the NK Underground Church, Pastor Foley said,

Sometimes, it’s often our own lack of experience in knowing how to use the tools that consigns them to mis-(and dis-)use. We need to translate the creed for ourselves–not into some kind of slang vernacular, but into the life and flow of our household worship and discipleship training where they can be used by the Holy Spirit to root us deeply in faith, too.

In other words, the NK church uses the creed in their daily life.  It’s not something they repeat once a week from their church pews.  They use it for evangelism, discipleship, household worship, cult awareness, and to connect with other Christians.  They use it in a variety of ways in their everyday lives.

Posted in Korean Christianity, Making Disciples, Muslim, North Korea, persecution | Tagged , , | Leave a comment