Rev. Richard Wurmbrand Taught Us That Doing The Word Is Both Necessary And Dangerous

in gods underground 2After being released from prison after serving eight-and-a-half years of a twenty year sentence, Rev. Richard Wurmbrand was ready for some rest and relaxation.  He said,

Now that I was free, I longed in the depths of my heart for quietness and rest.  But communism was working everywhere to complete the destruction of the Church.  The peace I desired would have been an escape from reality and dangerous for my soul (In God’s Underground, 189).

Soon after Wurmbrand was released, he went to see Patriarch Justinian Marina to plead the case of his friends that were still imprisoned.  This meeting was particularly dangerous because the patriarch had already proven to be quite damaging to the true church.  This meeting, along with his refusal to stop preaching, caused the communist officials to re-arrest him on January 15, 1959.    Shortly before his arrest Wurmbrand prayed,

God, if you know men in prison whom I can help, souls that I can save, send me back and will bear it willingly (In God’s Underground, 197).

What strikes me as simply amazing is that fact that Wurmbrand was not content to hide away in his attic apartment.  He wasn’t content to take an extended vacation.  He wasn’t content to work a simple job and make a quiet living. What things are we often content with?

  • Taking vacations
  • Relaxing in front of the computer or TV
  • Taking walks at the park
  • Mowing the grass on a Saturday afternoon
  • Playing board games
  • Attend the 1.5 hour church service every Sunday
  • Working hard at my 40-50 hour per week job

The things in the above list aren’t even remotely sinful.  They aren’t bad at all.  But they are things that we find fulfillment with–and that’s the problem.  We tend to be content with working hard and playing hard.

But if Rev. Richard Wurmbrand were to look at this list he would surely notice something was missing. I believe that he would notice that there is a lack of “doing God’s word” in this list.  The Bible says that if we live our lives without a healthy dose of “doing God’s word,” than we are foolish.  And yet, it was Wurmbrand’s doing (preaching and meeting with the patriarch) that sent him back to jail . . . something worldly people would surely call foolish.

When we “do the word,” the Bible promises that persecution is sure to follow.  Simply put, there is really no safe way to obey Jesus.  Wurmbrand was willing to be called a fool in the world’s eyes.  He was unwilling to rest and relax when confronted with worldly evils.  He was willing to do the word and face the inevitable result of being sent back to prison.

Wurmbrand’s legacy is not simply for us to remember how great of a man he was.  Wurmbrand’s legacy is that we are now inspired to not be content with our lives the way they are.  His legacy is that we “do the word” despite the consequences and with full knowledge that persecution will follow.

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Send a Personal Message Of Christ’s Love To Over 2 Million North Koreans

2015-03-06 18-150-0062 TVOM Broadcast_recording 09Would you like to send a personal message of God’s love to over 2 million North Koreans? 

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to do that at the recording studio in our South Korean office. VOM Korea provides North Korean Christians with one of the strongest (200kW) shortwave radio signals into North Korea for 90 minutes every night, reaching an estimated 2 million listeners according to independent surveys.

Our 90 minute broadcasts normally revolve around a central theme such as sin, creation or the names of God.  They contain simple and clear teaching on the Bible but in a conversational style with both South Koreans and North Koreans participating.  Throughout the broadcast we play songs from our North Korean hymnal that relates to the particular subject.

We also add short radio greetings from Christians all around the world.  This is particularly important because North Koreans have been taught that Westerners hate them and that Christian missionaries like to “eat the guts” of North Koreans.  In fact, only a few months ago, I had a recent defector come up to me and declare that he was trained to shoot people like me!

A short audio greeting from Christians in the West goes a long way in helping NKs question what the Kim regime has taught them since birth.  And even more important, it plants the seed of God’s love in their heart.

The radio broadcast team at VOM Korea, would like to welcome you to send us a short audio clip of your greetings and of God’s love!

We can’t promise that we’ll use every one, but I pledge to personally listen to whatever you send. Before you record your own greeting and send it to me, listen to the other greetings below.

Listen to Susana’s Greeting.

Listen to Colin’s Greeting.

Listen to Alexander’s Greeting.

You’ll notice that the greetings are very short and very simple.  Please don’t talk about any topics that are too theologically deep such as atonement, propitiation, soteriology, or the Trinity.  Even something as simple as “prayer” can be misunderstood in North Korea. We never water down the gospel message, but we make sure to unpack Scripture in an understandable way during the 90-minute broadcast.

Please send your short recordings to me at  If your particular recording is too large to send via e-mail, please use – it is very simple and reliable. With each recording, make sure to spend ample time praying that God would use this simple recording to remind North Korean of God’s love and care for them . . . expressed through your voice!

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Here’s My Doctoral Dissertation Summarized In 148 Words, Plus My List Of The 120 Best References On North Korea

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Doctoral dissertations are, as a rule, boring to everyone except for the person who wrote them. It would be conceit to assume that my own dissertation is otherwise.

Still, there are a few reasons for me to share it with you.

First, I think anyone who interviews North Koreans, North Korean defectors, persecuted Christians, or refugees should actually read the whole thing. Interviewers should at least do no harm through their interviewers, and I fear that most of us, unwittingly, do not yet meet that standard. On the positive side, the degree to which interviews can be means of healing for members of this population is extremely important, and understudied. It is no exaggeration to say that learning how to interview in a more healing manner was the primary benefit I accrued through my doctoral research.

Second, I remain concerned by the lack of documentation and triangulation of information in North Korea work, as well as in work related to the persecuted church more broadly. Our goal should never be to be the first to publish information. Our goal should be to publish only accurate, reliable information, no matter how long it takes to verify it. I still encounter speakers and writers about North Korea quoting extensively from discredited material as if it were true. This leads to distorted understanding and unhelpful action. Just because someone says something bad about North Korea (or Muslims, or ISIS, or Barack Obama) doesn’t mean that it is true. For Christians, speculation and unsubstantiated rumors should not be wielded as weapons. We need to repent of that, no matter how bad the baddies are.

Third, too few people in my corner of the Kingdom undertake doctoral-level research. Some get doctorates, but that’s still distinct from undertaking original qualitative or quantitative research. There are things we need to examine about our practices. The subjects we teach deserve a deep-dive treatment. Glenn Penner, the now-deceased former CEO of Voice of the Martyrs Canada, did his best in his own way to change that, through research and writing his own book, In the Shadow of the Cross. I hope in some small way to encourage others to follow this path. I have heard some say, “I can’t take four or five years off from my work! It’s too urgent! And I have kids!” I didn’t take a sabbatical to do research. I did it about my work, as part of my work. It’s difficult, but it’s possible. And it should be done, because we need more of it. Also, this process has led some of our children to decide to do advanced degrees. If you want to see your kids do well in school, do well in school right along with them.

Finally, as I was doing my research, I found very few repositories of scholarly information on North Korea, life story narrative, or persecuted Christians. I am offering my thesis for download here in an effort to give those who come after me a head start that I didn’t have. I hope it helps. And if you find more great articles or research, please share those with others. (Please don’t share them with me for about three years, as it’s going to take me that long to catch up on reading everything unrelated to my dissertation that has been stacking up while I’ve been reading what you’ll see in the three reference lists of my dissertation. There’s one list for my qualitative thesis, one for my quantitative thesis, and one for my integrative thesis. However, the reading list that’s the longest is the list of everything else that came out while I was reading something on one of these three lists.)

If you’d like a free downloadable version of my thesis (no registration required), click here.

If you’d like to save yourself the 115 pages of reading, here’s a 148-word summary, or abstract:

A mixed methods study considers the co-creation of life story narrative by North Korean defectors in South Korea and those who hear their narratives. In an initial qualitative study 30 North Korean defectors discover happy memories previously omitted from their life story narratives through reconsideration prompts from interviewers. Discovery prompts a “valence change” in which defectors re-evaluate their life as being essentially happy rather than sad. An experimental treatment of 122 North Korean defectors newly arriving in South Korea is undertaken in order to extend the concept of reconsideration prompts to entire narrative frameworks through a narrative intervention. Experimental group means for eight meaning-in-life measurements increase while means in the control group decrease across the same variables. The present platforms for North Korean defector life story narration, e.g., immigration interrogations and defector-as-political-symbol “objective” accounts, are critiqued. New platforms and strategies for listening and hearing are commended.

I should note that congratulations are not quite yet in order for completing this work. One paper remains for me to write between now and graduation in May 2015, and that paper is not a short one. I need to write it while traveling to China, Finland, Poland, the US, and Mexico.

So I thank you in advance for your continued prayers, and also for your serious engagement of the thoughts contained in this post and in my dissertation. I do not know if I have done these subjects justice, but they are sorely deserving of some.

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