Asia’s persecutors: NK, China…and Russia???

On April 2019, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) added Russia to its list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC), a list of countries “whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations.”

This rise in Christian persecution is tied to Russia instituting the Yarovaya Law in 2016.

The Yarovaya Law outlawed house churches, forced missionaries to have government permits, and forbid Christians from evangelizing outside of church.

Forum18, a news service that reports on Religious Freedom in Russia and Central Asia, details 159 anti-missionary prosecutions in 2018 alone.

In one of these cases, a Baptist Christian named Eldar Akhundov was fined simply because a stranger asked for spiritual help and Akhundov invited him to worship together. Another Christian was arrested because he supplied a stranger with a religious booklet after the man asked him for one.

The issue needs to be brought to the attention of Christians here in Korea and around the world, for both prayer and mission reasons. In Korea, our research reveals less than five news reports in Korean Christian media on the subject of Russian anti-missionary prosecutions. Furthermore, the most recent of these articles was in 2017.

Of the 159 prosecutions, only one involved a Korean: a woman who was a member of the World Mission Society Church of God. Though this group is considered a cult, the charges brought against her should concern all missionaries traveling to Russia, whether Korean or otherwise, cult or true Christian.

That’s because this Korean woman was arrested for “dissemination of information about her beliefs among people who are not members of this religious association, with the aim of involving them in the association.” That’s exactly what Christian missionaries do, too. As a result, we must make sure churches and missionaries serving in Russia are prayerful and prepared.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea is joining USCIRF in labeling Russia a “country of particular concern” and noting an urgent need to prepare Russian Christians for persecution. We should remember that Voice of the Martyrs global founders, Pastor Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, began ministering to Russians in the 1940s.

The Wurmbrands were Romanian Christians who risked their lives to smuggle Bibles and financial aid to Russian Christians who were persecuted by communists. When the communists took over Romania, the Wurmbrands themselves experienced persecution. Pastor Wurmbrand was imprisoned for 14 years, and Sabina spent three years in slave labor camps and prisons. Instead of cursing the communists, Pastor Wurmbrand wrote, “I hated communism, but I loved the Russians.”

In light of Voice of the Martyrs’ longstanding commitment to partnering with Russia’s Christians and missionaries, we are urging Christian media, mission agencies, and churches to join us in monitoring the situation in Russia closely. We invite Christians interested in Russian mission to join us in undertaking persecution preparedness outreach to Russian Pastors.

Unfortunately much of the Glasnost-era interaction between Russian (and Russian speaking) Christians and those in the US, South Korea, and Europe prepared Russian Christians for prosperity, not persecution. That is why we are in the process of translating and publishing a Russian language edition of our book, Preparing for the Underground Church, and mobilizing a team to develop resources and training events for Russian pastors and missionaries.

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Nothing to Pity: God’s Purpose for the Pain of a Sex-Trafficked North Korean Woman

Join us in remembering faithful North Korean missionary, Mrs. Hong.

Like many North Korean women, Mrs. Hong was sex-trafficked into China. Unlike many North Korean women, however, the man who bought Mrs. Hong, an atheist, allowed her to attend church. He even welcomed the congregation into their home. Still, conditions at home were miserable and Mrs. Hong eagerly looked for opportunities to defect to South Korea.

Then, one day, during a worship service at their home, Mrs. Hong’s husband, still an atheist, wrote a poem: “Every moment, we have Jesus Christ. We believe him and have freedom in him.” At that moment, Mrs. Hong cried and repented. She realized that God was using her to reach her husband. Although it was difficult, Mrs. Hong remained with her husband to evangelize and disciple him. When she was miraculously healed of her lung cancer, her husband finally accepted Christ and was later baptized.

Then the cancer returned. Mrs. Hong and her husband did not give up on Christianity, however. They became stronger Christians. Every day, they would read the Bible together. As the cancer worsened, many other sex-trafficked North Korean women would visit Mrs. Hong. Instead of telling them about her illness, however, she would tell them about her Lord.

Recently, Mrs. Hong passed away.

If you asked Mrs. Hong, she would tell you that she was sex-trafficked into China. However, Jesus tells us to judge a tree by its fruit. Mrs. Hong was not just a sex-trafficked woman; she was a missionary chosen by God to reach sex-trafficked North Korean women in China.

Today, remember Mrs. Hong by praying for her request: “Please, pray for my husband and pray for the wisdom to deal with my family.”

To help North Korean sex-trafficked women like Mrs. Hong, visit: https://vomkorea.com/project/northkorea/womens-discipleship/

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NK tried to silence Pastor Han; now his voice will be heard around the world

Filming is underway here in Korea this week on a short feature on the life and death of Pastor Han Chung Ryeol, as seen through the eyes of one of the many North Koreans he evangelized. Pastor Han was the Korean Chinese pastor martyred in Changbai, China on April 30, 2016.

Thanks to the vision and sponsorship of Cole Richards and our sister mission, VOM/US, John and Judy Grooters and Grooters Productions are here to make the 6 minute film. It will be shown around the world in commemoration of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church the first Sunday in November. The Grooters produced the 2018 full-length feature film, Tortured for Christ, which tells the true story of Voice of the Martyrs founder, the Rev. Richard Wurmbrand. That film has won numerous awards, and if you’ve seen it you will need no explanation as to why.

North Korea sought to silence Pastor Han through a violent death, but now God is raising up his voice and testimony to be heard around the world by millions of people who otherwise likely would never have heard his name. “You meant it for evil…but God intended it for good…”

To have a producer-director the caliber of John Grooters here to make this movie is exciting. We are seeing audiences in Korea respond enthusiastically to the Tortured for Christ movie, which VOM/US enabled Voice of the Martyrs Korea to bring to Korea with Korean subtitled and dubbed versions. In many ways this Pastor Han video, though much shorter, can have an even greater impact than the Tortured for Christ movie because tens of thousands of churches globally that will show this specially-designated “International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church” official video on the same day: November 3, 2019.

For Dr. Foley and me, the opportunity to share an episode from the life of Pastor Han with Christians around the world is especially gratifying. Pastor Han was our long-time friend and discipleship base leader. Though he died on April 30, 2016, in many ways his martyrdom actually happened two months earlier, when he was in our office in Seoul. He, Dr. Foley, and I knew that if he went back to Changbai he would certainly be kidnapped, or worse. We talked about whether it would be better for him to remain here, or for us to relocate his family.

But for Pastor Han there was no question: He would return home, following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. If he did not care for them, who would?

When he walked out of our office that day, he knew what lay ahead. He faced it as he faced everything in all the years we knew him: Calmly, simply, and without hesitation. When he was killed, they took his life. But even though they stabbed him over and over again, they could not erase the look of peace from his face.

Dr. Foley and I were honored to be asked by Cole and VOM/US to work with John and Judy to ensure the accuracy of the movie down to the smallest detail. From kitchen furnishings to clothing, from Pastor Han’s limp and piercing eyes to the North Korean dialect and accent of the supporting cast, John and Judy listened to Dr. Foley’s first-hand experience and subject matter expertise, and together they nailed it. We wanted a film that would enable viewers worldwide to get an absolutely accurate glimpse of something they’ve never seen before: underground church life in North Korea, and the story of the pastor whose work in leading many North Koreans to Christ continues to bear fruit to this day.

The best part is, the video will be distributed not only to churches around the world but also to underground Christians around the world…including in North Korea. Through our own VOMK network, on SD cards, MP4 devices, and even via balloon launch into North Korea, the North Korean government will see that not only did they not silence Pastor Han, but they raised up his voice and his witness to encourage persecuted Christians around the world to imitate his faithfulness, and to challenge Christians everywhere to obey Hebrews 13:3: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Filming will finish by the end of this week. Grooters Productions will then return to the United States for post-production and editing work. The short film will then be translated into many languages and made available through each national VOM office to churches to show on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 3. Contact the Voice of the Martyrs office in your country for more information. Korean churches interested in showing the video and obtaining other resources to commemorate the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church can contact us at 02-2065-0703 or via email at [email protected].

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