Frequently North Korean defectors in South Korea will look back on peculiar behaviors of parents and grandparents in North Korea and realize with great astonishment that their family members were actually underground Christians.
JBM, one of our Underground Technology students, recently shared just such a story with us. Think on this as you eat your breakfast this morning and your children or grandchildren silently observe your behavior:
My father studied medicine at [X] University in Japan. After he graduated, he opened a hospital in [NK city] and worked as a health minister in NK. My mother was a housewife. Because of my father’s background, I lived well when I was young and had enough food to eat. My mother was also from an educated family. Because my father was a doctor, he was respected by many people. During that time, the Korean War occurred and we ended up being separated from my father and we did not have any news about him. I was left with with my mother and sisters and my brothers were left with my grandmother. We had to be scattered and live separately. From that moment on, we had no contact with my father and even now we do not know what happened to him.
Whenever I remember my father, one thing always comes to my mind. My father always closed his eyes and said something while holding a spoon before he would have a meal. I was just five years old at that time, so I did not know what he was doing. However, now I know that he was praying to God before having a meal, and the song he used to sing was a praise song to God. After I came to SK, I realized that the song is from a hymn. The lyrics were “make me whiter than snow,” and I found it in a hymn book. I was so surprised to hear the song the first time in SK that I shouted, “Oh, this is the song my father used to sing before!” Also, one of my relatives was an elder in the church who was killed in the war. I thought that his name was Elder, but later I came to know his duty in church was as an elder.
With my first daughter’s help, I came to SK through Mongolia. I did not know about God, but I just blindly folded my hands and prayed for my safety. It was the winter season and I suffered from frostbite. There was one NK man in my group of defectors who was a Christian. He was always praying to God and told us to believe in God. His words encouraged me a lot. After I came to SK, I came to know more about God and had the desire to be close to him and know his Word more. I realized that it was all the blessing of God throughout my life in NK and it touched my heart and encouraged me.
Perhaps it gives you a little insight into what (or, perhaps more accurately, who) the father was praying for as he held his spoon and called on his God as his world and family life were slipping out of his human grasp. And perhaps you will note that God answered, decades later, in another country, long after the pray-er was silenced.
Because God never forgets what we pray. And he answers more frequently than we can imagine, just beyond the reach of our awareness, patience, and control.