NK Christian: “We are not waiting for political changes that would make Christian work safer”

Dr. Foley and I just returned from the Netherlands, where we were hosted on a speaking and media tour by our dear VOM sister mission, SDOK. We were accompanied by “Mrs. Goo” (name changed for security protection), a North Korean who grew up in an underground Christian home and who continues to reach North Koreans wherever they are found as a VOM Korea Underground University missionary.

Early in the trip, many of those we met said to Mrs. Goo, “You must be excited with the peace process! Soon North Korea may be open to the gospel!”

Mrs. Goo listened quietly and graciously each time. I knew she must be thinking of her father. When many Christians fled North Korea when Kim Il Sung came to power–including the pastor of her church–her father insisted that her family must remain in order to care for Christ’s remaining sheep there. Though he was not a pastor or seminary graduate, he led the church as best he could–and he paid the price.

So each time after that that Mrs. Goo shared her testimony, she also shared the following greeting. For those who pray in well-meaning ways for North Korea to open to the gospel, it is a good reminder of the Church of Philadelphia that is the North Korean underground church, which for more than 70 years has lived and ministered and advanced the gospel in the light of Jesus’ promise, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

Greetings on behalf of the 100,000 underground Christians of North Korea, 30,000 of whom remain faithful in concentration camps.

I am the product of that church. My father became an underground Christian leader when North Korea fell to communism in the 1940s. Most Christians fled to the south, including the pastor of our church. My father stayed and led those who remained at our church, and he and our family paid the price.

My life has been marked by great suffering because I carry the name of Jesus. But it has been marked by even greater grace, because Christ brings good out of whatever the enemy intends for evil.

Sometimes people will say that they pray for North Korea to open to the gospel. But North Korea continues to be open to the gospel, for any messenger willing to pay the price. For more than 70 years, North Korean Christians have gladly paid that price, and they continue to pay it today.

I have taken up the work of my father and serve as a missionary, having been trained at VOM Korea’s Underground University, supported by Dutch Christians through SDOK. I thank the Lord for your willingness to stand with us.

Christians in our country are actively doing the work of Christ today. We are not waiting for political changes that would make Christian work safer. We know that people in our country need Christ today, and so we bring Christ to them today. We ask only that you give us the tools to complete the work.

Thank you for your willingness to stand with us. May the Lord bless you all.

 

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Here’s the must-read story of a previously unknown NK martyr…which we discovered in an NK govt anti-religion training video

Voice of the Martyrs Korea has learned the story of a previously unknown North Korean Christian martyr from a North Korean government video used to train state security agents how to identify and silence proponents of religion inside North Korea.

The purpose of the North Korean government video is to discredit practitioners of religion. But by deciphering the story told in the video we learn for the first time about a bold and courageous North Korean evangelist who received Christ in China and returned to North Korea instead of escaping to the South.

Cha Doeksun NK martyr

Cha Deoksun, previously unknown NK martyr

According to the propaganda film, Cha Deoksun had been a strong revolutionary whose faith in the government wavered during the Great Famine. During this time, Cha Deoksun heard that she could get help if she visited a woman in the northwest. This woman told her, “There is a way that you can live even if you have committed a capital offense.”

After visiting this women, Cha Deoksun illegally crossed the border between China and North Korea in search of an uncle that lived in China.  Instead of finding her uncle, who had died before she arrived, Cha Deoksun found Seotap Church and was deeply moved by the gospel message. According to the propaganda video, she became a fanatical believer who was inspired to return to North Korea and form an underground network of believers inside of North Korea.

Seotap Church

Seotap Church in China

When she first returned to North Korea, however, Cha Deoksun turned herself in to the authorities. According to the video, the authorities were lenient and released her. Instead of praising the government, however, Cha Deoksun praised the Lord.

Due to her poverty, Cha Deoksun was given permission by the government to travel between towns in North Korea to provide for herself. During her travels, Cha Deoksun went out of her way to evangelize others. According to the video, she gave money to people who were poor, lower class, or suffering. She also found the descendants of several prominent Korean Christians and worshipped together with them. The video claims that these groups of underground Christians gathered every Sunday to worship, pray, sing hymns, and study the scripture—even during the busiest farming season.

The household where Cha Deoksun worshiped

The North Korea home where Cha Deoksun and other underground believers worshiped every week

Cha Deoksun and others worshiping in the woods

Cha Deoksun and other underground believers worshiping in an NK forest

Of course, this isn’t the way the propaganda describes Cha Deoksun. The video describes her as a spy seeking to recruit other spies. This is the typical definition of evangelism used in NK propaganda.

Eventually, Cha Deoksun was reported by “a good and awakened North Korean citizen.”

The inclusion of Cha Deoksun in the government training video is a reminder of the truth of Romans 8:28—that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.

The goal of Voice of the Martyrs Korea is to keep the voices of the martyrs from falling silent. The story of Cha Deoksun shows that God uses even anti-religion training videos to ensure that the stories, memories, and words of the Lord’s beloved martyrs are not lost but are instead preserved and spread through the very state that intended to destroy them.

NK govt anti religion training video shows Christian materials

Christian materials shown in an NK government anti-religion training video

You can also learn more about the North Korean underground church by reading the book, These Are the Generations, which I was privileged to write with third generation underground North Korean Christians.

 

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While the nations rage, Christians’ prayer priority remains unchanged

Uncertainty regarding the status of negotiations between North Korea, the United States, and South Korea has fixed many Christians’ eyes to the headlines daily to know how to pray. But the most important prayer that Christians can pray related to North Korea is one that can only be found in the Bible.

We may be citizens of the US, South Korea, or another country, but the Bible says we are one body with believers around the world—including North Korean Christians. Galatians 6:10 says we must prioritize care for other members of Christ’s body above everything else, even national security. And in Matthew 25, Jesus reminds us that he identifies fully with Christian brothers and sisters in prison: When we neglect them, we neglect him—and he will remember it on the last day.

More than 30,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea. This figure is well-attested by even secular groups like Amnesty International and government agencies like the US State Department. Because of this, every day our first prayers for the peace process should always be for those 30,000 Christians—that the Lord would bring them comfort and immediate relief.

It is not necessary for us to try to imagine the conditions faced by North Korean Christians in prison because former Christian prisoners have left a detailed account. Mr. Bae, who now lives in South Korea, was a North Korean underground believer imprisoned for his faith. He shared an account of his time in prison with me in the book These are the Generations. Mr. Bae recalls:

I was treated like an insect in prison. Every day of those thirteen months was the same. Up at 5:00 a.m. Mop the floor. Clean up. Go to the restroom. Throw out the contents of the bucket. Then I had to sit cross-legged with my hands on my knees in the same position for the next seventeen hours. I was not permitted to turn my neck or slouch with my back. Every two hours, we were allowed to urinate. The only other time we were allowed to move was during meals, which were exactly one minute long. At 10:00 p.m., we were allowed to go to bed, but our heads had to be turned away from the prison bars. “Bed” meant laying down on the wooden floor.

When you’re sitting, you cannot move, even if you get bit by a mosquito. If you even flinch, you receive punishment—torturous humiliations dreamed up by the guards. In one punishment, you’d have to stand with your knees bent, holding a full bowl of water over your head for thirty minutes. If you spilled even a drop, you’d be beaten senseless with a rod. For another punishment, you had to extend your hands through the prison bars so the guard on the other side could mash your palms into bloody ribbons of flesh with a sharp iron spike. You might be ordered to hang from a bar for half an hour or crawl like an insect across the wooden floor.

Mostly, though, I just sat, unmoving, for seventeen hours a day, for more than a year of my life. (These Are the Generations, 54)

Scripture does tell us to pray for the authorities (1 Timothy 2:2), for wisdom for Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In. But our prayers should neither start or end there. Our first prayers should be for the household of faith (Galatians 6:10), particularly our brothers and sisters in prison in North Korea. As we pray for political negotiations between the US, North Korea, and South Korea, we should not neglect prayers and care for the North Korean Christians with whom we are one body.

 

 

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