Help Us Start 5,000 New Sunday Schools Across China in the Next 12 Months

The number one challenge facing the church in China is not cross demolition or church raids. It is the full-scale effort on the part of the Chinese Communist Party to prevent the children of Christians from becoming believers themselves.

That is why Voice of the Martyrs Korea is joining China Aid in announcing today a campaign to open 5,000 Sunday Schools in China in the next twelve months. And we’d like to ask you to join us.

The campaign, called “Sunday School in a Box”, assembles the leading legally available children’s Bible in China, a compact video player, and a comprehensive curriculum of digital resources for parents and children. Each “Sunday School in a box” is designed to reach an average of seven children and will be distributed through VOMK and China Aid’s joint underground house church network. The materials are specially designed to allow parents of all educational levels to teach the full scope of the Christian faith to their own children and relatives.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid have now compiled credible reports from every province in China of churches facing harsh penalties if they permit children to attend. But the problem is actually twofold: The children of Chinese Christians are not only being shut out of churches; they are also being taught a comprehensive curriculum in schools that defines Christianity as an evil religion. They are warned to be suspicious of their Christian parents and encouraged them to report any relatives who are practicing Christians.

For the first time in Chinese history, we have reached a point where it is nearly a criminal offense for Christian parents to raise their children as Christians.

Consider the story of a kindergarten-age child and his Christian mother from a July 17 report by the Chinese persecution watchdog website Bitter Winter. At school the child learned that belief in God is abnormal. When he came home, he said to his mother, “If you believe in Christianity, you will leave home and not take care of me. You might set yourself on fire, too.”

This is one of the reasons why the “Sunday School in a Box” is primarily designed to be used by parents rather than professional Christian educators. First of all, there are not many professional Christian educators in the countryside, and even in the cities Sunday school teachers are watched by the government with particular suspicion. But second of all, the home is the place where the battle for the Christian faith is won or lost in every country in every generation. If Chinese Christian parents are not given comprehensive, useful tools to raise their children in the faith, those children will become the first line of persecution against the church in the next few years.

The cost for one Sunday School in a Box is 75,000 KRW ($75USD). Voice of the Martyrs Korea is challenging Korean churches and Christians, as well as our overseas champions, to sponsor one or more boxes.

One of the reasons for the cost of each box is that we are using only materials that are legally available to the Chinese general public through Chinese retail stores. There is no underground printing operation involved. Though it make the cost a little higher this way, it also makes the Sunday School in a Box more difficult for Chinese authorities to oppose on legal grounds.

Since each Sunday School in a Box will reach an average of seven children, even a gift of 10,000 KRW ($10USD) toward the campaign can reach one child. So if you are able to help, please make your gift at https://vomkorea.com/campaign/ssib/ or via electronic transfer to:
국민은행 463501-01-243303
예금주: (사)순교자의소리
Please include the phrase “SSIB” (for Sunday School in a Box”) on the transfer.

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North Korean NGO calls for increase in home visitations following defector starvation

Here’s an English language translation of the press release we sent to Korean Christian media in the wake of the starvation of the North Korean defector and her son here in Seoul last month. Many are calling for increased government welfare programs for North Korean defectors in light of the deaths. But we at VOMK are calling upon all of us Christians to a closer reading and living out of Matthew 25. As Dr. Foley says in the press release below, “If we Christians had done our job, Ms. Han would not have starved.” The Christian’s role is one that cannot be outsourced to the government, in any country. –Your brother Eric Foley

North Korean NGO calls for increase in home visitations following defector starvation

Voice of the Martyrs Korea today rejected calls for increased government aid for North Korean defectors and instead issued a challenge to churches and North Korean defector Christians themselves to substantially increase their home visitation of North Korean defectors.

The challenge comes in the wake of the death due to starvation of a North Korean woman identified as Ms. Han and her 6-year old son earlier this month. The death has led many North Korean defector advocates to call for increased welfare programs and payments for defectors.

But Voice of the Martyrs representative Hyun Sook Foley says that the key to preventing future deaths is not more government aid but a massive increase in home visitations by South Korean Christians and North Korean defector Christians. “The Ministry of Unification says it plans to address ‘blind spots’ in its aid programs, but the biggest blind spot we have is believing the government can what only the church can do,” said Representative Foley. “Only the church can bring the presence of Christ into a North Korean defector’s home. And only the presence of Christ in a North Korean defector’s home can remedy the epidemic levels of suicide, loneliness, and now even starvation that we are seeing.”

Foley’s ministry, Voice of the Martyrs Korea, has two full-time staff people whose primary responsibility is visiting North Korean defectors in their homes, as well as in hospitals and prisons. But Foley emphasizes that North Korean defectors themselves are always the most effective at visiting their fellow defectors. “That is why we operate two Christian discipleship training schools for North Korean defectors,” Foley says. “Defectors at the school are equipped to do home, hospital, and prison visitations and accompany VOMK staff to do visitations each week. The defectors teach us a lot about how we South Koreans can be more effective in North Korean ministry, if we are humble enough to learn.”

Foley notes that several of VOMK’s North Korean defector students lived in the same area as the woman who starved. “The students were hit hard by the death and resolved to expand their visitation efforts to make sure that no one living near them would suffer alone,” said Foley. Foley said to support those expanded efforts, VOMK this week hired a third staff person for the work. The ministry is preparing for a major North Korean defector home visitation initiative over Chuseok, when VOMK’s staff and students will deliver thousands of dumplings to North Korean defectors homes.

But Foley notes that the greatest need is for greater church involvement in visitation. “Because VOMK is not a church, whenever we visit a North Korean defector’s home and find a problem there, we call the defector’s church pastor and explain the dangerous situation to them,” said Foley. “Sadly, nearly 100% of the time the pastor had no idea the problem was there, even if the defector is dealing with a serious illness or depression. And even when we tell them, they are reluctant to visit the defector’s home because they are too busy. They are trained to believe that their role is to make their church services and activities warm and welcoming for North Korean defectors. But the main thing North Korean defectors need is not warm and welcoming church services. They need pastors and church members who can bring the warmth of Christ into their homes, prison cells, and hospital beds.”

Representative Foley believes that the starvation of Ms. Han and her son should shame Korean Christians, not the Ministry of Unification. “In Matthew 25, Jesus tells those on his left to depart from him because they did not visit him in his need,” she says. “The work of the church is visitation. When we visit we are to bring something to eat. Christ gives that responsibility to us, not to the government. If we Christians had done our job, Ms. Han would not have starved. If we are faithful to do the work Christ has assigned to us, such a thing will never happen again to North Korean defectors in our country.”

Representative Foley says VOMK invites Christians interested in volunteering in its North Korean defector ministry to call 02-2065-0703 or visit https://vomkorea.com/get-involved/.

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10 ways to pray for persecuted Christians…and 1 way you should never pray for them

Each Voice of the Martyrs organization in each country around the world is independent, but we share a common history and heritage. We also cooperate wherever possible, including in the production of resources. One of my favorite resources from the VOM family is a list of ten ways to pray for persecuted Christians. It comes from what we’ve collectively learned from persecuted Christians themselves about prayer. In case you’ve not seen it before or recently, here it is. As you read it, please note not only the ways that are listed, but see if you can detect the most common way that Christians pray for the persecuted that is not on this list:

10 Ways to Pray for Our Persecuted Family

1. Pray that persecuted believers will sense God’s presence (Heb 13:5).
2. Pray that they will feel connected to the greater body of Christ (1 Cor 12:20, 26).
3. Pray that they will experience God’s comfort when their family members are killed, injured, or imprisoned for their witness (2 Cor 1:3-5).
4. Pray that they will have more opportunities to share the gospel (Col 4:3).
5. Pray for their boldness to make Christ known (Phil 1:14).
6. Pray that they will forgive and love their persecutors (Matt 5:44).
7. Pray that their ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence them (Acts 9:25).
8. Pray that they will rejoice in suffering (Acts 5:41).
9. Pray that they will be refreshed through God’s Word and grow in their faith (Eph 6:17).
10. Pray that they will be strengthened through the prayers of fellow believers (Jude 20-25).

The most common persecution-related prayer I hear prayed by Christians when I travel to speak is notably not on the above list:

1 Way Never to Pray for Our Persecuted Family

1. Pray that the Lord might deliver persecuted Christians out of persecution and into freedom like we are able to enjoy.

That prayer seems to be the most commonsense one of all. More and more it certainly forms the basis not only for the praying but also for the thinking, acting, and speaking of the wider church with regard to persecution.

And democratic governments seem to agree. An increasing number of them convene ministerials and appoint special rapporteurs and ambassadors to address the “problem” of persecution, noting (correctly) that Christians are persecuted more than any other religious group.

But the idea that persecution is a problem–that it is bad, that it should be avoided and remedied, that governments, Christians, people of all faiths, and fair-minded humanitarians everywhere should do all they can to ensure that all human beings may believe and live out their beliefs without fear of reprisal–is an idea that is increasingly accepted by Christians without thorough theological examination.

This is regrettable.

While Robert Louis Wilken rightly notes the Christian origins of religious liberty in his recent book, Liberty in the Things of God, he makes an implicit assumption that is nearly universally shared these days; namely, that persecution (or what he generally calls “coercion” in the book) is human in origin. Some evangelicals might say Satanic.

But biblically, and within the church’s Great Tradition theologically, persecution is regarded as neither bad nor human nor Satanic in origin. It is a gift from God. As Martin Luther wrote:

A theologian of the cross (that is, one who speaks of the crucified and hidden God), teaches that punishments, crosses, and death are the most precious treasury of all and the most sacred relics which the Lord of this theology himself has consecrated and blessed, not alone by the touch of his most holy flesh but also by the embrace of his exceedingly holy and divine will, and he has left these relics here to be kissed, sought after, and embraced. Indeed fortunate and blessed is he who is considered by God to be so worthy that these treasures of the relics of Christ should be given to him; rather, who understands that they are given to him. For to whom are they not offered? As St. James says, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials” [James 1:2]. For not all have this grace and glory to receive these treasures, but only the most elect of the children of God.

And this was hardly an isolated occurrence of this theme in Luther’s writings. As Walther von Loewenich noted in his Luther’s Theology of the Cross (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1976):

Luther regarded cross and suffering as the church’s most precious treasure; but the church that bears Luther’s name has not often taken this sufficiently to heart. In Luther’s eyes a church that is all too militant and vocal in its politics is suspect. The true church, on the contrary, is a church of martyrs. The new humanity that Christ wanted is the suffering church. Only that church has the full right to call itself the church of Christ which follows her Lord in all things. Hence Luther lists cross and suffering among the marks of the church. In his book Of Councils and the Church, 1530, Luther counts seven marks by which the church can be recognized, and he would prefer to call them the seven sacraments of the church, if the term “sacrament” had not already taken on a different meaning. As the seventh mark of the church Luther mentions “the holy presence of the sacred cross”. Hence it is part of the church’s essence to be in suffering; a church of which that cannot be said has become untrue to its destiny.

Thus, according to Luther, a church which prays for Christians to be spared from persecution and suffering is a suspect church. It is a church which has become untrue to its destiny. That might explain why the church is so spiritually feeble in the countries where Christians do not suffer. This may be less a sign of the favor of God than of a suspect church that has become untrue to its destiny.

How might we in the wider church go about recovering our destiny? How might we become a true church rather than a suspect one?

One way is to take the VOM list of recommended prayers for the persecuted church and pray them for ourselves as well:

10 Ways to Pray for Ourselves (as Inspired by Our Persecuted Family)

1. Pray that we will sense God’s presence (Heb 13:5).
2. Pray that we will feel connected to the greater body of Christ (1 Cor 12:20, 26).
3. Pray that we will experience God’s comfort when our persecuted brothers and sisters are killed, injured, or imprisoned for their witness (2 Cor 1:3-5).
4. Pray that we will have more opportunities to share the gospel (Col 4:3).
5. Pray for our boldness to make Christ known (Phil 1:14).
6. Pray that we will forgive and love those who persecute our brothers and sisters (Matt 5:44).
7. Pray that our ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence us (Acts 9:25).
8. Pray that we will rejoice in the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters (Acts 5:41).
9. Pray that we will be refreshed through God’s Word and grow in our faith (Eph 6:17).
10. Pray that we will be strengthened through the prayers of our persecuted brothers and sisters (Jude 20-25).

Since there is one body, it makes sense to pray the same prayer for all of us. Receiving the persecution of Christians as a gift from God to the whole church is exactly the kind of break from worldly ways of thinking that we need to put us back on the right spiritual track.

 

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