NORTHERN ETHIOPIA: TIGRAY CHURCH STAYS AND SERVES AS CITIZENS FLEE WAR ZONE

Pastor “T” (name withheld for security reasons) conducted a wedding at his church yesterday. While Ethiopian weddings normally require Pastor T to coordinate many details, this one required more coordination than most.

Pastor T’s church is currently located in one of the hottest war zones on earth.

Simmering conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian government forces broke out in early November. An estimated two million people in the region, roughly a third of Tigray’s population, are currently displaced. Roads in and out of the region have been barricaded, according to international observers. 

“There is currently no Internet and no banks, but we got lights (electricity) this week, praise God,” Pastor T told me. “To our people the problem is deep. Many elderly people and children are hungry and dying. In my church one child died. Because of the war, young women are being raped by the troops. Many buildings are destroyed. Still the war continues around us, now 10 km from my city.”

Pastor T and his church have been long-term partners with us in serving Eritrean underground Christians who fled across the border to the Tigray region as the result of persecution in their homeland. Eritrea has long been called the “North Korea of Africa” due to its severe persecution of Christians and political dissidents.

For years we have worked with Pastor T to provide trauma counseling and spiritual and physical care to the large Eritrean Christian population that spills continuously across the Eritrean/Ethiopian border into the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia. But now the Tigray region has been reduced to a state of refugees. Many people have fled, but Pastor T and his church are staying out of concern for the Eritrean Christians who rely on the church as their only source of help now that UN and Ethiopian aid agencies have been blocked from accessing two of the many Eritrean refugee camps in the region.

We are currently following up on multiple reports that Eritrean Christian refugees in Tigray are being rounded up by Eritrean government forces and repatriated amidst the chaos in the region. The refugees regard the camps as no longer safe, and certainly no longer able to supply basic living necessities. Pastor T and his church are presently providing care for these Eritrean Christians despite being unable to care for themselves.

Pastor T wrote us, “You taught us to serve our people by whatever we have: our body, our blood, our food. Even though we don’t have enough food even for ourselves, we are using the opportunity of the hunger to share our love.”

Voice of the Martyrs Korea has found a way to transit funds into the region and has pledged to send the equivalent of 10,000,000 KRW to Pastor T this month, for his church and the Eritrean Christian refugees they are supporting.

Other NGOs are meeting the needs of those who are fleeing Tigray to safety, but at Voice of the Martyrs Korea our role is always to aid Christians who choose to stay and share the love of Christ—especially those like Pastor T who remain behind to care for the families of Christians who have been martyred or imprisoned because of their witness for Christ.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea is designating donations made this month to our Voice of the Martyrs Korea Families of Martyrs and Prisoners fund to this emergency.

Donation to VOMK’s Families of Martyrs and Prisoners (FOM/FOP) fund can be made at www.vomkorea.com/en/donate or via electronic transfer to

국민은행 463501-01-243303

예금주: (사)순교자의소리

Please include the name “FOM/FOP” on the donation. If we receive donations in excess of the amount of the emergency pledge, we will allocate them to its regular monthly financial support of the families of other Eritrean martyrs and prisoners, in Eritrea and the surrounding regions.

For more information on Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnership with Eritrean underground Christians, please visit www.vomkorea.com/en/eritrea.

Posted in eritrea | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VOMK sent 23,000 Bibles to North Korea in 2020, projects 30% more for 2021

Voice of the Martyrs Korea announced today that it sent a total of 22,847 Bibles to North Korea in 2020, in addition to airing daily Bible recordings on its 5 shortwave and medium wave broadcasts into North Korea.

According to Voice of the Martyrs CEO the Rev. Dr. Eric Foley, the number includes mass distributions and individual hand-to-hand distributions in both print and electronic formats. Foley says the ministry does not provide breakdowns by Bible format or distribution method or location in order to protect the safety and security of recipients and couriers, as well as to keep its methods and technology private.

Foley says that mass distribution numbers were down for the ministry this year compared to previous years, but that individual hand-to-hand distributions had more than doubled. “On the one hand, the efforts of South Korean authorities to halt all balloon launches, including our Bible launches, decreased mass distribution. On the other hand, demand for Bibles from individual North Koreans was higher than in any prior year.” Foley attributes the increased interest in the Bible by North Koreans to fear and uncertainty arising from concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. “Regardless of culture, thoughts turn to God anytime life is threatened and the future appears bleak,” says Foley. “North Koreans, like people everywhere, turned to the Bible for hope in 2020, and they found it there.”

Foley noted that government balloon launch bans and Coronavirus travel restrictions had less of an impact on the ministry’s Bible distribution efforts than people might think. “Voice of the Martyrs Korea is not a mission agency producing Bibles in South Korea and then trying to figure out some way to sneak them into North Korea,” says Foley. “We are a multinational network of Christians, including North Korean Christians, using a wide variety of technologies and resources to help North Korean Christians share the Bible with other North Koreans wherever North Koreans are found. Underground North Korean Christians say, ‘Give us the tools, and we’ll complete the work.’ Christians around the world all play a part in that supply chain, whether through finances, prayer, technology, sharing ideas, or gradually, patiently moving Bibles step by step into the hands of North Koreans who want them. Every year there are new challenges and new obstacles, but we plan years in advance, anticipating difficulties and working together with Christians in North and South Korea and around the world to develop new technologies and strategies to identify and overcome possible problems. We believe the adversity makes more creative and ultimately more effective. The Lord always finds a way, even in a pandemic.”

Foley says these new methods and technologies, as well as the strengthening and expansion of its own network, are part of the reason why Voice of the Martyrs Korea is projecting a 30% increase in its Bible distribution numbers for 2021. He also points to the addition of a fifth radio broadcast in 2020 as a positive outcome of South Korean government efforts to ban balloon launching. “Through the cooperation of our funding partners, we were able to reallocate some of the funds we would normally have used for Bible balloon launching to add another 30-minute daily radio broadcast, which includes Bible readings.” Foley said the ministry was also able to complete a new dramatized recording of the Bible in 2020 for use on its radio broadcast and other electronic distribution media.

Foley says it is too early to determine how new legislation in South Korea related to balloon launching will impact the ministry’s Bible balloon launch efforts for 2021. “The wind and the weather always prohibit balloon launching in January, even if laws were favorable. Thus, our focus this time of year is completely on the many unique Bible distribution opportunities that are only possible in the winter. When summer comes and the winds blow north, we will do what we do every summer: evaluate the legal situation, make the best decisions we can, and act transparently.” Foley also faces charges under the Inter-Korean Exchange Act and the National Safety Law for the ministry’s past balloon launch activities, but he says he is not concerned. “If I worried about tomorrow, I would never have gotten into North Korean ministry. Today is all God gives to us. My focus is fully on keeping our North Korean Bible supply chain operational today. If tomorrow it is determined that this is a criminal act, then I will joyfully and willingly submit to the consequences.”

Foley points to the 2020 White Paper on Religious Freedom by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights as proof of the impact that Bible distribution by groups like Voice of the Martyrs Korea is having inside North Korea. “At the time we started Voice of the Martyrs Korea 20 years ago, the Center estimates that essentially zero percent of people inside North Korea had seen a Bible with their own eyes. When the Center did its 2016 report, they reported that that number of those inside North Korea who had seen a Bible had jumped to nearly 8 percent. In the 2020 report, the Center says that number has continued to increase at a rate of 4 percent a year. Our experience is that the more Bibles we distribute to North Koreans, the more North Koreans want to read the Bible.”

Foley says what motivates him most are the notes the ministry receives from individual North Korean Bible recipients. “We received a note today that says in part, ‘Through MP3 we have all come to know that God created the world and that God is a living God and is protecting us. We never knew this until we received the words on the MP3 along with warm gifts. I am not of course able to understand it perfectly, but I will keep listening one time, ten times, and a hundred time to keep his words.’ What sacrifice would be too great to get a Bible in the hands of someone who treasures it that much? I can’t think of any sacrifice I’d rather be a part of.”

More information about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s North Korea ministry and Bible distribution efforts is available at https://vomkorea.com/en/project/northkorea/.

Posted in Bible, North Korea | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s promises are never hidden. But their fulfillment is.

Though God confounds human understanding in how he fulfills each of his promises, the promises themselves are plainly recorded in the Bible.

Sometimes Christians claim to receive new promises directly from God through supernatural revelation. Other Christians claim to discover new promises from God through clever interpretations of Scripture. Neither of these fit the biblical pattern of martyrdom.

In biblical martyrdom, the promise of God is never hidden. It does not require special revelation or scholarship to discover. It is not only available to enlightened interpreters. If it were, that would draw attention to the interpreter, taking the honor and glory away from God.

Martyrs are rarely prophetic figures, powerful leaders, or Bible scholars. Instead, most martyrs are very ordinary people who simply trust the promises of God that are plainly and straightforwardly recorded in scripture.

Biblically, it is never the promise of God that is hidden but rather the fulfillment of the promise.

Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, advocated the plain, or literal, reading of scripture. Through his reading, he concluded that while God’s promises are plainly recorded in scripture for all people, the fulfillment of God’s promises is always “hidden under the opposite.” That is, at the time a promise of God is being fulfilled, it appears that God is absent or has even failed us. Jesus’ death on the cross is the primary example.

Faith is not required to discover God’s promises, but faith is required to trust that God’s promises are being fulfilled, because what we can see, understand, feel, or want seems to show exactly the opposite.


Posted in promises of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment