Since writing These are the Generations with underground North Korean Christians Mr. and Mrs. Bae, I never look at Christmas lights the same way.
The excerpt below from the book (a Kindle version is available for your last minute gift giving exigencies) gives new meaning to that old song lyric “Over the river and through the woods”: Here Mrs. Bae, her pregnant daughter, and her son flee North Korea right into the Tumen River at night…at Christmas.
Note the amazing millisecond of worship on the other side:
Finally, we selected a location to cross. The decision came with a lot of concern for me because of my daughter’s pregnancy. In order to cross the river, we’d have to first lower ourselves down a cliff face about 3½ meters high. My daughter saw my worry and urged me to trust in God—an admonition that became a whole lot easier when we found a rope nearby, which I knew was God’s provision. So my son jumped down. I jumped down. And my daughter hesitated not at all, scrambling down without a trace of fear and taking off running in a mad dash with the rest of us once she reached the bottom.
The river was about 150 meters wide at that point, and we had to just throw ourselves into it and swim across it as fast as we could, ignoring the piercing liquid cold and the possible impact on my daughter’s pregnancy. The last voices I heard in North Korea were the shouts of people in the city crying out, “Catch them! Catch them!” Maybe God didn’t exactly part the river for us, but he restrained those who sought to do us harm until we could safely reach the other side. That was exodus enough.
Who can forget that first glimpse of the land outside of North Korea? We were greeted by a blaze of Christmas lights. Christmas—I had almost forgotten! The birth of Emmanuel, God with us: Surely God is with us.
But there was no time to stop, stand, reflect, or even thank him for this, as guards ply both sides of the river. Still, it was impossible not to be struck by the contrast between the panoply of lights on the China side and the impenetrable blackness of the North Korean night. On the far side of the river, the citizens had no idea it was Christmas and certainly no concept of the God who is Emmanuel.
Pray for Mrs. Bae. She and her family are now safe in South Korea, but as readers of These are the Generations know, Mrs. Bae has struggled for years with declining health. This year has been harder for her than previous ones. She is under a doctor’s care, but I trust you will join me in praying for the intervention of the Greater Physician–and Mrs. Bae’s restoration to full health–this Christmas.
Surely God is with her, and us. Merry Christmas from Mrs. Foley and me, and everyone at VOM Korea.