Greetings from 35,000 feet over Russia! Dr. Foley and I are en route back to Korea from London after a particularly satisfying week of meetings across England with Joseph, our North Korean defector “son.” You may have heard me mention him before. He’s the one whose mother was martyred in North Korea, perhaps the godliest underground Christian woman whose story we have yet learned. I hope to write it up in a book one day. Until then, make sure to check out her story in Voice of the Martyrs’ June newsletter on North Korea.
Five years ago Joseph accepted an invitation to speak at church meetings in England organized by our UK sister ministry, Release International. The day before the trip—literally, the day before the trip—he disappeared from South Korea.
We learned later that he had gone to China in one last desperate attempt to try to save his mom. The attempt, as you will have gathered by now, failed. The church meetings that year, thanks be to God, were a success—we were able to arrange for two other North Korean defectors to fly to London, with but a few hours to spare.
But Joseph himself was cast adrift on his own heartbreak. Sleep eluded him nightly, so he got an overnight job to go along with his day job in order to have no time to think. He moved in with a girl. He stopped going to church. We of course remained his friends, but when he would see us he was always tired, distant, vacant.
Then he attempted suicide. Because he wanted to see his mom.
It’s a wonder he didn’t succeed, given the number of sleeping pills he swallowed. He actually awoke and, disappointed, took more pills and collapsed again.
But God had other plans. When Joseph awoke, he himself realized that only God could have spared him—that God had some purpose for him, that suicide was the one way to ensure that he wouldn’t see his mom again.
The whole experience began to set him on a right path again—well, that and Dr. Foley yelling in one ear and me yelling in the other, with the Holy Spirit working right in the middle. To make a long and moving story short, Joseph is now on staff at Seoul USA. He’s married. He’s returned to the faith for which his mother gave her life. And he is in the seat right next to me. Traveling back to Korea after a week of speaking in the country that invited him five years ago.
Joseph is now one of our two balloon project coordinators. Fittingly, the week before our trip to London I sent our balloon project sponsors a monthly progress report on the launches. In addition to all the details on the successful launches, the report shared about one of our balloons that didn’t make it into North Korea. It happens. And so the next day we get up and launch again.
Sometimes balloons stray off course for a while. But when they are well launched and we don’t give up, sooner or later they land true.