(Another Margaret Foley masterpiece here. Great insights into how we do our “undercover” work in broad daylight and yet evade detection, because our missionaries and base leaders are on the 1 Corinthians 1:26-30 plan.)
You are a North Korean security agent.
A few weeks ago, a North Korean boat stationed on the coast of China was reported to have mysteriously acquired waders. The waders weren’t expensive or revolutionary, but their sudden acquisition was suspicious. These workers, after all, make very little money and have limited permissions—some of them cannot even leave the ship. How were they able to obtain waders?
As a North Korean security agent, you’re a pretty smart person. You know that missionaries often travel to China with supplies and pass them on to any North Koreans they come across. While the supplies aren’t controversial, missionaries will often slip anti-government materials—such as Bibles, hymnals, and discipleship materials—into the supplies, and these items are more dangerous than chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons. As Kim Il Sung once said, “Only Christianity can cut the root of our communism.”
So you’re watching the fishing boat from afar, waiting to catch the missionary red-handed.
Faces bob along the pier and you carefully examine each of them in search of your target. Some of these faces look more suspicious than others. There are even a few American and South Korean faces mixed among the sea of Chinese. None of these even slow their gait as they pass the ship in question. There are a few Chinese individuals who look suspicious, but none of these show too much interest in the ship either.
Day fades into night. Night fades into day.
There is still no sign of your target, so you assume they must not have come yesterday. That is until you see a new crew member wearing waders. However, when you search the ship later on, there doesn’t seem to be any new items—just the waders.
What’s going on?
As you correctly inferred, a missionary is bringing scripture to these agents along with any necessities they need (like waders). The scripture (and the hymnal) is actually contained within an MP3 device, which is much easier to hide during searches than a physical Bible. Since this Bible is Faith Comes By Hearing’s reading of the Bible in Korean, these fishermen are even able to listen to the Bible (and to hymns) as they work. [NOTE: This version is read in the South Korean dialect, which is 40% divergent from the North Korean dialect and, therefore, a little difficult for North Koreans to understand. Just this year, however, Voice of the Martyrs Korea partnered with Faith Comes By Hearing to record a North Korean dialect of the scripture. This is the version we will be using in the future.]
The fatal mistake you made, however, was assuming that this missionary was some sort of foreigner. This missionary is a North Korean woman and—despite the intensity and danger of her work—looks just like your average North Korean woman living across the border. (Since several North Korean women sell themselves [or are sold by the North Korean government] to Chinese men, you didn’t think much of the female North Korean faces that passed by you.) As a North Korean woman who has survived the worst of the regime, she knows the importance of security. She knows how you—a North Korean security agent—operate and is keen to avoid putting herself in your line of sight. She even routinely switches names and locations in order to avoid being found out.
Understandably, then, we can’t tell you her name or any specifics about her ministry, but we can tell you that this sister is constantly putting herself in danger just to bring the truth of Christ to her fellow North Koreans.
Nowhere is too dangerous or too complex for this partner. As she moves locations and changes names, she is also changing her places of ministry. She brings scripture and supplies to North Korean factory workers, to North Korean fishermen, and even to North Korean defectors. Since security is vital in her line of work, this partner will often have to go for extended periods of time without seeing the people who she’s discipling through these ministry packs. However, there are some North Koreans who this partner is able to disciple on a regular basis.
When it comes down to it, however, this partner isn’t a super-spy—she’s just a normal woman. She has a family, a child, and questions about Christianity. So in addition to partnering with her, VOMK continues to disciple her—just like we disciple any North Korean we work with.
Even if you—as a state security agent—had accounted for the fact that your missionary might be a North Korean woman, you would have completely overlooked our partner’s presence. Why? Because our partner is just your average old lady. Even if you were on the lookout for a North Korean woman, you would never assume that an old woman would be willing to risk both her own life to spread the gospel to a group of fishermen.
But that is the heart our partner has.
“We should not take the opportunity to worship [in safety] for granted, but we should think of those who are not aware of God in their pitiful situations,” this partner says. “We must pray for them.”
Thank you for your continued readership of the writings of Margaret Foley!