The Netherlands’ Country Trail Band, one of Europe’s most popular country gospel groups, is commemorating our VOMK Bible balloon launches to North Korea with a song. The song, “Straight into the Heart”, which appears on the group’s album of the same name, says in the chorus, “The word of God is not held back by borders; the word of God goes straight into the heart.”
During a speaking tour of the Netherlands a few years ago, I was hosted at a B&B for a few days. The owner, Kees Steeds, was a Christian who was particularly moved by our Bible balloon launch work. What I did not realize was that Mr. Steeds was also a member of the renowned European Gospel group, the Country Trail Band, which has been popular throughout Europe and the United States since 1985. He shared with the other band members about our work, and from that sharing they wrote an English language song about our Bible balloon launches called “Straight into the Heart”.
Hans Steeds, the band’s manager, wrote me this month that the band is continuing to pray for us and our balloon launches in light of the new anti-leaflet law that went into effect in March. “Tell everyone we pray for you,” he wrote me. “We feel one in Christ with you and our brothers and sisters in both countries. It is a blessing to us to hear that our song encourages people, especially you who are doing this work.”
The Country Trail Band recently released a video of their performance of the balloon launching song, recorded at the band’s 35th anniversary concert in August 2020 in the city of Dordrecht in the Netherlands. The Country Trail Band and Voice of the Martyrs Korea then cooperated to create a version of the video that includes photos and videos from our actual balloon launches from 2005 through last year. This video is now posted on the Voice of the Martyrs Korea website at www.vomkorea.com/nk-bible.
The video allows the public to see the difference between Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Bible balloon launches and the launching of political flyers by other NGOs. Our Bible balloon launches are completely different in technology, goal, and spirit. We use round weather balloons that cross the border at an extremely high altitude to avoid military misidentification. Our balloons are biodegradable and filled with helium, posing no threat to the environment or to residents. We use GPS devices and computer modeling to only launch on the 10 to 15 nights a year when the Bibles are guaranteed to land in North Korea. We launch quietly, at night, without fanfare or publicity. Most importantly, we launch only Bibles, using the translation created by the North Korean government. As the Country Trail Band’s song says, what we are launching goes “straight to the heart” of the North Korean recipients. According to the North Korean constitution and the public assurances of the North Korean government, North Koreans have the right to read the Bible.
Even though Voice of the Martyrs Korea uses a variety of methods to get Bibles into North Korea, we have sent more Bibles to North Korea by balloon than by all other methods combined. The North Korean Human Rights Database, an independent data-gathering NGO, did a study where they found that in the year 2000, effectively 0% of people inside North Korea had ever seen a Bible with their own eyes. They have continued to update that study, and at the end of 2020 they determined that around 8% of people inside of North Korea have now seen a Bible with their own eyes. A significant number of these Bibles would have been ones we sent by balloon. This is why when people say to us, “Can’t you just send Bibles another way?”, the answer is that we do, but eliminating Bible balloon launching would severely restrict ordinary North Koreans’ access to the Bible.
It’s important to note that until now, Bible balloon launching from South Korea has been the only legal way to get Bibles into North Korea. The other neighboring countries have joined North Korea in using laws and police activities to stop Bibles from entering North Korea. Now, will South Korea join those nations in making Bible distribution to North Korea a crime?
Voice of the Martyrs Korea will wait until summer to make a determination regarding our balloon launching activities this year. Now it is spring. In spring the winds blow north to south, and this prevents balloon launching. When summer comes and the winds change, we will do the same thing we do every day: Gather data, take counsel, pray, and follow the Lord’s direction about how he intends to get Bibles into North Korea. Now that every method of Bible distribution to North Korea has become a crime, we need his wisdom more than ever.
As for today, we continue to get Bibles into North Korea each day through many different methods, humbly obeying God rather than men wherever Bible distribution has become a crime. As for balloon launching this summertime, the Lord says to let tomorrow take care of itself. There are many years when people told us it would be impossible to launch, but the Lord has made a way for Bible balloon launching into North Korea every year since an earlier generation of Korean Christians did the first Voice of the Martyrs balloon launch, in 1969. Let’s see what the Lord does this year. We know Christians in Korea and even around the world are praying for our Bible balloon launches. This song from the Country Trail Band is an encouraging reminder of that.
The Country Trail Band’s live performance of their Bible balloon launch tribute song “Straight into the Heart”, including photo and video footage from Voice of the Martyrs Korea balloon launches can be viewed at www.vomkorea.com/nk-bible.