I love a summer downpour. Blame it on my Seattle upbringing, but to me it’s a refreshing break from the heat, not to mention a much-needed cleansing of all things sticky—I just feel cleaner after it pours down.
It’s no wonder then why the Bible uses the cycles of weather as an analogy when describing the effects of Scripture on mankind. Isaiah 55:10-11 (NLT) says, “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”
This verse perfectly describes our ministry to North Korea. As you may know, ICC has worked hard to send Bibles to North Korea. The usual means of smuggling in Scripture (picture little books strapped to a person’s stomach) don’t cut it in this region, as it is heavily guarded to keep out the Word of God. So we needed to get creative. Instead, we have been sending Bibles up and over the border in hot air balloons! The GPS-tracked balloons are launched and float along the forests of North Korea, landing throughout the region, and raining down the Word of God for the emotionally robbed and spiritually hungry Koreans.
The people here have been abused, misled and robbed of the hope of Jesus Christ, and we refuse to ignore their plight. We are passionate about building the Church as well as bandaging it. And as this verse clearly states, the Word of God is life-giving: it always produces fruit!
As of this month, we are ecstatic to report that 10,000 Bibles have been sent to North Korea! In addition, ICC has sent 131,383 Bibles throughout the world in the past year to China, Burma, Iran and Afghanistan. Thank you so much to all of our “Bibles to the Persecuted” donors. You make this possible!
Dear Lord, thank you so much for the gift of your Word. Thank you that it is life-giving, and for the promise that it will prosper wherever you send it. We ask that as we do our part in making the Scriptures available, you will work miraculously to connect Korean believers and seekers to the Bibles. In Jesus name we pray, Amen!
North Koreans live in one of the most inhumane and cruel regimes in the world. There’s no doubt about that. Starvation, arbitrary arrest, torture, forced labor, and public execution are just a few of the horrors that North Koreans fear each day. Most North Koreans have no option but to live under the rule of this repressive regime, but some have risked imprisonment and possible execution attempting to flee the country. No one knows exactly how many have fled the nation, but estimates range from 100,000 to 400,000 in the last few decades alone. For the majority of North Koreans fleeing the nation, the only viable option is to cross by foot into China and then eventually seek asylum in nations such as South Korea or Thailand.
Unfortunately, China is making every effort to ensure that these brave men and women never find asylum. Chinese government officials actively hunt down refugees and forcibly repatriate them back to North Korea, all but condemning them to death or a lifetime in prison. Not only does China seek out refugees for immediate detainment and openly pays bounties for reports on refugees’ whereabouts, the communist regime also actively blocks refugees from entering into refugee-friendly embassies in Beijing and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office, where refugees could begin the asylum process.
China’s cruel policy of repatriation is a blatant violation of its international treaties, including the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. Despite vast international pressure, the communist regime continues to actively pursue North Korean refugees for arrest and repatriation. “There is no reason for China to continue its inhumane and barbaric treatment of North Koreans,” stated the Chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, Suzanne Scholte, “because unlike any refugees in the world today, they can be immediately resettled as they are citizens of South Korea under the Republic of Korea’s constitution. This is a crisis that could be solved overnight if China would simply follow international law and allow the UNHCR to do their job.”
China’s Policies Fueling the Sex Trade
For those refugees who are not caught and repatriated, an estimated 90% are sold and trafficked into the sex trade. Experts point to China’s one-child policy that has resulted in a shortage of women in the nation. It is estimated that by 2030, nearly 30 million Chinese men of marriageable age will be without prospects of marriage – thus creating a severe gender imbalance and fueling the sex trade. China’s ruthless repatriation policy leaves North Korean refugees especially vulnerable to traffickers.
Raise Your Voice on September 22
In order to bring global awareness of China’s cruel policy and practice of repatriation of North Korean refugees, ICC is partnering with the North Korea Freedom Coalition for an International Protest to Save the North Korean Refugees on Thursday, September 22. This protest will call Chinese embassies and consulates throughout the world to stop their policy and practice, and to stand up for the rights of North Koreans.
Would you be willing to coordinate a protest at the Chinese embassy or consulate in your city or country? We’re looking for people to organize a protests or rally, conduct a prayer vigil, host a film screening of movies that depict the plight of North Korean refugees, or simply to deliver a petition to the Chinese embassy. If you think you would be interested in any of these opportunities, please email ICC at email@example.com.
I am bewildered to think that 64% of the 70 million Christians who have been martyred in the history of our faith have died in the 20th and 21st century. Forty five million Christian martyrs is hard to comprehend, but we have some comparisons:
- The total population of Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey combined – nearly half the east coast.
- The total of civilian casualties from World War II.
- Nearly double the total deaths from the AIDS pandemic since its discovery in 1981.
Though I can hardly begin to comprehend 45 million people, I am able to grasp the number five. Five is the number of family members that Songhwa and her two daughters, Grace and Jinhye, have lost because of the repressive North Korean regime. I met these women recently and had the opportunity to hear their story of hunger, suffering, torture, and death amidst their search for Christ and life. In a matter of ten years, these women lost a grandmother, two brothers, a sister, and a father, along the way discovering a profound faith in Jesus as He guided them through a dangerous and difficult escape from this repressive nation to eventual safety and freedom in the United States.
They risked it all to find a means to a life of freedom and provision, and God blessed them for their faithfulness to Him. They had heard bits and pieces of God and the Gospel of Christ through other Christians hidden in North Korea, but had never heard a sermon, read the Bible, or openly aired their questions of faith – but their mustard seed sized knowledge gave them enough faith to move mountains in the face of persecution. I was humbled to meet them and left with a heavy heart for those in North Korea and across the world who thirst to know more about God yet are not able to quench that thirst because others prevent them from doing so.
Responding to Persecution
Some of us hear of this sort of persecution and are emboldened to fight back and seek to end such cruelty. Others of us encounter stories of martyrs and recall Paul’s admonition to the church in Philippi to bear under such persecution, saying “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” We see persecution as a privilege and opportunity to suffer in the footsteps of our Savior. We recall that Christianity has spread like wildfire primarily when it is opposed by the ruling forces.
Whether we fight against persecution, or see it as opportunity for growth in faith, we must always remember that our words and actions have tremendous impact, not only in the lives of the persecuted, but also in those who are committing atrocious acts against followers of Christ.
How we advocate for change and how we admonish the acts of others will show to a watching world what sort of disciples of Christ we truly are. We must always remember that Jesus called us to love, to forgive, to turn the other cheek, and to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I believe that we must fight ardently against the horrific acts taking place across the globe in the name of religious intolerance. We have the freedom to speak and worship as we please, and the knowledge and connections to mobilize resources on behalf of others – and we cannot sit idly by as others are beheaded, burned at the stake, tortured, imprisoned, and forced to live lives of hunger, oppression, and marginalization because a ruling majority has deemed them less worthy.
But we must maintain a balanced understanding that our fight will never be over, and we must continue to act wisely and lovingly. As Christians, we cannot allow our desire for revenge and retribution to determine our course of action. Christ has ultimately paid the price for the sin of the world, and that includes the sin of Christian persecutors. Now we are called to live out this good news amidst those who seek to abolish it, and I pray that we will each day be successful in doing so.
Advocacy Officer and Regional Manager of Southeast Asia
Korea’s First Protestant Martyr
“Jesus, Jesus!” shouted the man who became known as Korea’s first protestant martyr as he stood on the deck of a burning merchant ship and desperately opened the cases of Bibles he had smuggled aboard, flinging as many copies as he could to Korean villagers and soldiers who lined the shore. Finally, with his clothes on fire, the 27-year-old missionary leapt overboard with his few remaining Bibles and swam to shore – continuing to put Bibles into any open hand until he was finally captured and dragged away to be executed with the entirety of his crew. Some accounts say that Robert Jermain Thomas of Wales was beheaded, while others say he was lanced through the heart. Whatever the case, they all agree that his last Bible was offered to his executioner.
Thomas’ martyrdom in 1866 occurred on a sandbank outside of Pyongyang, the present-day capital of North Korea. It was preceded and succeeded by two major waves of persecution against the Catholics who first brought literature into the country in 1770. Forty years after Thomas’ death, missionaries provoked by revival in India and encouraged by local revivals began to fast and pray daily for revival in Pyongyang.
Finally, on the evening of January 14th, 1907, the Father poured out His Spirit on the people on whom Robert Thomas had spent his last breath. As a missionary who was leading an evening meeting called for prayer, the entire audience of about 1500 men burst in unison into powerful prayer that has been described in numerous accounts as the sound of falling waters. William Blair, one of two Western missionaries present at the revival, gave us a window into this revival in his book, “The Korean Pentecost and the Sufferings Which Followed.”
Blair describes the scene on the first day of the meeting:
“After a short sermon…man after man would rise, confess his sin, break down and weep, and then throw himself on the floor and beat the floor with his fists in perfect agony of conviction. …Sometimes, after a confession, the whole audience would break out into audible prayer, and the effect of that audience of hundreds of men praying together in audible prayer was something indescribable – not confusion, but a vast harmony of sound and spirit, a mingling together of souls moved by an irresistible impulse of prayer. The prayer sounded to me like the falling of many waters, an ocean of prayer beating against God’s throne. It was not many, but one, born of One Spirit, lifted to one Father above.”
The public confession of the people was said to include their hatred against the Japanese who were oppressing them, against foreign missionaries, and one who even confessed his hatred of Reverend Blair, who described this phenomena during the second day:
“Then began a meeting the like of which I had never seen before, nor wish to see again unless in God’s sight it is absolutely necessary. Every sin a human being can commit was publicly confessed that night. Pale and trembling with emotion, in agony of mind and body… looking up to heaven, to Jesus whom they had betrayed, they smote themselves and cried out with bitter wailing: “Lord, Lord, cast us not away forever!” Everything else was forgotten, nothing else mattered. The scorn of men, the penalty of the law, even death itself seemed of small consequences if only God forgave. We have our theories of desirability or undesirability of public confession of sin. I have had mine; but I know now that when the Spirit of God falls upon guilty souls, there will be confession, and no power on earth can stop it.”
The great revival, which spread as swiftly among children as it did among adults, took the Korean Church from deep repentance to total transformation. Repentant hearts forsook their sin and vices, forgave one another, and went knocking on doors to plead for peace with any they had wronged. The Church was also consumed with a zeal for evangelism that helped the fire of revival spread by missionaries and nationals and resulted in explosive growth of the Church.
Fortunately, the deep and purifying work wrought in the Korean people by the Holy Spirit in those times prepared them for the suffering that would follow. The Japanese perceived the revitalized Church as an organization that would be capable of resisting their rule and as a political agent of the Western powers, therefore churches were burned, hundreds of Christians were killed, and thousands who refused to abandon Christ were subjected to imprisonment and torture. Today, North Korea’s persecution of Christians has continued to be the worst in the world. Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea as they risk their lives to follow the one true God and spread His Gospel. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
North Korea is often called a “rogue state” in the media. The media largely attribute the label to the country’s habit of inciting international controversy, lately including its recent military clashes with South Korea and its nuclear program. Unfortunately, these issues usually overshadow the atrocities that Kim Jong-Il and the North Korean government visit upon their own people.
While researching for our upcoming newsletter that will be dedicated to persecution in North Korea, I have run across numerous reports of the horrors that occur in North Korea. In a recent report released by Amnesty International, I discovered that the prison camp system in North Korea, which is easily comparable to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, currently holds an estimated 200,000 inmates and is growing large enough to be seen from satellites in space. At left, you can see an overhead photograph of Yodok Prison Camp.
Political dissidents, religious minorities, and individuals communicating with others outside North Korea are thrown into these camps, often for life, along with three generations of their family in order to completely wipe out all forms of political or religious disagreement. In another report, I read about a man who was thrown into one of these camps for sitting on a newspaper that had Kim Jong-Il’s picture on the front.
Prisoners in these camps are often worked to exhaustion, mining coal, harvesting trees and manufacturing goods for export while being given starvation inducing portions of food. Torture and executions are common in the prison camps. One ex-guard reports that he was awarded for killing five prisoners who were attempting to escape. Perversely, the idea to escape was the guard’s, who used the prisoners as a way to get awarded an education at a state political college.
The most tragic part of this is that most people I talk to have never heard about these atrocities. Many are aware that North Korea is a “rogue state” and that its leader, Kim Jong-Il, is a dictator; but most are unaware of the severity of the repression that is exacted upon the North Korean people.
Please take some time to remember the people of North Korea in your prayers. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ there who have to worship behind closed doors, risking everything to follow Jesus.
North Korea has remained one of the major persecutors of Christians since Kim Sung-Il took power in the 1940s. The Constitution states that there is freedom of religion in the country, but religious activity has been repressed since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was established. It seems that the clause is in the constitution only to appease the international network of countries that work with and around North Korea.
Robert Park, who was imprisoned in North Korea for illegally crossing the border, has recently spoken out against the atrocities he saw and experienced firsthand at the hands of the North Korean government. Though Park initially read a letter upon his release that stated that North Korean people were free to choose a religion and live happily, he has since, in many interviews, discussed the coercion that broke his will, and the force that lead him to read that statement.
Other sources such as North Korean defectors paint a grim picture as well. According to many of their reports, the people are poor and suffering from starvation.
Because of the teachings of the government, religious persecution is heavy handed. Kim Il-Sung is said to have descended from heaven as a god, to be the savior of North Korea (see some of his propaganda to the right). Kim Jong-Il is thus considered the son of god. It’s easy to see why Christianity would not be received favorably. Numerous reports (relative to the number of reports that make it out of the country at all) suggest that Christians in the country are heavily persecuted, arrested, and sent to work camps where many perish, malnourished and overworked.
What does all this mean in the upcoming year for believers in North Korea? It’s hard to speculate with such little information coming out of the borders. However, after looking at a World Food Program (WFP) report published November 17th of this year, it appears that even in the best case scenario, millions will continue to be malnourished and thousands will starve.
According to the WFP report, one in every three North Korean children has stunted growth, and a quarter of all pregnant and nursing mothers are malnourished. According to Wikipedia, North Korea has the fourth largest army in the world. For every 25 civilians, there is one soldier. With numbers like that, it is easy to see why food is scarce. In order to sustain an armed force of that magnitude, the people of North Korea stand to lose everything they have left.
Christians who are already feeling the sting of overt persecution could find themselves losing what little they have left. During this time of high tensions, please remember to pray for those who are being persecuted in North Korea, and pray for wisdom for the leadership of nations close to them. As South Korea continues to drill their military near the north, south border, pray that open conflict does not break out.