With an initial delivery of 100 packages containing emergency food rations and Bibles to children of Christians living in famine in the war-torn Tigray region of northern Ethiopia this week, Voice of the Martyrs Korea began its 2022 Christmas Care package distribution. According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, the project will deliver aid no later than early 2023 to the children of Christians suffering for their faith in eight countries selected by the ministry.
“Last year, with the help of our donors we raised funds and distributed over 1,700 Christmas care packages,” says Representative Foley. “This year we have pledged to more than double that, delivering a total of 3,800 packages to children of Christians who are suffering in China, Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Laos, Uzbekistan, and wherever North Korean Christians are found.”
According to Representative Foley, funds have so far been raised and sent to the field for 3,200 of those Christmas Care packages. An additional 600 packages remain to be funded and delivered, at a cost of 65,000 KRW per package. Donations for the Christmas Care Package program must be received by Voice of the Martyrs Korea no later than December 31.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea will be delivering a total of 3,800 packages to children of Christians who are suffering in China, Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Laos, Uzbekistan, and wherever North Korean Christians are found.
Representative Foley says the contents for each Christmas Care Package are sourced locally, with the contents tailored to the needs and preferences of local believers. The packs, which usually contain a combination of food and hygiene items as well as a children’s Bible or Christian book, are being distributed from now through early 2023 by VOMK frontline workers, who identify the children eligible to receive the gifts. Representative Foley says that in some of the countries a small number of the packages are used by local believers and VOMK frontline workers for outreach events reaching non-Christian children.
Representative Foley says the Christmas Care Package distribution project is different than the humanitarian aid projects done by large churches and international relief organizations. “The areas where we are delivering are war zones and places where Christians are actively being persecuted,” she says. “It’s not possible fill up a plane or a truck with supplies and get it to these places and just start unloading.” She notes that most of the funds for purchasing the items that go in the packages must be hand-carried by couriers. Then, acquisition of the items for the packages must often be done inside the country in secret or imported without attracting the attention of authorities. Finally, the distribution itself is frequently a completely underground operation.
“In many ways, to deliver even one package to these places is as miraculous as Santa Claus coming down the chimney, but it’s even more difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming than that,” she says. “It requires the creativity, prayer, patience, and troubleshooting of a whole network of believers all the way from Korea to the seven countries where we are delivering packages this year.”
A Tigray Christian girl receives a children’s Bible as part of a Christmas Care Package of emergency food rations sent by Voice of the Martyrs Korea supporters.
But she says the joy of a child of a persecuted or suffering Christian receiving an unexpected Christmas gift makes the work worthwhile.
“These are countries where Christians are restricted, persecuted, or suffering especially due to their faith,” she says. “Children in these countries know that the only hope they have is Christ. When they receive a care package from Christians in other countries, they know that while they may be hated in their own village or city or country, they remain part of the worldwide body of Christ that has not and will not forget about them.”
Representative Foley says that receiving the reports from the distribution of the first hundred packages in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia this week was especially gratifying.
“I and our Voice of the Martyrs Korea team have taught in these villages many times, in buildings which are no longer standing because of the war,” she says. “We have broken bread with these believers and their children who are now literally starving to death. International aid agencies have been unable to bring them the food that is needed. The banks are closed there. The Internet is not working. The roads are blocked. Ordinary citizens are being killed by drones. But we prayed for the Lord to make a way to get food and children’s Bibles to the believers who requested them in these villages, and the Lord made a way. It’s an extremely complicated process to get even one care package there, but we’ve already distributed one hundred, and through our donors’ generosity and the Lord’s grace, we are on track to distribute 400 more packages there within the next month.”
Christmas Care Packages of emergency food rations and Children’s Bibles sent by Voice of the Martyrs Korea supporters.
Representative Foley says that similar plans are underway in the other six countries where Voice of the Martyrs Korea is in the process of distributing a projected 3,800 Christmas Care Packages this year, should donations permit. “This year we have to navigate through war zones not only in Ethiopia and Eritrea but also in Ukraine and Russia. China is locked down due to COVID. Reaching North Koreans anywhere is always challenging, and as regards Laos and Uzbekistan, many Korean Christians don’t fully realize the significant restrictions local believers face. Yet with each of these groups, the Lord is opening amazing ‘underground doors’ for us. Each Christmas Care Package we deliver is truly a miracle.”
A Tigray Christian boy receives a children’s Bible as part of a Christmas Care Package of emergency food rations sent by Voice of the Martyrs Korea supporters.