North Korea – What is Christmas like?

North Korea - What is Christmas like?

Last Christmas, we distributed a total of 561 packs to North Koreans in many different countries, including the children of North Korean defectors in South Korea.  But some of our Christmas Care packs went directly inside of North Korea.


We were able to receive several short notes of thanks from those who distributed and received packs inside of North Korea that give us a glimpse of what Christmas is like in North Korea.


We distributed gifts to children in three places. They heard that it is a Christmas gift, but people here never know what this holiday(Christmas) means. And we can’t even tell them. We just pray to God in our hearts.


We kept getting too nervous in Joseon. Because even if we hand out gifts, we are suspected, and if we take pictures, we are treated like spies. Especially in the border areas. We thank you for giving us valuable gifts even in difficulties.


I received a gift in Joseon. The person who delivered to us is my best friend. Thank you for sending us such a precious gift, especially since the situations is very difficult and there was nothing to feed the children. My friend whispered to me, “The present came all the way from abroad to celebrate the birth of Jesus’. I don’t know much about it yet, but I am very curious. 

These North Koreans had never even heard of Christmas.

Several years ago, an underground North North Korean Christian also told us a story of how she had almost forgotten it was Christmas. It was actually the story of how she, her son and pregnant daughter fled North Korea into the Tumen river at Christmas time. The full story can be found in the book, <These are the Generations>, but below is a short excerpt in her own words:


The river was about 150 meters wide at that point, and we had to just throw ourselves into it and swim across it as fast as we could, ignoring the piercing liquid cold and the possible impact on my daughter’s pregnancy. The last voices I heard in North Korea were the shouts of people in the city crying out, “Catch them! Catch them!” Maybe God didn’t exactly part the river for us, but he restrained those who sought to do us harm until we could safely reach the other side. That was exodus enough.


Who can forget that first glimpse of the land outside of North Korea? We were greeted by a blaze of Christmas lights. Christmas—I had almost forgotten! The birth of Emmanuel, God with us: Surely God is with us.


But there was no time to stop, stand, reflect, or even thank him for this, as guards ply both sides of the river. Still, it was impossible not to be struck by the contrast between the panoply of lights on the China side and the impenetrable blackness of the North Korean night. On the far side of the river, the citizens had no idea it was Christmas and certainly no concept of the God who is Emmanuel.

Sanitized letter of thanks from a North Korean who received a Christmas Care pack.
North Korean children, at an alternative school in South Korea, look at the Action Bibles that were in each Christmas Care pack.

Ukraine: Not forgotten and Not abandoned

Last Christmas, by the grace of God and with the help of our newsletter readers and partners—VOM raised funds for and distributed 1,454 Christmas care packages in Ukraine. These packs were filled with gifts chosen by local believers and customized for the needs and preferences of recipients. The packs contained emergency food rations, hygiene items, detergents, batteries, sweets, a children’s Bible and other Christian materials and were distributed by local believers responsible for identifying the young recipients. Most packages went to children from Christian families; some were used as evangelism tools in reaching nonbelieving children. The geography of distribution spread widely from Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk and Lugansk in the east, through Kherson in the south, to centrally located Kyiv and then all the way westward to Rakhiv.


One local believer, who packed and distributed Christmas Care packs for the children, shared this with us:


Our goal was not just to give them these sweets, but to share the hope that in these conditions they are not forgotten and not abandoned by our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, in each gift there is a children’s Bible, which will point to the One Who hung on the cross two thousand years ago, so that everyone who believes in Him has hope for eternal life. Lord, let these children in the darkness of this world see the light and feel Your love!


Delivering these gifts into the hands of precious recipients in the areas where tragedy struck—the war zone and the temporarily occupied territories, places where Christians are restricted, actively persecuted, or suffering especially due to their faith—was difficult.


But as one Ukrainian pastor in the occupied territory shared with us,


The Church was able to develop and act in any conditions, under absolutely any circumstances. And it is able to spread the light of Christ even in the midst of the pitch-black darkness of the war and various cataclysms as long, as the children of God trust Him and use what is available to continue their work for his Kingdom. 


Each note of thanks we received from the Ukrainian children, also reminded us of this very same truth, that God is always working, even in the pitch-black darkness of war! Below are just a few of the notes we received from the children and from one a minister helping with the distribution:


Hello, my name is Aleksandra. I want to say thank you for such great gifts and Bible. I really liked the Action Bible. I read it every day. 


Hello, I am thankful to you for the gift and the Bible. The gift was great, and I really liked it. It was the best gift of sweets that I got this year. Praise the Lord for the gifts! 


My name is Dmitry and I want to thank you for the gift, especially for the Bible. I also want to tell you that good deeds don’t go unnoticed, they are like a lighthouse shining its light to those in need. I hope that your kindness and generosity will be rewarded hundredfold. May God bless all of you in everything you do for other people.


It was an incredible joy and great celebration for children and parents. I saw the emotions of the kids when they were unpacking their gifts and these. Those emotions and delight were incredible. Some children thanked us for the children’s Bible and said that “I really want to read it!” 

Ukrainian children hold us their Christmas care packages.
An Action Bible was included in most of the Christmas care packages.