Reaching North Koreans in China

Reaching North Koreans in China

Inspired by a VOM worker who served North Koreans, Mrs. L joined him in reaching out to defectors with the gospel.

For 20 years, Mrs. L lived in China, where she had been trafficked and sold to a Chinese man to be his wife. But during that time, she found true freedom and a purpose. 

When a North Korean friend there shared the gospel with her in 2015, Mrs. L decided to visit her church and learn more about Jesus. But after attending a few services, she found it difficult to connect with church members and stopped attending. North Koreans often feel isolated in China. They avoid contact with Chinese people because they are there illegally. 

Then, one day she happened to meet a VOM worker. “I was invited to his church,” she recalled. “Over time, as I saw his honesty and service to other North Korean ladies, I started understanding what it means to live as a Christian.” 

The VOM worker visited Mrs. L regularly and helped her with Bible study, eventually leading her to faith in Christ. “Christ came to my heart through the life of the VOM worker,” she said. “My heart filled up with joy as I came to know the Lord after 20 years of my life in China all by myself. Now, God and his people are with me.” 

Finding Her Purpose

Police have told Mrs. L not to gather in people’s homes when visiting North Koreans in China. But she doesn’t let that stop her from joining them for worship.

In 2017, the VOM worker invited Mrs. L to join him on a visit to some other North Korean women living in China. The trip moved her deeply. 

“As I accompanied him on the visit, I could not believe how much effort he poured out,” Mrs. L said. “He had to drive from the early morning to the late evening to meet one North Korean lady. He was even physically weary, but he kept doing this work. Whenever we went to meet her, I saw him preparing and packing care packages for the person we would be going to meet. I had never seen people like him before.” 

As they continued to meet with older North Korean women, Mrs. L wondered why the worker continued to take the visits so seriously. “Isn’t this just too much?” she asked. “It is too painful to visit such poor ladies who nobody is ever concerned about. You must feel exhausted. I feel sorry for you.” 

The worker looked her in the eyes and said, “Dear sister, it is my joy and honor to serve the Lord. I feel true joy in this work.” 

“It was a new world to me,” Mrs. L said. 

As she continued traveling with the worker to visit women living in poverty, she began to enjoy the ministry and awaken to the needs of others. “I used to always think that my life was so miserable, but now I came to the realization that some of my people suffer greater than me,” she said. “I began to feel what it means to serve the Lord. Like the VOM worker said before, I felt true joy as I served other people. I found something valuable in my life.” 

The care packages they deliver are more than just a means of blessing them. They are also a way to share the love of Christ with them. “I hope that each one comes to believe in the Lord and to have strong faith to endure it and carry on,” Mrs. L said. 

Mrs. L regularly helps deliver the packages, typically distributing them to two people each trip. Prior to distribution day, she helps the VOM worker schedule the visits. Then, on the day of the visits, they spend a couple of hours purchasing items from local shops and filling the packs with personal care items, medicine, clothes and an audio-Bible device. 

“After that, we got in the car and sometimes would have to travel for four hours just to get to the location,” she said. “After spending a couple of hours at the homes, worshiping and fellowshipping, I could feel and see the dramatic change of their spiritual condition on their face.” 

Out on Her Own

Extra Webstory picture
Mrs. L stands next to a completed ministry pack, just like the ones she used to give North Koreans who lived in Northeast China.

After learning the basics of ministry work among North Korean women in China, Mrs. L started visiting them by herself. On two memorable visits, she brought care packages to a divorced mother of two living on top of a mountain and visited a woman suffering from terminal lung cancer. Mrs. L was so moved by their stories that she gave them each gifts using her own money. 

Some of her trips to meet North Korean women have taken her into rural areas of China where she is quickly detected as an outsider. “If I visit other women in their home, people begin to be curious and suspicious about what is going on,” she said. “If we ever sing or pray aloud at the home, the people sometimes report it to the police because people do not like Christianity. I was sold when I was young. I risked getting fined or even sent back to North Korea if police showed up. However, the police know we are here.” 

Often, she said, the police tell her and those she is traveling with not to gather at people’s homes. “When I read the Bible, I realized that nobody could stop us from gathering to worship God,” she said. “I kept visiting and delivering [the care packages] and the gospel to other people.” 

She frequently hears from those who receive the care packages, staying in touch through a messaging app. 

“You cannot imagine how much even one tube of toothpaste produces such great gratitude,” Mrs. L said. “They are just so thankful for these packages and for God’s Word. The packs are very important because they can actually be blessings to meet both physical and spiritual needs.” 

Because she knows personally the value of the care packages from her time in China, she is committed to participating in VOM’s ministry to provide them to North Koreans not only in South Korea where she now lives, but as a missionary in training wherever North Koreans are found. 

This work must not stop,” she said.