Although Voice of the Martyrs does not do humanitarian work, we strongly feel that part of supporting the underground church is to provide for its basic needs. Members of the North Korean underground church suffer from malnutrition, from chronic illness, and from oppression. Many do not have the means to afford appliances—much less clothing— and struggle severely because of it. Surprisingly, however, the most popular demand of the underground church isn’t necessities—it’s the scripture. Because of this, Voice of the Martyrs Korea supplies the North Korean underground church with Ministry Packs: A package that includes medicine, clothing, living necessities, and an MP3 player with the VOMK recording of the old testament, the Faith Comes By Hearing dramatized New Testament, several Korean hymns, and other discipleship materials. Here is a story about how our ministry packs are providing a need more basic than the need for food—the need for God:
L was a man who pushed limits and took risks.
As an NK, traveling into China—even on a work permit—was dangerous. Life outside of North Korea could sometimes be more heavily scrutinized than life inside; officials were constantly probing workers for evidence of foreign influence.
Furthermore, there was no guarantee that wages earned from China could support a family. One average family living in Pyongyang, for example, requires 7,000-8,000 NK won. By working in China, a NK can earn 3,200 NK won a month, but the NK government takes 3/4 of this wage, leaving the worker with 800NK won per month—roughly equivalent to one US dollar.
Despite the danger, L applied and was accepted for a workers visa. After much frustration and perseverance, L found himself running two separate factories in China. He also, much to his own surprise, found himself eagerly seeking the company of Missionary K, a longtime partner of VOMK who had previously come to him with ministry packs.
Ministry packs are packages of living necessities—medicine, warm clothes, food, and other essentials—bundled together with scriptures, hymns, and sermons (in the form of an MP3 player). As L himself explains, these ministry packs contain the items that NK workers most need—especially the MP3. Surprisingly, when we receive feedback about the ministry packs from NKs, the item which they are most grateful for isn’t medicine or clothing; it’s the MP3. One NK even writes:
“All of us were so happy to receive the MP3 players, and our hearts become full of joy as we listen to them each night. We will do whatever we can to keep them safe when the police come to this place.”
L, too, was deeply touched by the ministry pack. However, he was more touched by the hand that came attached to it.
When he met Missionary K, L said he realized that his understanding, perspective, and knowledge about Christianity were totally wrong. At Missionary K’s request, he has been studying the scripture through MP3 and has even aided in distributing ministry packs to other NKs in his area. Missionary K can tell that L’s heart is open to the word of God and has suggested that next time they meet, L receive Jesus Christ as his personal savior.
But there is a problem—Missionary K and L don’t know if they will be able to meet again.
Due to NK’s most recent nuclear test, China is canceling many of its NK work visas. This means that L will most likely need to return to NK. Politics have made life tense and uneasy for NKs living in China, and most are unsure of whether they will be able to stay.
Q1. Who do we give the ministry packs to?
When North Korean men and women are sent by their government to other countries for temporary (typically one to three year) work assignments designed to raise hard currency for the regime, there is a window of opportunity to introduce them to the one true God. As foreigners in a strange land, they are allowed very limited contact with their families and are often given dismal accommodations and dangerous work assignments. Voice of the Martyrs Korea distributes ministry packs to North Koreans working in foreign nations. Many of these packs are then taken back into North Korea!
Q2. What's in a Ministry Pack?
Ministry packs contain basic necessities customized to the location. Some packs contain hygiene supplies, undergarments, socks, and rice or noodles. Others contain shoes and jackets and even work tools. The packs also include the gospel in the form of a tract, New Testament, or other Gospel-sharing resource, such as The Story of Jesus, a visual depiction of Bible stories, in the North Korean dialect.
Even though North Korean workers are often cold, hungry, and poorly provisioned, they will refuse the packs if we try to give them out in public. They say, “Our nation is a paradise, and our great leader has supplied us with everything we need!” So our outreach teams must prayerfully strategize where and how best to get the packs to the workers privately in ways that don’t place them in danger with their government.
Q3. Do you do any evangelism or discipleship with the Packs?
Our strategy is to give the packs to specific people rather than mass distribute them. Recently we were able to distribute ministry packs inside of North Korea to North Koreans who had stayed at our base about 10 years ago. When they visited our base, they were only teenagers, but even at such a young age they dedicated themselves to God. Since that time they have been trying to keep their faith alive in North, and as you can imagine the ministry packs were a great encouragement to them.
Do you see how discipleship is connected? For us, the packs aren’t simply an opportunity to distribute physical aid, but rather an opportunity to help someone grow in God . . . either by distributing the pack or by receiving it!