North Korean Newcomers
탈북 새신자 맞이
Many North Korean defectors in South Korea can easily feel like they are forgotten, like the world has thrown them away. However, through the NK newcomers project, God visits the lonely, provides parents to the orphans, and demonstrates his mercy to those who cry out to Him. Even though some of the NKs we meet have been in South Korea for a while, through the NK newcomers project God shows them that, although the world may have forsaken them, He has not forgotten them.
CAMPING ACROSS KOREA TO MEET NEW NKS
There are over 30,000 NK defectors living in South Korea. About half of them live in the Seoul Metropolitan area and surrounding region. For around fifteen years, we have met and discipled hundreds of NK defectors in this area and trained them to meet, evangelize, and disciple hundreds more. And we have also worked to provide churches in this area who minister to NK defectors, large and small, with NK Bibles and discipleship materials. We have also introduced unchurched NK defectors to these churches.
All this we have done for the sake of meeting NK defectors who had been or had met underground Christians in NK. And, as for those who had never had any interaction with the underground church in NK, we discipled them according to the manner that we have learned from the NK underground church in order to give these defectors the inheritance of faith that they were not able to receive when they were in NK.
Since the Coronavirus has temporarily shut down visits to the NK newcomer’s facility and the prison, we’ve widened the scope of our NK visitations to include all of South Korea. That is to say, we lifted up our eyes to the ripe harvest of NK defectors outside of the Seoul metropolitan area in SK. We started at the far southern point of SK, Jeju Island. We also set up a base and another discipleship school in Daejeon, and met with NK defectors and ministers in other notable cities such as Busan and Pohang.
But, as we did this, we felt God calling us explore the small villages across SK where North Korean defectors are placed by the government. In fact, the North Koreans in many of these villages have connections to the underground church. The government prefers to place these types of NK defectors in more rural areas where they receive less attention and recognition.
Here and there, all over the SK countryside, there are NK defectors living on the margins in these small villages. Many of them have no other NK defectors living nearby. Even for those who are believers, their local church may not be serving as a sphere of community for them as a result of difficulties related to Coronavirus restrictions. Luckily, many of our students know these people because they were together with them in the NK newcomer’s facility at the end of their defection journey before being released into SK society.
After traveling all over Korea and visiting NK defectors, we realized that we needed a place that we could meet these NKs. Many new NKs won’t allow us to visit their homes, since their houses tend to be very poor or in disarray, or they live with SK men who are suspicious of Christians. We also know that it’s not practical for us to rent an office space in each small town or to expect these NKs to travel a few hours away to an office space that we have in a larger city.
With the growing number of campgrounds across SK, we realized that a camping vehicle would provide exactly what we needed to do this country-side ministry. These campgrounds provide us with many options to stay and allow us to be flexible in where we park the camping vehicle. Our UU students can also cook food in the camping vehicle to share with the new NKs that we meet. The camping vehicle provides a place to meet the NKs (inside if weather is bad and/or outside under the canopy if the weather is good). And our UU students, who are doing the ministry, can sleep in the vehicle thus eliminating the need to find a hotel or to travel back home late at night.
For the past two months, we’ve been taking the camping car around Korea to meet these North Koreans. We are getting insights into NK culture and current affairs at a pace that matches the earliest days of our ministry. What’s more, NK defectors are getting saved in the manner and method of the NK underground church, and they are being reconnected to that church. (It is frequently the case that NK defectors only come to know after meeting us that someone among their family was an underground Christian. They find this out when they hear the underground Christian hymns and Bible stories we share, and we tell them how NK underground Christians pray. “My grandfather sang me that song!” they will exclaim, or “My mother told me that story!”)
We call these ministry trips “Mobile Chosun” trips. Chosun is the name for the unified nation that existed prior to the division of North and South Korea. We would like to share one of the stories of our Mobile Chosun travels with you.
Prayer Requests for this project:
- Pray for the Health of a NK Defector and Her Son: AVL and her son are NK defector shut-ins in the South Korean countryside. They are Christians, but their poor health condition makes it hard for them to even go outside to throw away their trash, let alone go to church. Please pray that we can keep visiting them, and that God would heal them.