North Korean Newcomers
탈북 새신자 맞이
Where’s the best place to learn about the North Korean underground church?
Many people think the answer is obvious: North Korea. However, this overlooks the fact that the North Korean underground church is underground—they know how to remain hidden from prying eyes. The best place to learn about the North Korean church is actually in a South Korean prison. This is because North Korean prisoners in South Korea (generally) were also prisoners in North Korea, and in North Korea, most of the Christians are in prisons.
VOMK’s Newcomer project ministers to North Korean defectors in prison, in hospitals, and in their homes. We do this to learn about (and minister to) the North Korean church in any way that we can. We can care for the NK church by caring for those to whom they have witnessed.
I met a young North Korean man Sunday who was newly arrived in South Korea. He had defected shortly after completing his mandatory ten year military service. He had caught my attention during the worship service where I was preaching because he held eye contact with me the entire time, had a warm and compassionate face, and showed a lot of calm and poise–traits not often found in North Koreans just beginning to make the adjustment to life outside of North Korea.
In our private conversation he showed unusual insight into English–also rare for North Koreans. He was not fluent, but he had certain phrases memorized (like “nice to meet you”). He looked at our
VOMK logo and read slowly, “Voice…of…the…Pilgrim…” (An insightful mis-reading!) He said today NKs all learn English, but in his day they would take the smartest students in middle school and teach them English, and that is where/how he learned.
In the military he had served as a border guard and used his position to do black market trade in cigarettes and rice. He clearly was very smart and fared well. He became a Christian shortly after arriving in South Korea, during his initial interrogation period, of all times. Since then he has been growing steadily week by week, even participating in daily morning prayer.
But now the smuggling story.
When the young man was a border guard along the river, a middle-aged North Korean woman came across the river on a raft made of inflatable inner tubes. She had a box that was labeled DVDs, but when he searched it he found six Bibles concealed on the bottom. When he saw these, he froze as if dead. He said all NK border guards are told, “If you see the Bible, you are dead,” which he as an intelligent young man understood to mean that if an NK soldier ever reported having seen Bibles, he himself would be heavily interrogated and watched. So in his panic he told the woman, “Never mention this in your life, and I will never mention it in my life,” and he let her in to North Korea with the Bibles.
This is a good reminder that God has his ways of moving hearts and arranging for Bibles to enter into North Korea. Human deception is rarely God’s way. God’s way involves transforming hearts in surprising fashion.
The young man noted that before he became a Christian he had a lot of anxiety. Since he became a Christian, he has had a great peace and calm over him, which was evident to me.
He asked us about a dream he recently had. In the dream he overslept because he was watching Korean dramas. So in the dream he arrived late for the morning prayer service at church. He was supposed to have organized and prepared the worship bulletins, but when he showed up at 6:10, they were blowing freely down the hallway. I showed him James 1:5 and told him always to pray for the interpretation of dreams.
But as I prayed with him, I myself received the interpretation of his dream, which I expressed to the young man through the traditional Korean proverb, “You can’t catch two rabbits.” I told him about Jesus’ admonition that we cannot serve two masters. I explained that the Lord was showing him that he must overcome the temptation to seek both worldly success and Christian service, choosing instead to “seek first the kingdom of God.” The young man was struck by the interpretation, and I laid hands on him and prayed that God would make him a single-minded man in all his ways.
Perhaps you will join me in praying this for him as well.