Underground University isn’t just a school that teaches North Korean defectors how to do North Korean ministry—it’s a school through which North Koreans actually do North Korean ministry. Rather than waiting for Reunification, UU students take steps toward reunification by ministering to their own people—North Koreans who have defected, been sex trafficked, or who have been sent out to work in order to make money for the NK regime in countries around the world.
The Bible is the only textbook of UU
WHAT IS UU’S CURRICULUM NOW?
UU does not have a “discipleship curriculum” consisting of textbooks or videos or lectures. At Voice of the Martyrs Korea, everything that we do is related to the task of partnering with underground Christians. In the case of UU, the whole purpose of the school is simply to impart the discipleship and evangelism methods of the underground church in North Korea to North Koreans in South Korea. And because, for Christians in North Korea, there is no textbook or curriculum other than the Bible itself, UU also has no textbook or curriculum other than the Bible—and we have found it to be incredibly effective!
VOMK’s North Korean Study Bible, originally formatted for NK defectors to study the Bible by themselves, made its way into a seminary library
This is why our entire ‘curriculum’ for this year has been Bible “translation”: We have tasked our students with taking the first Korean Bible translation from 1883 and updating its grammar, format, and language for modern readers, particularly North Korean readers. This translation of the Bible, called the Ross Bible (after missionary John Ross), was originally done in a North Korean North Pyeongan Province dialect in the late 1800s. It is the Bible that the earlier generations of North Korean Christians would have known and used for evangelism and discipleship. As our students translate, they then discuss the meaning of the verses they are translating. This is the discipleship process Ross himself used and passed on to the early Korean Christians. Recovering that process has been absolutely transformative for us and for our students!
One of the UU students who has been most impacted by this underground Bible-as-curriculum model is a young man named Mr. C. When Mr. C first served as an intern with UU, he was tasked with translating the Ross Bible and leading translation groups, helping others to translate the Bible as well. After a few months, he temporarily suspended his internship in order to enroll at a theological university.
Mr. C’s mother and his pastoral mentor commented to us that Mr. C’s character had improved so much during the time that he served as an intern with UU. We were surprised, since all we had tasked Mr. C with was Bible translation. It was the word of God working in Mr. C’s heart that had caused the change that his mother and his mentor had seen.
During his first semester at the theological university, Mr. C often commented about how studying at the theological university has made him feel far away from God. At one point, he was so distraught that he fasted for one week in hopes that it would make him feel close to God again!
Mr. C does Bible translation with other UU students
Now that Mr. C is on summer vacation from school, he is serving again as an intern in UU, and he is back to spending his days translating the Ross Bible. As he has been translating, Mr. C notices the difference between the Bible translation work that he does and the other summer work that his fellow university students do. Even though his friends are serving in Christian ministries and churches over the summer, he sees too much worldliness in their programs. He said, “Sometimes I look at my friends leading retreats, and I feel tempted to want to do the same because, you know, I have tasted the world before.” But by translating the Bible, his closeness to God has returned!
Prayer Requests for this project
- Pray for new UU students– Please pray for new UU students to be faithful despite spiritual opposition.
- Pray for healing from COVID for UU Students – Some UU students recently contracted COVID. Please pray for God to comfort and heal them. Pray for them to rely upon God’s word during this difficult time.
- Pray for UU students who are pursuing a seminary education – Pray for UU students who are pursuing a seminary education to come closer to God as a result of their studies, and not feel further away from him.
About Underground University
1. We train and deploy students for ministry to North Korea today.
We do “works of mercy field trips” each month where we practice sharing our bread, opening our homes, healing and comforting, visiting and remembering, and other disciplines with North Korean defectors and South Korean outcasts. Students are required to minister to NKs internationally before they graduate. That puts them in a very small category of experienced NK ministers!
2. There is an emphasis on hearing and doing the word.
This is not only a field ministry training program. There are homework assignments and quizzes for every class session. Students memorize large amounts of scripture weekly, in keeping with the tradition of the North Korean underground church. Each of our tracks, like Persecution Theology (using In The Shadow Of The Cross), is serious study. We hold ourselves and our students to a seminary standard in theology while offering and requiring more practical theological participation than many South Korean seminaries.
3. Rooted in mentoring.
1 Timothy 3:1-5 shows that the key to effective missionary service is learning to be an effective minister in one’s own family. That can only be learned life-on-life, and that has made UU a one day classroom experience supplemented by a six day supervised life experience—one that continues well beyond their graduation.
Alumni mentor existing students by acting as examples, coaches, and understanding elder brothers and sisters. This is proving to be a crucial missing piece in both enabling more thorough instruction and also creating greater connection with our alumni.