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 CHRISTIAN COUNTY IN NK THAT KIM IL-SUNG WAS AFRAID TO VISIT
UU Students praying and doing ministry as they travel around South Korea.
Most of our students are older North Korean women. They are not ordained, but rather discipled in UU to be be lay leaders in their local church and sphere of influence, after the manner of the NK underground church, and then to serve as missionaries reaching North Koreans wherever they are found. Some people tell us that we need to be discipling young, able-bodied men in order to get them ordained for ministry by the South Korean church.
But as the South Korean church and its model enters into its fourth decade of consistent numeric decline while the North Korean underground church continues to grow, we believe that God is continuing to lead us to equip these unlikely leaders for ministry.
Interestingly, it is nothing new: It has been God’s strategy for the Korean church from the beginning!
Ever since the gospel reached Korea in 1883, beginning in what is today North Korea, unordained lay women served literally the most crucial role, traveling and preaching the gospel as ‘Bible Women’. In Korea at the time, it was not customary for married women to leave the home, nor for anyone to visit them (especially not young, able-bodied men). Except for, of course, other women, like ‘Bible Women’.
As we told our students about this heritage in the faith, they told us something astounding. They already knew who we were talking about!
Most of the NKs that we meet in SK and all over the world (even those who were underground Christians) consistently tell us that, when they were in NK, they never heard about church buildings, pastors, deacons, or elders. However, they had heard quite often from the NK government about the dangers of interacting with western missionaries. And, we came to find this time, a significant number of our students told us that, when they were in NK, the government also warned its citizens about interacting with ‘Bible Women’ as well. This shows us the importance, and the effectiveness, of these unlikely leaders in NK ministry.
Pastor and Dr. Foley teach students about the Christian history of Korea and ‘Bible Women’.
God is currently using our UU students as “Bible Women. Our pastors train them in advance, helping them learn to share the gospel, equipping them to know how to deal with difficult situations, and making sure they are fully proficient in the NK underground church practices of prayer, proclamation, evangelism, discipleship, and service. The students find those we visit. They set up all the appointments/trips. They do the evangelism and discipleship of the other NK defectors. We are always in the background, coaching and guiding.
Many of the NKs our our students visit are homesick, lonely, depressed, or debilitatingly ill. But, when our students show up with North Korean friendship, North Korean food, and the gospel in the NK dialect according to the NK mindset delivered in an NK framework (which we describe as “two people sitting on either end of a log”), they are typically profoundly open to the gospel—and they love to give to us in return, through their love, vegetables, and time!
Our own UU Bible Woman, meets with another NK and prays for her.
Prayer Requests for this project
- Pray for UU’s Transition to an Underground Model – VOMK’s missionary school for North Korean defectors, ‘Underground University’ (‘UU’), is making a transition from a classroom model to an underground church model. Please pray that God will lead the students in this transition time.
- Pray for Elderly UU Students – Many of our elderly students at Underground University suffer from effects of aging like memory loss, hearing loss, as well as major surgeries. Many still want to be missionaries despite these difficulties. Please pray for God to continue to sustain them and bring to completion the good work He began in them.
- Pray for GOS – Pray for NK defector GOS, who recently had successful brain surgery. She wants to continue her missionary discipleship training as soon as possible. Please pray for the Lord to help her recover and to equip her for the good works He has prepared in advance for her to do.
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.