Working with North Korean Christians
Brother Simon (not his real name) has led Open Doors’ North Korea ministry for over 25 years. 2020 was an extraordinary year for him, his team and the church. A year in which old doors closed and new doors opened. Simon provided some reflections on North Korean ministry to begin 2021.
“When I joined a mission organization in university in 1975, I also prayed for an overseas mission, one that would bring me to the most difficult mission areas. While I was praying, God reminded me of Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’
Ever since, this Bible verse was brought to my mind when I found my situations that humanly speaking were impossible to resolve. For instance, in the 1980s God gave me the impossible task to help the North Korean believers. After the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, I followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance to China. I met a Chinese grandmother, named Illia. She was a representative leader of the Chinese house church and wrote a well-known book called ‘The River of Life’. She had been exiled from China to the United States, where I was studying. She introduced me to house church leaders in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing. I visited them and during my visit I heard about the existence of an underground Church in North Korea.
During my first visit to China, I met another old lady, Mrs. Lee, who asked me to bring dozens of palm-sized New Testament. But how could I do what she asked me? The answer was Philippians 4:13: ‘Through Him who strengthens me’.
Some years later, in the early 1990s - when there was the great famine across North Korea - a note came to me from North Korean believers. It was an urgent request to print half-palm sized Bibles in China and deliver them to Christians.
It was impossible to print the Bible with 66 books in one small sized book, so it was separated into three volumes. It was printed, and 150,000 books (50,000 books x 3 volumes) were delivered in about three to four years. I could pay the printing fee one or two times, but the cost was too expensive for me to pay it off with donations from the Korean churches and my salary as a professor.
In 1995, I partnered with Open Doors, a specialized mission organization to serve the persecuted churches. I confirmed God's guidance in prayers. Through Open Doors, we were able to print hymns and various religious books and to deliver them into the hands of North Korean believers.
Since 2000, me and my team have been able to help the North Korean Christians with full support. The North Korean ministry in China has continued to have various risks and pitfalls which cannot be expressed easily. There were a few unexpected encounters with North Korean secret officials operating in China who recorded our conversations and my voice secretly and reported those to the Security Ministry headquarters in Pyongyang. They tried to find my identification and track the ministry history in China for years. But until now, the Lord has protected me from all pitfalls and threats. God has never stopped North Korean ministries, even in a difficult situation when it seemed to be impossible with human eyes.
God was faithful during the SARS and MERS epidemics. We were able to support North Korean believers. Then 2020 came and we had a pandemic, which shut down China and then the rest of the world, including North Korea. Border traffic was practically impossible.
During the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic which has spread throughout China since the beginning of February this year, God showed himself as the King of kings and the Lord of lords in a mission field with increasingly difficult circumstances. We have been able to make use of small windows of opportunity to reach North Korean Christians through our safehouses and networks in China. We gave them food, medicines, and other daily necessities.
The North Korean underground church wrote us a letter to thank our supporters on their behalf.
“We have been through many challenges this year," one believer wrote. “None of the challenges would stop our solemn march to the spiritual mountaintop. We remember the great consideration from all the brothers and sisters around the world. We have dedicated our lives again to the ministry of the underground church and to the succession of the precious faith of our ancestors. We would like to express our great gratitude towards all of you who cared for us, and we pray that God’s grace and blessings will be poured upon you.”
We, the North Korea team, also want to thank our supporters. We are grateful for your prayers and gifts. None of our core workers and family workers were infected by COVID-19. Thanks to God for making us able to handle many ministry projects. We carried them out by faith, even in the most dangerous time.
Once again, thank you for standing with us. We were afraid we would have to reduce what we could do for the North Korean believers. But we’ve seen some amazing donations. We are so grateful for all of you who have prayed and given. And we have similar stories, even from churches that exist in hostile environments. It’s God’s providence.
Thank you to all supporters who pray and dedicate themselves for the North Korea mission. The North Korean Christian leaders and the believers vividly experience your love in Christ. I will do my best to serve the North Korean church and believers on behalf of you all.
I pray that the God of Immanuel may fill you, your family, and your church with peace and heavenly hope, and protect you from all the threats of evil. I pray that you will also experience Philippians 4:13 in your personal lives.
1. Pray that COVID-19 may be fully controlled and overcome so that the COVID-19 pandemic no longer interferes with the mission work of all churches in the year 2021.
2. North Koreans suffer from the continuing economic sanctions of the United Nations and the stubbornness of North Korean regime leaders and natural disasters that occur every year. The great famine across North Korea in the early 1990s could happen at any time. Prayer is needed to prevent such a tragic situation from happening again.
3. Please pray that the door is more open to serve and help the North Korean believers.
4. Pray for more local co-workers in the year 2021. We need the workers for the harvest, as the Lord Jesus said. We need the help of the Trinity God who is the Master of harvest. We also need a female missionary to serve North Korean trafficked ladies. All family members should be dedicated.