An Open Doors worker recently met with Christians from North Korea. He shared about meeting with these believers and hearing about the gruesome circumstances that they encounter daily for Jesus. They endured with courage, grounded in God, and sought to live each day to honor Him. These are real stories of believers living from North Korea:
The day before I left to do a series of interviews with North Koreans, I attended a prayer meeting with several international team members. The colleague who prepared the devotions read from 2 Corinthians 4:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
The leader explained how she had gone through a difficult time recently and how this text had hit home. She was perplexed by tragedies which occurred in her surroundings, but not driven to despair. Her friend had suddenly passed away and she had cried out to God: “This cannot be the end of her story!” She felt afflicted in every way, but God did not allow her to be crushed.
After sharing this, she gave us a card with a picture, which someone had also given to her. The picture shows a beautiful bowl and then explains the Japanese term ‘kintsukuroi’, which means: ‘to repair with gold’. It is the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. She closed with: “Maybe this devotional is of use for you now; maybe it will be in the future.”
We prayed together and the next day I went on my way to South Korea to meet with North Korean Christians. I interviewed many people that day, but the last lady I interviewed, her testimony hurt my spirit the most. In some way, her story resembles that of her fatherland. She too, has been broken so many times. She lived on the streets to flee from her abusive husband, went to China, was arrested, sent back and severely tortured in a North Korean prison. A Christian lady allowed her to rest on her lap and prayed for her while she was in so much pain.
After her release from prison, she got pregnant from her husband, but she bore her baby at the train station on a cold winter night. She raised her daughter on the streets for two years. “She used to wake me up by pointing at the sky and saying: ‘Mom, it’s a blue sky and a new day’. I really hated it when she did that. It was another day of suffering and misery. I could not take it anymore and decided to try to escape one more time to China, this time with three other homeless mothers and their children, all below the age of three. Each one of them brought poison and fish hooks to commit suicide, if necessary. They got to the other side of the border river successfully, but were halted by Chinese police. However, they weren’t arrested. The police called two taxis for them. One for the ladies, one for the children.
At this point in the story, I kept thinking: “Please, don’t let it be true, don’t let it be true…” But it was true. The mothers were separated from their children and never heard from them again. The ladies themselves were also sold. “All people from the village came to look at us. We were auctioned off like cattle. I’d never felt so humiliated. I was bought for a little less than a thousand dollars by a Chinese man and his father. They abused me and raped me daily, until I escaped from their farm through the hole below the outside toilet.”
Eventually, she reached South Korea after Christians and even some Chinese policemen helped them escape. She now lives for the glory of God and firmly beliefs that God will one day reunite her with her now 11-year-old daughter.
On my way back to the airport, I was overwhelmed by sadness. I kept having this vision of a man breaking my heart with a stick. I wondered how I should return to my family and my work and explain that I came back with a broken heart. And then God brought back the word ‘kintsukuroi’ – to repair with gold. Suddenly, I realized that God would repair my heart with gold. But God would not stop with restoring me. He is also at work in the lives of the people I met and the people they have left behind. God is working on repairing North Korea’s heart. Not with hay, wood or clay, but with gold and thus, make it more beautiful than before.
These believers are firm in their faith. Their strength is found in the Lord, so much so that they are willing to suffer and die for His Name. For these followers of Christ, death is just the end of the beginning.