North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to follow Jesus. Tens of thousands of Christians are held in terrifying prison camps or banished to remote villages, to work as forced labourers.Young-Sik* was exiled to one of these villages, forced to endure a life of hard labour, freezing conditions and meagre rations.
North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to follow Jesus. Tens of thousands of Christians are held in terrifying prison camps or banished to remote villages, to work as forced labourers.
Young-Sik* was exiled to one of these villages, forced to endure a life of hard labour, freezing conditions and meagre rations.
One day, he whispered desperately: “Oh sweet Jesus, how long do I need to live like this?” His prayer was overheard. Not by the authorities, mercifully, but by another believer – an older man called Byung-Chul*. Silently, Byung-Chul made the sign of the cross in Young-Sik’s palm to show that he was a Christian. But Young-Sik didn’t understand and pushed him away.
Byung-Chul tried again. He hummed a line from a well-known hymn. “I was terrified!” Young-Sik remembers. “Byung-Chul’s face was so hopeful, and I worked out that he was humming the melody on purpose, for me to get his sign.
“The joy I experienced was amazing. I had found a spiritual companion in this hellish place. Now there was hope.”
Byung-Chul had been in that place for decades. He was leading a secret church and looking after many kotjebis – homeless street children – who were there. He also had medical skills which he offered to others for free.
One day a local high-ranking official fell ill. Byung-Chul helped him to recover, and in gratitude the official offered him an amazing gift: a chance to move to another city – and to have his official status raised.
Byung-Chul refused the gift. Instead, he gave it away – to one of the street children. A few weeks later, the child left for a new life.
Byung-Chul lived out the rest of his life in that remote place. Before he died, he trained Young-Sik to lead the secret believers there. “It’s my calling,” says Young-Sik. “This is where God placed me, not the government. As Byung-Chul always said, ‘If I live here, I’ll live here. If I die, I will die here.’”
Today, Open Doors supports Young-Sik and many more like him through its Chinese networks. For our North Korean brothers and sisters, just knowing that others are praying for them and that they have ‘spiritual companions’ gives them the hope to carry on.
*Name changed for security reasons
Father God, may our brothers and sisters in Pakistan know that they are loved and valued by You today - that You see them as treasured and precious. Please restore and heal the many girls and women who have been abducted, and comfort believers who are currently imprisoned. Help the church in Pakistan to shine as a light in the darkness.
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