Kim Sang-Hwa* is the daughter of a North Korean church leader. She now lives in South Korea; the most fortified border in the world separates her from her parents and her North Korean brothers and sisters in Christ. This is her story.
I come from a Christian family, although for a long time I wasn't even aware my parents were believers. Like so many Christian families, our family was banished in the 1950s to a remote village. However, my father was very good with his hands. I cannot share what his job was, because I don't want to endanger him now. But he was able to make good money. And my mother had relatives in China.
My parents continued to hide their faith from the outside world, but I remember waking up one night when I was six. Our house was very small, so we all slept in the same room. When I opened my eyes, I saw my father and mother under the blanket and I could hear the soft noise of the radio. Later I learned they were listening to a broadcast from a Christian radio station.
'I was afraid to touch the Bible'
In our house was a hidden closet. When I was 12, I accidentally found it. I don't know why, but I started to feel inside the cabinet with my hand and I felt a book. I pulled it out, opened the book and began to read:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light...
I began to shiver and dropped the book. I was so scared. My discovery could cost me my life. I was afraid to touch the Bible, but I couldn't just leave it there. I closed my eyes, picked up the book and put it back.
I weighed up my options. Should I tell my teacher? Should I visit the local security official? For fifteen days I couldn't think about anything else. I knew it was my duty to report this illegal book. But it was my family which was involved. And I also had all these questions: Who is this God? Or 'what'?
Finally, I had the courage to ask my father. He was very surprised and sat next to me. "Do you see those old trees?" he asked me. "Who made those?" I said I didn't know.
My father explained the story of creation to me, including how God had made Adam and Eve. Then he turned to me and asked me another question. "What is the most dangerous animal?" I did not know why, but I answered: "The snake." He told me how sin came into the world.
It was the first of many conversations we had about the Bible, about God, Jesus and the Gospel. He explained many Bible stories to me. I was not a real believer yet, but they did make a lot of sense to me. I felt sorry for all those people who didn't know the truth. Even my older siblings were unaware.
My mother taught me to memorise Bible verses and the Apostolic Creed and also explained the gospel to me. My grandfather showed me how to pray. "It is just talking to God. Nothing more, nothing less." He spoke a lot about Jesus' Second Coming. He really longed for that.
To me all those stories and ideas were so interesting. I also read the Bible for myself. But I realized it was dangerous. My father always emphasised not to share anything with anyone else. Then he would start to pray in whispers, almost inaudible. "Father, help the North Korean people to seek your Kingdom first."
Sometimes my father met people in a secret location. Many children of believers came to that location too and learned the Bible. We prayed together. Among the people visiting the secret meetings were some non-believers too, even spies.
When one of those visitors was dying, my father went to see him on his death bed. He confessed: "I know everything about you, your family and your faith. I was a spy and ordered to watch you."
"And?" my father asked.
"You are a good man. I never told anyone you were a Christian. Tell me how I can become a Christian too."
In the final moments of his life, this man repented and entered the Kingdom of God. My father was able to lead him there.
God protected us time and time again. Once there was a random house check and it seemed this man also knew we were Christians. But this official was a really great guy and really nice. He never gave us away. All this strengthened my father's faith in God. He always experienced so much peace. I really think most believers in North Korea experience more peace and trust God more than believers in free countries.
'Seek the kingdom first'
Kim eventually had to leave North Korea when she and her husband discovered they were going to be banished. They made the dangerous escape into China, and travelled on through Myanmar and Thailand, dodging soldiers and facing many challenges, before eventually coming to South Korea several years later. Kim says:
My dreams and hopes haven't changed much since I left North Korea. There is much more freedom here in the South, but our belief is the same. I wish I could go back to North Korea and share the Gospel with the people there and have fellowship with the local believers. I love their faith. I'd be ready to die for the Gospel. I think that if I didn't have a family here in South Korea, I would have returned already to help the people in need.
How would my father want us to pray for North Korea? He always told me to seek the Kingdom first. That will always be his prayer for his country and all believers. This is also what I pray. But sometimes I'm discouraged. It seems like nothing is changing in North Korea. When I pray, I often ask God: 'What's the point? Why do you want me to keep on praying for North Korea?' But then God reminds me: 'You know North Korea better than anyone else. You know the people and their suffering. If you won't pray, who will? Rely on Me. Believe in Me.'
*name changed for security reasons
SUPPORT OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS FACING EXTREME PERSECUTION
There are three things you can do today to support our brothers and sisters in North Korea:
- Pray using the prayer points below, and ask others to pray too. Why not order a free 2018 World Watch List Church Pack, and introduce your local church to their persecuted church family?
- Give. Open Doors secret workers are able to reach 60,000 believers in North Korea with food, clothes and medicines, as well as smuggling illegal Bibles into the country. Every £58 can provide food, medicine and clothes to support a North Korean family for a month.
- Bring your friends to Standing Strong. Come and hear Hannah* from North Korea tell her incredible story, alongside speakers from Egypt and India, and stand with them in prayer and worship. Book your tickets today for an early bird discount.
- For the children of secret believers; Christian parents often can't speak to their children about their faith for fears over their safety. Ask that these children would find Jesus, just as Kim did.
- For leaders of the secret church in North Korea, like Kim's father; ask God to give them wisdom to know who to trust, and strength as they shepherd God's people in such difficult circumstances
- Pray with Kim and her father that the church in North Korea will seek God's kingdom first.