A Heart For North Korea
For the last 18 years, North Korea has been the most dangerous place in the world to follow Jesus, according to the World Watch List.
Ironically, North Korea is the most religious country in the world. All of its 22 million citizens must worship leader Kim Jong-Un, along with his father and grandfather. The Kims are said to possess supernatural powers and demand god-like worship. Christians are considered enemies of the state because they believe in a higher power and authority than the Kim family.
Image: Two girls before a picture of their leader.
For Christians, this means that their faith must remain a closely-guarded secret. Many don’t even tell their own children. Those accused of being Christians risk death on-the-spot, or internment at labour camps. These are said to be at least as bad as concentration camps under the Nazi regime.
Despite this, there are 300,000 Christians living in North Korea, and the church continues to grow. The gospel’s arrival to North Korea mirrors the story of the church’s growth now. It is a miraculous and seemingly impossible story that reveals the truth and grace of God.
The Gospel Rises
In 1866, Robert Jermain Thomas, a Welsh missionary with a heart for Korea, joined a ship heading to Pyongyang from China. Thomas had been in China for many years, waiting for an opportunity to deliver Chinese language Bibles to Korea, a country which did not allow any foreigners in. Thomas took as many Bibles as he could carry, and little else.
As it drew close to Korea, the ship got stuck on a sandbank. Thinking they were under attack from foreigners, the Koreans killed everyone on board.
The Bibles sunk down to the ocean floor.
Nobody is quite certain of what happened next, but somehow pages and pages of those Bibles made it to shore. A local Korean picked them up and used them as wallpaper in his house. As people came and read the walls, the gospel spread.
Within 15 years, Pyongyang was a thriving Christian centre with over 100 churches.
The Darkness Has Not Overcome It
Today, only four churches remain. These ‘show’ churches project a false sense of religious freedom to the outside world. In reality, Christians must meet in absolute secrecy, often in groups of no more than two or three.
Image: Choir of men singing in a 'show' church.
Still, the church in North Korea is growing. In some of the darkest places in the world, the light of the gospel provides hope. Churches are being planted in prison toilets. The gospel is secretly broadcast on the radio. Believers continue meeting together in fellowship and worship.
Your prayers support 300,000 of our brothers and sisters who truly understand what it is to take up their cross daily and follow Jesus.
Pray for the persecuted church in your Bible study, church or devotional time - purchase a World Watch List Guidebook.