‘Sometimes I Wonder Why I Keep Praying’
Kim Sang-Hwa, the daughter of a North Korean church leader, 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. She kneels at the table when she shares how she found the illegal Bible, how openly her father explained the gospel to her, and how she was banished from her home. 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. They 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.
In our house was a hidden closet. When I was twelve, 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. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
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 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 guts to ask my father. He was very surprised and sat next to me. He asked me, “Do you see those old trees?” I nodded. “Who made those?” I said I didn’t know and he 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.”
“That’s right,” he replied, and he told me how sin came into the world. It was the first of many conversations we had about the Bible, 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 memorize Bible verses and also explained the full 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. I also read the Bible for myself. But I realized it was dangerous. My father always emphasized 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, 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.” 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 really nice. He never gave us away. All this strengthened my father’s faith in God.
I also met my husband at our house. He came to learn certain skills from my father. Even though my husband came from a high class family, he was more or less free from the North Korean system. He wasn’t indoctrinated and opposed the ruling ideology. He also resisted being married off by his parents. Instead, he loved me and wanted to marry me. This time, his family was against the marriage. His family was very high class and had access to our official files. They knew we belonged to a very low class, but my future husband said, “I don’t care about class or status. I love her.”
God was really in this. After we got engaged, my father went to see his family and they saw my father was a really good man. Finally, they approved.
Father, thank You for the testimony of Kim Sang-Hwa and how You drew her into saving faith even in this nation filled with spiritual darkness. Thank You for the courage of her parents in reaching out with the power of the gospel even at the risk of prison or death. We pray for them as they continue to serve You with hearts that yearn for the light of Your Word to permeate this nation. Keep them safe, Lord, even while You provide opportunities for them to boldly share the gospel. We pray for Kim as she and her husband serve Your church in North Korea from their home in the South through their faithful prayers. We pray for them and for the many people working toward bringing the gospel to their brothers and sisters in the North through radio broadcasts and sending Bibles and Christian literature to contacts in the North. Grant favor, protection and discernment to those who venture across the border for this purpose. We give You praise that in what appears to be a godless nation through our earthly lens, even there, the light of Your gospel has brought saving faith, growing Your church. In the name of Jesus, who causes the silent whispers of His church in North Korea to become a thunderous voice of praise as it reaches the heavens, Amen.