“After All, We All Die Once” – Hyes Journey, Part Two

March 13, 2013 by Open Doors in General

North Korea

Last week we followed Hye’s harrowing story of growing up in North Korea. We learned that Hye’s father and aunt were taken away and never seen again. We read about her grandmother’s death, and her dying instructions that they burn her precious Bible, knowing that the authorities would come soon. With their family’s precious copies of the Bible gone, the only Scriptures left were the ones in their heads. “My sister wrote whatever she remembered on paper and hid it somewhere in secret. She would look at those papers whenever she was going through difficult times.”

And difficult times were all too frequent. Since the family now belonged to the “hostile” class, the risk of being taken to a labor camp hung over them constantly. Rumors flew that whole families were being taken away at night, and that Hye’s family was next. “The scariest sound I have ever heard was the sound of cars in the middle of the night. There were hardly any cars in the area where we lived. Every time we heard a car, we thought they came to take us away.

The next morning, people would peek through the window and look at the chimneys of other houses to see if any family was missing. We were always prepared to leave the house.”

All Hye and her family could do was look to heaven. “We put our hope in heaven. My grandmother told us about it many times. After all, we would all die once. I wasn’t even afraid to die, but I was scared to die that way.” Hye’s mother tried to comfort her children. “Grandmother and dad are in heaven now. They look down on us and pray for us. It will not matter if we die this way or that way. Sooner or later, everybody dies. Perhaps we die a little earlier than others and we will go to heaven.”

Hye’s family somehow survived these circumstances for more than ten years. One day, a man arrived at their door claiming a Chinese-Korean pastor had sent him to find the family. “This pastor used to visit our house when my father was still with us. Apparently he had heard about us. But we did not trust the person who came to our house. We thought he was a secret agent. Why would someone try to find us ten years after our arrest? We wanted to send him back. However, he had walked almost four hours to come to our house and we listened to him.”

After many questions and a call to China, we were convinced. He told me to come to China and also told me that there were many North Korean defectors in his church too. I replied that my mother was already very old. I did not want to leave her, but help her.” The pastor reasoned with Hye that she could not live with her mother forever and that she should think about her future family. “Come to a bigger world. Learn new things. Follow in your father’s footsteps.”

Hye spoke to her mother. “She said that she was old and wanted me to go. I was sure I would never see her again, but I could not cry about it inside the house.”

Hye made the dangerous six-hour trek to the border where a person who was hired by the pastor came after dark and took Hye on his back. “I safely crossed the river. The Pastor and his wife were waiting for me in the car at the other side. When I came to the church, I noticed a big shiny red cross on the outside. I also heard people singing. ‘Can people really sing so loud?,’ I asked him. ‘I have only seen people singing and praying with hardly any sounds.’ Then he told me that it was okay to sing and pray as much as we wanted… As soon as I stepped inside, I burst into tears.”  Later, Hye managed to escape from China to South Korea.

Like other North Korean refugees, she knows how much others have sacrificed for her. “I started my days with dawn prayer, then school, then my part time job. I owed it to family. No doubt they were punished because of me. They suffered so much already. I did not want their suffering to be in vain.”

As soon as Hye was accepted as a legal refugee she began trying to locate her family and get them to South Korea. “I made so many attempts, but each time something went wrong. It was God who stopped me, I guess. After that year, I gave up. I knew I had to decide to trust God. Then one day, I was sitting in a class room during my lecture and someone called me on my cell phone. I picked up and heard a voice I thought I would never hear again. It was my mother. She told me she was at the Chinese border and would cross the river that night. I was so surprised and happy that I could not focus in class anymore. Anxiously, I waited for her next call the entire day.”

The call came at 2 am. “My mother told me she was in China!” After many attempts, she arrived safely in South Korea. “My whole family is now in South Korea. Being here together, walking on the streets, seeing the high buildings, the modern trains and buses… It makes me emotional. It feels unreal. God made this possible. I promise to do my best to make the most of my life.”
Hye recently wrote this letter to her grandmother in heaven:

Hello grandma, Your little granddaughter has grown this big. I am sure you are looking at me now. I miss you. I really want to meet you as soon as I can. I am doing well, thanks to you and dad.

We couldn’t even talk freely in North Korea but we talk about everything now. I am doing what I wanted to do. Mother is healthy and doing well. I will pray hard until we meet again in heaven. Please continue to pray for North Korea. I didn’t have chance to say ‘I love you’ in North Korea.
I would like to express my respect for you and say that I love you grandma.

Father, thank You for preserving the life of Hye and her family. Help them to always remember the way You brought them into freedom, not by their own efforts, but by Your hand. Use them mightily in South Korea. We pray that one day the dark oppression that shrouds North Korea in isolation will be lifted and that a multitude of believers will praise Your name, lifting high the name of Christ. In the name of Jesus who loves His church, Amen.

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