“Today we do not live for today. Today we live for tomorrow.” This is one of the slogans the North Korean government used in the nineties to give hope and trust to the people. But as the years went by, tomorrow never came. The letters Open Doors is receiving from North Korean secret church leaders paint a very gray image of a country that looks forward every day, but never looks up. The Christians do try to avert their eyes from reality. In a way, just like their fellow countrymen, they focus on tomorrow too. Only their tomorrow starts in John 14, where Jesus says that he will prepare a place for His followers.
Although satellite images trace new nuclear facilities in North Korea and track military movements, and television channels report about current events and show all the parades, everything fails to expose the heart and mind of the average North Korean. The worshiping of the state stills happens publicly, but there are very few people who still believe in the promise of a Communist paradise where the state takes care of everybody and everybody takes care of the state. Rather, letters to Open Doors from North Korean Christians reveal clearly how they really experience everyday life in their country.
“The people don’t believe the leaders anymore,” writes one church leader. “The entire society is destroyed by the government and transformed to a living hell. There is nothing we can expect of the father and the son [President Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un] anymore, and in private people are very critical.” Another Christian adds: “The food ration has stopped completely due to the great drop in rice production. Even laborers are not paid at all and farmers only get small portions of rice. We are in the worst situation ever. The people have totally given up their expectations towards the government and are struggling to find ways to survive.”
All Open Doors can do is help the Christians with their most basic needs to keep them alive, and mobilize the church around the world to pray for these secret believers and our co-workers ministering to them. In one letter a Christian states: “It makes me very emotional when I think of all the (prayer) support that we receive from around the world. As David confessed in Psalm 8:4: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?’ It has become my own confession. I sing with a joy and gratefulness that comes from deep inside my heart and soul. I can’t help feeling an admiration for God’s amazing love and His devoted care towards the believers. Your love does touch the hearts of thousands of brothers and sisters in North Korea.”
Even in these dark times, the Kingdom of God is expanding in North Korea, write several Christians. “Thank you so much for your dedication and devoted hearts towards our believers. If I look back, I realize how gracious God is for His grace and protection. We couldn’t have come this far without the help of our foreign brothers and sisters. Every book that we received has been used effectively. They strengthen the believers and help us in accomplishing God’s work. Your books are like fellow travelers on a very lonely road.”
Still, life is hard for every North Korean Christian. People die of hunger and illnesses. Each year Christians are arrested, tortured, sent to labor camps and/or executed. It seems like tomorrow will never come. But Christians can do one thing that most North Koreans cannot. When darkness surrounds them, they look up to the heavens. They know that their heavenly Father watches over them.
Father, we are grieved by the situation in North Korea, and the horrific conditions that the country faces. Yet, in the midst of despair, Christ’s light shines forth. Thank You for Your constant provision over the believers, and please provide for them in their physical hunger, as well as their spiritual hunger. We ask now that Your Holy Spirit would comfort those who suffer, and may they continue to look to You despite the massive challenges in their lives. Amen
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