Eun-Jeong* was out for a walk along a river in China when Chinese police officers demanded to see her papers. Unable to produce the documents, she was deported to North Korea. “We haven’t heard from her since,” says a concerned colleague of OD who oversees safe houses for North Koreans who have fled to China.
Eun-Jeong is a devout Christian, who has dedicated her life to the gospel. Earlier this year, she escaped to China with her husband. When he became ill and died, she never wavered from following Jesus in the midst of her deep grief. The gospel comes first in her life, and she did not ask for material needs as many refugees understandably do. Her faithfulness in the midst of adversity and grief is a powerful testimony.
An Open Doors staff member who works in the region says, “How do we process what has happened to this precious saint? We often ask the ‘why’ questions. Why, of all people? Why does she have to be the one in prison?”
He adds that it is often painful to consider the answers… and the answers are not helpful. As it says in Hebrews 13, we are not called to question God, but to remember those in prison as though we were in prison with them, and those ill-treated as though we too felt their torment. Hebrews was written to spur us on to fight the good fight, and to understand that Jesus Christ is the founder and perfecter of our faith; that we should rejoice when we suffer for His sake and that we need to go to where it’s dangerous- where we can make a difference. It means we need to live out the Bible wherever God places us. Eun-Jeong may be in a terrible place, but her life is still deeply rooted in the gospel. She is God’s ambassador inside the prison walls; just as we are His ambassadors outside the prison walls.
God commands us to come alongside these saints in prayer. Praying for them as they pray for themselves; praying that they will be faithful wherever they are.
As we consider our call to follow Jesus, we turn to John 21:18-19. “Jesus said to [Peter], ‘Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” We are not all called to be martyrs as Peter was, but we are called to follow Jesus wherever He may lead us. That calling is a sober thing for Eun-Jeong and others like her.
Father, use Eun-Jeong’s life to teach us how to pray for her and for others in the grip of injustice, imprisonment, and the threat of a painful death. We pray that You will comfort her with Your presence, and grace her with hope when hope has fled. Sustain her, Father, with food and warmth for her body. Protect her from beatings and torture. Protect her, too, from despair. Fill her with faith whether she is in a cold, dark cell or working long, grueling hours in the fields or undergoing excruciating interrogation. Grant her sleep when she is in pain or when hunger torments her. Give her opportunities to share the gospel in wise ways, and should she face a brutal death, turn her eyes to Christ, to the joyous glory set before her where every tear will be wiped away. Father, as we enter into her suffering to pray, teach us to be willing to suffer for Your sake, in minor inconveniences or in severe persecution, should you ever call us to that. In the name of Jesus, whose suffering we share, Amen.