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Planting Hope in a Hostile Land

February 05, 2013

In the early 1900s, Pyongyang was referred to as the “Jerusalem of the East.” Christianity had taken root in the capital of present-day North Korea, and some 3,000 churches were established and growing.

The spiritual landscape is far different a century later. North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is considered to be the world’s most hostile nation to Christianity.

Persecution of Christians began in 1910 when Japan seized control of the Korean peninsula and worsened with the rise to power of Kim Il Sung’s Communist regime at the end of World War II. The oppressive dynasty continued with his son and more recently with his grandson, Kim Jong Un.

“The North Korean people feel that Kim Jong Un is making life even harder for Christians than his father and grandfather did,” reports one of our missionary contacts who works in the country.

Today there are an estimated 100,000 to 400,000 Christians in North Korea. Despite ever-present dangers of imprisonment, brutality, and death, faithful followers of Jesus Christ remain committed to sharing the gospel in the midst of very difficult circumstances.

“Mr. E.” leads three underground churches in North Korea, with a total of 87 members. He became a Christian in 2006. The following year he was arrested by the police and charged with espionage for helping North Korean refugees escape across themirinto China. The penalty for his crime against the government—18 years in prison.

Another underground church leader provided money to help Mr. E., and his sentence was reduced to five years. He was released and returned home to his family in 2012.

At the time of his arrest, however, Mr. E.’s home was confiscated by the government. He currently lives in his mother’s one-room house with seven people. His desire is to have a house with a large room, so he can have the space to host house church meetings.

Mr. E. already is seeing the fruits of his labors as the network of believers and house churches increases. He travels about 80 miles to lead worship services and meetings.

“He is now fully active and more energetic in the ministry,” said our missionary contact. “He has become a good partner in planting underground home churches.”

Christian ministry leaders in North Korea are encouraged as God’s love shines forth, bringing light to the darkness and transforming hearts. Whatever the political situation, they can experience spiritual freedom through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

Prayer requests:

  • For Mr. E. to have a motorcycle so he can travel more easily to his circuit of underground churches.
  • For wise, Spirit-filled, bold missionaries, and the rapid expansion of underground churches and networks.
  • For spiritual encouragement for believers who are enduring extremely harsh prison conditions.
  • For a wide dissemination of Bibles. Pray that believers will have a clear understanding of God’s Word.
  • That Christians will know how to work within the North Korea system to evangelize, build up believers, and plant churches.
  • Though missionaries and Christians know a lot about being secretive and avoiding arrest, ultimately they need God’s protection from the authorities. Pray that they will be able to minister undetected.

You can support North Korean missionaries by assisting them with housing, transportation, and general expenses. Each missionary needs $100 a month for living costs and an additional $100 for their ministry work.

It is very helpful if a missionary can have his own home and use it as a place to hold church meetings. Having reliable, efficient transportation is essential too. A motorcycle costs $1,500; the average cost of a house is $9,000.

Cell phones are also needed as a means of communication between Christian families and missionaries and cost $80 each. The phones are from China and use Chinese cell towers. If they talk for only a couple minutes with at least 10 minutes between telephone calls, they are not active long enough for the North Korea military to trace them. The phones enable missionaries to coordinate ministry activities and offer spiritual encouragement.

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Further Reading

More about North Korea