All North Korea defectors must pass through a training program to live in South Korea. Defectors stay there a minimum of three months, after which they are assigned to live in a specific area by the SK government.
Voice of the Martyrs Australia together with VOM Korea is connecting with the North Korean underground church through our NK Newcomer’s Ministry.
Below is a report from our partners at VOM Korea:
Most members of the North Korean underground church are in one of two places: in prison, or in hiding. Since many of these Christians feel a strong call to minister wherever God places them, we might think that their appearance in South Korea would be rare. But we are discovering that statistically about one third of North Koreans entering South Korea have had some prior encounter with Christianity, ranging from lifelong membership in the underground church to exposure to prayer or a Bible story or song from a relative or friend who may have been a Christian. NK Newcomer’s Ministry is a program that equips us to learn these things and more importantly, welcome these brothers and sisters – sometimes even before they step foot in South Korean society!
The South Korean government often takes special precautions when settling North Korean underground Christians to ensure that their stories remain hidden and thus less likely to trouble North Korea. Unfortunately, this means that formerly persecuted Christians from North Korea are either hidden the moment they enter South Korea or spirited away to a distant province after they finish their initial training from the SK government. We reach out to NK defectors throughout SK and find those NK defectors that have been placed in hard to find areas.
The staff of VOM Korea and the Underground University (UU) students (North Korean defectors who are training to do North Korean ministry) visit newly arrived North Korean defectors in hospitals, in homes and even in prison. Sometimes these defectors only know of the underground church; in other cases, they were related to or ministered to by a member of the underground church. Sometimes these defectors are members of the underground church, such as Mr A.
To all in South Korea, Mr A was just a North Korean defector who was hospitalised due to intense back pain. In North Korea’s eyes, however, Mr A was a particularly nefarious criminal. Mr A wasn’t just the head of one underground church in North Korea; he was the founder of several.
Mr A was one of the rare North Koreans who managed to travel into China regularly while living in North Korea. Although he hadn’t come to China seeking it, Mr A first heard the Gospel from a Chinese Christian. Each time Mr A returned to China, this Chinese Christian would disciple him and teach him about the word of God. As he grew in the faith, Mr A began to smuggle small Bibles into North Korea. Over time, however, he began to traffic something even more dangerous into North Korea – the Holy Spirit.
Smuggling and distributing Bibles wasn’t Mr A’s only ministry in North Korea; every Bible he distributed came attached with his own personal presentation of the Gospel message.
Beginning with his family and moving outward, Mr A evangelised his fellow North Koreans, passing on to them the Gospel he had received in China. With time, he was able to raise up several different underground congregations.
Unfortunately, the government found out about the faith of Mr A’s family. Several members of his family were sent to concentration camps. Through acquaintances in North Korea, Mr A has learned that some of these family members died in the camps but others are alive and continue to waste away there. It is out of fear for making things even worse for them and for others not yet in the camps that Mr A does not share his story.
As for the underground congregations Mr A raised up, they were not arrested but dispersed when Mr A left. Much like the early Christians, however, these Christians may have scattered, but they have not truly left the church – they’ve merely brought the churches to new places and new people.
Through this ministry, we are not only able to meet defectors and learn their stories, but we are able to provide for their needs and help them to grow spiritually.
Please pray for our NK Newcomer’s Ministry and for North Korean defectors.
If you would like to financially support the work of Voice of the Martyrs, please go to: https://vom.com.au/donate