North Korea (MNN) — It’s easy to become numb to the plight of persecuted believers around the world, especially when their struggle is ongoing. That’s especially true for North Korea. Open Doors USA has consistently named the Communist country the worst place in the world to be a Christian, placing it at the top of its World Watch List for the past 14 years.
“I think because it’s year after year after year, well, ‘Yeah, we know North Korea is the worst place in the world. What’s the second one?’ Or that kind of thing,” Greg Musselman, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, Canada, says. “So it’s just because it’s an ongoing thing and we don’t hear a lot of news, other than some of the people we have talked to on this recent trip who have come out of North Korea and have given us a few more updates of things going on.”
Musselman recently returned from a trip to South Korea, where he visited Voice of the Martyrs, Canada’s partner ministry, VOM Korea. He worked with its Underground University ministry, a year-long program that equips North Korean believers who have defected from their country with biblical knowledge and training in evangelism.
“They want to get better Bible knowledge, better theology,” Musselman says. “It’s not to tell them, ‘Well this is the kind of ministry you should do,’ because all of them, their heart and passion is to reach North Koreans with the Gospel who have come out of North Korea, and of course they also want to be a part of the programs of the balloon launches with the Bibles going into North Korea to help bring the Gospel to a people who are already shielded from it because of the Kim family and the whole problem there with the Juche system.”
Musselman says VOM Korea’s CEO Eric Foley estimates there about 100,000 Christians living in North Korea. About 30,000 of them, he believes, have been caught practicing their faith and placed in concentration camps. Despite the atrocities believers have faced, Musselman says those who have escaped the country are determined to continue influencing their homeland for Christ.
“Most of the ones who have got out are women,” Musselman says. “Some of the stories are pretty horrific of the things they’ve had to endure, being sex trafficked and those kinds of things, then having to be separated from their family and children.
“We’re not talking hundreds of people. We’re talking about a couple dozen of people every year that go through the program. They do have that heart to see people come to Christ, and then (they) really pray about what kind of ministry can effectively reach North Koreans.”
The believers’ passion Musselman has witnessed stands in stark contrast to the Western idea of ministry. At an age when most people are leaving the mission field, North Korean believers are just beginning.
“I had the privilege of speaking at the Underground University graduation,” Musselman says. “There was one man and I think six or seven women who had graduated, and most of them were over [age] 60. The oldest graduate last year was 86-years-old.
“The topic I chose to speak on was finishing well,” Musselman says. “Some would say, ‘Well, we’re not investing for the future, this is just short term.’ Well, they may have three, five, or longer years to have effective ministry…. I think it’s something we look at from our Western perspective, when somebody gets past 65, its time to retire. In these cases, these ladies are just starting up the ministry God has called them to.”
Interested in how you can help persecuted believers around the world through through organizations like Voice of the Martyrs? Click here for ways to pray, give and get involved. Remember to also pray for encouragement, strength, and boldness for North Korean believers, both inside and outside the country.