North Korea (MNN) — The Momentum Conference with Voice of the Martyrs, Canada is coming up on Saturday, November 19th in Oakville, Canada. They will have several guest speakers at the event either from or representing the persecuted Church.
One of the speakers is Dr. Eric Foley the founder and CEO of Voice of the Martyrs, Korea.
“The purpose of Voice of the Martyrs is so people can come to hear persecuted Christians speak in their own voice,” says Dr. Foley. “We often hear reports from countries, we’ll hear news updates from countries, but we don’t often get to hear the Christians from those countries speak and share on those experiences.”
Dr. Foley also serves as the North Korea specialist with Voice of the Martyrs, Canada. He says their overall approach to North Korean believers has an important distinction — to encourage and support them as stewards of their own ministry.
“With Voice of the Martyrs, Canada and believers around the world, it becomes really important the way this North Korea work is done. Voice of the Martyrs was founded on the idea that Pastor Richard Wurmbrand said: ‘Give us the tools,’ meaning, give persecuted Christians the tools, and we (the persecuted Christians) will complete the work. So Voice of the Martyrs, Canada approaches things, not from the standpoint of pitying North Korean Christians, but listening to them and asking the question, ‘What tools do you need? How can we support you?’”
‘Sincere’ Over ‘Sensational’
At the Momentum Conference, Dr. Foley will speak on the experience of the North Korean Church. While we often hear sensational persecution stories from North Korea, Dr. Foley says false accounts can often distract from the true faith stories of North Korean believers.
“We hear about North Korean Christians being strung up on crosses and steamrolled over by steamrollers. So people get the idea that is what life is like for North Korean Christians, but those stories, unfortunately, turn out to not be credible.”
Dr. Foley explains, “What is true about life in North Korea is that North Korean Christians face more restrictions, and in fact, there’s no such thing as persecution of Christians. There is only execution…. North Korea is too smart to hold public executions, giving North Korean Christians the chance to say their last words and final goodbyes, or opportunities to sing songs together and so forth. North Korea typically executes Christians in private. They do so to avoid the spread of Christianity.
“Anybody who is found to have any connection to Christians would be rounded up and shipped away from a town overnight. People wake up in the morning and find out their neighbors are gone. And in North Korea, you get really good about not asking questions because you know your life depends upon not meddling. So, most of the stories about North Korean Christians go untold because they’re not sensational….. They’re about Christians who suffer in extended periods of time in labor camps and concentration camps and die agonizingly slow deaths, but they do so in a way that brings great glory to God because of the way they reflect His character in those situations.”
A Church in a Growth-Spurt
Is there any hope for the spread of the Gospel in North Korea then, if belief is so dangerous? The answer may surprise you.
“Interestingly, the Church in North Korea is growing much faster than the Church in South Korea and in most countries around the world. In South Korea, we’ve had a decline every year since 1991 in the number of Christians, even though we have 10 of the 11 largest churches in the world here in Seoul. But in North Korea, the Church continues to grow — and this is testimony to the fact that Christianity can endure, not just almost anything, but truly everything, because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
Dr. Foley estimates there are about 100,000 believers in North Korea today. One-third are in concentration camps, and the other nearly 70,000 have learned ways to avoid detection.
“They continue to share the Word of God, they continue to pray, they continue to disciple and evangelize, and they do it according to ways that are really unique from the whole world.”
If you’d like to learn more about the true details of life as a believer in North Korea, you can check out Dr. Foley’s book, These Are The Generations.
The Verbiage of Prayer
Coming from the International Day of Prayer yesterday, the importance of prayer for the persecuted Church is still fresh in our minds. We asked Dr. Foley how our North Korean brothers and sisters could use our prayers.
“My wife and I started this work about 15 years ago. When we met our first underground believers and I said, ‘How can we pray for you?’ The underground believers from North Korea responded, ‘You pray for us? We pray for you!’ I said, ‘Well, why would you pray for us? We have money and freedom,’” shares Dr. Foley.
“The North Korean underground believers said to me, ‘That’s the problem. You have so much money and so much freedom, you end up putting your faith in your money and your freedom. We have neither money nor freedom, but we have found that Jesus is sufficient.’
“That’s why it’s so important to them. When we pray, we should not pray as if they are somehow left without the resources to be able to live the Christian life. God draws close to them in ways we in the rest of the world cannot even imagine. As an underground Christian pointed out to me, Romans 8:28 works just as well inside a concentration camp as it does outside.”
So the answer to Dr. Foley’s question of how we can pray for Christians in North Korea? “They said, ‘Pray that God would find us each faithful in the settings in which He has placed us.’”
And really, as we pray for believers in North Korea, it should also lead to self-examination in our own walk with the Lord.
“That means for us in the West, we have to pray that we would not rely on our money and our power as the means by which we continue to be Christians. We have to ask ourselves, would we still be Christian if our religion was outlawed? If we couldn’t gather together? If we were not permitted to have a Bible? If we couldn’t listen to Christian radio? If all those things were true, would we still maintain our faith? Would we carry on if it cost us everything?”
Dr. Foley encourages, “The Gospel is already in North Korea. It has been stewarded well and spread well by Christians who understand North Korea better than anybody, and that’s the North Korean Christians.”