North Korea

What is Christmas to a North Korean?

Have you ever heard of Christmas?” This question may seem alien to us, but to a North Korean migrant worker it is perfectly reasonable. And it just might be the beginning of a life-transforming faith. Some North Koreans get their first opportunity to experience the outside world by joining a migrant work program in Russia, China, or the Middle East. But life at a migrant work site is hardly an improvement: workers are strictly controlled to prevent outside contact, they toil extremely long hours, and are poorly fed. Global Advance’s Alpha Relief Initiative is empowering local believers to reach out to North Koreans in work camps with Emergency Relief Packs and the message of the Gospel. One brave believer heard of a facility where some young North Korean women are working, and began looking for ways to reach them. The only possible way in was to go undercover and get a job there. Once inside, the discoveries were shocking.

Women aged twenty to twenty-five are forced to work twelve-hour days, and if they miss production quotas they risk losing their food rations or even being beaten. They often faint from fatigue and starvation. The women are forbidden to leave the facility and are restricted from contact with other workers. They live in constant fear, and talk very little even among themselves. Pray for this believer to find a way to gain trust, an open door, and the opportunity to share the love of Christ.

Other work sites are less restrictive, and sometimes even the guards are curious or hungry enough to accept the care of our brave brothers and sisters on the front lines. The team has provided emergency medical care for injured and malnourished workers, and has gained unprecedented access to closed areas through their compassion. Many North Koreans are getting a glimpse of the true meaning of Christmas for the first time!

With your support, frontline leaders will be reaching North Koreans with hope this Christmas as they bring food, warm clothing, medicine, and other necessities to them. And, when the guards aren’t looking, a Bible can even be tucked in the bundle. These are life-saving Christmas gifts which open the door to the greatest gift of all: the Gospel.

Please consider a monthly gift of $50 to supply believers who are risking their lives to provide Emergency Relief Packs and share the truth of Christ this Christmas, and all year long.

Back into the Darkness (North Korean Torture, Escape, and Redemption)

Far off the busy South Korean streets, our small Alpha Relief team quietly sits opposite Hana, a North Korean escapee who wants to tell us her story. It is a journey filled with pain and she absent-mindedly fidgets with the scarf around her neck, a piece of clothing much too warm for the late spring temperature. The scarf is, however, very effective at covering a secret ... a secret we are about to learn. 

Growing up inside North Korea, food was scarce for Hana’s family. When her husband died from sickness due to malnutrition, she began questioning what might exist outside of the closed North Korean borders. Bribing a hungry border guard, the young woman quietly made her escape into China to look for a better life.

Just one week later she was discovered by Chinese police, bound in chains, and brought back inside North Korea as a traitor. As she waited for her punishment, authorities discovered that Hana’s grandmother had a record with the government as an identified Christian. Although Hana emphatically professed the truth that she had no knowledge of the religion, guards began mercilessly torturing her.

Hana recounts being strapped to a chair, raised off the floor by a chain pulley, then dropped violently as her bones and muscles bruised with the intense trauma. Wire was strung around her neck and then violently yanked tight, choking the air from her windpipe. Hana momentarily pauses her re-telling to again fidget with the scarf around her neck. She tells us the scarf hides the area where the wire had cut into her delicate skin. It’s then we realize some of her scars from those horrible days will always remain. 

The battered woman’s anger should have been directed toward her grandmother for the undeserved pain. Instead, Hana’s thoughts of the old woman’s gentle singing, quickly became her only comfort. Throughout her torture, she would hum those same melodies, using them as her only source for staying sane. Later, she would realize that her grandmother’s songs were old Korean Gospel Hymns, carrying words that would bring her true freedom.

Hana was eventually set free. Completely disillusioned with the lies her country had told her, she could think of nothing else but escape. 

The details of her harrowing journey to once-and-for-all leave North Korea behind are a powerful story in and of themselves. After almost a year on the run, Hana finally made it to South Korea. There she met friends of Alpha Relief who oversee a church community which embraces North Korean refugees. Although hostile to the Gospel at first, Hana found her heart softening with each act of love the church offered her. It wasn’t long before she embraced the faith of her grandmother and asked Jesus to be her Savior.

Our team frequently asks about future dreams when visiting with North Koreans who have escaped. Hana’s answer surprised us. She said she hopes to one day lead a team of missionaries back into North Korea to help build a church community for those remaining in darkness.

Light in the darkness. Hope for the very persecutors who left her with scars. It’s the kind of story only Jesus could write.

Interested in joining Hana and other brave heroes in bringing light into the darkness? You’ll find some great ways to get involved below.

 

Infiltrating A Modern Day Slave Camp (A Secret Mission To Set North Koreans Free)

Jonas couldn’t believe what was happening. For years he had been covertly entering hard labor work sites in remote unnamed locations where modern day slaves were “employed." The slaves had been sent by North Korea as part of a corrupt government program. His mission was to bring food, medicine, and the message of the Gospel to the men who lived with little or no hope. Jonas had been careful to steer clear of the leaders of the slave rings who viciously protected their assets from outside influence, but something had drastically changed. 

The very leaders Jonas had done his best to avoid had discovered him while he was ministered to some of the workers. He expected violence, but instead they had welcomed him into a brand new work site that was not on Jonas’ map.  The undercover evangelist suddenly found himself face to face with 30 new workers, all in need of the resources and message he carried.

The men working the sites had signed up for the North Korean government program with the promise of earning money for their hungry families. Instead of honest work with decent wages, they arrived in a foreign land where they were kept restricted to their remote locations, working painstaking hours with little to eat and inadequate shelter. Worse still, up to 80% of what they earned was kept by the North Korean government, leaving them little on which to survive. 

The leaders in charge of the hard labor work sites are North Korean, official guards sent to prevent the men from leaving as well as keep outsiders away. The horrific conditions left many of the workforce sick and hungry from the lack of food. Jonas had chosen to infiltrate a camp guarded by a sympathetic official who recognized the opportunity to provide for those he oversaw. 

Through God’s divine orchestration and your support, Jonas was allowed to openly offer survival packs he had prepared for each worker under the care of the guard. The packs contain food, medicine, basic living supplies and, best of all, disguised Korean literature that contained the message of the Gospel. 

Please continue to keep Jonas and his secret ministry in your prayers. He needs more opportunities like this one for the numerous work sites he has located. Pray that each survival pack and each conversation will plant a seed in the hearts of the workers. May the hope of Jesus Christ truly set these men free. 

Ready to involved? Check out some great opportunities below.

 

Illegal Communication (Jesus’s Kingdom Spreads Inside the Hermit Kingdom)

With the advancements of communication, it’s mind boggling that a country like North Korea can control the spread of information and remain a mystery. It’s rare to get an unadulterated peak behind the curtain that surrounds North Korea, and even more rare for it’s people to hear truth from the outside world.

Communication may be extremely difficult to pass across the closed borders, but not entirely impossible. Alpha Relief has the rare privilege of supporting Mrs. Kim, a very special undercover agent for the Gospel. Mrs. Kim secretly brings life saving food and spiritual discipleship to an underground church network inside North Korea. Although food aid is vitally important for the malnourished people, it is often the news she brings from the outside world that her network is just as hungry for. 

We cherish the news from Mrs. Kim’s trip reports just as well. She is one of our only direct links to our oppressed brothers and sisters in Christ. “The situation in North Korea continues to be very difficult” she recently described. “One hundred people have been arrested for anti-government charges.” These “anti-government” charges include severe punishment for Christians who are seen as traitors to the country for worshiping anything other then the dictator. Thankfully none in Mrs. Kim’s network were among those harmed or imprisoned.  

The communication North Koreans do receive is full of governmental propaganda, always ensuring the people that they are being provided heavenly living conditions despite the horrific poverty many of its citizens experience. Though most know this propaganda is a lie, they would never say so out-loud, as the penalty would be a labor camp sentence.

In the midst of this darkness, Mrs. Kim has earned the reputation for offering hope. The precious believers in her network call her “The Kingdom of Heaven Auntie”.  Her message is spreading, and despite the risk, Mrs. Kim makes herself available to those who are seeking to know more about the Gospel. Recently a woman named Lilly met with her to ask if there really was a “Kingdom of Heaven?”  She had heard the government boast of “paradise on earth”, but with so little physical evidence, it had become just a phrase without any substance. Mrs. Kim told the story of Jesus’ kingdom, and though it didn’t always promise physical relief, it did promise peace and joy, no matter the external circumstances.  

Through your support, Mrs. Kim has the resources to reach over 200 underground church families inside North Korea as well as those like Lilly who desire the truth of Christ’s kingdom. Please continue to pray for her incredible mission and those she serves. May the true kingdom advance ever further! 

Interested in helping her next cross-border mission? You’ll find some great ways to get involved below. 

Nari's List (How A Modern Day "Schindler" Is Setting North Koreans Free)

Nari is a hero whose acts of courage most will never know. She operates a rescue safe
house, which provides temporary shelter and relocation services for North Koreans who've escaped into China. But China offers it's own set of dangers. North Korean women are often captured by human traffickers and sold into sex slavery. Men are just as vulnerable to traffickers who hunt them for slave labor. Without the services and ministry Nari provides, most would have little hope of ever finding freedom.

Nari's house is a safe harbor in the midst of a violent storm. Many come having never heard the Gospel message before. Nari knows most of her guests are in an incredibility
vulnerable state on their arrival. She offers warm meals and comfortable beds. She then
works tirelessly to show the love of Jesus, carefully unraveling the Gospel message to
reveal a Heavenly Father who deeply loves each of her guests. Once safe transportation
can be arranged, the escapees leave the safe house to begin their final journey to South
Korea where they can finally live in freedom. Most who come through her home leave
having gained a new relationship with Jesus and scripture to continue their growth in Him.

The team gathered in a mountain field outside of Seoul to securely attach digital media players containing multiple scripture formats, radios, and handwritten messages of hope to three-foot helium balloons. Jet streams flowing at high altitudes are able carry the balloons deep inside North Korea where they eventually deflate and come back to earth. North Korean escapees, have reported finding the balloons and even coming to Christ as a result of the messages and scripture attached.

The team prayed over each balloon, asking the Lord to guide them to those in need. They then released the couriers into the air, watching as they cleared the trees and soared high out of sight. They will bring the hope Jesus to many others, some of whom may one day find themselves in Nari’s safe house.

You are offering freedom for many trapped in darkness. On behalf of those you’ve helped rescue this year, thank you for your incredible support!

Forgetting the War Exists

Walking the streets of downtown Seoul is always a surreal experience. It seems strange to me that so many South Korean citizens carry on their daily business, appearing to be mindless of the warfare being waged so close to their homes. Seoul sits just 30 miles from the heavily guarded North Korean border. It’s a border that is still at war.

North and South Korea signed a cease-fire agreement in 1953 to end the Korean conflict. Although tensions have always been high, a whole generation of South Koreans have grown up since that time. Most now live as if the war does not exist.

It’s an interesting physical picture of what is happening in the US and around the world on a spiritual level. I believe one of the greatest schemes the devil employs against the church is to make us forget he exists. You see, if the church knew how important our role was in the great rescue story of the Gospel, if we knew how much hope we could offer Christ’s bride when she is persecuted, we would be very dangerous to the devil. We could assault his kingdom, invading the darkest places in the world with light.

And so, just like the South Korean commuters, the devil keeps most of us unaware of his presence ... unaware that a war still wages ... unaware of the hero role we are meant to embrace.

Over the next few months, I will be sharing my experiences from a recent trip to South Korea where a small Alpha Relief team met with our onsite partners. These frontline operatives are reaching into the darkness of North Korea with the hope of the Gospel. It is my prayer that these stories will help serve as a reminder that we are all still in the midst of the greatest war ever fought between the devil and the light of Jesus Christ. 

May we never forget the war or the cost Jesus paid to ransom our lives from darkness. You and I have been set free so that we might bring others into that same freedom. As a supporter of Alpha Relief you are doing just that ... setting people free. Your role in the rescue story of the Gospel matters. Thank you for not forgetting and thank you for bringing so much hope.

Want to get involved in bringing light into some of the darkest places on earth? You’ll find some great places to get started below.

Invasion Into Enemy Territory

A couple’s journey to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness of North Korea

I am amazed at what the LORD can do with a forgiving heart and a willingness to humbly follow His lead. This month I want to introduce you to Bo and Annie, a couple who know firsthand the hardships of following Christ in a restricted nation. Though they face persecution for their beliefs, these two brave heroes are taking even greater risks by providing emergency relief and discipleship to a covert church inside North Korea. 

May their story of forgiving and loving their enemy cause us to search our own hearts for unhealed wounds of bitterness. You never know what amazing things God might have in store. 

Invasion Into Enemy Territory

Bo and Annie have not always been heroes. Before they became believers, Bo ran a cross-border business delivering and trading goods with a North Korean partner named Ju. The business relationship appeared successful until one day Bo discovered an anomaly in the financial records. Ju had been cheating him out of a great deal of money. In heated anger, Bo broke off the partnership.

A few years passed, and by God’s grace Bo and Annie came to be followers of Christ. They were fully committed to their new faith and began to attend a secret Chinese Bible school. During those intense times of studying God’s Word, they received their calling to disciple and train North Koreans to be undercover house church leaders. 

They knew the dangers they faced if their ministry was discovered, but with Bo’s North Korean business connections, they also knew they had access to people many others couldn’t reach. The couple knew God was leading them to disciple Ju, the very man who had caused so much bitterness in Bo.  

Shocked that the couple would reach out in peace to him after so many years, Ju agreed to meet with Bo and Annie. The consequences they faced if Ju decided to turn them in to the authorities were severe, but Bo and Annie began to reveal the reasons for their heart change through the Gospel message. They ended by telling Ju that they had forgiven him. The couple’s unprecedented kindness led Ju to repentance and he accepted Christ as his Savior. 

But God wasn't’ done yet. Soon Ju began taking his own risks by sharing the Gospel with his family and extended relatives. In just three years Ju led over 20 families to Jesus and the group met together regularly to worship in secret. 

During that time, Bo and Annie began to further their vision by covertly bringing members of Ju’s underground church into China for intensive three week Bible training and discipleship sessions. During the sessions, the new believers would memorize dozens of Bible verses. Many wrote the most critical elements of their lessons on small pieces of paper. On returning to North Korea, the papers were hidden in deep recesses of clothing so they would not be discovered should anyone be captured. These pieces of paper became precious spiritual food for the other church members awaiting their return. 

Through Alpha Relief’s partnership, Bo and Annie are now also able to provide physical resources to the underground church to help with the poverty and hunger many of the members face. As a result, the small church is slowly growing as the light of Jesus shines brighter in the darkness than ever before. 

What Can We Do?

Though Bo and Annie’s cross-border mission is yielding amazing fruit for the Kingdom, the endeavor is not unopposed. The devil sees this ministry as an invasion into his territory and has fought back. Bo and Annie have been arrested and questioned by North Korean authorities. Ju and his wife were also interrogated and even beaten unconscious. Spiritual attack comes as well. Bo routinely experiences kidney problems as well as roller coaster blood pressure and sugar levels from diabetes. Just last month he found himself in a hospital bed close to death. 

Even so, this brave network of believers has stayed true to their faith and it’s an honor for us to help resource their work. If their story has been an encouragement, would you consider helping further their mission as well as others serving North Korea just like them? You will find some great ways to get involved below. 

Thank you for ensuring hope!

The Hunt for Chloe and Harmony (A Story of Escape from North Korea)

A Story of Escape from North Korea

When most of us hear about North Koreans making dangerous escape attempts into China, we tend to picture adults. Believe it or not, many children are among those desperately trying to escape the rampant malnutrition and poverty in their home country. 

Chloe and Harmony are two North Korean children I met whose story is especially powerful. The elementary age girls managed to successfully escape with their mother. Terrified, the small family spent months in hiding, avoiding bounty hunters. Despite their best effort, secret police discovered the girls' mother and forced her back to North Korea in chains. A labor camp sentence awaited her. Chloe and Harmony managed to stay hidden during the arrest, but were left alone and hopeless in a scary foreign country.

Through God's incredible intervention Mary, an on-site Alpha Relief partner, discovered Chloe and Harmony and brought them back to her small house. Mary's home is part of a growing network of safe houses run by friends of Alpha Relief who are fighting to keep North Koreans protected. 

Mary and her family raised the girls as their own, teaching them about Jesus. Using her influence with local teachers, Mary was even able to gain for the girls access to the city's school system for education. Things seemed to be going well and they dared to believe a hopeful future might be attainable.  

Then, just before I was scheduled to make a visit to meet the girls, Mary notified us that officials were investigating the schools to flush out illegal North Korean children. She knew of friends who had means to provide Chinese identification for both girls but the process was complicated, requiring money and favor from the right people.

When I met with Mary and the girls in the back room of a local restaurant, I knew we had been drawn into their tale through God's amazing heart for rescue.  I had in my backpack enough money to ensure the girls' official identification. Through incredible support of heroes just like you, Chloe and Harmony are now Chinese citizens and their future looks incredibly bright. 

Thank you for being a part of the endeavor to bring light into the darkest places around the world. There are still many who are waiting for freedom and Chloe and Harmony's mother is among them. Would you join us in continuing the effort to offer hope in Jesus to those who have none?

A Life On The Run

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I want to share one last experience with you from my recent trip to meet with a group of people risking their lives to rescue North Korean Christians. It served as a powerful reminder not to take for granted the freedoms most of us live in everyday. Enjoy.

I'm running. All around me, Koreans are pounding the ground as well. Their legs are moving as fast as their lungs enable. We were running hard...but nobody is chasing. 

South Korea has embraced the jogging culture like many countries around the world. This morning, I was out with a few others, running for pleasure through the Seoul metroplex where almost 70% of South Korea's population lives. The city is located just one hour from the North Korean border, one of the most heavily fortified areas in the world, where a war is still being waged. 

Watching the runners in Seoul is always a reminder of the stark differences between the two Korean worlds. South Koreans have freedom, prosperity, and the ability to worship as they desire. And yet just 35 miles from the city limits, their North Korean counterparts are experiencing almost the exact opposite. 

But North Korea does have runners. Many persecuted believers or those facing starvation have risked a life on the run by fleeing their countries guarder borders. The impenetrable fortification between the North and the South means defectors have to escape through China, a country hostile to their presence. Hiding and running are the only ways to survive until safe passage can be found to South Korea.

It's evening now and our small team is traveling Seoul's glowing streets by car. With us is Hana, a recent escapee from North Korea who is part of a growing church community that offers counseling, education, and discipleship for defectors. Alpha Relief has aided many like her and she has gracefully offered to share her story with us. 

It is a story full of pain and hardship. Hana was captured in China begging for food. Back inside North Korea, she was tortured and physically abused after guards linked her to a convicted Christian family member. When she was finally released, she and her small daughter avoided border guards but nearly drowned crossing the river to get back into China. For three years the pair lived on the run until finally they connected with a safe house network offering passage to Seoul. 

In the backseat of the car, my leg muscles are showing signs of soreness from the morning's workout. I wonder to myself if Hana will ever be able to look at running as a pleasurable activity. So much has changed for this young mother but I know the culture shock will take a long time to get over. North Koreans are told Americans are the evil enemy. And yet here she is, riding in a car with us, smiling as she tells of God's loving provision in bringing her salvation and freedom. 

Others Need Your Help Right Now...

Many others just like Hana ache to share beautiful endings to their stories. It is so encouraging to meet these incredibly brave men and women face to face. Right now, five North Korean escapees are currently in one of our sponsored safe houses. Each one waits for the necessary $2500, funds that provide safe passage and a new life. Will you be one who comes to their aid? Every little bit helps.
May we all continuing running the race set before us, doing our part to join in God's great rescue of His Bride. 

A Secret Meeting with an Unlikely Smuggler

I want to share another incredible story from my recent trip to South Korea. Enjoy!

I emerge from the subway at the agreed rendezvous point straight into a rainstorm. With droplets of water spilling down over my face and shoulders I slowly survey the busy street around me. My eyes carefully scan for my contact. There, just across the street I spot her, taking shelter from the rain in an empty coffee shop. Crowds of hurried South Koreans scuttle by her on their way home from work, unknowingly passing one of the greatest North Korean smugglers of modern-day.  

Mrs. Kim does not fit the normal description of an underground operative. This lovely lady warms the room where we are now seated with her giant smile, continually offering our small team big hugs. We are sharing a meal in a basement restaurant, far from the prying ears of those who would oppose her work. Although Mrs. Kim operates in the dark, the food, medicine, and warm clothes she smuggles have the power to light up North Korea with the love of Jesus. 

Our conversation turns to local news or the weather whenever our waitress stops by our table, but while we're alone, Mrs. Kim shares the incredible details of her latest cross-border missions. She shows us a few secret pictures taken from the over 200 underground church families that she serves inside North Korea with the aid. On occasion she has even smuggled out thank you notes (like the one pictured), handwritten on second hand notepaper. For me, these pictures and notes are treasures, our only link to our brothers and sisters in Christ trapped under an evil dictator. 

Our time with Mrs. Kim is always too short and our parting is filled with tears. It's humbling for me to hear her thankful heart for the supporters I represent. She risks her life, and yet she sees you all as her lifeline, knowing that without your involvement, hundreds would be without hope. She tells me she hopes to one day meet each and everyone of you, but until then (or when we all meet on the other side of eternity), she sends her deepest gratitude.

Call To Action:

Its the brave heroes like Mrs. Kim who remind me that nothing can stop the invasion of Jesus' rescue for his bride. You become part of the story when you give to the Rescue and Relief Fund. Mrs. Kim and the many other operatives I've spent time with here in South Korea are committed to their roles in the rescue process. It would be an honor if you would continue to join in.

I Took Part in a North Korea Air Invasion

I want to share a story from a recent trip I took to the North Korean border. The entire adventure was unforgettable but this experience in particular was one I couldn’t wait to tell you all about. Enjoy ...

Something feels wrong. Our driver has cautiously pulled the truck to the side of the dirt road we have been traveling on. Around us the forest presses in, branches obscuring each new bend and turn in the road. So far we’ve been the only vehicle in this remote area, but that has changed. Up ahead we can see the outline of a car parked intentionally across our path. Have we been discovered?

It’s my second day in South Korea, visiting with project partners who are aiding and rescuing the underground church inside North Korea. The precious cargo we are carrying in our truck is going to be used to smuggle food, digital scripture, and other aid items into the closed country. We are just a few kilometers from the border, but moving our cargo any closer by ground through the “Demilitarized Zone” is nearly impossible.

There is, however, a special smuggling method our partners have developed which we will be using today. The method of delivery? … Simply helium balloons and the right wind conditions. Aid items and digital scripture are securely attached to the three foot balloons and then launched as close to the border as safety will allow. During certain times of the year, jet streams flowing at high altitudes are capable of carrying balloons deep inside North Korea where they eventually deflate and come back to earth. North Korean escapees have reported finding these balloons and even coming to Christ as a result of the messages and scripture attached.

Our activities must be done in secret, and the car parked in the road ahead of us could mean our day’s mission is over. Thankfully, upon further inspection our driver indicates that the vehicle belongs to a local farmer and we continue on to a field which will serve as our launch point.

It’s a surreal experience flying the balloons this afternoon as our team is comprised of many North Korean defectors, all of whom have family still remaining in the dark country. I listen to them pray, asking the Lord to guide each balloon to those in need. After we all have as many balloons as our hands can hold, we ask a final blessing over the flight, and then release the colorful couriers into the air, watching as they clear the trees and soar high out of sight. They are in God’s hands now, and His word does not return void.

Call to Respond:

The Balloon Project is just one example of the creative ways Alpha Relief is aiding the underground church inside North Korea. Through the Discipleship Fund you have enabled a diverse smuggling network to deliver God’s word and other resources into the hands of persecuted believers. Interested in helping with our next launch or cross-border smuggling trip? Click below and equip the Discipleship Fund today.  

Surviving Solo: An “Against All Odds” Escape From North Korea

You can watch our latest story update in video format here:

Life is full of rough seasons, isn't it? Many of us have walked through the difficulty of this broken side of eternity where the road becomes long and the mountain steep. We are forced to crawl on our hands and knees just to make it another day. If we are honest, we've questioned God’s presence during these seasons. It feels like we are surviving solo.

What if, even for just a moment, we were given the ability to see the invisible? What if we could view a divine orchestration over our lives when the world feels especially heavy. What if instead of abandonment, Jesus actually walks closer than ever with us as we navigate through rough seasons toward safety? What if a family of believers is right there ready to offer hope?

As you read this month’s incredible story of escape and rescue, I ask that you invite the Lord to speak into your own journey. Although Samuel’s story is a much more physical experience, it represents God’s heart in leading all of us to new areas of refuge and freedom in Him. 

Against All Odds:

It was past midnight and Samuel was standing on the river bank looking back across the dark water now separating him from his home country of North Korea. Though the evening air was cool, he barely noticed because adrenaline was pumping through his veins. He had made it! He had actually made it.

His friends told him that escape by crossing the border waters into China could not be done. Soldiers had been ordered to shoot anyone attempting to cross. An  experienced guide could be hired to navigate around the many military foxholes lining the river's edge, but their fees were astronomical.

Samuel had beaten the odds by crossing from an area of the border surrounded by mountains without the help of a guide. Although guard-posts are fewer in these regions, escapees choose to avoid mountainous crossing points as remote survival becomes necessary until shelter can be located. Most Chinese cities are more than three days journey on foot from the mountains and many perish from exhaustion and hunger.

But that's not all defectors face. Both Chinese and North Korean secret police arrest escapees when found and deport them back to an awaiting labor camp sentence. If that weren’t enough, human traffickers also hunt and capture North Koreans in their vulnerability. Women are sold into the sex industry and men like Samuel are forced into slavery, work in horrific conditions, and face the threat of being turned in to the police if they fail to submit.  

Samuel again defied logic by surviving not just three days, but an entire year in the dangerous China border region. Now in his late 20’s, he kept on the move, frequently changing locations and only gathering supplies when his presence could go unnoticed. But his solo journey had taken an emotional toll. More than anything, Samuel ached for a home ... for a family.

Many may see Samuel’s survival as a fortunate defiance of the odds. However, what came next indicated that something much larger was at work. Through God’s divine leading Samuel met another escapee and learned of a safe house supported by Alpha Relief. After almost thirteen months on the run, the young man finally felt a sense of peace as the home’s hosts welcomed him with a warm meal and refuge. Within the walls of the safe house, he was introduced to Jesus and a family of Christians which extended around the world. It was more than he could ever have hoped for.

Samuel prayed and asked Christ to become his Savior. It was a priceless gift, but it would not be the last. Because of your support, the safe house hosts were able to offer Samuel safe passage and citizenship in a nearby country. He is now living as a free man in South Korea.

Call to Respond:

It is my prayer that the Lord reveals the way He is walking closely in your own story, lovingly leading us all toward freedom and beauty. May we as the body of Christ recognize this gift of freedom and be stirred in new ways to offer encouragement to our brothers and sisters, especially those under persecution. 

There are many others like Samuel still trapped in China. Until North Korea becomes a free country, the great need continues for safe houses and hosts who share the love of Christ with escapees on the run. Would you join with us this month as we become a church body that ensures hope for those in desperate need?