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

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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?