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?

2015 Review: How You Became A Hero to The Persecuted

Take a moment to celebrate the amazing ways the Lord invited us into His great rescue plan over the last year. It was filled with stories of light overcoming darkness, and you were a part of it!

One of the devil's schemes is to make the church believe he is stronger then he actually is, especially as he senses his approaching demise. Though we are witnessing a level of persecution unlike any in recent history, the truth still remains: the enemy is losing. The frontline stories you are helping write prove that. 

Your role is crucial in ensuring hope for our persecuted family in Christ. As a result, the enemy sees you as a threat and will do his best to discourage and keep you out of the war. Resist him, watch him flee, and know that through Jesus you are fighting the good fight. 

Lets make 2016 the biggest year of rescue yet!

Home- How You Can Provide Hope to Syrian Refugees

I've had a single word in my thoughts this morning, "Home"... 

But it's not what you think. The usual warm fuzzy feelings that accompany my desire for home during the Christmas season have been replaced with a heaviness. It doesn't take much to trigger this sadness of the heart either. All I have to do is turn on the TV or open a news website. The world is hurting over a little country named Syria, a place many used to call home.

I've been overwhelmed with stories of families from Syria who have been forced to flee civil war, and more recently, persecution from ISIS terrorism. The world has not seen this type of refugee crisis since World War II. Over four million Syrians are registered with the UN as refugees. Another seven million have been categorized as IDPs or "internally displaced people," forced to leave their communities for remote parts of the country not yet under ISIS control. 

Nearly half of Syria's entire population no longer has a place to call home. 

Among them are our brothers and sisters in Christ, struggling to make sense of God's plan for their lives in the midst of this nightmare. Did you know that before the war erupted, an estimated 1.8 million Christians lived in Syria? The enemy is doing his best to eradicate those who remain and ensure that those who have fled sink in despair. 

But is there anything we can do for our family in Christ?

I know I'm not alone in my burden for those displaced and homeless on the front lines. Many of you are hurting too. Facebook and other social media outlets are abuzz with strong opinions on whether or not America should open its borders, many expressing a desire to welcome refugees, while others stand opposed to the potential threats.  

For now, the decision of homeland security rests far above the heads of most of us reading this letter. So the question remains..."What can we do right now?"

Last year, I was asking myself that same question. My wife and I were gathering with some local believers when our pastor paused in his message and asked us to pray with him over the ISIS genocide and the thousands of Christians facing horrific persecution. I found myself looking at the hundreds of bowed heads around me thinking, 

"I work for a persecuted Christian ministry. If anyone in this room should be doing something, it's me! If this burden is from You, Lord, then I need You to open the doors wide."

Open the doors He has! It's amazing what a single prayer to join God's rescue story can activate. Through what can only be described as divine connections, long-time friends have surfaced in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and even deep inside Syria. The refugee crisis may have only just now reached the ears of the Western world, but these brave men and women have been offering aid and hope on the front-lines to displaced Syrian families for years.

I tell this story because I want you to recognize the unique opportunity we currently have in front of us. Most of our on-site partners operate covertly to avoid persecution. Their tactics allow them to go places other large organizations can't reach. But the down side is their stories are never told on a large scale. Resources remain sparse. 

You can help change that!

Below are just two of our brave partners who have graciously invited us to share their work:

Paul has given his life to serve families who have sought refuge near the border of Syria. He and his small team find Christians who are isolated and provide food, living resources, and medical support. Though they risk great persecution and even prison, Paul's team cultivates small home church gatherings among the refugees, which focus on drawing Muslims to Jesus. Many have already given their lives to Christ.

Sami is a local pastor deep inside Syria who has taken up the call to aid and minister to more than 100 trapped Syrian families seeking refuge near his church. Every week, Sami provides aid parcels as well as hosts a worship service, tangible examples of Jesus's love and provision. Christians are finding hope, but many Muslims are also coming to the services and believing the Gospel message, proof that no darkness is as strong as the light of Christ.

We don't have to wait for refugees to show up on our shores. We can start helping our church family right now, right where they are, right where aid is needed most. Maybe you have prayed the same prayer I lifted up; "Lord, open the right doors so I can be involved."  I hope this serves as an answer to those appeals. 

The timing is urgent...the eight church plants Paul oversees are filled with those needing medical care and food.

The opportunity is unique...Sami is just one of 30 pastors inside Syria, their stories untold, the needs of desperate Christian families unmet. 

The mission is underground...equipping these brave front-line partners covertly attacks the enemy right at his stronghold.

Need some additional encouragement to join the story? Well, a generous donor has offered a matching gift challenge up to $24,000 for those who want to get involved. That means every dollar you give this Christmas will be automatically doubled until we've reached the full amount.

Ready to live dangerously? Ask the Lord to "open the doors." 
Ready to get involved today?...

The world may use the word "crisis," but I also believe what we are witnessing is an invitation.  Friends, God is inviting us to provide food, clothing, medicine, discipleship, and best of all, a community of believers for persecuted Syrian families. Our friends on the ground are ready and waiting for the resources you can provide. 


Until the enemy is defeated, our display of Jesus' love may be the only thing many can call "home." This Christmas, let's show our Syrian family in Christ just how big "home" can be!

Terror in Paris (A Different Response)

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It happened again. Hundreds lost their lives over the weekend from horrific terrorist violence. Paris mourns in the aftermath of the cruelty, so many robbed of loved ones. Beirut, Lebanon, was targeted just a day after the Paris attack, leaving more casualties. 

Our hearts have been heavy for those left sifting through the ashes. Prayers for peace and healing rang out all across the world.  

Now, if we are honest, the mourning has turned to anger. And for good reason. We demand justice for those responsible. We demand a death sentence for all the death caused. I confess that there was a part of me that cheered at the photos of the French air force departing to strike back at ISIS strongholds. 

But is this the most effective method of ending the enemy's reign of terror? Should our hearts posture include a different response?

The book of Acts reveals an interesting war tactic employed by Jesus after his resurrection. Saul was one of the greatest persecutors of early believers in Christ. But during one of his campaigns to destroy the church, Saul had a life changing encounter with Jesus on a road leading to Damascus (Syria). Saul's name was changed to Paul who then became one of the greatest missionaries of all time (Acts 9).

Jesus could have killed Saul on that road, ending a wave of terror for the church. Instead, Jesus changed the root, and the fruit of Paul's life grew the church in ways we still experience today.

Can this happen again? What if there was a way to change the roots of ISIS?

My friend Thomas has an interesting answer. Thomas operates a very special safe house in Africa that is turning modern day Sauls into Pauls. Guests at the safe house are former Muslim radicals, Middle Easterners who have had incredible conversions in Jesus. Like Saul, many of those at Thomas's safe house were forced to flee the very persecution they authored when their communities turned on them.

At the safe house, these former persecutors first receive the counseling and restoration they so desperately need to cleanse their past. The greatest part comes next as most of the guests then begin to receive training so they might return to the very areas where their former evil lives were manifested. But they don't go to kill. Instead, they seek to infiltrate the dark strongholds and offer the same transformation through Jesus that was offered to them.

Join the Movement:

Most of you know that Alpha Relief has been on the front-lines meeting the attack of ISIS head on with rescue and relief initiatives. Its also time you were aware of this much more covert assault on the enemy, one that disarms his forces and transforms the very people he controls into the greatest heroes for the Kingdom of Light. 

Thomas, his safe house team, and many other undercover missionaries still need your support. There are many more persecutor Sauls on their own roads to Damascus. It's time we changed their story.

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. 

"You need to build yourself a cell so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me"

The Lord has been doing something in my heart lately that I want to share with you. Perhaps it’s best to start with a story…

Wang Mingdao was locked away in a Chinese prison cell. His crime? Telling his fellow countrymen about the love of Jesus. More than 23 years passed in Wang’s lonely cell. His only interaction, besides the hands of the jailor passing his food though a hatch, was with God. 

Most men would have gone crazy. Not Wang. When asked his advice for other believers, his response was:  “I was pushed into a cell, but you will have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God. You need to build yourself a cell so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me—simplify your life and know God.”

Reading Wang’s story came during a point in my own journey when God had been calling me to know Him more through simplicity. Recently He showed up during a run I took on a trail system near our home here in Colorado. I came to an overlook of the valley and could see my finish line just a short half mile below. Before I could take another step, I heard the Lord say, “STOP." Feeling a little irritated at the disruption, I paused to see what He would say next. 

Nothing more came and I began to realize that was the very point. I’d been running so hard that I almost missed the beauty around me, and the Creator who wanted to enjoy it with me. Failing to stop would have made me a better runner, but it also would have made me miss Jesus.

This simplification, this sudden awareness of God and His invitation to know Him more is showing up in other ways as well. I can feel Him asking me to let go of distractions, possessions, or ventures which have stolen my focus from what I’m called to. This isn’t easy, and quite frankly I’ve not surrendered without a fight. But as my white-knuckled grip begins to loosen, I’m feeling more and more beautiful space. 

Beautiful space. What would that feel like in your own life? What if you had permission to lay aside all but the basic things the Lord has called you to? Doesn’t that space feel like a rescue in this day and age?

David said it this way: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19).

In the space of my own rescue, I’m finding the things my heart truly beats for ... a deeper intimacy with God and a passion for aiding in the rescue of His bride, the church. 

It’s funny how these personal revelations can bring new insight into opportunities that were right there all along. For years, Alpha Relief has invested in Safe Houses to support displaced families and underground church leaders. These houses are operated in secret by local believers who are dedicated to offering food, shelter, discipleship, and restoration counseling for those who have experienced persecution. But the houses also offer something else to guests: a singular focus on Jesus. With everything stripped away, those seeking refuge at the safe houses spend their days in the Lord’s presence, understanding Him in deeper ways while their souls and bodies heal.

Let me share the stories of two lives you have impacted through the safe house projects:

Nathan is a leader for a small underground church inside North Korea, an entire country forcing it’s people into false worship of their leader. But Nathan knows secret ways to slip through the borders of this “prison cell” nation. What does he do when he escapes? He comes to a safe house. Though he must stay within the walls of the home to protect his identity, the time allows incredible days of discipleship and growth in the Lord, spiritual food he then brings back to his family and church.

Isaac was a revered leader in Islam, but after an incredible conversion to Christ, many of his fellow teachers and students suddenly turned on him. For almost six years Isaac lived a life on the run, away from his wife and four children, persecution waiting at every turn. But he has finally found a refuge in an Alpha Relief supported safe house in Africa for Middle Eastern families who have fled. Just a few months ago, Isaac was reunited with his loved ones at the house. The whole family is together, safe, and surrounded by a community offering a season of restoration-counseling and time with the Lord.

Wang Mingdao was not alone in finding his life’s purpose in knowing God. David writes a similar manifesto in the Psalms; “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

David found closeness with the Lord in the grandeur of an extravagant temple. Wang Mingdao found it in the quietness of a dirty cell. Nathan, Isaac, and all those who have visited Alpha Relief sponsored safe houses are finding the Lord somewhere in between, in simple homes missing lavish gold decorations, but rich in freedom to worship and seek God.

What About Us?

What kind of cell do you and I need to build for ourselves? What kind of safe house we need to retreat to? What extravagantly beautiful temple might we find as we seek to know God with our whole hearts? Maybe it’s as simple as clearing some clutter from our schedules, trusting the Lord to provide rescue in the space.

My prayer is for you to find Him in new ways. It’s also my prayer that time with God might reveal your calling to serve the persecuted church where she is hurting most. Supporting the safe house projects through Alpha Relief's Discipleship Fund is an amazing way to stay involved. We’d love to continue journeying beside you. 

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.

Family Ties: Rescuing Our Own in Iraq

You can watch our latest update in video format here:

Last week the war came closer than expected. Right here in Colorado, my wife and I were introduced to an incredible Christian woman who sought refuge in the States years ago from Al Qaeda terrorists. Then, just last year, the rest of her family in Iraq had to flee ISIS’s brutal terrorism. I saw the distress in her eyes as she told us the conditions her family now lives under. But what I saw most was her sacrificial heart. She sends all the resources she can to offer them hope. This is a woman who is desperate to see her family rescued.

I have to ask myself, do I share this same desperate passion? How would I respond to the crisis if it were my relatives suffering?

Jesus, may we fight for your bride like we would fight for our own loved ones, because in you they are family!

I know many of you have the deep burden I’m talking about. I’ve seen your sacrificial gifts and read your heartfelt prayers. It’s an honor for me to be in battle next to you. This month I want to share a story straight from the frontlines in Iraq. I hope it will give you a glimpse of the families you help rescue every day.

 Lydia’s Story:

Uneasiness spread over Lydia as she walked her narrow street in Northern Iraq. Lately the neighborhood had been full of anxious adults. The local fighters, called the   Peshmerga, had suddenly withdrawn from the combat lines just outside the city,   retreating from an enemy they called ISIS. Now that the fighters were gone, many of   her neighbors talked of leaving.

Lydia called out to her brother Titus standing at the end of the block. His gaze had shifted to something around the corner, which she couldn’t see. A sudden wave of fear washed over her as she watched her brother’s eyes widen in an expression somewhere between shock and horror.

Lydia felt more than heard the first mortar explosion. But as the second and third shells slammed into the street’s storefronts, her head suddenly rang out in pain. She covered her ears in a desperate attempt to silence the horrible scene before her. All around her the buildings began raining down dust and debris. Neighbors suddenly appeared, running from door to door looking for loved ones. Lydia whirled around, frantic to find her own family, and froze at the sight before her. There on the far side of the street lay her brother, motionless and covered in dust.

Another mortar exploded to her right, throwing her violently from her feet as shards of shrapnel penetrated her legs and side. The last thing she remembered before her world went black was the sight of her father scooping her up and running for cover. In the protection of his strong arms, she let the foggy darkness envelop her.

But Lydia’s story was far from over…

Alpha Relief supports local Christians who found Lydia‘s family last year in a makeshift refugee shelter. Her father told of their narrow escape after the Peshmerga fighters retreated to safer strongholds. ISIS had quickly overtaken the defenseless city, firing mortars ahead of their arrival. Alongside many other families, Lydia’s had fled with nothing more then the clothes on their backs. They had arrived homeless, hungry, and grieving over the deaths in their family. Although Lydia sustained serious injuries from the blast, she was able to receive the medical attention she needed. Her family was moved to better living arrangements and offered life-sustaining aid. Though they have experienced a heavy loss, the family now has hope.

Call to Respond:

Thousands of families just like Lydia’s are still frantically trying to put their lives back together after ISIS attacks. Through local pastors and missionaries, Alpha Relief now has access to hurting believers in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and other secret Middle Eastern locations. These are amazing open doors, but we need desperately passionate supporters like you to continue uplifting the cause of our extended family.

We set a goal of $100,000 toward Rescue and Relief at the beginning of the summer. We have already made a good sized dent in that figure, but still have a long way to go. If the Lord is leading you, would you consider continuing the fight to ensure our persecuted family is provided hope?

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?