(Helsinki, Finland, April 17 – April 30) A North Korea ministry team from Voice of the Martyrs completed an extensive tour of Finland this month, but according to Board Chair Hyun Sook Foley, the purpose was not to ask for help from the Christians there.
“When North Koreans speak abroad, they often share the difficulties of life in North Korea and call upon the world to help,” Board Chair Foley explained. “But if we ask, Where is the church growing faster: North Korea or Finland, the US, or South Korea? According to the best estimates, the answer is North Korea. And that is despite the comfortable conditions in these other countries. So we are getting more and more invitations to travel to such countries so that North Korean Christians can teach the Christians there how to be fully Christian in challenging times.”
Board Chair Hyun Sook Foley, CEO Eric Foley, and VOM North Korean Underground University graduate Mrs. Byun (name changed for safety) spoke at twelve churches and did interviews with more than ten TV and radio stations and magazines during the two-week trip, arranged by Voice of the Martyrs sister ministry, Voice of the Martyrs Finland. The goal of VOM Finland’s invitation was to have VOM Korea share lessons that North Korean Christians had learned in the midst of their persecution and, through sharing, to ignite a revival in the Finnish church.
According to Voice of the Martyrs Finland Board Chairman Aki Miettinen, that goal was embraced by the Finnish churches and Christian media who met the VOM Korea team. “Mrs. Byun did not ask Finnish Christians to help North Korea,” said Miettinen. “Instead, she paved the way for NK Christians to help the church in Finland.”
Mrs. Byun shared her testimony of growing up in an underground Christian family in North Korea without herself realizing that her family was Christian. It was not until she escaped to China and learned about Christianity that she realized that the teaching her grandfather had done to her, as well as his behaviors like praying, reflected their Christian heritage.
“One congregation asked Mrs. Byun to bless them and pray that God would enable them to be bold and courageous in Finland,” Miettinen added.
Board Chair Foley explained that Voice of the Martyrs around the world sees the North Korean church as a catalyst for revival, not an object of pity or need. “North Koreans don’t have freedom of religion, but Christ didn’t die so that we might have freedom of religion,” said Board Chair Foley. “He died so that we might have freedom in Christ. In that sense we have met more ‘free’ North Korean Christians than we have truly ‘free’ Christians in Finland, the US, or South Korea. North Korean Christians treasure their freedom in Christ more than we do because they have neither money nor worldly freedom. All they have is Christ. And they have learned that Christ is sufficient.”
As a graduate of Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Underground University, Mrs. Byun serves as a missionary with the ministry, reaching North Koreans with the gospel wherever they are found. Mrs. Byun has ministered to North Koreans living in China, Russia, and other Asian countries. Mrs. Byun says that when she first began taking classes at VOMK, she was only a “Sunday Christian”. However, she began to grow in her faith as she learned about the Bible and the early Korean Christians. But she says it was on mission trips with VOM Korea that her life was changed, when ministering to sex-trafficked North Koreans in China. “No one called me a missionary,” Mrs. Byun recalled. “But I called myself one.”
VOMK, in partnership with VOMs worldwide, works with persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries. According to Board Chair Foley, VOMK not only supports these persecuted Christians, but also learns from them.
“The purpose of Voice of the Martyrs Korea is to prepare Christians and churches to live fully Christian lives in the midst of growing persecution, in unity with Christian martyrs around the world today and throughout history,” Board Chair Foley said.
More lessons from North Korean Christians can be found in the book These are the Generations, written by CEO Eric Foley with third generation underground NK Christians, and translated into Finnish, Dutch, and Italian, in addition to Korean and English. Readers interested in obtaining a copy of These are the Generations can call the VOMK office at 02-2065-0703.
“Unlike most books on North Korea, this book isn’t about how hard or sad life is in North Korea,” Board Chair Foley explains. “It’s about what we can learn from NK Christians who have learned to be faithful to Christ in the face of perhaps the harshest persecution in the history of the world.”