The mission of Voice of the Martyrs Korea is to ensure that the voice of the martyrs never falls silent but is instead carried forward in our own voices and lived out in our own lives.
By “martyr”, we mean the faithful witnesses to God in Christ across all geography and history who “loved not their life even unto death” (Rev. 12:11, ASV). By “voice”, we mean the teachings, sermons, and testimonies of these faithful witnesses. This extends back to the Scripture itself. God did not cause the Bible to suddenly descend from heaven, complete. Instead, he gave us his inerrant, inspired word through faithful witnesses. That word even uses the name “the faithful witness” to describe Christ himself (Rev. 1:5), which shows the centrality of faithful witness to the Christian life. While only the Scripture itself is the inspired, inerrant word of God, Scripture teaches that the testimony of faithful witnesses—the voice of the martyrs—is an essential part of how God equips the church to triumph over the accuser (cf. Revelation 12:10-11).
In our fallen world, faithful witness to Christ can indeed entail death. But it is important to remember that for Christians, martyrdom is not focused on death. It is focused on faithful witness. The Greek word, martyr, means witness. That is why the mission of Voice of the Martyrs is not to report on acts of violence against Christians, nor simply to pray for survivors. Instead, our mission is to make sure that the voice of the martyrs is never silenced by the violence enacted against their faithful witness.
Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, the global founder of Voice of the Martyrs, was a faithful witness for Christ in Communist Romania. He wrote the story of a fellow inmate in prison. Although a prisoner, this man was preaching. Guards dragged him out of the cell, beat him, and threw him back in the cell. But the man picked himself up, dusted himself off, and said, “Now where was I?”
Sometimes faithful witnesses are not able to return to where they left off because of murder, torture, or imprisonment. Voice of the Martyrs Korea picks up where they leave off: seeking out the words of these martyrs and finding ways to keep their words alive in the places and languages where they were first spoken. We also translate the messages into Korean, English, and Chinese so that those words can find new hearing in our lives as well.
This work also takes us across history. Sometimes the voice of the martyrs is simply forgotten with the passage of time, or neglected as the church struggles to remember what it once knew. That is especially true in the case of the early Korean Christian martyrs, who, though still honored by Korean Christians, are rarely heard as important voices in church gatherings or everyday life. Through preaching their words in our Covenant Renewal services and radio broadcasts, and through sharing their teachings in our Underground University and discipleship training programs and resources, we foster the renewal of the martyrs’ spirit in the church in Korea. Through partaking of the Lord’s Supper whenever we gather, we remember that we are one body in Christ with these early Korean Christians and with all those who faithfully died in Christ before us.
There are three reasons why we undertake this mission:
First, we can never be the true church unless we are one body with all believers across all of geography and history, speaking in one voice and one witness with them. Think of martyrdom as a cross. The horizontal bar of the cross represents the martyrs around the world today. The vertical bar of the cross represents martyrs throughout history. The witness of the church across geography and history is our treasure and responsibility, and we are held accountable by God for its stewardship and transmission.
Second, we grow to fullness in Christ as we make the voice of the martyrs our own voice. All who follow Christ are called to martyrdom. Whether or not we ever face physical persecution and death is in the Lord’s hands, but is certain that when we commit to follow him, we covenant to die to ourselves and the world and be alive only to him. Thus, martyrs are produced not by acts of violence but by the waters of baptism. How do we learn to live the life of the faithful witness? By carrying forward as our own personal witness the witness that Christ has entrusted to the church across all geography and history.
Third, it is God who keeps the voice of the martyrs alive. When we join him in that work, we are privileged to serve as his instruments. Scripture says that God never forgets a faithful witness. Psalm 116:15, says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Even though the world seems to be able to silence faithful witnesses to Christ, God ensures that their voices will reverberate throughout the world until the end of time. As 1 John 2:17 says: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” God does not call on us to idolize the martyrs or memorialize their lives in museums. Rather, he calls on us to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also” (Hebrews 13:3, NKJV). Even when their bodies die, we are “chained” together with the martyrs and their message in the one body of Christ. Through these “chains”, we are honored to be able to be a means by which God keeps the voice of the martyrs alive: first, in our own lives; second, in our homes; third, among the believers with whom we fellowship; fourth, among the Christians in our nation and around the world; and fifth, as faithful witnesses to those who do not yet know Christ, but for whom he died.