Recently, Dr. Foley was interviewed for a publication at Torch Trinity Seminary. We wanted to share that interview with you to give you an understanding of Dr. Foley’s background as well as the background of Voice of the Martyrs Korea.
Q Please introduce yourself.
I am a fourth-generation Korean Christian, born in Seoul. My mother from Kaesong used to hold her grandmother’s hand on the way to church. I moved to the US in 1984 and became a professional fashion designer and wholesale manufacturer in downtown Los Angeles. I pursued a lifelong dream to become a traditional Korean dancer, receiving certifications from Korea’s national human treasure(인간무형문화재 이매방 선생 전수자), Lee Mae Bang, as well as a master’s degree from Sungkyukwan University with emphasis on Korean Traditional Dance. Fifteen years ago, my husband and I were raising our four children, when in a dream he received a call from God for us to serve underground North Korean Christians. We left behind our careers and founded Voice of the Martyrs Korea. In order to equip myself for this work, I completed a master’s degree in Clinical Therapy from Colorado Christian University and a doctorate in leadership from Regent University in Virginia.
Q I have heard that you are currently leading an organization named The Voice of the Martyrs. How was it started and what is this organization aiming for?
Voice of the Martyrs was founded in 1967 by Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor imprisoned for his faith by the communists for more than 13 years. Today, independent Voice of the Martyrs organizations in more than 20 countries partner with persecuted believers in more than 70 nations. My husband and I founded Voice of the Martyrs Korea in 2003, focusing on underground North Korean Christians. God raised up a church in North Korea in the early 20th century, and there have been faithful Christians there ever since. We develop and undertake projects together with them, reaching North Koreans wherever they are found—North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Mongolia, Southeast Asia. We do radio broadcasting and balloon launching into North Korea. We operate discipleship bases across Asia and missionary and discipleship training schools for North Korean defectors here in Seoul. Our work has expanded to include underground believers in China, Eritrea, Iran, the Middle East, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and other nations. We are also active in preparing South Korean Christians for what we believe will be increasing opposition to Christianity as a result of homosexual activism and the Sexual Revolution.
Q Could you share one testimony?
Each year in our ministry family we have members who are martyred for their faith. Our first martyrdoms were in 2007, when 9 of our North Korean underground Christian brothers and their families were executed by the North Korean government. We had been working together on a project to run photo studios in North Korea to enable gospel messengers and supplies to be passed along a secret route from village to village. The most recent martyr in our family was Pastor Han Chung-Ryeol, our longtime partner and founder of Changbai Church in 1993. For more than 20 years he gave North Koreans food, clothing, and Christ. On Saturday, April 30, 2016, he was martyred. We continue to care for his family and extend his work. These martyrdoms remind us that as Christians we must be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice. I consider it the greatest privilege and responsibility of my life to work with brothers and sisters like this.
Q I have heard that you came to Torch to study theology while you were doing the ministry. What made you decide to come to Torch?
My husband and I ran Voice of the Martyrs Korea through offices in the US and Korea until October 2013, when we realized that both offices were growing so fast that we needed to consolidate all of our work to Korea. When I moved to Korea full time in November, 2013, I became more and more aware of the challenges facing women in full-time ministry in Korea. Though I was the co-founder and president of the organization, though I had an earned doctorate, and though I ran all of our field operations across Asia, and though I was being invited to speak and consult on underground church ministry around the world, most Koreans could only understand me to be a “Samonim.” They would ask to speak to my husband about field work (which is my responsibility) and would not even look at me in meetings I was leading. Our board members recommended I pursue ordination and an MDiv, so while I was still completing my doctoral dissertation at Regent University in Virginia, I enrolled at Torch full-time.
Q What were the benefits that you gained from Torch?
Of course I was blessed to meet many great classmates and professors, and our organization has already hired more than a dozen Torch students and alumni as staff and contractors. But the greatest gift I received from Torch was the opportunity to better understand how the Korean church thinks and operates—how it perceives its purpose, its role, its challenges, and its future. Since I had been in the US since 1984, the Korean church had changed completely from my childhood. Some of my earliest memories in life relate to church, but the Korean church in the 1960s and the 1970s was a different world. Today, the Korean church is so huge, so wealthy, so established, and even beginning to decline. How can we retain the martyr’s spirit in the Korean church? At Torch I could come to trace the history and think deeply about how an organization like Voice of the Martyrs could serve the Korean church most fully, helping Korean Christians to remember what we once knew but can sometimes forget now that suffering is so far removed from our daily experience. At Torch I met others who are asking those same questions.
Q Would you like to say something to the alumni and current students?
I would say the same thing we tell our team members: Be prepared to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice. This is the basic calling of all Christians. Even though our North Korea work may be more physically dangerous than some ministries, all Christians are called to be martyrs. Since the early days of Christianity, the church has recognized three kinds of martyrdom. Red martyrs are those who die a violent death at the hands of their enemies. White martyrs die to the world, retreating from the world in a kind of monastic existence. Green martyrs are those who take up their cross every day, dying to self. While only a few Christians will ever be red or white martyrs, all of us should regard ourselves as green martyrs, dying to our own hopes, wishes, plans, desires, and will so that God’s will can be done through us. In ministry we should not seek to be fulfilled or to help others to be fulfilled. Instead, we should seek only God’s will, and we should help others to do the same.
Q What are the expectations for the ministry?
Most of the people who do North Korea work “burn out” after an average of three years. Pastor Foley and I have been doing this work for more than fifteen years, and our “secret” is that we don’t focus on trying to be successful. We seek instead simply to be faithful. So in ministry we should not have expectations of success, solutions, or appreciation from those we serve. Each year in our ministry we see good friends die, but our friends are always joyful, even in their death. We should have the expectation of an Ephesians 6:13 ministry: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Stand. Be faithful year after year, day after day. God’s highest praise when we appear before him in heaven will not be, “Well done, successful servant!” It is, “Well done, faithful servant.”
Q Please share prayer requests.
This year Voice of the Martyrs is releasing three books on how Korean churches can respond to homosexual activism and the Sexual Revolution. We are also hosting free training events on this subject for pastors and church leaders. Many Korean Christians and pastors think of homosexuality as just a growing issue of sin in society, to be dealt with by Christian activists and specialized ministries. But the gay rights movement is actually just part of a much larger “sexual revolution” that presents a bigger challenge to the South Korean church than the communist revolution did to the North Korean church.
Quite frankly the South Korean church is presently asleep about the sexual revolution, yet as early as 80 years ago, many enemies of the church worldwide came to this conclusion: Only sex, not socialism, could destroy Christianity. Please pray that God will use all of these circumstances to help us all to become church in an even deeper way.