watching the church go underground After turning away from Christ in the early days of Kim Il Sung’s Communist regime, a North Korean woman was led back to faith by a single Bible verse. Rhee Soon-ja has vivid memories of her father reading the Bible to her and her six siblings when they were children. She remembers that the verses were printed vertically, rather than horizontally. And although now 82 years old, she can still picture the phrase “Christ Is Lord of This House” hanging from a wall in their home. “My parents prayed that God would use me as His servant,” she said, recalling another childhood memory. “I grew up dreaming of becoming an evangelist.” Those were the days before Korea split into North and South, communist and free. Those were the days when the Christian faith flourished in northern Korea. “There were many Christians,” Soon-ja shared from her living room in South Korea. “I attended the Methodist Church. All the congregations gathered every Sunday.” When Soon-ja was a young girl, her family was among the first to experience persecution under the rule of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s first leader. Today Christianity is illegal there, and those who

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a dangerous secret Once fearful of even seeing a Bible, a former North Korean border guard now embraces it. Nearly every day for 11 years, Park Chin-Mae dutifully monitored North Korea’s border with China. From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., he watched for North Koreans attempting to defect or smuggle contraband into the country. Chin-Mae took pride in his work as a border guard, even though he was guilty of the same illegal activities for which he arrested others. Like many North Koreans, he relied on illegal smuggling simply to survive. becoming the enemy When another guard reported Chin-Mae’s smuggling ring, he spent 60 torturous days in prison. And he hadn’t even smuggled the most dangerous item into the country — a Bible. “Those who let Bibles into North Korea had a more severe punishment than someone who kills people,” Chin-Mae said. For Chin-Mae, getting caught smuggling meant being reduced from a respected soldier to a worthless prisoner. For the first 10 days, he was forced to stand in a bowing position and was allowed to move only to use the restroom. If he moved, even during the night, he was beaten mercilessly with a wooden baton. For the next

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Choon-yei was born into a comfortable and secure family, by North Korean standards. Her father was a military officer, and her mother was a housewife. Since family background largely determines the future for North Korean citizens, her family could expect a good life. In 1995, however, just a few years after Choon-yei’s birth, North Korea experienced the worst famine in its history. Millions died of starvation. And even though her father was a military officer, Choon-yei’s family received only two fistfuls of corn flour each day — not nearly enough to feed a family of four. In desperation, they gave up on the government’s ability to provide for them and began dealing on the black market. But the extra corn flour that her mother had obtained from a relative and sold illegally still barely provided for their family. “Any North Korean who survived that time period is a living miracle,” Choon-yei said. “North Koreans had to break the law just to eat a meal. State security agents would confiscate anything they uncovered on the black market and eat it themselves.” The famine was just the beginning of Choon-yei’s suffering. Her parents died when she was in her early teens, and

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Asking for permission to preach is a way of life for “Leonardo.” Merely forgetting or refusing to ask can result in death at the hands of the guerrillas or paramilitaries in Colombia’s “red zones.” Pastors in these areas are viewed as obstacles to the groups’ political ambitions because young people who become Christians are no longer attracted to the groups’ violent lifestyles. “They give you a time to start preaching, and you have to begin and be done at that time,” Leonardo explained. “There was no nighttime preaching or walking outside [allowed], and I always had to give a note if I was going to go anywhere.” Leonardo’s church soon transferred him to a different area, where he worked with people who had been displaced by guerrilla groups in the red zones. But his new home was not free from opposition, either. “There are gangs, hitmen,” he said. “I have been there two years. Two times they have not let me preach.” The gangs stopped Leonardo in front of his church and denied him entrance, saying, “Today no preaching!” But Leonardo found another place to preach. With a speaker and microphone in hand, he began preaching outdoors. He first began

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As the sound of gunfire grew louder, 10-year-old Luis and his brother ran to their room and crawled under their bed. They knew the gunfire meant guerrilla fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were again attacking their small jungle village in one of Colombia’s “red zones,” particularly dangerous areas. When soldiers from the Colombian Army arrived to repel the attack, the guerrillas took the boys’ father hostage to aid their escape. Although they released him four hours later, fighting between the guerrillas and government forces dragged on for days. Many of Luis’s friends were killed in the attack. All Things Made New Luis found true peace in Christ at age 13 and immediately felt the need to help people in villages like his who had suffered from the decades-long insurgency. “He told me He was my God and my Father, and He would always be there for me,” Luis said. “I felt the love of God come back in my life.” Using his small savings, Luis bought books, games and other items to distribute in his old village, which remained under threat. He also brought New Testaments and gave them to everyone he met, including police officers,

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Categories: Stories from the Field