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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Three Indian believers faced murder charges after praying for a church member who later died. Pastor Surjan Khariya became a believer in 2004 after being healed from the same illness that had taken his 7-year-old daughter’s life. Like most in his tribal village in Jharkhand state, India, he was an animist, worshiping nature with animal sacrifices and offerings of alcohol. But when he was healed from the disease after Christians prayed for him, Surjan gave his life to Christ and became the leader of a house church. Another member of Surjan’s house church, a man named Kolah Lohra, literally stumbled across the church one day in 2010 after hearing sounds of worship coming from the building. Kolah, who had battled alcoholism and drug abuse for years, drunkenly stumbled into the church meeting, dancing to the drumbeat and singing loudly. Unfazed by his drunken performance, the Christians invited him to come back the next day, which, surprisingly, he did. Kolah felt profoundly changed through Christian worship and prayed for a new beginning. He immediately boxed up all his drugs and tobacco and threw them out. In 2017, Kolah’s 27-year-old nephew, Krishna, along with his wife and three children, decided that they,

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Eyewitnesses said it was like a scene from a movie. On Feb. 13, 2017, three black SUVs surrounded Pastor Raymond Koh’s silver sedan and forced it to the side of the road. Men dressed in black got out of their vehicles, grabbed Pastor Koh and shoved him into one of the SUVs while men on motorbikes stopped any approaching cars. The SUVs and Pastor Koh were gone in 40 seconds, and no one has heard from him since. Susanna is convinced that her husband’s abduction is tied to a 2011 confrontation with officers from the Selangor Islamic Department. As she and her husband hosted a dinner one night for sponsors of a charity they had started in 2004, 30 officers raided the event on the assumption that they were evangelizing Muslims, an illegal act in Malaysia. While some Muslims were among those attending the dinner, its sole purpose was to thank sponsors of their Harapan Komuniti (Hope Community) charity, which helped the poor, single mothers, children, drug addicts and those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. About 120 people from various backgrounds attended the event in a local church. During the raid, the officers took photographs and videos of those in attendance, and

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When more than 20 Christian children in northern Kenya received candy from Muslim evangelists in November 2018, they readily pledged to return to Islam, which predominates their Borana Oromo tribe. But days later, Christian workers arrived with a load of cargo that proved more precious and lasting than sugar — children’s Bibles. Christian workers led five donkeys loaded with children’s Bibles through thick forests and across winding rivers to reach the village of Uran Lataka, near Kenya’s border with Ethiopia. They then distributed copies of the illustrated Bible to 52 children, including many who had recently turned their backs on the Christian faith. As the children saw the Bible stories told through the book’s colorful, dramatic images, they were hooked, and in the days that followed most who had been enticed by the Muslims’ candy renewed their commitment to Jesus. “One of the kids couldn’t stop looking through the pictures of the Bible when he received it, even after reaching home,” a VOM worker said. In addition to strengthening the children who were secure in their Christian faith and re-engaging those less committed, children’s Bibles have also proved valuable to Sunday school teachers as a resource for weekly lessons. After

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When Pastor Arjun, a Christian convert from Hinduism, proposed to his wife, Radha, he made sure she knew what to expect. “I am a minister and have been attacked many times,” he told her. “In the future, you may be attacked. I may go to jail. Sometimes we will have food, sometimes we will not. This will be the life.” Radha accepted his proposal without flinching. “Live or die,” she replied, “I will live for Christ.” Since then, they have been forced to move three times. Arjun has been beaten numerous times and accused of forced conversions, while Radha has been personally threatened and watched Hindu radicals invade their church. When Radha’s parents began arranging a marriage for her when she was in the 12th grade, she made it clear that she wanted to marry a pastor. “I will not marry any other,” she told them. “Otherwise, I will not get married.” Radha wanted to be actively involved in ministry, and she knew marrying a pastor would be the best way to do that. “I had that burden,” she said. Because Arjun had been attacked so many times, Radha’s parents were initially hesitant to approve the marriage. But despite their

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Kan and his wife, Maiah, host children of Christian workers in their home so the parents can continue their work without worrying that their children will be taken as soldiers or brides. After Kan completed seminary in 2009, a friend in Myanmar asked him a pointed question: “Could you and your wife take care of two boys?” The boys, ages 5 and 7, were children of new believers from separate families who were working in the fields. Their parents feared that since they were now Christians, rebel groups would take the boys for use as child soldiers. Families in areas where rebel groups are active are commonly expected to give up a child, and Christian families are often forced to give up all their children as a penalty for being Christians. At the beginning of this century, Myanmar was reported to have the highest number of child soldiers in the world. At that time, an estimated 20 percent of the country’s 350,000 soldiers were children. While boys are recruited by rebel groups and the national military, girls in rebel-held areas can be married off or trafficked into China. Kan prayed about how he and his wife could help the families.

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