Anna Source of Strength: A North Korean refugee’s tale of hardship and hope


In our previous post, Where Will Anna Go?, Crossing Borders wrote about the strife in the life of “Anna,” a North Korean refugee. Anna faced what seemed an endless torrent of misfortune. Depression flooded her life and pulled her into depths of despair.

But as Anna lost all bearings, as she drowned in a cruel and unending weight of work that offered no solace, an invisible hand plucked Anna from seas of dismay. Her weeping was stopped by the warm embrace of unwarranted kindness. A community of sympathy and encouragement gathered around her. She realized for the first time that she was not alone. She was being watched over. As her faith revealed to her, she had always been watched over. Even in the cruelest isolation and pain. She was promised life, not in spite of despair, but even under its cruelest waves.

Anna’s fervent prayers for her missing children continued. Their loss weighed heavily upon her heart, even with the newfound joy in her own life. And with Anna’s prayers, a miracle occurred in a country with over 200,000 displaced North Koreans and almost 1.4 billion people.

In 2016, after 14 years of separation, Anna heard rumors that her second daughter, “Kate” lived in a distant village. Without hesitation, Anna went out to see the face of her lost daughter. By great grace, Anna found her. We cannot imagine the power of their reunion. After much reconciliation, Anna found a place in her daughter’s life. Despite the rift that had formed between them in over a decade spent apart, Anna and her daughter became a family again.

But Anna’s heart broke almost immediately again.

Kate made a desperate attempt to escape to South Korea and succeeded. But overwhelmed and defeated by the pressures of living in the modern world of South Korea, Kate returned to China broken and defeated.

Kate began to suffer from crippling anxiety and a parasitic illness in 2018. Anna, terrified, turned to her community of refugee women. Together, they desperately prayed for Kate. In response to Kate’s debilitating sickness, Crossing Borders staff found medication to help Kate, to relieve some of her symptoms. Our staff also searched and discovered doctors who could cure her condition. With medical attention, the decision came down to whether Kate would have to undergo serious surgery – an expensive surgery that Anna could never afford.

“They had put her fate in my hands.”

Anna reflected on the moment the doctors had placed the only option to help her suffering daughter at her feet. Her eyes were wide, helpless. But Anna, who had once described her life as a pit of despair broke into a smile as she reflected on this horrifying moment for any mother. For the first time in her life, she knew where to turn. “I prayed.”

Anna’s own summary of the story is astoundingly simple. “Our God answered.”

Anna’s family pooled their resources together. They found the money. And Anna’s daughter is alive and well.

But hope is not only a response to duress. With hope, we can seek greater things we had never dreamed of before. It is the firm ground under our feet when we fall, the helping hand that calls us to run with faith. With the great hope she discovered, Anna sought more.

At the end of 2018, Anna left her village to seek out safety and the possibility of a life in South Korea. Once more, she will be traveling vast distances on foot in hopes for a better life. This road is much longer than her trek to China over 16 years ago. It will not be hundreds of miles, but thousands. Anna will face challenges, obstacles, dangers along the way. The terrors stand tall.

But Crossing Borders staff holds fast to the same hope we shared with Anna. The fears are still present. But boldness is where faith is found. Anna, who had once felt so helpless, afraid, abandoned and unable has stepped out to face perhaps one of the most dangerous journeys in the modern world. Please pray for Anna to be safe, to remain steadfast.

“We came into this world with empty hands and we leave with empty hands. We do not know where to go in life. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We live without knowing tomorrow…While we are alive, let’s live sincerely and with pure hearts putting faith and trust in God and following Him.”
- Anna in 2018