A Prayer Campaign for North Korean Refugees and Orphans

Sex trafficking. Abuse. Hopelessness. Abandonment. The struggles of North Korean refugees and orphans are well documented on this blog. When we share this information with people who hear it for the first time, the reaction is almost always shock and horror. This year, we want to equip people to do something about these modern-day atrocities. You will be seeing more ways you can actively participate in the health and well-being of North Korean refugees in China on our website and communications this year.

The first thing we want to do is equip you to pray for North Korean refugees in our new program, #Pray40NK, which will coincide with Lent.

The reason why we are calling people to pray is because we believe it is the most practical way that people can get involved. We believe in an all-powerful God who can change any situation according to His will. Prayer is the most effective and powerful first step to substantive change.

In our prayer guide, you will find a daily prayer item coupled with a Bible verse to meditate on. It is our hope that this will bring powerful change in the lives of many and also to bless you in your life.

Many of us on staff have been a part of this ministry for over a decade. We can all say that we have received exponentially more than we have given. We hope you will experience the same measure of blessing as you pray.

You can download the guide here. You can also follow us on Instagram (@crossingbordersnk) for daily reminders. Thank you!

Rebounding, Part 3 - North Korean Refugee's Story

In the early 2000s, it was estimated that the number of North Korean refugees in China could be anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 individuals. Today, a conservative estimate stands around 30,000 to 60,000 people while others continue to state that at least 200,000 North Korean refugees and their family members hide illegally in China. North Korean refugees still have no rights in China. There are still systematic raids carried out by the Chinese police targeting North Korean refugees, their children, and the people who help them.

This past summer China expatriated about 1,000 missionaries who worked along the Chinese-Korean border.

“The sweep along the frontier is believed to be aimed at closing off support to North Koreans who flee persecution and poverty in their homeland,” Reuters reported in August.

The constant scrutiny and raids carried out by the Chinese government along with the diminishing population of ethnic Koreans in China has left the region ill-equipped to handle the slow but steady drip of North Korean refugees into the country.

"Mrs. Jo" came into China from North Korea when this drip of North Korean refugees fleeing the country was better described as a pouring of North Korean refugees during the Great North Korean Famine of the 1990s. She was introduced to one of Crossing Borders’ missionaries in 2012 and began receiving help in 2013.

The transformation we have seen in her is astonishing. Of the $40 she receives in aid from Crossing Borders per month, she tithes half to contribute to her church and to charities.

Her back is still not straight and her inner wounds have not fully healed, yet her smile is bright. She spends most of her days working on the nearby mountain to find herbs and mushrooms to sell at her local market.

Recently, there was a dispute between two other North Korean refugees at Mrs. Jo’s church. One of them left the church vowing never to return. Mrs. Jo called the one who left and from the Bible, instructed her about why it is important for her to return. The two women made peace and both are attending the church again, receiving life-sustaining aid from Crossing Borders.

Mrs. Jo’s husband recently returned from South Korea after 10 years. They are living together and happy, she said.

“I’m living a life of thankfulness,” she said.

Think for a moment how remarkable this statement is. A woman who lost everything in the North Korean famine and sold as a commodity in China twice, is saying that her life is full of thankfulness.

This is why Crossing Borders exists, to show the compassion of Christ to North Korean refugees, the widows and orphans of North Korea. We have made a difference in the lives of thousands of people and we want to continue and expand and grow.

For all the calls to give and posts we make online, we hope that just a fraction of those who find out about us will be compelled to give out of the thankfulness in their hearts.

As many of us close out the year and perhaps take account of the good and the bad, it is our hope that we place these occurrences in a broader context. Perhaps we can use the example of Mrs. Jo to remind ourselves of how blessed we are and that, even at our lowest of lows, we can sing a song with sincere thanksgiving in our hearts.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

To Stay or Leave - North Korean Refugee in China

You’re starving. You’re about to be arrested in North Korea for something that you wouldn’t give a second thought to in the free country. So you run. You walk through the night to elude the police. Avoid contact with people during the day. You’re tired. You’re starving. You wade across a river and make it to China.

But when North Koreans cross into China, they are not in the clear. They are often in danger and need assistance.

This is what is happening now to a North Korean refugee we are in contact with. She is a young woman who we will call “Soon Me.”

Soon Me went to China when she was in her teens. Her mother was sold to a Chinese man so Soon Me was left on her own to find safety and work. She picked up Mandarin quickly and started working at local restaurants as a waitress. For years she has lived like this. She works hard and stays in touch with her mom.

Recently, her step-father visited the restaurant she is working in and revealed to the owners where she was from for reasons unclear to us. He demanded the owners pay him to keep quiet.

It is illegal to help to a North Korean refugee in China. You can be jailed for giving a North Korean a meal. But now Soon Me is outed. She cannot work anymore and she is afraid to leave her house.

These are the issues North Korean refugees face on a daily basis in China. Even the possibility of someone revealing their identity can send fear through them. Soon Me is looking for safety.

Crossing Borders is working with her to see what her best option is. We can move her to another city or we can send her through the Underground Railroad that will take her to Southeast Asia where she will be granted refugee status and where she will be able to move to many free countries throughout the world.

The consequences for either of these options are daunting.

If she stays, she will live under a cloud of fear. Perhaps her father-in-law can find her and threaten her and the people who are helping her. Perhaps someone else will find out the truth and she will have to run again. She will most likely have to cut off ties to her mother.

If she takes the Underground Railroad, she might be caught, arrested and sent back to a North Korean prison camp where she will be tortured and even executed. Also, there are many unsavory people who operate as mercenaries on the Underground Railroad. Soon Me can be mistreated along the way. She could get on an operator’s nerves and be left behind with no one to help.

These are just a few of the daunting consequences we have to consider with Soon Me before we move her.

Over the past 11 years we have helped people like Soon Me who were in predicaments like these and take extra precautions to mitigate the dangers. Many North Koreans around the world have found freedom and many more receive life-sustaining aid through our partnerships with donors.

Please pray for us as we make our next decision with Soon me. There are no perfect answers, only perfect peace through Christ.


A couple months ago, we connected Soon Me with another organization who has a vast amount of experience on the Modern Day Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad stretches from Northeast China to Southeast Asia and has delivered many North Korean refugees safely out of China so they can start new lives in countries such as South Korea and the US.

Soon Me was instructed to meet a Underground Railroad guide in a public place and when she did, she told us that she was mistreated and was again in hiding.

She made it to one of our workers one day to seek help and after staying with her for a couple weeks, she again left, this time in the middle of the night. She only left a note saying she was thankful for our help and would contact us soon.

She has not contacted us and we do not know where she is. Our field worker said that she didn't seem unhappy or that Soon Me expressed any desire to leave.

The lives and motivations of North Korean refugees are complicated. Crossing Borders helps them if they want help but don't press them. They are in fear. Often times their fears are unfounded but we respect that this is how they are.

North Koreans grow up under a cloud of scrutiny. They can be punished for expressing their feelings. So it is often difficult to read them.

It is likely Soon Me has moved to another city in China and has started a new life. She has our phone numbers and we have expressed to her that we will always be there if she needs help but for now, she's gone.

It is sad to think about the tens of thousands of North Koreans who, like Soon Me, are living on the run with no plans for their future and living day to day. They carry with them the pain of leaving their homelands and the suffering of entering a country who does not welcome them.

Crossing Borders exists to help people like Soon Me, this generation of North Koreans who are starving, hurt and lost. Though we have helped thousands find safety in China and freedom outside of China, it is stories like Soon Me that affect us the most. Our doors will always be open for her and our phones always on.