Prayer for North Korean Refugees: Faith in Fear

Crossing Borders' work was recently mentioned in FOX Files, as North Korean refugees in our care were interviewed on the news network. Today, we would like to share more about the life of this refugee. In Jesus' ministry, a man, whose daughter was close to death, approached Jesus with an urgent request for the Son of God to enter into his home and heal his ailing daughter. Jesus obliged and followed the man to his home. When they arrived it was too late. She was dead.

In a house full of mourning, Jesus entered with hope. He went to her room and raised her from the dead.

This account in Mark 5 is stunning on many levels. When someone said it was too late, Jesus responded, “Do not fear, only believe.”

We have seen the desperation and fear of so many North Korean refugees in Northeast China.

Crossing Borders staff once met with a family of four North Korean refugees who had only a few hours to flee from the North Korean police. In a rash decision, they decided it was best if the youngest, still in elementary school, was left behind in North Korea. They were afraid that she would slow the family down and that they would all be caught, sent to a prison camp and never emerge.

Our staff spoke with the family in a restaurant in Northeast China. It had been months since they had last seen their daughter and they couldn’t bring themselves to eat the enormous spread of food our staff had ordered for them.

Soon after, Crossing Borders decided to send for their daughter through a network of brokers and smugglers in North Korea. But her fate was uncertain. She could easily be caught by the police and sent to a prison camp where she would be held hostage. She could have been sold in China as a sex slave if caught by one of the many networks of smugglers who traffic North Korean refugees. She could get injured and die on her journey through the North Korean wilderness.

Through her journey, Crossing Borders held to the words of Jesus. “Do not fear, only believe.”

It took weeks of waiting but finally, the family was reunited. It was through moments of utter desperation that the family came to believe in the saving hope of Jesus. He was their only hope.

Once reunited, the family of four made another journey. This time, together, they trekked through China into Southeast Asia, where they were able to receive refugee status. From here, they travelled to South Korea and gained safe entrance. When the family arrived in Seoul they thought their journey of suffering had ended. But their youngest daughter, after the struggle and toil they had suffered to be together as a family, contracted H1N1 and died shortly after the completion of their journey.

Many say that North Korean refugees in China are rice Christians. Critics say they only act like Christians to receive aid. But at least for this family, this was not the case. In their utter devastation they turned to God and began rebuilding their lives.

Together, with Crossing Borders, they leaned on the words of Jesus.“Do not fear, only believe.”

As we go about our week, let us remember that God is near to the broken hearted. He meets those in desperate need. He has sustained Crossing Borders for 10 years with little trouble from the Chinese authorities, we believe, to minister to the North Korean refugees in fear. We hope that with your help, we can continue to work to share the words of Christ with them. "Do not fear, only believe."

Prayer for North Korean Orphans: Abandonment

Crossing Borders staff and leaders spend a significant part of their time on the field with the refugee children in our Second Wave program. On the surface, the North Korean orphans in our care are adorable. Many of them could simply pass as one of the many Chinese and Korean children who live throughout China. But as our team members have had the opportunity to get to know some of these boys and girls, they have noticed that the differences between the North Korean orphans in China and the other children around them widen from a simple difference of nationality to a great vast gulf of pain and heartache. One of our staff members even described the hearts of the children in our care as "old, deserted houses." A majority of North Korean refugees who cross the border from North Korea and into China are women. Exposed and vulnerable, they are often captured or manipulated into trafficking rings who will sell them into marriages with Chinese men. The gender disparity in China due to the One-Child Policy has given way to a colossal, illegal trade of North Korean refugee women. Children are born into these forced unions.

As North Korean mothers are captured by Chinese authorities or as mothers attempt escape for South Korea, sometimes having no choice but to flee for safety from the police or their own husbands, their children are left behind. This is a case for a most of the refugee children in our program, Second Wave.

One of the children in our care was abandoned the day she received heart surgery. Her mother stole away as her father remained distracted. Another child watched his mother try desperately to wrestle away from the Chinese police as they dragged her away.

Jo Han (12) had a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings in one of Crossing Borders’ group homes. At first his caretaker was unable to handle him because he was always stealing things from other kids at school.

Kleptomania has been a common a symptom of abandonment, according to our field missionaries who are actively involved in the lives of each of our children. The more hurt children are, they say, the more they want to steal. This is a problem for a number of North Korean orphans who we take into our group homes. Some kids search through the garbage for items to take home. Fo others, the deep pain of abandonment comes out when they fight with the other children at home. These fights can turn vicious if nobody is there to stop them.

We encouraged and advised Jo Han’s caretakers as they became a source of love and discipline in his life. With their patient and compassionate efforts, we have seen a dramatic turnaround in his life.

“My parents forsook me but God did not forsake me.  He sent me to [our caretaker] to raise me as a faithful person.  I give thanks to God.  I will praise Him and go to heaven,” wrote Jo Han in his journal.

Whether this was genuine or just to impress his caretakers, we cannot know. But we do know that the stealing has stopped and young Jo Han is behaving much better at home. As we go about our week, let’s remember to pray for Jo Han and the North Korean orphans like him who feel the pain and loneliness of abandonment.