When Sang-Hwa* discovered her parents’ secret Bible, she faced a life-threatening decision. Should she betray her family to the authorities, as she’d been trained in school to do?
“Wow. We’re all dead now.” Kim Sang-Hwa dropped the strange book to the floor. She’d found it by accident, while her parents were out. It wasn’t like anything the 12-year-old had seen before. She found the archaic language intriguing. Until she realised what it meant.
She says, “I only read the first line. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ I was taught the theory of evolution, so I knew this book was illegal. I had shivers throughout my body. I was so very afraid.”
Sang-Hwa had reason to fear. She’d been trained for this unthinkable moment since she first started school. As part of a state education designed to detect and punish anyone who diverts from the state religion, she’d learnt reading, writing, and spying on your family.
Having lived her whole life in North Korea’s prison state, Sang-Hwa knew immediately that her parents’ strange book was illegal. She knew that the people of her country were only permitted to worship their leader and his family. If her family worshipped Jesus, they’d be sent to a labour camp or even killed.
It was her duty to report her parents if she found a Bible at home. Never mind the appalling consequences: family meant nothing. Loyalty to the state must come first.
BETRAY YOUR PARENTS OR KEEP CURIOUS?
What would you do in Sang Hwa’s shoes? Betray your parents and see them sent to a labour camp? Or keep curious, asking them about the faith they are risking their lives for?
For weeks, Sang-Hwa lived with her secret. “Every evening, I was reminded of the Bible when I looked upon my parents, and I hated looking at them. I had the thought that our household was finished. Now we’re all going to die.”
“HE EXPLAINED THE BIBLE TO ME.”
She seriously considered turning her parents over to the authorities. “But in the end, I chose to confront my father,” she says. “That’s when he explained the Bible and the gospel to me.”
Sang-Hwa didn’t know that her father had been praying for five years that he’d have an opportunity to share the gospel with his daughter. Throughout her childhood, there’d been no Sunday School, no grace at mealtimes, no prayers before bedtime. “My parents couldn’t share any Christian stories with my siblings and me. It’s too dangerous.”
SECRET UNDERGROUND CHURCH
But as she learned the truth about the secret Bible from her father, she learned of God’s deep and everlasting love for her. She began a new life following Jesus, living by faith, risking everything. As well as danger, she found love, light, and hope.
Suddenly Sang Hwa gained access to a hidden world: the underground church. A massive church of 200-400,000 Christians is growing in North Korea. And tens of thousands of these secret believers are held in concentration camps.
It is a miracle that this underground church is able to exist. But more than that, it is thriving and growing. Since the 1990s, an estimated 2-3 million people have starved to death in North Korea, or died of illnesses related to hunger.
Yet the people are starving spiritually, too. Sang-Hwa’s family Bible is rare. Most people have no access to the word of God, no freedom to worship, no ability to meet for fellowship. There isn’t even freedom to think your own thoughts.
Sang-Hwa says, “North Korean Christians totally rely on God and each other. Everything is up to Him. Only He can keep us strong. If a secret believer is afraid, he cannot be a secret believer.
Your courageous brothers and sisters in North Korea know that Christians outside their nation are praying for them. You are helping to give secret believers proof that God’s love is far more powerful than the persecution they are facing.
“NO DOOR CLOSED TO GOD.”
Every year, Open Doors releases the World Watch List to track persecution across the world. With its total war on Christianity, North Korea has been at number one since 2002; yet there are other countries where the scale and severity of persecution is growing more intense.
It’s incredible to know that, even as the World Watch List shows persecution getting worse around the world, your prayers and love for your Christian family are helping ordinary Christians to grow in faith and courage.
- That parents who are secret believers can live out the gospel, even when they can’t openly share their faith with their children.
- That believers will have access to teaching, resources, fellowship, spiritual food to keep faith alive.
- For the protection of Christian families, that children will not be used to lure their parents into a trap.
*Name changed for security reasons.