Jang-mi was startled as the door to her cell swung open. Bruised, bloody, and soaked from her captives' attempts to wake her with buckets of water, she was surprised to see her uncle walk through the door.
Jang-mi lives in the most oppressive country in the world for Christians — North Korea. We've changed her name for her own protection, but as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church approaches, it is important that stories like hers are shared.
Just two months earlier, Jang-mi was happily married and living in China. She had successfully escaped from North Korea and was living free from persecution and oppression. Shortly after arriving in a Chinese border town, Jang-mi met and fell in love with her husband, who also was from North Korea. Then, they both met and fell in love with Jesus. They were happy ... but her husband's heart was hurting.
He wanted to go back to North Korea and tell his family about his newfound faith. The Bible had introduced him to true freedom, and he wanted everyone to know about it.
"I'll be back tomorrow," Jang-mi's husband told her.
She watched as he crossed the frozen river, headed back into North Korea. As snow swirled around him, she hoped his final words would be true. Surely, she would see him tomorrow.
But she didn't.
A few days went by, then a week, then a month. Finally, Jang-mi knew she had to go after her husband. She knew that crossing the North Korean and Chinese border is dangerous, no matter what direction you are traveling. North Korean police are instructed to shoot on sight. Despite all this, she took the risk.
She tried to cross the river and was immediately captured by guards. She ended up in prison.
All day and all night, Jang-mi endured torture. The soldiers yelled at her, calling her — ironically — "Judas" for betraying North Korea and following Jesus.
Finally, Jang-mi was released, and her uncle brought her to her family home. There, he gave her a gift — her father's old military hat.
"Your father wanted you to have this," he said. "Look inside the hat."
Jang-mi looked inside the cap and tugged on the interior flap. There, in the place where most soldiers wrote their names, was a little cross. Jang-mi was shocked.
"You mean my father was a believer in Jesus?" Jang-mi asked. "But how? Why did he never tell me?"
"Because he was trying to protect you and your family," her uncle replied.
When a Christian is caught in North Korea, it is a death sentence. Whether you are discovered sharing the Gospel or holding a single page of God's Word, you can be sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp. Few people in the camps survive more than a couple of years.
Jang-mi's father is now in one of those prison camps. She knows he probably won't outlive his sentence. She also found out that her husband had been caught crossing the border and was later executed for his faith.
Heartbroken, Jang-mi once more risked the cold crossing back into China. She saw her old friends, stayed in her old home, and she remembered once more how passionate her husband had been about sharing the Gospel. She thought about her father, and how he, too, was willing to die for his faith.
"I have to go back," she thought. "I have to go back and tell those who have not heard."
Jang-mi studied God's Word thoroughly, knowing that Bibles are few and far between in her home country. Inside the Bible's pages, she found encouragement and spiritual food for her weary soul. Then, she made her way across the frozen river one more time — determined to share the Gospel with those who do not know Jesus.
Jang-mi is just one of the many brave Christians who are risking everything to bring the hope of Jesus to North Korea. In border towns like the one Jang-mi and her husband lived in, Chinese and North Korean believers wait to share food and God's Word with those who risk their lives to escape to China.
Many of those Christ-followers return to North Korea, equipped with a passionate love of Jesus, but little biblical knowledge. They are begging for copies of God's Word to aid them as they share the Gospel, and organizations like World Help are working hard to meet that need.
In just a few days — on Nov. 4 — Christians around the world will come together as one body and pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. On the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, take some time to pray for Jang-mi and other believers like her. Pray that they will find the strength to face any abuse, and pray that God's Word will continue to make its way into North Korea and other persecuted nations around the world.