By Mark Ellis —
A North Korean citizen, desperate for food, crossed the border into China and was befriended by a pastor. The pastor shocked him by saying the name of God out loud, a treasonous offense in the Hermit Kingdom.
“In primary school, we were taught that all missionaries were terrorists,” Sang-chul shares in a Voice of the Martyrs video. “They told us that a missionary will be nice to you at first, but when they get you into their homes, then they will kill you and eat your liver.”
Sang-chul shared his story in the film to exhort fellow believers to observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Sunday, Nov. 3.
After Sang-chul crossed the mountainous border into China, he picked mushrooms he thought he might sell. He ran into Pastor Han, who offered to help sell them and give Sang-chul the money.
Sang-chul wondered why a Chinese citizen would offer to help. He was even more amazed when Pastor Han didn’t cheat him out of the proceeds from the mushroom sales.
“It is because I am a Christian,” Pastor Han told Sang-chul, which further aroused the North Korean’s suspicion.
Rev. Han Chung-Ryeol, a Chinese pastor of Korean descent, ministered on the border town of Changbai, beginning in the early 1990s. He was on North Korea’s most-wanted list as early as 2003 because of the impact of his ministry.
One day Pastor Han became even bolder, telling Sang-chul: “God is real. There is hope for every person.”
Sang-chul was startled to hear the Name uttered aloud. “I could not believe he would say that word, ‘God.’ Nobody says that word,” Sang-chul said on the video. “We know that it is an act of treason…and can lead to soldiers coming in the night.”
After a time, Sang-chul’s curiosity was aroused and he asked Pastor Han for a Bible. He smuggled the small pocket Bible back to his village and showed it to his wife, who initially drew back in fear at the sight of it.
By the power of the Word and the Spirit, Sang-chul and his wife, along with his best friend, were all born again. They gave their hearts to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and received hope for the first time.
Later, after Sang-chul began to grow in his faith, he received some tragic news. North Korean authorities sent a hit squad across their border into the town of Changbai, where Pastor Han lived and conducted his ministry.
Pastor Han was stabbed and axed to death by the assassins on April 30, 2016. The North Korean government later honored the hit team for their mission.
Before his untimely death, Pastor Han had fed, shared his faith, and discipled at least 1,000 North Koreans who found Christ through his influence.
“Pastor Han gave his life, but he gave hope to me and to many other North Koreans,” Sang-chul said. “And despite the ever-present danger, many of us will continue to share the message that God is real.
“We hope that our sacrifice, when the day comes, will be worthwhile, just like it was for Pastor Han.”
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