While most of Seoul stayed away from public gatherings during the recent MERS outbreak, 1,100 church leaders representing 163 churches from across the peninsula of South Korea came together to prepare their hearts and minds for the day when they can directly serve the children of North Korea.
Stepping into the large conference hall for the recent North Korea Ministry Summit (June 8 & 9) was an act of courage itself – a foreshadowing of the courage needed to some day minister to the children of North Korea.
According to a January 2014 report published by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRC or North Korea) practices systematic gross human rights violations and is one of the most repressive environments in the world.
The North Korea Ministry Summit, hosted by Compassion Korea in partnership with Compassion Global Advocacy, was designed to both raise awareness of the needs of children in North Korea while also mobilizing the Korean Church to be equipped to practically help children when their neighbors to the north can be reached.
Topics covered during the two-day summit included: holistic child development and curriculum, theological foundations of poverty alleviation, effective church and community partnership and research on the state of children in North Korea. We also heard from several North Korean defectors to understand their story and learn what it will take to reach out directly to children there.
But more impressive than the well-researched lectures and inspiring workshops was a pervasive sense of humility and love for their neighbors (and enemies) in North Korea. Scriptures like “love your enemies” and “always be ready” take on new meaning when discussing North Korea.
And I expect great things from the Korean church because they are already demonstrating great reliance on our Father, who loves the children of North Korea relentlessly.
Compassion wants to be ready, but this could look different than any other child development work we’ve ever encountered in our 65 years.
Imagine driving two hours north to personally visit the child you sponsor. What would that type of sponsorship relationship look like?
Or how can we do child development that’s church-based when there aren’t any visibly organized churches, only secret Christians? There is evidence that many North Koreans have preserved their faith through several generations of oppression. I have spoken with child defectors who have heard of Jesus through their parents in secret.
These are the kinds of questions that the North Korea Readiness Team is working on now. We believe we need to be ready, not surprised.
And we are not alone.
There are already 200 Korean churches both in South Korea and abroad who are working with us to resolve these obstacles and develop creative solutions to reach the most oppressed in North Korea.
May God find us ready when the opportunity to serve children in North Korea comes.
And may it come soon.