Friday, May 26, 2017

Have you been in prison?

Have you been in prison? I have! It was a class field trip in high school. I remember it like it was 20 years ago, because it was. I was a sophomore, and we visited the Tulsa County Prison. It was everything you can imagine a prison being: loud, smelly, uncomfortable, and it just felt dirty. The thing that impacted me the most was the lack of joy in that building. Nobody was happy. After just a couple hours in that facility, I had a great appreciation for those who work in that environment every day.

Across the world, there are countless numbers of Christians imprisoned because of their faith in Jesus. According to Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians, North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world for Christians. Of the country’s approximately 25 million residents, 300,000 of them are followers of Christ. Of those, 70,000 are locked away in camps that are described as concentration camps. It’s a place of unspeakable torture. Christians are being crucified, burned at the stake, crushed under steamrollers, herded off bridges, starved, and forced to work in hard labor camps.

The last couple of days there have been many stories about the actions of North Korea’s leaders and the possibility of military action in that country. I don’t know enough about the situation to have an opinion on that issue, but I do know that North Korea is a place where local Christians need our support. The book of Hebrews describes our responsibility in situations like the one in North Korea.

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)

When we hear of stories from the persecuted church, we must remember that the people being hurt are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The pain that they are feeling needs to be understood as if it was our pain. We may not be able to stop the pain from occurring, but we need to support them through it. The following is a story that was published by Open Doors about Hea Woo, a follower of Christ in North Korea.

“As Hea Woo looked into her husband’s cell, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The man before her was hardly recognizable from the torture. He covertly slipped something into her hand that would change her life forever: his profession of faith. Later, she also began to follow Christ and ended up in a cell of her own. Despite being faced with starvation and torture, Hea Woo realized that she had been given an opportunity to share the gospel with those around her. Before long, a number of women in the camp had placed their faith in Christ, and secret gatherings for fellowship began in the prison outhouse. In this, the most unlikely of places, the women silently sang songs of praise, prayed and shared Bible verses with one another. Amazingly, she was later released from prison and managed to flee to South Korea. Her testimony is representative of the many North Korean Christians who suffer in prison camps each year, and serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.”

Partner with me in prayer for the believers who are living through persecution. Not just in North Korea but in areas across the world as they suffer for the cause of Christ. Pray for their boldness as they are possibly the only light in a very dark area. Pray that they will have the ability to continue to effectively minister in these continuing difficult times.