North Korean Christians gathering in secret for prayer.
From the December 5, 2017 reading of “Standing Strong Through the Storm,” posted at: http://www.opendoorsusa.org (no author’s name is listed)
In the United States we have the freedom to worship when and where and however often we choose. Many Christians take this great privilege for granted, worshiping only when they feel like it, and that usually means less and less frequently as time goes on. Even then, worship is often approached as a duty and a chore. In this reading, we learn about worship in North Korea, where finding opportunities worship really is a chore, and, a risk. But still it is a privilege, as believers faithfully try hard to gather with other believers whenever and however possible.
In the summer of 2010, I led an excellent team of Open Doors staff and supporters on a visit to North Korea. We were allowed to pray publicly in the areas we visited and of course were presented with a formal church service on Sunday morning at one of the three churches functioning in Pyongyang. It was a well-executed performance; especially the choir. On its website, the Korean Christian Federation claims that there are ten thousand Protestant Christians in North Korea meeting at five hundred designated centers. In reality, Christians in the country experience tremendous challenges in worshiping publicly.
Brother Simon, the leader of the Open Doors work in North Korea, says that the true church must operate underground in the country. “They can’t simply go to church to sing and to listen to the sermon. It is clear that being a Christian in North Korea is a lonely business.”
Simon’s thoughts turn to Sundays in North Korea. “It happens only sporadically that Christians consider themselves safe enough to meet together in small groups. Usually gatherings consist of only two people. For example, a Christian goes and sits on a bench in the park. Another Christian comes and sits next to him. Sometimes it’s dangerous even to speak to one another, but they know they are both Christians, and at such a time, this is enough. If there is no one around, they may be able to share a Bible verse which they have learned off by heart and briefly say something about it. They also share prayer topics with each other. Then they leave one another and go and look for a Christian in some other part of their town or village. This continues throughout the Sunday. A cell group usually consists of fewer than twenty Christians, who encourage and strengthen one another, plus one-to-one meetings in people’s homes.
“Only if the whole family has turned to Christ is it possible to have something like a real fellowship gathering, as long as you keep your faith hidden from the neighbors. Besides this, it is sometimes possible to hold a meeting in remote areas with a group of ten to twenty people. Very occasionally, it is possible for Christians to go unobtrusively into the mountains and to hold a ‘service’ at a secret location like a cave. Then it may be the case that there are as many as sixty or seventy North Korean Christians gathered together.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 — Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I Corinthians 16:13 — Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
I Peter 5:8-10 — Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son Jesus Christ that those who follow Him may be persecuted. Strengthen, comfort, and encourage all those who suffer harassment, violence, imprisonment, and even death for being followers of Jesus. We pray also for those who persecute your people. May their hearts be turned towards you through the faithful witness of those they persecute. Protect members of the families and church communities of those who are persecuted, and bless the work and ministry of the organizations that support them. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.