In the early morning light, a small group of North Korean believers meets on the riverbank, lugging their fishing gear with them.
Quietly, they load into a small boat and push off from land. It’s not until they’re far into the middle of the river that they dare to dig through their gear and pull out their Bibles.
This is the only place where they feel safe enough to worship together and study God’s Word. And even then, they are constantly on alert.
If they are caught reading the Bible, they could immediately be sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp – or worse. They’ve heard the stories of what happens to people who are heard speaking the name of Jesus. Many of them have family members and friends who are living in the camps now … or have been buried there.
That’s why when another boat approaches, they panic and scramble to hide their Bibles. “It’s the police!” someone shouts.
Only after the man in the boat greets them in the name of Jesus and tells them he has a gift for them do they start to calm down. He asks to see their Bibles, and the believers who own one hand them to him.
There are only a few Bibles among the church members – not nearly enough for everyone. And each copy is practically falling apart. After years of being carefully studied and then hidden over and over again, the bindings have come loose and pages are beginning to slip out. Many of the Bibles have water damage from these early morning meetings on the boat. But they are still these Christians’ prized possessions … they risk their lives for these Bibles.
So when the stranger pulls out a box of new Bibles provided by generous World Help donors, there is an immediate celebration on the boat. The believers clutch God’s Word to their chests and many of the people who had not had one previously break down into tears.
To them, a new Bible is the greatest gift they could receive.
There are still countless believers across this dark nation who are desperate for Bibles. Some people have never even seen a copy of the Scriptures in their life … but they know they would do anything to get their hands on one.
After the man delivered the new Bibles to the secret church on the river, he took the damaged copies back to the hotel where he was staying and hid them. But soon afterward, they disappeared.
He later discovered the janitor had found the Bibles. Instead of reporting them, he took them. It turns out that he was a Christian himself, and his tiny house church of four people had been praying for Bibles.
He praised God for the Bibles – even as damaged and falling apart as they were – because he and his friends could finally study God’s Word for themselves. That’s how desperate North Korean Christians are for copies of Scripture!
The story above is true. We heard it from our partners – defectors among them – who help us smuggle Bibles into North Korea. They also told us the No. 1 request from the church in North Korea was getting more Bibles. So, a year ago we set the goal of sending 100,000 Bibles to North Korea. It was both a daunting and ambitious goal, but we knew these Christians are longing for a chance to have a Bible, despite the risks.
A year later, we are not far from reaching our goal. With the help of generous supporters more Christians in North Korea now have access to a Bible of their own.
Today, Nov. 4, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Christians in America and across the world will dedicate time in their services and personally to pray for those who are suffering persecution because of their faith. I hope you will join us in praying for these brave men and women.