North Korea: Between the headlines in 2017

If it was King Jung Un’s ambition to dominate the international headlines for 2017, it seems he has been pretty successful. From the murder of his older brother Kim Jung Nam, to at least twenty rocket launches, another massive nuke test, a war of insults with Trump, the further purging of high-ranking officials, the escape of a malnourished and parasite-ridden soldier over the DMZ, the stranding of ghost ships on Japanese beaches, and constant debates over sanctions, there have not been many days when something North Korea related did not hit the front pages of major news outlets.

So how do we look back on North Korea 2017? Perhaps with all of the obvious concerns, there are things to thank for. Firstly, although the situation is very dangerous, as of yet, there has been no escalation of conflict. We have been praying with perhaps millions around the world that an outright war would be averted. So far, writing on December 16th, it has been. And it is not like there were no opportunities for escalation. Like when missiles flew over Japan, when the war of words was turning ugly or when North Korean soldiers broke the truce when they fired over the DMZ as one of their own escaped.

Another thing to thank for is that even as believers with American passports are now severely restricted to enter North Korea, many are finding creative ways to keep their work going. Believers from other nations fill the gaps, and new opportunities arise for Chinese Christians to enter the country and do business. The determination of many to not give up on working in and for North Korea, no matter how tough it gets is a thing to thank for.

As imports into North Korea get shut down, Bibles are still going in, and still find their way to hungry hearts, to comfort believers who have kept their faith under unimaginable pressure. New brothers and sisters are being added to their number, although only God knows how large that number is. All we know is that the prayers that are being send up for their salvation are not in vain.

Likewise, among the escapees in China and South Korea there are those that become believers and sometimes even choose to re-enter the prison-country they escaped to tell others there of the freedom in Christ. How could that happen if God was not at work, overcoming with His Spirit the only too natural fear of prison, torture and death?

And all those headlines are also being used by God. It gets people praying. All over the world people gather to intercede for this nation, sensing there is a war going on that cannot be won by deals or bombs.

Yes, the situation in North Korea is bad. War looms, food runs out, God’s people are always in danger. But the power of the gospel is making cracks in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it completely.

And that is why we have to keep going, with prayers and action, into this new year. With determination. With hope. With love. With faith that God can do even more than we think or imagine.


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