Day 13: Refusing to Bow

After driving for some time, they finally arrived at a bronze statue of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. It was customary for officials to pay their respects to the large statues of the leaders and to bow before them in worship. Esther began to pray frantically in her spirit, knowing that this short moment could mean the end of her time in North Korea. If she refused to bow to the great leader in worship, she might be forced to leave North Korea or even be put in jail. Locals could even be executed for refusing to bow before the Great Leader’s statue.

As they walked together toward the statute, Esther was still at a loss as to how to deal the situation. “Dear Lord, what do you want me to do?” Esther prayed silently. Then suddenly a surge of boldness filled her heart and she began to pray differently. “Kim Il Sung, you are not the King of kings. You are not the Lord of lords. You were a horrible, evil leader and I command you in the Name above all names to fall down and disappear!” Everyone bowed in unison except Esther. She stood upright and stared directly at the bronze statue. “Fall down in acknowledgement of the one and only King of kings.” The statue did not fall physically, but it no longer held any power over Esther.

After bowing several times, there were a few people who noticed that Esther did not bow. “Teacher?” one of the party members asked. They often called her teacher as a sign of respect in the Korean culture. “Why don’t you bow when we come together and pray before our Great Leader?”

“Please understand,” Esther started out slowly, “I don’t know how to greet others by bowing down. After all, isn’t it only a bronze statue? It isn’t the Great Leader himself. He didn’t make it; someone made it to remind them of him. The statue can’t do anything to acknowledge that I have been here paying my respects. If I wanted to truly honor the Great Leader, wouldn’t it be better to do something for him or his people directly? Which would be better for you, to follow the teachings of your leader and help those around you, or to come and bow to a statue that can’t do anything for you, the people, or the Leader?”

The people around her pondered her words for a moment. Amazingly, from that day onward, they never again asked her to bow before the statue. After only a few trips to North Korea, Esther felt compelled to share the gospel with as many people as she could; people who were hurting, afraid, and looking for a way out of their misery. They were like people waiting to be saved in the midst of a raging storm. (This story can be found in the book about Esther’s life, “Smuggling Light”)

Prayer Points:

  • Everyone is forced to bow before the statues of the North Korea Leaders
  • People bow in front of the statues every day because of fear of what will happen if they do not
  • Pray that the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac be revealed to the people of North Korea

Today’s Scripture Reading:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.