NORTH KOREAN CHRISTIANS: A recent news article told the story of 3 North Korean Christians who were executed and 20 others who were sent to labour camps for holding a secret worship service. In North Korea, any form of religious activity and possession of religious literature is forbidden and allegiance to Kim Jong-il, the dictator takes the form of a cult. It is amazing how this man and his father were able to completely befuddle an entire nation into thoughtless hero-worship. It is even more amazing that in the face of severe economic hardship and famine, the 'Dear Leader' is still able to wield absolute control. An article on the situation in North Korea and the plight of Christians is here. Around 70,000 believers languish in inhuman labour camps and there have been reports of Christians having been used to test chemical and biological weapons. And I live in a state where about 80% of the population call themselves Christian and there is a church on every street. May we never take our freedoms for granted and let us remember to uphold the suffering members of the church, some of them in our own land.
WORLD WATCH LIST: North Korea heads the Open Doors World Watch list, which ranks countries by the intensity of persecution that Christians face while trying to actively pursue their faith. India is number 26 on the watch list - events like Kandhamal put us there, but thankfully, most of us in this country have never had to face any opposition because of our faith. In fact, our faith often gives us a leg up when it comes to things like education, health care and sometimes even financial support.....
OPEN DOORS: Open Doors is an organisation that works to strengthen the church in hostile places. Some of the activities include providing Bibles and literature, leadership and discipleship training, individual and family support, advocacy and prayer support. The organisation was founded by Brother Andrew who was one of the leading missionaries to countries behind the Iron Curtain. After meeting members of the underground church on a group trip to Poland and finding that the members circulated pages of the Bible among themselves for want of sufficient copies, he decided to take Bibles into the countries of the communist bloc. Using a blue Volkswagen Beetle, he travelled to all the Eastern Bloc countries taking in large numbers of Bibles and other Christian literature often without even bothering to hide them. His prayer at every border check-post was, 'Lord, You made blind eyes to see. Now, please make seeing eyes (of the guards) blind.' After the fall of communism, he shifted his focus to countries in the Middle East and recently celebrated his 80th birthday while still continuing his busy schedule of travel, ministering to Christians in difficult circumstances.
SPIRE CHRISTIAN COMICS: The story of Brother Andrew, 'God's Smuggler', was one of the first Christian biographies that I read as a child. It was in the form of a comic book, one of the Spire Christian comic book series. Those comics were read and reread until they were all but tatters! The others I remember were Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom), Through the Gates of Splendour (Elsiabeth Elliot) and Hansi, the girl who loved the Swastika. I found a site that promises back copies at a discounted rate - didn't try to purchase any though - will wait for my kids to come along! But reading those comics was a great way to be introduced to stories that I may not have otherwise understood at that time. I remember wandering many miles in my imagination as I travelled with Brother Andrew, reliving the tension of the waiting at the border as the guards examined the boot of the car (which was in the front of the Beetle!) where the Bibles were kept in plain view of all. I remember the sadness and terrible conditions of the concentration camp which Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy, in spite of everything, turned into a place of worship and thanksgiving for the small things. I remember the heart-wrenching feeling of bittersweet, as the deaths at Palm Beach became the seeds for a whole tribe to be saved. The many childhood hours spent with those comics were certainly part of my spiritual journey and I thank God, my parents and Al Hartley, the writer and illustrator for those wonderful experiences.