NORTH KOREA — Timothy* grew up as an orphan in North Korea at the time of the 1990s famine. As a teenager, he decided to cross the Tumen River into China in a bid for survival. This is how coming across a safe house, run by Open Doors partners in China, set him on the path to finding Jesus…
Timothy* – name changed for security reasons:
“I was born in a kind of prison society. All I believed was that North Korean leaders and the country was the best country and leaders in the world because I was brainwashed.”
Timothy grew up as an orphan in North Korea at the time of the 1990s famine. As a teenager he decided to cross the Tumen River into China in a bid for survival.
“It was the nighttime. And I was crossing the border with other people together. And the water was not deep enough that I need to swim, but we just walked. It depends on which path you choose between China and North Korea. Some of the paths, you don’t have to swim actually. It took me only about a few minutes to cross the border actually. When I looked back, it made me feel great sadness because I had that feeling that it might take a while before I would eventually be able to come back to this, my home place where I grew up.”
Once in China, Timothy was approached by a missionary who took him to a safe house. But the man was wearing a cross necklace and that worried Timothy.
“As soon as I entered into the safe house the first thing I saw was the Bible and the cross. It scared me, because of what I was reminded of: the anti-Christianity propaganda and education in North Korea – the cross means curse. And I thought you would get cursed even touching that cross even briefly. He know, that missionary guy, he knew – he looked into my eyes and he probably felt that I was not in a stable moment. He said to me: ‘If you are in difficult or dangerous situations…you can try to call God.’
“I ran away from the house. I didn’t even say bye to them when I left.”
North Korea’s anti-Christian propaganda had instilled great fear into Timothy. But his decision to flee the safe house would lead to yet more suffering.
“And what happened then, I ended up being arrested at the border and sent back to North Korea and made a second escape and again was imprisoned. But if I went to that safe house and stayed there I didn’t have to go through all this number of times or imprisonment and all the atrocities I had to witness. In fact in North Korean prison myself I was detained and even being tortured and watched all these inmates screaming for survival.”
After his second escape, Timothy was eventually deported from China and given refugee status in the UK.
He came to faith and traces the origin of his belief in Jesus back to that brief time in the safe house.
“When I entered and I have seen the first person who offered me food, shelter and water it showed me the love of humanity. They did not ask me anything. The love, it came unconditionally. And that humanity and love and beauty – where does it come from? This is from our God. My message is the safe house was there and has to be there today and it has to be there even tomorrow.”
About Open Doors USA
For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and to mobilize the Western church to pray and advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Source: Global News Alliance, Finding Jesus After Fleeing North Korea