By Tyson Thorne

March 14, 2019

StillOurHope Large

Jesus opened his sermon with the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them." I can't help think that maybe he was speaking about Kyung-ja, a woman whose family was so poor she risked sneaking from North Korea into China to earn a little money for food. After a full days work — and pay — she worked her way surreptitiously back across the boarder. That's when it happened. Crossing the border between two godless countries she was arrested and taken to a North Korean prison. It would be here she would first meet God.

North Korea is an atheist state, hostile to the gospel. It is closed to all, a desperate and impoverished land ruled by military dictatorship. There are no missionaries; if there were they would be executed. If there were a radio broadcast from South Korea Kyung-ja wouldn't have heard it — she could not afford a radio. To all except readers of the New Testament it would be surprising, then, that she would first learn about God in prison. What may surprise everyone is that she learned about God from her torturer.

"Did people in China talk to you about God?" He demanded of her. They had not, of course, and she emphatically shook her head "no", eyes closed in case she was beaten. "Did you read the book about God while you were in China?" he pressed.

"I don't know who that is!" she whimpered. "I don't know who you are talking about." She had never heard God's name. She had no frame of reference for this being. But the more the guard pressed, the more she learned. There was a being so great even the government feared him. There was a book about him, and people who followed him. After being transferred to a labor camp, she inquired after this God. Many of the inmates confirmed for her that God exists, but few had the courage to say more. So she stopped asking others, and tried asking Him.

"God, I don’t know if you’re real. I don’t know who you are. But if you’re there and if you can hear me, can you help me?"

She witnessed answers to her prayers. Small things at first, then more desperate ones for her loved ones. Her faith grew, and with it her courage. She would need both, for in the days to come she would find herself free of the prison and escaping North Korea yet again. This time she would not return. This time she made her way to South Korea where, providentially, she was reunited with her daughter who had defected years before. Kyung-ja's prayers were not in vain, for her daughter did more than escape an evil empire; she had come to know God. She shared her knowledge with her mother, and gave her a copy of the "book about God", the Holy Bible. Today, they both faithfully follow Jesus.

At the end of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, we are told that "the crowds were amazed at his teaching" (Matthew 7.28). The amazement that original audience experienced continues today, as God still rescues all who call upon Him. He saves them from their sins, of course, and sometimes even from oppressive governments that tremble at His name.

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