With the arrival of Covid-19, the borders around North Korea closed even tighter, making it so much harder for essential goods – like food and medicine – to get through. But thanks to your prayers and support, Open Doors fieldworkers in China are keeping 60,000 Christians in North Korea alive – and these believers are continuing to share what little they have with others.
In a seemingly hopeless situation, your prayers and support are keeping 60,000 North Korean secret believers alive. Thank you!
“This situation is like hell – it can’t be imagined or understood without experiencing it.”
This is part of a message we received from North Korean believers about the food crisis in North Korea, where food shortages are not uncommon. The country often experiences extreme weather events, such as flooding, which make harvests poor.
North Korea also operates a ‘military first’ policy when resources are distributed, meaning that high-ranking officials and those in the military get the first pick of food and other essentials, and normal people get whatever is left – which often isn’t a lot.
But Covid-19 has made this already dire situation much worse. At the start of the pandemic, North Korea closed its borders completely to keep out the virus, but this also prevented official imports coming in from other countries (as well as stopping goods from being smuggled into the country to be sold on the black market). Although some trade has now resumed and the borders are not closed completely, the situation is still extremely difficult.
“People are worried about the prices of rice, corn and essential foods, which have risen rapidly,” the message from North Korean believers says. “There are new barbed wire fences built around the farms and food factories, with guards watching 24 hours a day.” The prices of some items, such as salt and cooking oil, have doubled or tripled.
“Most families can’t get rice,” the message continues. “Instead, they are eating ‘speedy powder’ and wild vegetables that they can forage themselves. Speedy powder is hard to digest – it’s a salty broth without much nutrition.
“Some households are struggling to eat even once a day.”
It sounds like a hopeless situation – but your prayers and support are helping our North Korean brothers and sisters to survive this crisis. Through our safe houses and networks in China, Open Doors is providing vital food aid for 60,000 North Koreans every year, as well as medicine and clothing.
“We were overwhelmed when we received this food,” one message from the North Korean believers said. “No matter what circumstances we encounter, we will break through all difficulties with united hearts, and your loving support and prayers. It is God’s grace and blessing.”
Brother Simon*, the coordinator for Open Doors’ ministry among North Korean believers, says, “Our distribution projects, providing food and medicine for North Korean Christians, have been very significant in supporting their survival during this desperate situation, and we have increased the amount we are providing. Even during such difficult times, God continues to show us His faithfulness.”
“Even during such difficult times, God continues to show us His faithfulness”Brother Simon
Brother John* is one of the Open Doors workers who has helped with food distribution for North Koreans at our safe houses. He explains, “They all say that not even their relatives would help them like us. Many of them travel to China to visit their relatives to get the minimum help they could get, to ask for help, but in many cases, those relatives are not able to help, and some relatives are not so willing to help.
“When we give them something, they just start to well up. They weep, and they try to say thank you, but we know that some things are not possible to say through words, and we see that on their faces. Lots of tears are shed. At those moments our hearts are moved as well.”
Many North Korean believers share the little food that they have with others – and will do the same with the food they receive from Open Doors. Brother John remembers meeting one North Korean man whose grandfather would share their food with their neighbours.
“When he was young, he used to get very upset with his grandfather for giving out food when there was not enough left for the family,” Brother John says. “His grandfather would smile and say, ‘That’s what life is.’” Although the man didn’t know that his grandfather was a Christian at the time, once he escaped and became a Christian himself, he realised that the songs his grandfather would sing were Christian songs.
Another message we received from the North Korean believers said, “With everlasting love, God takes care of us. I want to thank the international believers. I thank you with all my heart, as a representative of the North Korean underground church.”
Thank you for helping to keep our North Korean brothers and sisters alive. Saying a short prayer, giving a gift, sharing their stories with others – for our North Korean church family, it can mean the difference between life and death.
*Names changed for security reasons.
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