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Praying for North Korea

“You’re Korean? I fought in the Korean War.”

Students at Calvin Seminary are taught the ABCs of writing and preaching sermons that are biblically grounded and theologically Reformed. They are also given the option to put their education to use by providing pulpit supply to CRC congregations all throughout West Michigan and beyond.

It’s a great system. Smaller churches staffed with only one preaching pastor receive the help they need and bright-eyed seminarians who need live-action experience receive the theological training grounds to further their development into being full-time preachers of the Word.

I would get a laugh, my nerves would calm down, and I’d be off and running.

When I was a student, I took full advantage of this opportunity and signed up for as many preaching opportunities as possible; often preaching at one church in the morning, then driving halfway across the state to preach at another church for the PM service.

I was always a nervous wreck in the moments leading up to the worship service. And being the type of person who deals with nerves in two ways—humor and food—and because it’s socially unacceptable to eat a slice of pizza while standing at the lectern, I decided I would always introduce myself by telling a joke.

Before delving into the Scripture text, I would always introduce myself with, “Hello, my name is Daniel Jung and as you may or may not have noticed, I am NOT Dutch, I’m Korean. But that’s ok. If it makes you feel better, you can refer to me as Daniel de Jung.” I would get a laugh, my nerves would calm down, and I’d be off and running.

There would always be one older gentleman who would walk up to me.

After the service I would greet my new brethren in Christ with a handshake and without fail, at every single church, there would always be one older gentleman who would walk up to me, withhold his hand, and say, “You’re Korean? I fought in the Korean War.”

I didn’t get it at first, but after the second or third different time I was approached in this manner, I realized these veterans wanted me to acknowledge them for their service and sacrifice. So at the next church I preached at, when an older veteran came up to me, held out his hand and told me he fought in the Korean War, I said, “Thank you so much, sir. If it weren’t for men like you, I wouldn’t be in this country and I definitely wouldn’t have the opportunity of preaching the Word of God here today.”

“Good man!” the veteran nodded with approval and extended his hand and as we shook hands, he patted my shoulder and walked out into the narthex.

The reason I share this story is not to comment on the cultural differences of church etiquette but to make a connection regarding a basic need for all humans: acknowledgement.

Acknowledgement is a desire that says, “I matter.”

Our North Korean brethren are still very much an oppressed people.

When humans seek acknowledgement from others, they are asking a question: “I matter, and the life I have lived, the sacrifices I have made, the hardships I have endured, they matter too…Don’t you see that?

The veterans of the Korean War want to be acknowledged. They want assurance to know that their sacrifice had meaning and purpose, and rightfully so. It is because of the sacrifice of these veterans, including the almost 40,000 American soldiers who paid the highest cost of freedom, that Korean-Americans have been able to live and thrive in the land of the free and home of the brave. The veterans of the Korean War are most rightfully to be acknowledged.

But just as much as our veterans need acknowledgement, so do our brothers and sisters in North Korea. Despite the progress that’s been made in the many generations after the war, and the relatively steadier flow of information coming out of the country, the fact remains that North Korea is still a closed country and our North Korean brethren are still very much an oppressed people. The Christian church in North Korea has endured, and continues to endure, unspeakable crimes against humanity in the harshest of living conditions.

“Yes! You matter. I see that you matter.”

While the statistics may be muddy, our call as North American Christians begins with prayer. On Sunday, November 4th, 2018, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, we pray that our Lord God will acknowledge our brothers and sisters of North Korea in the truest sense of the word.

If you’ve attended any of the past prayer summits, you’ll know that Korean Christians love to pray out loud; often shouting at the top of their lungs. So you can be assured that the Church in North Korea is made up of believers who take 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (Pray without ceasing) literally. May the CRC join with them in prayer, interceding on their behalf that God would answer their cries with a resounding, “Yes! You matter. I see that you matter.” Lord, have mercy.

Want to help your church pray for North Korea this International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church?
Find worship resources from the Office of Social Justice here

[Image: Flikr user John Pavelka, under Creative Commons license]

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