During a Friday evening vespers service at my church, I saw a stranger slip in. She was about 30 years old with a tanned face and determined look. Who is she? I wondered.
When the program finished and nearly everyone had left, I sat next to her, quietly and respectfully.
She broke the silence first: “I escaped from North Korea,” she said in a barely audible whisper, glancing around to make sure no one else had heard. “Please listen to my request.”
I already knew what North Korean escapees needed, but I decided to let the conversation continue. Generally, they and I are on different wavelengths. I was a preacher of the gospel. North Korean escapees usually had no interest in the gospel, but they often pretended to show interest in order to get something from people like me.
“How can I help you?” I asked.
There was a heavy silence. Then she softly replied, “I know the assumptions that other people have about North Korean escapees.” Her response surprised me. I had never heard an escapee talk like this before. They usually only wanted a temporary hiding place or money to flee to a neighboring country. The things we could do to help these runaways were usually limited to the particular circumstances, so I was already prepared with my answer.
But what she said next shocked me even more.
“I only have one request. Please, I want to be baptized.”
Flabbergasted, I found myself replying, “We can’t baptize someone without their studying the Bible first. Do you know the meaning behind baptism?”
Adventist World Radio (AWR) is the international broadcast ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Programs are currently available in more than 100 languages via shortwave, AM/FM, on demand, podcasts, Call-to-Listen service, and solar audio players. AWR’s mission is to bring the gospel to the hardest-to-reach people of the world in their own languages. The “AWR360°” approach to outreach encompasses the entire journey of listeners from broadcast to baptism. To watch AWR mission stories, visit M360.tv/awr.
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“Yes,” she answered. “While I was hiding during my escape, I learned about Jesus through radio broadcasts.”
“Radio?” Her story made me more and more curious.
She continued telling her amazing experience. When she escaped North Korea and had no place to go, she met a kindhearted family and lived with them in secret for many years. Because of the language barrier, she couldn’t express her gratitude. She was deeply lonely and also anxious because she didn’t know when she might be caught.
I could see all those days of anxiety and distress on her face.
One day, while scrolling through the stations on the family’s radio, she thought she heard a little bit of Korean. Surprised, she dialed in to the Voice of Hope, an Adventist World Radio program produced by the Korean Union of Seventh-day Adventists.
At first, she didn’t understand the presentations. But in time, they turned her loneliness and anxiety into hope, strength, and light to live by each day. Every morning and evening, she listened to the program, never missing an episode. Finally, she accepted Jesus as her Savior.
Now, all she wanted was to have the assurance of salvation through baptism.
Who could deny such a request? I asked her to stay put for one week before moving on, and we started Bible studies. She showed determined concentration and studied as if her soul were panting for water.
At the end of the week, we had a secret, tearful baptism. Then she departed on foot while we prayed that her journey would be safe.
Sometime later, we received a phone call. It was the woman from North Korea! I listened closely as she spoke. Though she was a bit anxious, there was also strength and hope in her voice, which still rings in my ear today: “I have safely arrived at the border. Please pray for me. Tonight is the night. My next phone call will be from South Korea.”
My heart skipped a beat. As with many escapees, her route to South Korea would be long and dangerous. I couldn't do anything except pray for her with all my heart.
After several months, I received a call from an untraceable number. It was from a border guide, and I froze as I heard his report. The very night that the woman had called me, she failed in her attempt to cross the barbwire fences. She was captured, returned to North Korea, and executed.
I couldn’t move. Time didn’t move. In my mind, I recalled the scene of her baptism. I remembered plunging her underneath the water. I remembered wiping the water away from her face but not being fast enough to wipe away all her tears.
She had said, “Even though I might get captured, I want to die with the hope of salvation.” She walked according to her word, and we believe that we’ll see her again at the resurrection.
In her loneliness and pain, this woman heard the voice of God through Adventist World Radio. The Voice of Hope program penetrated the darkness in her soul and became a source of eternal life.
To protect the missionary who wrote this story, we have withheld his name and the name of the country where he serves.