“I will go!” With those words, Naomi made a commitment to lay down her life. She had just volunteered to join a secret team of evangelists who move throughout her homeland, sharing the gospel and helping desperate fellow citizens with basic necessities like food and medicine.
Naomi lives in North Korea, a nation led by a repressive regime that cares little for its own people. Christians who are discovered are imprisoned or killed. Although Naomi knew her decision would put her life at great risk, she also knew that God’s power was greater than her government’s. She felt compelled to help others in the same way that she had been helped about fifteen years before.
Tragically, man-made famines are recurrent in reclusive North Korea. Corrupt and inept government policies, limited infrastructure, and poor weather all affect the availability of food, but when all these forces converge, as they did in the 1990s, disaster follows. During that decade, one million people—or about five percent of North Korea’s population—are estimated to have died from starvation. Children ate rats, mice, frogs, and tadpoles to alleviate their hunger. North Koreans also ate grass, mushrooms, and tree bark to survive.
Naomi’s family also struggled to survive during that time, and their hope of finding enough food to continue living was quickly fading. Since childhood they had been taught to trust only in their government; but their government could not—or would not—do anything to help.
As Naomi, her husband, and their son narrowly clung to life, God provided the help they so desperately needed. He sent a woman called “Mrs. L” and a handful of other believers to Naomi’s neighborhood to distribute food. They also distributed the message of God’s love through Jesus Christ. Mrs. L gave Naomi enough food to keep her family alive until she and her team could return. It was not a lot, but it was more than Naomi had seen in a long time.
During the ensuing months, Mrs. L provided a lifeline to Naomi and her family. With each visit she brought life-sustaining food—and the gospel. Naomi watched as others in her city starved to death, but her family survived, thanks to Mrs. L’s persistent deeds of love and the gracious God she served. Naomi’s heart was pierced, and she gave her life to Jesus.
Now, more than a decade later, North Koreans are suffering again in the midst of yet another famine. This time, God has another faithful servant. Naomi now follows in the footsteps of her mentor, laying down her life for the suffering by word and deed, just as Mrs. L did—and just as Jesus did for all of us.