North Korea 911

Man with phone standing against North Korean flag.
Hacked cell phones capable of reaching the outside world are illegal in North Korea. Despite the great risk, many use them to cry out for help.

North Korea 911

A secret phone number with the power to rescue

Dear Family,

Kenn looked down at a scrap of weathered paper in his hands for the umpteenth time as he read the blotchy, hand-written text. It read a Chinese phone number. As a citizen of North Korea, Kenn faced a life-long prison sentence if this seemingly insignificant piece of paper was discovered. And yet he’d kept it hidden all these years, as a life preserver of sorts, in case a certain day should ever come along. Today was that day.

Calling a foreign number to the outside world was a desperate measure, but Kenn had no other choice. Using a hacked cell phone he had attained for just such an occasion, the husband and father slowly punched in the numbers and pressed send. He then held his breath and prayed that this last source of rescue would indeed connect him to salvation.

After just two rings a woman’s voice answered on the other end of the line. He knew he didn’t have much time, as the call he had made out of North Korea into China could be traced at any moment. “Sarah?”, he spoke, addressing the woman whose name had accompanied the number. “This is Kenn, Naomi’s son. I need your help.”

On the other end of the line, the woman took a deep breath and greeted him with a warm hello. In a joyful and yet compassionate voice, she explained that she knew Kenn’s mother well and asked how she could help.

Filled with relief that the phone number had indeed worked, Ken began spilling his story. He knew his obligation was to the government and that contact with the outside world was forbidden, but he was struggling to find enough food to provide for his family. When he was a boy, Kenn’s mother had told him about a compassionate woman from China who had befriended her and had risked her life to cross into North Korea and bring her food; the very food that had at many times sustained Kenn when he was a child. He acknowledged that his mother had lived into old age because of her Chinese friend’s loving outreach.

Kenn could again hear the compassion in Sarah’s voice as she answered, “Of course, it would be a great honor to serve your family again.” Sarah passed along a few secret details of a meeting place where others like him would be coming to connect with her. Kenn could barely believe it. The number had actually worked and it appeared salvation was on the way.

Like an underground version of calling 911, Sarah (a covert, Heavens Family on-site partner) has answered calls like this for the last 20 years. Through clandestine rendezvous, Sara has grown an underground network of North Korean Christians, by the hundreds! Most begin their relationship with Sarah like Kenn, friends and family of Christians who have been a part of the network for years. When Sarah brings her relief aid across the border to meet with both old and new contacts, she always ensures the gospel message is proclaimed. She knows that spiritual food is even more important than the physical food that she brings.

When Kenn arrived at the meeting spot, Sarah offered him enough food and medicine to supplement his family for an entire month. More importantly, Kenn heard the gospel very clearly. Kenn was open to the message, as seeds his mother (a committed believer) had sown were again stirred to life. It is now our prayer that those seeds grow and flourish.

The prayers and financial support of those of you who support this ministry continue to make Sarah’s journey inside North Korea possible. Please keep both Kenn and Sarah in your prayers. They risk much to meet and continue the discipleship process. Thank you for being a hero alongside Sarah as you enable the growth of the gospel in quite possibly the darkest place on earth.

Together in Christ,

Ben Croft
Director, Persecuted Christians Ministry

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