Voice of the Martyrs Conference 2023

Some Aussies, some Englishmen, & some Americans walk into a Hotel… Sounds like the start of a joke, but that’s how Voice of The Martyrs International conference started, plus about 15 other nations were represented! It was like a glimpse of heaven, with many Nations tribes & tongues! This is a short article with some of the highlights from the conference in Korea in October 2023. I was invited to do some interviews with the guest Speakers and I came across so many amazing people! I’ve did 24 interviews in total! I’ve met some amazing people from Canada, NZ, USA, Finland, Poland, Mexico, Somalia, North & South Korea, Ethiopia, UK, Brazil, Ukraine, China, and more!

Voice of the Martyrs is a ministry is that helps, loves and encourages persecuted Christians by providing Bibles, ministry resources, medical aid and practical assistance. Their ministry is inspired by Hebrews 13:3: “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them – those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body also.” They also support Christians who are or have been persecuted for their faith and involvement in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in a hostile environment. They give their testimony a voice, informing and mobilising Christians to stand with their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

On our first day, we did a tour of the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone which is the long border between North and South Korea. It was an opportunity to learn more about the Korean War, and the impact that it has had on Korea which continues to this day. North Korea is a brutally hostile place for Christians. If discovered by the authorities, believers are either sent to labour camps as political prisoners where the conditions are atrocious, or killed on the spot – and their families will share their fate as well.

Christians have absolutely no freedom. It is almost impossible for believers to gather or meet to worship. Those who dare to meet must do so in utmost secrecy – and at enormous risk. A report issued in 2022 said that Christians are particularly targeted and exposed to torture in North Korean prisons. Detention periods and interrogations are longer and more intense. The reason for such extreme persecution is that Christianity is seen as a particular threat to the dictatorial ideology and governance of the country’s barbaric regime. Christians are viewed as enemies of both the leadership and society in general. Please pray for persecuted believers in North Korea!

Children in North Korea have to memorize 100 stories about Kim Il Sung & give speeches about him. He’s the hero of every North Korean story. North Korean defectors have a high suicide rate, approximately 16%. I met one man who’s father was personal guard for Kim Il Sung. North Korea has 10 different classes, he was born into high class family. He was brainwashed at school, he was taught “Our family has served the Kim family for years & you will lay down your life for them as well.” At 14 he was enlisted to army. The unit he joined was responsible for the Sony pictures cyber attack, they kidnapped Japanese hostages, and was responsible for the assassination on Kim’s brother. He was protecting Kim’s houses & yachts, and made an oath that, “you will sacrifice your life if you tell any secrets to anyone.” He was taught that the family portrait of the Kim family was more important than any human life! And when there was a building fire he tried to save the portrait instead of the soldiers inside! He was very badly burnt & spent 7 months in hospital. He attempted suicide twice, & had severe depression. He decided to Defect. He escaped with his sister and spent a year in China. His sister was arrested & taken back to prison. She was released in 2020 & died after being tortured. His Mother went to prison for calling him, went from 50 kg to 35kg. The families are tortured if someone has defected or if someone is a Christian.

Long story short, he came to Christ. And felt God speak to him. The Lord Said, “My son, you went through a terrible time when you got burned, you look beautiful, I am on your side, I know all of your scars, & the scars in your heart.” He said, “The Lord gave me a new heart!” He is now married and has a son. He is believing for unification between North & South Korea and is at a Baptist Seminary and his dream is to go back & and preach the gospel to North Korea!

Most Christians would never want to return, but he feels that God wants him to go back one day! One Pastor said that our pain becomes a source of power to preach, this is the mindset of a martyr. 80% of North Korean defectors are women. Another highlight of the week was having a Korean BBQ with some More mature ladies from North Korea. Are lot of the women that have defected were sex-trafficked, and have some brutal stories. One lady had trauma for 5 years and was on very heavy medication. She was traumatized, because her neighbours ate her daughter. Even as I type this, I cannot fathom how horrible this would be. But this is how evil and wicked this situation is! One of the most beautiful moments was seeing the ladies do a traditional Korean dance for us. And seeing the smile on this ladies face as she danced for us. They use this dance as therapy for these ladies and it’s proven to be quite fruitful! These ladies have been trained to go & share the gospel with other North Korean defectors. They use the principle of Luke 10, where Jesus sent the disciples to go out & look for the person of peace & share the Gospel with them. And they had some amazing stories of people coming to Christ!

A few other highlights were interviewing a Pastor from Ukraine. He had church of 500, a network of 36 churches, and was living well he had Businesses in Water purification & was in the Restaurant business before the war. Now it’s all gone. After Russia’s invasion, he lost everything. He was imprisoned & interrogated. After his release he & his family had to flee. He explained that the Russian mindset is that Ukraine is corrupt Nazi’s. He asked us to pray for Ukraine.

Another highlight was interviewing Petr Jasek. He has served as The Voice of the Martyrs regional director for ministry in Africa and faced fierce persecution from both the Sudanese government and Islamic extremist groups. After 445 days in jail, Petr was released. He now travels internationally and speaks to millions about how God sustained him in the direst of circumstances.

I also had the chance to visit Yoido Full Gospel Church, a Pentecostal church affiliated with the Assemblies of God on Yeouido (Yoi Island) in Seoul, South Korea. With about 480,000 members, it is the largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in South Korea. Founded by David Yonggi Cho and Choi Ja-shil in 1958, the church is presently led by Young Hoon Lee. The church has several satellite locations throughout the city of Seoul.

I have so many stories to tell, and the interviews cover a lot of the topics raised in this article and more. If you’d like to Watch or listen to them Here is the link: @newhopebrisbane on YouTube They will also be aired on Historymakers radio, Vision Christian Radio, and will be available wherever you get your podcasts.