Eugene Cho

It’s irrational, but sometimes, the love of a mother takes you to North Korea. #FreeKennethBae

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There’s something powerful about a parent’s love for their child. A father’s love or a mother’s love. For me, as a father of three, I understand. When they hurt, I hurt. When they’re sick, I wish I could be sick instead of them. When they mourn, I mourn. When they celebrate, I rejoice with them. It’s the heart of a father and mother.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know the story of a man named Kenneth Bae. Kenneth has been detained in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – also known as North Korea) since Nov. 2012. Kenneth is a tour operator and in the past has served as a Christian missionary. As I wrote in an earlier post, here’s a recap of his situation.

While we can speculate about the political nature or agenda that North Korea may have to use him as a “pawn,” Kenneth was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor because he was charged for committing “hostile acts to bring down the government” and “planning anti-North Korea religious activities.”

He was charged – in essence – for being a Christian. He was charged for taking his faith in Christ to heart. He was found guilty of wanting to share God’s love with those in North Korea. He was charged for being faithful to the convictions that God had placed upon his heart.

He was charged – officially – for wanting to bring down the government because like other missionaries or tentmakers, he spoke and preached at some of his sponsoring churches in the United States and prayed for a future day when the walls of North Korea would come down so that the Gospel may flourish. He said these things and they were recorded on videos and published onto respective church websites…and they were likely used by North Korea and their case against him. [full post]

You want to go where?

Several weeks ago, Mrs. Myunghee Bae – the mother of Kenneth Bae – and her daughter, Terri, (Kenneth’s younger sister and only sibling) shared of Mrs. Bae’s desire to go to North Korea to visit her son. My initial response as a pastor and someone that’s been seeking to advise them was:

“Are you sure?”
“Really?!”
“How about your safety?”

I even asked the blunt question: “But at your age…?”

Both Terri and I had our questions and reservations – especially for her safety. There are so many unknowns and so much unpredictability with the government. Seriously, asides from Dennis Rodman, how many people can say that they’ve been able to go to visit North Korea for these kind of reasons?

…But then again, I understand.

It’s the heart of parent…the heart of a mother or father. In this case, the heart of a mother. She shared with me how much she longed to see her son; She’s only seen these difficult images of her son since he began serving in the labor camp and then the shocking video released by North Korea that showed that Kenneth had lost over 50 pounds and were facing health issues. He’s seen been hospitalized.

“As a mother, I worry endlessly about his health, and I want to see him and comfort him and hold him in person,” she said. “I miss him so much.”

Yes, I understand. It’s the heart of a mother longing to see her only son; to be able to encourage him; to say to him, “I love you” and to remind him that he isn’t forgotten; to remind him that thousands of people are praying for him.

No, it doesn’t make rational sense but it makes perfect sense if you understand the heart of a parent…the heart of a mother.

And so, Mrs. Bae, requested to see her son and North Korea granted her permission and a visa to visit. I’ve known of this for several weeks but her family along with various advisers had chosen to wait to share this news until after she entered North Korea so as to not impede her entrance.

Well…as of today…she is in North Korea and the plan is for her to spend about 5 days in North Korea.

And now, I ask that you would join me in praying for her safety, well-being, and her safe return. Please share this with others. Please share this with your church community. As I shared previously:

The Church cannot forget Kenneth Bae. We cannot forget the Kenneths, the Yousef Nadarkhani’s, the Pastor Saeed Abedini’sand the thousands of other Christians around the world that are persecuted for their faith in Christ. They are our brother and sisters. While governments, media, and the citizens of their countries may forget them and even mock and criticize them…the Church must not forget.

We must fight for them.
We must advocate for them.
We must pray for them.
We must work and pray boldly for their release.

“Please release my son.”

Make no mistake. Her purpose is not only to see her son but she has shared with us that she intends to speak to anyone and everyone who is willing…to ask for the release of her son.  Who in their right mind would enter of their own free will into a country like North Korea and ask the respective authorities: “Please free my son” ?

It doesn’t make sense…
unless you understand the heart of a mother, the heart of a father, the heart of a parent.

Mrs. Bae: We are praying for you. Please be safe. We’re praying for your safe return. We continue to pray for your son…and for his release some day. We pray that it will be sooner than later. I deeply resonated with these words from Terri Chung who attends Quest Church and is the younger sister of Kenneth:

“My mother and I are realistic. We know that it’s a very longshot. But we love Kenneth and we have been praying and working for his release from the day we discovered he was detained. Am I hopeful about my mother returning with Kenneth? Realistically, I know the chances are minimal but I still cling to the possibility because that’s what hope does….and we haven’t given up hope. That’s what hope in God does…and we haven’t given up on God.”

With the help of some friends, we filmed this video in preparation to share with the global community once we received confirmation that she has safely entered North Korea:

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photo 1: Mr. and Mrs. Bae at Quest Church during the prayer vigil for their son, Kenneth. Photo by Seattle Times.
photo 2: Mrs. Bae and Terri Chung (Kenneth’s sister); photo by David Ryder

Update: Mother and son reunited this morning in North Korea. Photo Credit: Mun Kwang Son, AP

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16 Responses

  1. unboundbyfate says:

    Reblogged this on daydreamzzzz.

  2. Lori Sawyer says:

    Oh, this is so heart-wrenching. I can’t imagine how helpless she must feel. Yes, the love for a child (however old) can give you courage and determination you didn’t even know you possessed. They are all in my prayers.

  3. Mary Rowlands says:

    Thanks so much for the reminder! We must remember those who are suffering because of their faith. I’m not a parent but I was the blessed child of parents who loved my sister and me more than we fully understood as children. Isn’t that the way we are with our Heavenly Father…loved more than we fully understand. Praying today for this family. Again, thank you again for sharing this.

  4. Eugene Cho says:

    An update from Terri (Kenneth’s sister):

    “Got an update this morning from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang. My mom was allowed to visit my brother! The Ambassador described it as an “emotional reunion between mother and son.” She was very happy to see him. Also heard Kenneth’s health has improved some. Relieved and thankful for the good news.”

  5. Stephanie says:

    we are praying…. What a courageous woman!

  6. Kenny says:

    Thanks for sharing all of this and you ministry in this arena!

  7. Imani Matonya says:

    It’s a very hurting story.
    Thanks for sharing it, for sure I am and I will pray for him.
    God’s mercy,love,blessings and compassion to him, mother and the family.

  8. Penny says:

    So, so hard to read this post as a mom of sons. Thank you, Eugene, for keeping this story in front of the world. Praying for mercy and a quick resolution. Justice for Kenneth.

  9. Terri Chung says:

    Thank you, Pastor Eugene, for all that you have done to bring attention to Kenneth’s case and for your ministry to our family during the past year. Thanks to everybody for all your prayers and support. Kenneth has also expressed his gratitude in his letter from North Korea to all who have been praying for him:

    “Thank you all for lifting me up in prayer and standing together for me! I have felt tremendously loved, cared for, and protected because of all your support, love, and prayers. God is good at all times, and He never fails to show compassion to those who are in Him. I am very grateful to know him more intimately and have been experiencing his love more. I have discovered that when I am weak, He is strong and His grace is sufficient at such time like this. He enables me put trust in Him daily.”

  10. Terra Pennington says:

    May god keep his hand of protection around the whole family and return both mother and son home safe and sound.

  11. Faith Hope Love says:

    I’m sure there are more efficient things you can do to help besides pray for them if you really care. lol

  12. Carol Kauffman says:

    My mother’s heart aches with compassion for mother and son and for all the family. Thank you Pastor Eugene Cho for bringing God’s comfort, hope, courage and perseverance to this dear family ~ our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Praying and believing with you,
    Carol

  13. […] imagine how she must be feeling right now. For goodness sake, her love and devotion to her son led her to visit him in North Korea about a year ago. Just last Sunday, our church spent time hearing from Terri and praying for their […]

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One Day’s Wages

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First day of our daughter's college years at this great school. We love you. We're so proud of you.We believe in you. Go Huskies. Go Dawgs. And also, beat Stanford this Friday. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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