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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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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