Eugene Cho

Two years. 730 days and counting. It’s time to release Kenneth Bae. #BringBaeBack

This is a deeply personal post and I hope you’ll take a moment to read it and share the video above. While I have never met Kenneth Bae personally, his sister and family attend the church I lead, Quest Church. He is an American citizen. He is also a son, a father, a husband, a brother…and also a follower of Christ. I do not know him personally but I consider him a brother-in-Christ. Yes, he is a missionary although he was not directly doing ‘missions’ work in North Korea but he was captured on November 3, 2012.

If you do the quick math, today marks 2 years. That’s 730 days. And every day adds another day to what is already the longest detainment of an American citizen in North Korea.

As I’ve written before:

Kenneth is very much like us and in another way, he is completely unlike us. He is like us in that we all seek to honor Christ with our lives. We seek to pursue our calling and convictions. We seek to live out our faith – whether that be in and through our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and in our larger cities. But sometimes, God’s calling and convictions lead people to faraway places. We know this to be true because God calls us in Scriptures to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. [Acts 1:8]

And in this way, he’s very unlike us…because his calling and convictions have led him to a very distant, mysterious, and isolated place called North Korea.

Many of us understand the callings to Jerusalem and Judea but …Samaria? The ends of the earth?

Kenneth developed a deep passion and heart for North Korea. And as it has already been documented through various news sources, Kenneth was a “tentmaker” – working as a tour guide but with a missionary heart to share the love of Christ.  He did much of this in China and in North Korea. He did this with prayer and support. He did this with the support of a mission organization. But on his last trip hosting a tourist group to North Korea in November 2012 – a trip that he’s led at least 15 times with no problems whatsoever – Kenneth was detained on November 3.

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 used by North Korea and their case against him.

And while one can argue if the US government is doing enough to pursue his freedom or if they are even obligated to do anything at all…one thing is clear to me:

The Church cannot forget Kenneth Bae. We cannot forget the Kenneths, the Yousef Nadarkhani’s, the Pastor Saeed Abedini’s, and 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.

And so I ask you to join me in praying for those that you may know that are serving to pursue their calling and convictions in Christ around the world – especially in countries and regions that are not hospitable to Jesus followers. I ask you to remember Kenneth Bae in your prayers.

Read these words from Terri Chung, the sister of Kenneth Bae on the 2nd anniversary of his detainment:

It’s an anniversary our family did not want to have to celebrate. But, Nov. 3, 2014, marks two years since my brother, Kenneth Bae, became a prisoner in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – also known as North Korea).

We never imagined the pain this would cause on Kenneth and our family. We are without our loving brother, son, dad, husband and friend. Every day I pray for my brother, wanting him to stay strong, and regain his freedom.

While Kenneth remains a prisoner in North Korea, our lives are also held captive, filled with unspeakable heartache and anxiety. We go for months with no news of Kenneth. We do not know when Kenneth will be free, though we pray it will be soon. We weep thinking about Kenneth suffering in a labor camp, forced to do hard labor, despite poor health.

Once again, we ask for mercy from DPRK authorities. Please release Kenneth on humanitarian grounds. We also ask the US Department of State to not forget Kenneth, and to do everything in its power to see him released. We have not given up hope for Kenneth.

As we mourn and mark the two years of Kenneth’s imprisonment, we invite you to join us in raising awareness and advocating for his release. Please share this video about the need to bring Kenneth home, including thoughts from my mom on this anniversary of his detainment: http://youtu.be/HBT1l2SgTxQ

Please advocate over social media with the hashtag: #BringBaeBack // For more information, visit the website dedicated to Ken’s release or the FB page

When I think of Kenneth, I think of his parent’s love for him. About a year ago, his mother requested for permission from North Korea to visit her son. And when they granted her a visa, she traveled alone to visit her son…in order to tell him with her own lips what she and Terri and others had been writing through letters: “We love you. We haven’t forgotten you. We love you. Stay patient.”

I do not fully understand God’s sovereignty in such situations. Our church is committed to caring well for Terri and her family. I pray for Kenneth and his family. I pray for his health. I pray for his release. I join the choir of others who are asking the US government to do more. It will likely take one special envoy to North Korea to bring Kenneth home.

And yes, pray for North Korea. Pray for the people of North Korea. I have friends that have visited and even lived there. The government may be brutal but the people are tender hearted.

…And while I don’t understand it, I believe in God’s sovereignty. I believe God is at work – even behind the scenes – to use even a difficult and unfair detainment for His purposes and glory.

Kenneth: Stay encouraged, brother. We haven’t forgotten you. God hasn’t forgotten you.

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  1. […] North Korea (CHO)-…Read these words from Terri Chung, the sister of Kenneth Bae on the 2nd anniversary of his […]

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One Day’s Wages

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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. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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