As recently as a couple weeks ago, I stood with Dr. Daniel Kim at the DMZ by North Korea. It’s a heartbreaking feeling to stand just a few hundred yards away from people locked in a country of repression and, for Christians, a place of severe persecution—and be able to do nothing to help them.
Those familiar with persecution statistics know that North Korea has ranked the highest country in religious persecution for the fourteenth straight year. But it’s not just North Korea that is closed to gospel missionaries or persecuting of Christians in the country. The annual study on religious persecution that ranked North Korea at the top has ranked the rest of the top ten as Muslim countries (Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Libya).
What can those of us who live in freedom do for the sake of the gospel in closed nations?
The answer is so basic that we are prone to dismiss it. But before you do, remember the power in this basic answer—prayer.
- Pray for doors to open. In the past few decades, we’ve seen some countries previously closed to the gospel have government changes that opened their doors to missionaries. And in other nations, we’ve seen missionaries develop creative access ideas that have allowed them entrance to serve in underground ways.
- Pray for leaders who will be instrumental in opening doors. The Lord can use government and political leaders like a Ronald Regan (who was instrumental, to say the least, in the collapse of the Soviet Union) to open doors to missionaries. Pray that we would have American leaders with the courage and wisdom to see closed countries open to missionaries.
- Pray for laborers. Above all, pray as Jesus Himself requested as He also surveyed a people in need of the gospel: “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38).
Whenever I talk with Dr. Kim about North Korea, I’m impressed by two things—that he really prays for North Korea. (You don’t talk with Dr. Kim about the need in North Korea without a time of prayer for the Christians currently living there and for the doors to open.)
Second, I’m impressed by the faith with which he prays, evidenced by the fact that the church he pastors in Seoul has long been preparing for the moment the doors open. They have been setting aside funds and are prepared both financially and personally to pour into that country with the gospel.
We never know how the Lord will work, but we do know that He has commanded us to pray for laborers and has promised to answer our prayers.
In the twentieth commencement exercises of West Coast Baptist College in May 2015, we saw the two thousandth graduate of the college receive his diploma—a young man from a closed country who is already back in that closed country preaching the gospel.
God is able to raise up laborers. And there are billions of people waiting for them.