The bell on the shop’s door tinkled, and Ana* looked up to see a Chinese woman enter the small store. The woman smiled at Ana and chatted about everyday matters as she looked around the shop. She avoided topics that could cause trouble if someone reported the conversation to the police.
Ana and her parents lived in North Korea,† near the Chinese border. She knew better than to trust anyone. This woman could be a spy for the government. Ana had heard whispered stories of people who had been arrested because someone accused them of criticizing the government. It wasn’t safe to trust anyone.
The woman visiting the shop introduced herself as Mrs. Lee, from China. She chatted happily as she made her purchases and bid Ana goodbye.
Mrs. Lee returned to the shop several times. Then one day when Mrs. Lee was paying for her purchases, she laid a small bag in front of Ana. She smiled and nodded toward the bag. Ana looked inside the bag and gasped at the fine cosmetics inside, items that weren’t available in North Korea. Ana looked at Mrs. Lee, a question on her face. Do I dare accept these gifts? she wondered. Is this a trap?
Mrs. Lee smiled as she slid the bag toward Ana, and then turned to leave the store.
Mrs. Lee sometimes spoke of God during her visits. Ana knew nothing about God. One day Mrs. Lee gave Ana a piece of paper with the Lord’s Prayer written on it.
That evening Ana showed the paper to her mother, who read it with deep interest. Her mother began praying the prayer that Mrs. Lee had given Ana, and then added her own request to it. “Please bring my son home,” she prayed. Ana’s brother was in the military and hadn’t been home in eight years.
A month later, Ana’s mother answered a knock at the door and found two soldiers standing there. For a moment she feared what might happen next. Then she realized that one of the soldiers was her son. He had come home at last!
Ana told Mrs. Lee what had happened when her mother prayed the prayer Mrs. Lee had given Ana. Mrs. Lee smiled and slipped a tiny piece of paper into Ana’s hand. “If you ever visit China, call me,” Mrs. Lee whispered.
Ana decided to leave North Korea. She knew that people caught leaving North Korea were subject to prison or death, but the desire for freedom had taken root in her heart and would not die.
Ana had heard that border guards sometimes accepted a bribe to allow someone to cross into China. One day Ana walked to the border between China and North Korea and approached a young border guard, her heart pounding.
“What must I do to cross the border?” she asked innocently.
The guard looked at Ana and said, “Give me 100 Chinese yuen [yoo-EHN, about $15], and you can cross.” He told her the date she should return with the money.
Ana told no one of her plans, not even her parents. On the given date, Ana walked to the border, paid the bribe to the guard, and walked across the border into China. She didn’t stop until she was several miles inside China. Then she pulled out a cell phone that Mrs. Lee had given her and dialed.
Ana stayed with a Christian friend of Mrs. Lee for several days. Harboring a North Korean was dangerous, but the woman hid Ana while she shared her faith with Ana. Ana knew nothing about Jesus, but soon she realized Jesus was God. She accepted Jesus as her Savior and eagerly learned more. But every day she stayed in China she was in danger of being caught and sent back to certain imprisonment and perhaps death. She had to continue on her journey.
Six months after Ana left her homeland, she stepped onto South Korean soil. There she was introduced to the Adventist Church. Ana rejoices in her new freedom—freedom from oppression and freedom to share her love for Jesus with others.
No one knows how many Adventists live in North Korea. But the church members in South Korea pray and prepare for the day when they can share God’s love with their neighbors to the north. Our mission offerings help train believers to share the gospel with those who have never known Jesus.
* Not her real name
† Democratic People’s Republic of Korea