On September 11, 2021, leaders from the Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD), Korean Union Conference, East Central Korean Conference, and West Central Korean Conference held a special prayer Saturday (Sabbath). Leaders visited 17 Adventist churches near the Korean Demilitarized Zone to preach God’s Word and hold prayer sessions, pleading with God to open the doors to the gospel in North Korea.
The NSD recently established the North Korea Mission department at the midyear session in April 2021. In the past, it had been under the Adventist Mission department. Leaders shared, however, that a sense of urgency to deliver the gospel to North Korea prompted the decision to create a separate department with Beom Seok Oh appointed as the first North Korea Mission director.
Oh set three objectives to more effectively implement the North Korea Mission’s aim, described as 3M — set a masterplan, train missionaries, and prepare materials. First, it is crucial to develop detailed plans for the mid to long term, he said. Second, there is a goal to train at least 1,000 missionaries, and finally, secure at least 10 billion Korean won (approximately US$8.5 million) in funds. After fulfilling these goals, when God opens the door, the plan includes 100 church plants simultaneously, he said.
“The key through this journey is prayer, because God is the only one who can accomplish such a daunting task,” Oh said. “The North Korea Mission has a plan to organize no less than 1,000 prayer groups throughout the NSD territory.”
Oh shared that the September 11 special prayer Sabbath enabled leaders to bring together church members to support the launch of this initiative. NSD president Si Young Kim visited the Wontong Seventh-day Adventist Church in Gangwon Province, just 19 miles (30 kilometers) from the North Korea border. Around 10 Adventist soldiers used to attend that church, but as they are banned from doing so due to COVID-19, they are conducting worship at their camp.
Kim preached a sermon titled “The God Who Opens the Door” and highlighted that God has the authority to do precisely that. He said God opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant; He opened the door of heaven to pour out rain; and He opened the door of death to raise Lazarus.
“God’s intervention each time involved someone praying,” Kim said. He reminded members that in the Bible book of Acts, God opened the doors to evangelize the Gentiles. In that same spirit of earnestness, Kim encouraged church members to intently pray for God to open the doors of North Korea.
Afterward, he and church members moved to the Goseong Unification Observatory, which overlooks the nearby fields and forested mountains of North Korea. “Even though only a few of them joined together due to a capacity limit, the time was worthwhile to gather and pray after looking toward the countryside of North Korea,” Oh said.
Leaders also visited the Yanggu Coastal Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is led by a lay leader and is just 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) from North Korea. The church is located at the Punchbowl — a name given to a bowl-shaped basin by United Nations forces during the Korean War. The war claimed the lives of more than 10,000 soldiers in that area.
Shortly before the initiative launch planned for September 11, local officials reported a COVID-19 outbreak in Yanggu. Since the government strictly restricted gatherings, church members met at the apple storehouse of local church lay leader Sung Tae Kim. While observing social distancing protocols, they all sat on apple crates and prayed for God to open doors so they can spread the gospel message in North Korea. “I had hardly thought about North Korea before, despite living so close,” Kim said, “but I now recognize in this special Sabbath how important it is to pray.”
NSD Adventist Mission director Yo Han Kim visited the Wooncheon Seventh-day Adventist Church. Kim said that he has been continually praying for missions to the world, including North Korea. “Having this special Sabbath, however, urged me to weigh more on it,” Kim said. “I am determined to pray faithfully [to be able to do] evangelism in that country.”
“Adventist church leaders have shown an important example through prayer in their desire to see North Korea open,” Oh said. “We look forward to witnessing the prayer movement spreading to all the nations and church members in the NSD territory.”