North Korea’s city of Pyongyang, a mission field for Voice of the Martyrs

A new report from a ministry with a longtime record of support for members of the persecuted Christian church has described the torture and death, and ultimate surviving ministry, of a Christian in North Korea, one the most restrictive nations in the world regarding people of faith.

The report from The Voice of the Martyrs tells of four young men who chose pseudonyms – Pencil, Eraser, Pen and Paper Clip – while training for a Christian mission expedition into North Korea.

They were trained by “Andrew,” a Christian worker in China, for the work that would face them after crossing the Tumen River into North Korea.

While three were studious in their work, the VOM report said, the young man who chose the name “Pencil” seemed to pay little attention, but all four were dispatched into the kingdom of Kim Jong-il a short time later.

Reports from within North Korea several months later came to VOM that three – Eraser, Pen and Paper Clip – had been arrested by North Korean police and beaten, thrown into vehicles and taken away. Reports came back the three were in a concentration camp, but “Pencil,” who had watched the arrests, never saw them again.

“Pencil,” who feared a similar arrest, lived as a beggar to avoid detection, then returned to Andrew in China.

“With tears in his eyes, ‘Pencil’ told Andrew the fate of his three friends. He shared how they had been bold witnesses for Christ, and how he had hid in fear as his best friends were taken away,” the report said.

“What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” Andrew asked, and “Pencil” told him, “I want to learn how to be brave like my friends, and unafraid to share Jesus.”

“The boy whose mind always seemed to wander was now a young man completely committed to Christ,” the VOM report said. “When ‘Pencil’ was ready to return to North Korea, he looked into the eyes of his friend and mentor, and said, ‘I need nothing more.'”

He immediately connected with a Christian couple inside North Korea, and together they worked on their ministry. For five months, they planted seeds of faith and prayed, VOM said.

“One day the three of them were sharing with a small group of beggars and gave them some tracts and a Bible. One of the young beggars went home and proudly showed the Bible to his mother,” VOM’s report, written by P. Todd Nettleton, said.

The mother promptly grabbed it and marched into a police station, where commanders dispatched officers to arrest the couple and “Pencil.”

His following interrogation quickly turned to torture, VOM said, as officers demanded to know the source of the Bible, and that “Pencil” recant.

Instead, he told them of his friends and their fearless witness.

“There was a time when I couldn’t be like them,” he said. “I was too afraid. But now I can be since Jesus is with me.”

Beatings and torture, including pulling out his fingernails, followed.

“If you kill me, someday you will become a Christian,” “Pencil” told the officers.

Eventually, the officers gave up, ordering him to a labor camp but with instructions that he not be fed. For two months, “Pencil” told the other prisoners and the camp guards, “Jesus is the reason I am able to go on.”

“Because of his endurance and how he shared the love of Jesus, many in the camp turned to Christ,” the VOM report said. “After two months in the camp, Pencil died. He never saw his 20th birthday. His body was removed from the camp, but the fruit of his short ministry there lived on.”

VOM is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.

It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.

He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.

The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.

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