“Esther” is a woman who suffered under the regime in North Korea, losing both her parents to starvation and fleeing to the relative safety and prosperity of China by herself. But a new ministry report says she returned – voluntarily – to North Korea because of her vision to minister to the unsaved.

The description of persecution under which North Koreans suffer has been an ongoing series from The Voice of the Martyrs, a worldwide ministry that directs its aid to members of the persecuted Christian church.

That organization earlier reported on the faith of a teen-ager who was caught teaching about Christ, and died in a North Korean prison camp to leave behind a witness that continues there even today. It also reported on the stunning change in a prison warden who watched that teen’s final days and sought out what made the teen strong. And it told how a veteran of more than 100 missions inside the restrictive nation worked to help other Christians worship.

“Esther” had lived in China for a number of years when VOM officials first met her. She had come into China illegally, and hid in the mountains, working on a fish farm, to sustain herself.

Then she discovered, through a man who worked at the farm who was a Christian, that managers there planned to “sell” her, a move against which she would have little recourse as an illegal in the nation.

The two fled, but had no money and no food, and hid out in a rundown house, where she began to seek the Lord, and came to know of the saving power of Jesus through a Bible the man’s older sister smuggled in to them.

Her ministry was launched immediately, VOM reported. “Whenever she met other Koreans, she told them about God. Soon she was leading a group of about 40 people,” the group’s report said.

Although she had no experience, she worked on a construction crew for a time.

But a change came one day when she was returning from an errand and she came upon a roadblock where soldiers were checking travelers. She was repatriated to North Korea, beaten and tortured, and promptly escaped to China again.

This time, however, there was something that wouldn’t allow her to stay, and she turned to prayer.

There, VOM said, she saw a vision of being in a land of darkness, “speaking in front of a large group of people. There was a light coming from heaven and she was speaking as if she were a trumpet.”

Her co-workers agreed that it meant she was to return to North Korea to share the gospel.

Just before leaving, she said she had to share the gospel, and would even though North Korea, ranked as one of the worst nations on earth of religious freedom, often condemns Christian individuals and their families to concentration camps.

“If I perish, I perish,” was her decision.

A contact came from inside North Korea three months later, saying that Esther was doing well, but traveling so much her toenails had fallen off. “She said that like the apostle Paul, she bore the marks of Christ for her nation.”

Voice of the Martyrs 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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Previous stories:

Missionary says Christian church meets ‘3 or 4’ at a time

From torturing to tears: A warden repents

Teen’s testimony of faith unstopped by death

Ambush by ‘radicals’ leaves pastor in hospital

Teen escapes from Muslim kidnappers in Egypt

Volunteers take on, defeat Chinese Bible ban

Boy slave ‘crucified’ by Sudanese Muslim

Christian preacher injured when bus rams SUV

Christian men face execution

Pastors seek police help, get beatings

Christian beaten for drinking water

Christian Pakistani teen escapes death

Found of Voice of the Martyrs jailed, tortured by Communists for years

Christian convert faces death threats

Group presses Bush to grant convert asylum

2 more Afghan Christians reportedly thrown into jail

Congressman to Afghanistan: ‘We will not put up with this’

Charges dropped against Christian

Afghan judge won’t give in to pressure

Kabul may drop case, citing convert’s depression

Afghan prosecutors: Christian may be ‘mad’

U.S. cautiously backs Afghan Christian

Man faces death penalty for becoming Christian

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