Her name was Ri Hyon Ok. She was probably a lot like someone you know: a 33-year-old wife and mother of three. But she is no longer playing with her kids or enjoying the pleasures of preparing a nice meal for her family. You see, Ri Hyon Ok was publicly executed on June 16.
Her crime? Ri Hyon Ok was caught giving a Bible away. She lived in North Korea, where a communist government fabricates charges of sedition and spying against people caught violating restrictions on Christianity.
And what happened to her husband and three children? Sent to a political prison the day after her execution.
But as I read about this atrocity, I could only think about one crime: the fact that I barely happened to find this article buried on page 8A of my newspaper sandwiched between ads for playgrounds, arborvitae, and premium paint.
My heart was broken about 5 different times reading this story. Broken for the terrible government in N. Korea that will pay for their actions. Broken for how lucky I am to be an American with religious freedom. Broken for the 30,000 N. Koreans who continue to follow Christ at the risk of their life in a place where the government will literally set up fake prayer meetings or infiltrate underground churches for the purpose of incriminating Christians. Broken knowing I get scared to share my faith when the worst thing I face for sharing my faith is a stern look or getting laughed at, when millions of others face this.
But I’m most saddened that her story will die away quickly. She was a true hero of the faith, risking her life so that another wouldn’t have to face a Christ-less eternity. She didn’t make a mistake; she knew exactly what she was doing. She truly lived out John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” I write this blog today to honor her death. The media will be more concerned with the next “Billy Mays” who dies tomorrow. Maybe it’s because more Christians have died in the last 100 years than the previous 1900 years, so this is nothing new. But Ri Hyon Ok is a hero of the faith. She has stored up treasures that will last forever. She was an exemplary model of moral courage and character.
I hope you will be inspired by this simple Korean woman–inspired to follow after Jesus no matter the cost. How will you pick up where this Korean woman left off?