Christian group launches donation drive in effort to send 100,000 Bibles to North Korea

People look across to North Korea from Tumen, China August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. | Reuters/Sue-Lin Wong

The U.S.-based Christian humanitarian organization World Help has launched a donation drive with the aim of sending 100,000 new Bibles to North Koreans this year in an effort to meet the growing demand for God's Word in the isolated nation.

On Monday, World Help President Vernon Brewer told reporters on a conference call that he recently traveled to the North Korean border and met with missionary partners who want to smuggle Bibles into North Korea.

"There are never enough Bibles no matter how many we can print and smuggle into the country. There are never enough bibles to keep up with demand," he said, according to The Christian Post.

"Right now there are North Korean believers who have never even held a Bible, let alone other Christian resources. They may have a few verses memorized or a few chapters from the New Testament scribbled on a piece of paper, but they are hungry for more," he continued.

Brewer noted that North Koreans are aware that they could be jailed for possessing Bibles, but they still take the risk because they are "anxious to read God's promises contained in the pages of Scriptures."

The donation drive launched by World Help would allow people all over the world to help share the Gospel with North Koreans.

According to the group, a $10 donation pays for one Bible that could possibly impact as many as five North Koreans, as many house churches in the country share one Bible among members.

Due to safety concerns, Brewer has declined to share details about how his organization plans to disseminate the Bibles to underground believers in North Korea. However, he noted that World Help has partners who are experienced in smuggling Bibles into the country.

One of the creative ways to smuggle Bibles into North Korea was through balloons that are filled with flash drives that contain the entire texts of the scriptures. With the help of GPS technology, the balloons are dropped into rural areas, in the hopes that even just one will be picked up.

More and more Bibles are being disseminated in electronic form rather than in print, as one Korean source said that it is becoming too dangerous and bulky to bring in hard copies of the scriptures. The source further noted that there has been a growing demand for "outside" information — whether religious or secular — over the past 10 years.

Eric Foley, CEO of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, said that North Korean Christians have been able to smuggle Bibles into the country by carrying the scriptures across the border one at a time, instead of smuggling large quantities of the book.

These Christians have been allowed to travel to China on relative visas or work visas, and some of them have established relationships with border guards who accept bribe money and turn a blind eye to the illegal material being brought back in.

Despite the harsh penalties against Christians, there is an indication that the faith is growing at a significant rate in the oppressive country.

"The church is growing at a faster rate in North Korea than in South Korea, where the church has declined in membership every year since 1991," Foley noted.

Ben Gabriel, Initiative Director for the missionary Alpha Relief, suggested that the regime probably has knowledge about the Bible smuggling, but has acknowledged that there is only so much that can be done to prevent it.

"North Korea no longer has an iron grip on the spread of information in the country. The Christian message has a strong appeal to people trapped in that kind of system. If you've given your life over to Christ, no one can take it from you. That is true freedom. It is freedom from fear," he remarked.