Originally published in Mission Network News
The good news is that a 75-year-old missionary from Australia, John Short, is out of North Korea.
The less good news (depending on your point of view) is that on March 3, 2014, he was expelled.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, explains, “I think it means he’ll never get a visa to go back. They said it was in honor of his age, because he is a 75-year-old man. They said that was the reason they were expelling him as opposed to maybe having a trial or charging him with a crime.”
Background On February 16, North Korean authorities questioned and detained Short, reportedly after police learned of gospel tracts in his possession. After releasing a video-taped apology, Short was released, says Nettleton. “Part of the apology is that ‘I wanted more Korean people to be Christians.’ It’s an interesting confession.” Nettleton adds, “One of the things that’s pointed out in the apology is that he handed a tract to someone on the birthday of Kim Jong Il. Because that is such a sacred day in North Korea, that was part of the reason that his handing of a tract was so offensive.”
Prior to Short’s release, VOM-USA conducted an interview with Short’s wife, Karen. Of her husband, she said he was aware of the risks but remained determined to visit North Korea. “If you give him a challenge that he can’t do something, then he will make it a matter of prayer to go to such places because that’s what Christian missionaries do, by faith. And if God opens the way, you go.” Short traveled to Pyongyang on Feb. 15 with a tour group.
Upon learning of her husband’s arrest, she seemed unflappable. Karen credits that to the prayer support shared around the world. Scripture also helped her keep her head. “A real comfort to me from a brother in Burma was the Scriptures from 1 Peter 4:12-16 — the trial of your faith. It’s a very real issue. And when you go through it, the Lord is with you, and that’s why there’s no fear, because the Lord’s with you.”
Nettleton posed a question that gave Karen an opportunity to send a message into North Korea to the underground body of Christians. She said, “We pray for their government and for their leaders because God is Lord of heaven and earth. He’s ultimately in control. ‘Be encouraged, people in the West are praying. They care; they love you.’ That is why my husband went to demonstrate just by his presence and being there.”
While North Korea espouses freedom of religion, it is ranked as one of the world’s most oppressive regimes. A United Nations report issued last month identified a lack of religious freedom and compared the religious rights abuses to those of Nazi Germany. In that regard, Nettleton says Short’s release was spectacularly unusual. “It is 100% answered prayer. We know that people were praying around the world. We know from John Short’s wife that she could sense the prayers of people, that she could tell that it was making a difference in how she was able to respond.”
VOM is waiting for an opportunity to confer with Short once he has recovered from his ordeal. They’re hoping to hear more about his treatment, what he observed, and what he saw God doing. In the meantime, Nettleton recaps the main issue this way: “We want to remind people that there are still Christians being held in North Korea. We want to continue our prayers for them and not grow weary, even as we celebrate this great answer to prayer.”