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Unwelcome Visitors

Robert Thomas was a missionary to China, but he also wanted to go to Korea and share the gospel with Koreans who had never heard of Jesus. When Thomas heard about an American who was sailing to Korea to buy and sell goods, he offered to serve as a translator.

Thomas had learned some Korean while on another short visit to Korea. The captain agreed to take Thomas aboard, and the ship sailed into the Yellow Sea, then up a Korean river toward Pyongyang. Thomas took a case of Bibles with him on the journey.

Korea was called “the hermit kingdom” because Koreans did not like visitors or traders from other countries. (A hermit is someone who lives alone and does not spend time with other people.) The captain hoped to change their minds. But the Koreans did not welcome the men on the ship. Thomas translated while the captain talked with Korean messengers.

After a time, their peaceful discussion turned to anger. Then the ship got stuck on a sandbar and could not leave. The Koreans threw rocks and burning sticks onto the ship, and the ship’s crew fired guns toward the Koreans.

Precious to the Lord
Thomas threw Bibles to the shore and tried to talk to the Koreans about making peace. He asked God to help him. Then the Koreans filled a small boat with tree branches and set them on fire. They pushed the boat toward Thomas’s ship, and the ship caught on fire. The ship’s crew jumped into the river as the ship began to sink. Thomas made it to shore with a Bible. When he saw that he was going to be killed, he held out the Bible to a Korean man and said, “Jesus, Jesus.”

Robert Thomas was 26 years old when he died. Some might say that his life was wasted. But God’s ways are not our ways. The Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

Years later, an American missionary visited a guesthouse in Korea and noticed unusual paper on the walls. Many guests came to the house to read the writing on the wallpaper. The owner of the house, Mr. Park, had covered the walls with pages of the Bible that Robert Thomas had offered to his killers. Mr. Park had also read the walls and given his life to Christ. Mr. Park’s nephew attended a Bible college, and he later helped complete a Korean translation of the Bible that was easier to understand than the Bible that the Koreans had been reading up to that time.

(Source: Restricted Nations:North Korea.)

Watch a video clip about Robert Thomas here.

Learn more about Thomas and 15 other Christian heroes in The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book and DVD set, available at The book includes 144 pages of stories, devotionals, challenging coloring pages, extreme dot-to-dots, crafts, and activities related to the 16 heroes on the accompanying Torchlighters DVDs.

Refusing to Bow

Statue of a North Korean leader

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were zealous for the Lord. The king in their land set up a giant statue of himself and commanded everyone to bow to the image. (See Daniel 3.)

But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God had said: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…” (Exodus 20:4-5a).

The three friends were more zealous for the Lord than for their own safety. They refused to bow to the statue, even though the king threatened to throw them in a fiery furnace. In obedience to God and trusting in His wisdom, they went to the furnace. (Read what they said in Daniel 3:17-18.) God miraculously saved them from harm.

Sometimes God is glorified when martyrs die for their faith in Him. At other times He is glorified when He delivers people from the hands of their persecutors. Our lives are in His hands.

In the 1930s when Japan was ruling over Korea, the rulers ordered citizens to bow to Shinto idols. (Shinto is a Japanese religion that does not agree with the Bible.) The rulers said even students in Christian schools must bow. The leaders of the school, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow, and many Christian schools closed.

Today in North Korea, the people are expected to bow to statues of their leaders and to honor them as gods. Zealous North Korean Christians are in prison, trusting God with their future, because they honor God above all.

To Talk About
• Were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego delivered from the flames because they had more faith than people who die for Christ? Or was their deliverance simply the way God wanted to use their testimony?
• Read Proverbs 3:5. Can you trust God when you don’t know what will happen as a result? Can you trust Him when you don’t always understand how He is working in others’ lives when they are having hard times?

(Source: The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book, available from

Can Your Faith Be a Secret?

Do you bow your head and close your eyes when you pray? Do you know why Christians customarily do so? Many Christians believe bowing their heads and closing their eyes shows respect and humility, and helps those who pray become less distracted.

But in North Korea today, believers can go to prison if they are caught praying to God. So sometimes they pray with their eyes open to keep others from knowing what they are doing. They may look at the person they are with as if they are having a conversation with them. And instead of referencing God, they may use a phrase like “Dear Leader.” (“Dear Leader” is a title used for former leader Kim Il Sung. In this case, Christians are using the title to talk secretly about God.)

Instead of bowing their heads and closing their eyes, they might look at the person sitting next to them and say, “I am so concerned about Sister Kim, who is sick. But I am thankful that our Dear Leader will show special care for her as she needs love and attention.”

What do you think?
• Is it okay for North Koreans to pray without bowing their heads and closing their eyes?
• Is it okay if they are very careful to share their faith with only a few people who might be open to hearing the gospel?
• Is it ever okay to keep your faith secret when Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven”? (See Matthew 10:32-33, ESV.)

(Source: The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book, available from


Korean children enjoy a game similar to hacky sack called jaegi (JAY-ghee). Koreans often use a homemade shuttlecock to play jaegi. A shuttlecock is a small ball or metal ring with something like feathers attached.

To make a jaegi, use a metal plumbing washer about 1 inch in diameter and a 10- to 12-inch square of tissue paper. (Or, make a “washer” by drawing a 1-inch circle on cardboard with a compass. Cut out the circle, then punch a hole in the center with a hole puncher or pencil.)

1. Put the washer along the edge of the tissue paper, centered within the side. (See photos for illustrations of the directions.)
2. Fold a 1-inch strip of the paper over the washer so it is tucked inside the paper.

3. Continue folding the paper in the same direction 1 inch at a time until the paper is fully folded with the washer inside.
4. Poke a pencil through the folded-up paper and through the washer hole.

5. Squeeze one end of the folded tissue paper tightly together and stick it into the hole, pulling it through as far as it will go.

6. Squeeze the other end of the tissue paper and stuff it through the hole, pulling it tightly.

7. To make the paper look like feathers, cut each of the two strips lengthwise twice with scissors and fluff the paper “feathers”.

Follow the instructions below to play the game.

Needed: Bean bags, hacky sacks, or homemade shuttlecocks

Instructions: Divide players into teams of four or five. Have the players on each team take turns seeing how many times they can kick the jaegi gently in the air without dropping it. Each player can take four or five tries. Kicking it even three times is very good for beginners! Add the best scores of each player on each team. The team with the highest total score wins.

(Source: Bold Believers in North Korea, available in the Downloads section of this site)

North Korea: Words of Life in Prison

North Korean homes

Kyung-Ja and her family were often hungry. So Kyung-Ja left her home in North Korea several times and crossed the border into China to look for food. North Korea is a poor country, and many North Koreans take short trips to China to find food. But their trips are illegal.

Twice when Kyung-Ja returned to North Korea, she was arrested and put in prison for a few months. After the third time she was caught, the prison guards treated her more harshly than she had ever been treated before.

The guards thought Kyung-Ja might be a Christian. But Kyung-Ja did not even know there was a God who created the world and sent His Son to save the world from sin. A rough, rude guard hit Kyung-Ja and kept asking her about God, Jesus, and the Bible. But Kyung-Ja had no answers. Finally the guard sent her to a prison labor camp. She took her questions about Christianity with her.

“What is God?” she asked another prisoner in the camp. “What is the Bible?”

“There is such a thing,” the prisoner whispered. “And there is a book. But do not ask. Shhh!”

After six months, Kyung-Ja was set free. She escaped from North Korea and now lives in South Korea. The Bible says, “Seek, and you will find” (Matthew 7:7). Kyung-Ja kept seeking the truth about Christianity, and she found out about Jesus and gave her life to Him. Her love for Him grows stronger every day. She is grateful that she learned the truth, even though she first heard about God from a guard who hated her.

“As I look back,” she said, “it is all God’s grace.”

(Source: The February 2018 The Voice of the Martyrs magazine)

To Talk About
*What is one reason many North Koreans travel to China?
*From whom did Kyung-Ja first hear about God and Jesus?
*Where does Kyung-Ja live now?