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, available from VOMBooks.com.)
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 VOMBooks.com. 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.