A Review of Not Forgotten, By Kenneth Bae

Can you imagine a world where praying would be against the law or a country where bringing in groups of people to pray could be seen as an act of terrorism? That is precisely the situation in North Korea. A missionary and pastor named Kenneth Bae found that out the hard way, and he tells the story in his book Not Forgotten: The True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea.
 
Years before his arrest, Kenneth felt the Lord calling him to be “a bridge connecting North Korea to the outside world.” He answered that call by setting up a ministry in Dandong China located on the Yolu River that forms the border between China and North Korea. His ministry was disguised as a travel agency that hosted tours inside the dark country. What the North Korean authorities did not know was that the tourists were all believers, and their purpose in the country was to pray for the North Korean people.
 
Bae’s ministry was strictly a ministry of prayer. Sharing the gospel would bring too much attention, so they simply walked the streets silently praying while doing acts of kindness for the North Korean people in order to demonstrate the love of Christ to them. God through Kenneth Bae, built a network of believers in the country that became hosts to Bea’s “tour groups.” The plans were in place to begin an organized and secret prayer meeting for believers at a hotel in Rason. Bae got busted before the plans could be executed.
 
You might wonder what could possibly be threatening about people praying especially in a country that does not believe in God? There are several reasons. First, in North Korea, everyone is suspect. Every American is assumed to be working for the CIA and planning a coupe. Second, it is not true to say that North Koreans, in general, do not believe in God. They do believe in God. At the time of Bae’s missionary activities, God’s name was Kim Jong Il. If people were in the country praying in the name of Jesus and working in the name of Jesus, then that was a threat to the man they believed to be the true God of all.
 
I want you to read the book, so I won’t spoil the story and tell you how he got caught. I will only tell you that Kenneth confessed everything to the authorities. He confessed to being a missionary and pastor. He confessed to bringing people into North Korea for the purpose of praying and loving on the Korean people in the name of Jesus. For these crimes, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison camp. 
 
What is most interesting about the story is that Kenneth Bae worked in North Korea for years. He led hundreds of Christians into the country to do mission work. However, he did not become the missionary that God called him to be until after he was arrested. Once arrested, God freed Kenneth to tell the truth. He truly became a “bridge” to the outside world for many of his guards in the labor camp, his prosecutors, and his wardens.
 
It took a while, but God worked through Kenneth in a powerful and miraculous way once he submitted himself to the Lord and recognized why he’d been caught. He prayed aloud. He sang praise songs while working in the labor camp. He even took some of the songs that the people sang to Kim Jong Il, and replaced the Supreme Leader’s name with the name of Jesus and sang those at night in prison.
 
This made a tremendous impact on his guards and handlers. They softened and started asking questions. He became a pastor to them. He gave them marriage advice from Scripture. He taught them what life was really like outside of North Korea. This might not sound like much, but understand, these people truly know nothing except what their country’s propaganda machine has fed them. It absolutely shocked me, how much the North Korean’s really don’t know about the outside world, especially America. This served to drastically shape and better inform my prayers for North Korea. 
 
I commend to you this book, Not Forgotten, by Kenneth Bae. It is the story of how God can accomplish His mighty purpose in us when we submit ourselves to Him. It will also aid you in praying for the people of North Korea.