Brian is a well known Bible teacher with a particular emphasis on Biblical end time events. Believing that these events are already underway, he believes that the Rapture of the Church to glory is imminent. Brian and Gilly (pic here with Bethan)travel throughout the UK and he also teaches in Europe and the USA. Although they are regularly in fellowships and churches who know them well, they are most happy to visit new venues to bring the message of the Gospel and the nearness of Christs return.
Friday, 15 November 2013
"SPREADING THE GOSPEL IN NORTH KOREA" FROM THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.
Spreading the gospel in North Korea
Christian missionaries have set up an extraordinary network of front companies - including tour agencies, bakeries, factories, farms, schools and orphanages - in order to spread the Gospel inside North Korea
For nearly two years, Kenneth Bae, a father of three and an American citizen, ran a successful travel company offering tours of North Korea.
But as the 44-year-old passed through the Wonjong border crossing in November 2012, he was suddenly arrested. Convicted of "hostile acts" towards North Korea, he is currently serving 15 years in a labour camp.
What exactly happened remains a mystery. Mr Bae had taken at least 15 other tour groups into North Korea without incident. However, it seems clear that his mission to spread the Christian gospel was at least one major factor that landed him in trouble.
Mr Bae is not alone in using his company, Nations Tour, to evangelise inside North Korea. While precise numbers are impossible to pin down, the network of well-financed front companies, missions operating as businesses, is extensive.
North Korea, the most hostile country in the world to organised religion, has a strong pull for a certain stripe of evangelical Christians, and the 288 sq mile "Special Economic Zone" outside the city of Rason, where Mr Bae was detained, is Ground Zero for these modern apostles.
The zone in the far Northeast corner of the country welcomes foreign investment. North Korea is desperate for food, fuel and cash, the authorities have largely turned a blind eye to investors with goals that may not be purely commercial.
"The only people willing to do business in North Korea are ones who do not really care if they make money or not, ones that have other reasons for being there," said Patrick Chovanec, an economist who has visited North Korea extensively. "There is a certain level of cognitive dissonance there on both sides, which is not uncommon in North Korea."
According to one American who once travelled with Mr Bae, but who asked to remain anonymous, their group was able to carry bibles with them into the zone. Possession of bibles by North Koreans can lead to imprisonment, torture and perhaps even death.
The source said a delicate dance had played out on their arrival, with their bibles being counted by the border guards on their way in and then again when they left to make sure none had been distributed.
At the final inspection, the guards even flipped through each copy to make sure no pages had been ripped out and left behind.
Before arriving at the border, the 15-member group was told by Mr Bae not to discuss politics or carry out any overt proselytising. The two or three pastors travelling with them were not to be addressed by their titles.
Once inside North Korea, they were accompanied by government minders at all times. On group hikes with these "tour guides", the source said they sang Christian songs, but hummed key verses to avoid saying "God" out loud.
"That was our way of worshipping and praising in our hearts, even if we could not say it," the source said. "Talking about God directly, that would be asking for a death sentence."
However, for every rule, there is a way around it. In a 2009 sermon, Mr Bae recalled how he had spread the word among the local population.
"One night, I suggested that the team go to karaoke for foreigners to 'worship', but there was a blackout so we had to go out and just sit at the beach. There were also around 30 North Koreans who came out because of the blackout.
"We just worshipped, singing songs about Jesus and playing the guitar like we were playing around. There was one team member from Ghana, so I asked him to pray for us in his language. He came to the front and started repeating, 'God is great' for ten minutes in his language. I was disconcerted but the North Koreans started following this. At the end of the worship, he said, 'Amen' and then all of the North Koreans were surprised and his words spread out quickly."
The tourist who travelled with Mr Bae insisted that he had "no malicious intent" and that his public prayers for the "walls" to come down in North Korea were simply a call for "the leadership to allow more freedom for their people to freely worship if they want to." However, the source conceded that his intent could well have been misinterpreted "from the North Korean government's perspective".
Mr Bae had been trained and sent out by Youth with a Mission, or YWAM. Founded in 1960, the Hawaii-based ministry has become one of the largest missionary organisations in the world.
YWAM has long been an advocate of the "Business as Mission" model, and has its own School of Business and Entrepreneurship.
Its Strategic Frontiers division – which covers much of Asia, in addition to parts
of North Africa and the Middle East – exists "to bring the Kingdom of God to the least reached peoples by creating businesses that operate with biblical principles with the aim of bringing spiritual, social, and physical transformation in and through the business sphere."
Loren Cunningham, YWAM's founder, has said smuggling bibles into North Korea is a critical goal: they will be vital to sustaining morality when the Kim regime eventually collapses.
Perhaps the most firmly planted mission business in North Korea is Krahun Co., a foreign-owned tourism and trade company headquartered in Rason. Operated by a Korean-American named Chris Kim, and his wife, Krahun first set up in 1999 with a goat farm and today has ventures in wholesale rice, detergent, carpets and other "handmade items". There are no public records to show whether it is commercially successful, reliant on church support, or both.
What is surprisingly public, on the other hand, is Krahun's underlying motivation for doing business there.
"Krahun seeks to be a bridge between the Democratic Republic of Korea and the outside world to facilitate believers who have been called by the Father to be His representatives by serving its people through short visits or immigrating to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to be their welcomed neighbours," was how the company described itself at a student missionary conference in St Louis, Missouri, last year.
They call these short visits "vision trips", which combine sightseeing with the chance to "bless the land and its people."
Ben Torrey, the director of another missionary group called the Fourth River Project, knows Chris Kim and Krahun well. According to Mr Torrey, a gentlemen's agreement of sorts exists between Krahun and North Korean officials.
"The authorities know that [Chris Kim's] supporters are Christians and want to come pray for the nation," he said. "They are comfortable with them doing that as long as they do not disparage the North Korean leadership and do not try to evangelise North Koreans or get them involved in the group's religious activities."