Pray For North Korea

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(RNS) President Trump’s hostile rhetoric against North Korea is being met by ominous threats against the United States from that country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and his regime. That much is clear from reporting by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, who found Kim’s threats echoed by both military and Foreign Ministry officials. The tone of my own encounters with North Koreans was quite different when I visited there six years ago.

I went with Dyon Chang, the founder-owner of the Forever 21 clothing chain and a South Korea-born American citizen. Chang had learned about floods and landslides that had devastated several villages in the northern part of North Korea. Crops had been destroyed and people were dying of hunger. Chang, a devout Christian, arranged to have tons of flour, corn and cooking oil shipped to those villages, with two stipulations.

One was that each bag and container had to have a cross on it, with the words in Korean: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Second, he had to visit the villages to be sure that the supplies were being distributed there. Thus, our trip. We were driven by a high-level government official for 10 hours north of Pyongyang. When we arrived at the villages, we were greeted by women and children, who sang words of welcome and gratitude.

An encounter in one of those villages was particularly memorable. As we were getting ready to leave, a young mother carrying her child, a boy not yet a year old, came over to me and held out her child, clearly wanting me to take him in my arms. She had a pleading look on her face. She clearly wanted me to do something. Hugging the boy, I closed my eyes and prayed for him, asking God to keep him safe and healthy.

When I opened my eyes I kissed the child on the forehead and handed him back. She smiled, with tears streaming down her cheeks. The Taedong Gate beside the river in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photo courtesy of David Stanley, Creative Commons A second memorable encounter, also involving tears, occurred two days later, back in Pyongyang on a Sunday morning. Our government hosts took us to a worship service at a church built by Presbyterian missionaries early in the 20th century.

We were told that it was one of the four legally permitted Christian worship services in the country. That it was not a one-time event staged for us was confirmed by German and Canadian diplomats who were present — they told us they worshipped there each week. I was especially taken with the church’s choir, about 20 members who wore the kinds of robes that could be seen in many local Protestant congregations here in the U.

S. They sang, in Korean, an evangelical favorite: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” As they were singing the verse, which describes how Jesus understands when we are “weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care,” I saw tears streaming down the cheeks of one of the choir members. Women singing in a choir in a North Korean church visited by RNS columnist Richard Mouw in 2011. RNS photo by Richard Mouw The little boy whom I held in the village should be about six years old now.

I still pray for him. And I pray also for the woman in the choir whose tears I saw. I despise Kim Jung Un, North Korea’s leader. But I don’t want us to declare war on his country. I offer up my prayers for peace regularly, but for me those prayers are associated with the tears on two faces. RNS columns are direct-published opinion pieces. They are not always edited and reflect the views only of the author.

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 (Photo: Greg Laurie Facebook video screencap)Greg Laurie speaking in a Facebook video about the North Korean conflict on May 1, 2017. Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, has spoken out about the threat of nuclear war between the United States and North Korea, and analyzed how it all fits into End Times prophecy in the Bible. "As you know, the conflict with this rogue nation has escalated dramatically in recent days and even hours," Laurie said in a Facebook video on Monday, referring to the hostile rhetoric of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Laurie argued that Kim's threat to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons "can't be dismissed or taken lightly." "How does this fit into the prophetic puzzle? Well, in the last days there is no mention of any nation that would resemble North Korea," the megachurch pastor offered, but said that Iran, which is present in the End Times scenario, could potentially acquire weapons from North Korea. "Here is what concerns me.

We do not find the reigning superpower on the face of the Earth anywhere in the Last Days scenario. Other nations emerge. So where is America? I pray we are not out of the picture, because we have been in some kind of nuclear conflict," Laurie added. He urged Americans to pray for Trump, whether they voted for him or not. The pastor looked at Timothy Chapter 2 in the Bible, which reads: "Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

" The passage continues: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Laurie noted that he will be involved in several White House initiatives surrounding the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, and said that Christians in America should be proclaiming Christ's message. He called on believers to be praying for the nation, so that God can give wisdom to its leaders and protect its military.

"That God helps us to make the right decisions in the days and the hour ahead," he added. Laurie has spoken out about the last book of the Bible, Revelation, on a number of occasions in the past year, and said that people will face a final judgment following death. "The only reliable account of afterlife is the Bible," and not people who have described their alleged out-of-body experiences in various books, he said in December.

"Who will be there in the second death? "All those who have rejected God's offer of forgiveness," Laurie said, adding, "Notice, I didn't say bad people." Roman Catholic Church leader Pope Francis also spoke out about his concerns over a possible nuclear conflict with North Korea. "It's piecemeal but the pieces are getting larger, and are concentrated in places which were already hot," Francis told reporters over the weekend.

"Today a wider war would destroy, I won't say half of humanity, but a large part of humanity and culture. It would be terrible. I don't think humanity today could bear it," he added. Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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