My Daughter Wants to Call North Korea Home

By Kathleen Madden

I remember during her middle-school years when Rachel first announced her affection for North Korea. An avid reader of Christian missionary biographies and autobiographies, Rachel read these books as though the subjects of them were her own family members. Even as a little girl of four years, I knew Rachel had a special calling on her life. Having been homeschooled for most of her formative years, it continued to be a challenge to convince her of the importance of “earthly things,” such as writing papers and completing math word problems due to the absolute setting of her mind on the eternal significance of life. With equal parts humility of heart and a clear matter-of-fact sense of reasoning, she would ask me, “Mom, what does this matter when God wants us to focus our thoughts on Him and to share the gospel of His love and saving grace with others?” I was always sobered by that frequent question!

I discovered Hewitt Homeschooling during Rachel’s sophomore year of high school and thought Rachel would flourish with the curriculum and feedback provided by them. The relationship between student and advisor, the vast recommended reading that proved thought-provoking, and the papers that encouraged critical thinking and clear communication of understanding fit Rachel’s mind and eternity-focused heart.

A practical application that took place in our home had to do with serving others joyfully as unto the Lord. Our girls were not allowed to receive money for babysitting until they turned 18, and then they could earn no more than $5 an hour. Seeking to strengthen marriages by investing time as a couple can be challenging enough with the demands of parenting and homeschooling without the financial strain of paying a babysitter. Providing a trustworthy babysitter for young couples was a way our family could come alongside others, as our babysitters had done for my husband and me when our children were little. (There are certainly benefits for older children and young adults working and earning a wage. This is just a way our family sought to focus our children’s hearts to serve during that season of life.)

Through a God-ordained ferry-boat introduction between Rachel’s pastor and a young man with a calling similar to Rachel’s, step by step Rachel’s path has been illuminated; and with each passing season, her heart for the people of North Korea has grown.

This dear ferry-boat, brother-in-Christ poured his own passion for missions into Rachel, answering endless questions, giving encouragement, and always pointing her to the cross and God’s ways being higher than ours. He connected Rachel with a community of believers he had spent time with in Yanji, China, and Rachel made plans to visit for two months to help out with an English program there. Shortly after, Rachel returned to Yanji for a six-month stay. She had hopes of visiting North Korea, and as the six months drew to a close, Rachel found out about a month-long language and culture-immersion tour that would provide such a visit. The tour would cost more than her expenditures during the whole time she had been in Yanji, but Rachel believed strongly that God would provide for her financial need if this tour was part of His plan for her. She asked folks back home for prayer to have wisdom and discernment, but she did not want to mention the amount of the tour, leaving it all up to God.

A few weeks before she was to return to the States, I sent Rachel a text message stating that perhaps God was not intending “now” to be the timing of her entry into North Korea. She had a very limited amount remaining in her bank account—enough to cover the change in her departure date for her return flight and for one more month of her hibernated cell phone bill. I encouraged her to keep praying about a future opportunity to return “someday” when God would clearly reveal His will for her.

Not twenty minutes later, Rachel sent me a screenshot of an email exchange. A couple for whom Rachel had babysat years ago had sent Rachel an e-mail specifically asking for the dollar amount of the tour. Rachel answered the question and the couple replied that they would be covering the entire fee!

I video-chatted Rachel, and with tears streaming down my face, I explained that this moment would forever be a foundational pillar of God’s clear direction and faithfulness in her life. During future times of questioning His leading, she could always look back to this instance of His provision beyond any shadow of doubt for His plan for her life.

Rachel’s desire is for all to know that God loves the people of North Korea. “Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age.”—Isaiah 60:15

 

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