The biggest problem while I lived in Russia over the past 10 years was my legal status. The legal status issue, i.e., that my illegal immigration status be legalized, was always on my prayer list every New Year.
The efforts of State Security Department of North Korea to repatriate people were relentless as well. On January 26, 2010, I was at the work site as usual with a wood cutter named Mr. Rowe. Suddenly, I heard the phone ring, and upon answering the call I heard a tense voice from Brother Lee. Around 8:15 in the morning, I heard the unexpected news that the Russian police who kept watching in front of the house arrested two people including Brother Lee.
I informed Yala Mission of this news. All the members of Yala Mission wrestled in intercessory prayers for these brothers and set up a plan to rescue them. However, they ended up falling at the hands of the North Korean representatives through the Russian police. Since they had the names and telephone numbers of missionaries from Yala Mission as well as name cards of South Korean missionaries, we were well aware of the fact that they would be executed at the political prisoner camps once they are repatriated to North Korea. So, all my brethren and I were very nervous.
From that day on, we eluded the capture by wandering from place to place, and experienced serious conflicts among us as we went on together. One brother broke down under the weight of fear, and ended up continuing to drink and to live a dissipated life. One brother, who came off the gambling as he accepted Jesus, went back to a casino and lost all his money there. Another brother, after drinking with three other brothers, packed his belongings, left home, and tried to go to the North Korean representatives to turn himself in, so we barely calmed him down.
Unable to bear the sight of my brethren falling into the pitfalls of the past, I strongly rebuked two of my brethren: “This isn’t a time for these. What are you doing now, when we may not have enough time to pray even if we stay awake and pray all days and nights? God delivered the Savior to us, but we do not know who will be truly saved among us. We should exercise self-control on everything, be awake, and pray in earnest.”
At that moment, I realized that a life that accepted Jesus but was not truly transformed is a life as transient as flowers of the field. Finally, Brother Park and I have decided to enter the consulate office of the Republic of Korea in Vladivostok. First of all, I reconnoitered the lay around the consulate office and how the police agents are arrayed throughout three times. Brother Park and I have decided to do it on Tuesday, March 9, 2010, and prayed days and nights as we offered worship services to God.
On March 8, Director Cho from Yala Mission informed the South Korean consuls that I would be entering the consulate office, and arranged a contact with the US Department of State. The next morning, I prayed to God earnestly, and sang hymns strongly. At 9 a.m., Brother Park and I called a taxi and headed towards the South Korean consulate office. The pulse seemed to be quickening as I felt anxious. My soul was calm; it was a feeling that I have never felt before — the peace of joy from deep inside of my heart.
At no time, the taxi arrived in front of the South Korean consulate office. I asked the taxi driver to just pass, and we ran towards the wall of the consulate office. The straight-line distance between the duty officers were about 20 meters; the height of the wall was about 1.8 meters; the distance between the wall and the building was about 15 meters; and the distance between the office of the duty officers and the inside building of the consulate office was about 20 meters.
With little time to look around, we climbed over the wall. Upon detecting us, the agents on duty shouted at us, “stop!” They ran across the yard of the consulate office and dashed toward us. As soon as we fell off from the wall, we immediately ran to the entrance door with all our strength.
Indeed, it was like a 100-meter dash where every second counts. By the time I opened the entrance door and entered, the pursuing agents could almost grab Brother Park who was right behind me; it was a close call. The security officers could no longer follow us inside of the building, and we finally succeeded in entering the consulate office of the Republic of Korea.
During my first interview at that time, I suggested that I may go to the United States where the human rights are respected and the freedom of faith is protected. I did that because first, I wanted to study in the seminary in order to evangelize North Korea and second, I was curious about the United States. I wanted to have the right understanding of the United States which was perceived by North Koreans to be their adversary and enemy state.
From there, I was granted a refugee status after going through all the procedures and proceedings for 182 days. I left Vladivostok via the office of the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) in Moscow, and safely entered the United States on September 9, 2010, becoming the 100th North Korean defector who settled in the United States. I confess that I came this far by the amazing love and grace of almighty God who oversees man’s life and death and protects and guides people in such an unfathomable way that people cannot even imagine.
Once again, I deeply appreciate the blessing of being able to meet dear Pastor Charles Hong, US government officers who took care of me until I came to the US, UNHCR personnel, and members of Yala Mission and their families.
Andrei Jo, First Missionary from Yala Mission
By Andrew Jo
Entered the U.S. in 2010
Resident of Georgia