By Luther Martin

Faith and fitness are both necessary to be a missionary in North Korea, one of the most closed countries in the world to the message of Christianity. Chinese missionaries are there and preaching but not without having to be fit enough to hike 40 kilometers (24 miles) a day. The following story shows just how important being in shape and physically fit is for these Chinese missionaries.
It was -27 Celsius (-17 Fahrenheit) degrees outside as Je Hae opened the door of her poorly heated room. She would soon begin her daily 20-kilometer hike up and over the mountain to work at a blueberry farm. She had an opportunity to ride there, but passed it up every day so that she could walk instead. Why?
Je Hae is one of the Back to Jerusalem missionaries serving in North Korea, the most hostile country in the world to the message of Christianity. Weeks before, at the risk of imprisonment, Je Hae had begun conversing with a North Korean woman about Jesus Christ. The punishment for converting to Christianity in North Korea is death. Public executions of Christians are still commonplace, and are used as a deterrent to keep people from even questioning someone about the Christian faith.
There are three essentials toward becoming a missionary: 1. Love God. Choose to make God the Lord of your life. 2. Have a willing heart. 3. Understand and embrace the distinct qualities of the Christian faith. Many people ask, “How can I become a missionary”. The real question is, “Are you willing to go”? The mentality is often that missionaries are those “other people”. Instead you need to find the missionary within you. Being a “Christian” is not accomplished by being born and raised with a religious background, wearing the name or following the practices. It becomes real when you love God and pursue his leading in your life. Be willing to be used and you’ll be on your way to being fit to be a missionary. Being a missionary is not about preparing a good Bible story message and delivering it; being a missionary is about preparing yourself. Study, read the Bible, and volunteer yourself to God. Dare to say, “Here am I Lord, send me”, and then look for the opportunities.

The lady who Je Hae befriended had recently been fired from her job at a local store in town, where she earned the equivalent of two U.S. dollars a day. She had been fired because she was pregnant and the store owner said pregnant women were ugly and bad for business. Je Hae saw the lady on the street one day, looking quite distraught. Recognizing the lady, Je Hae inquired of her what was wrong, and the lady shared her story. Je Hae told her she would pray for her and help her to get a job at the blueberry farm. This kindness, compassion, and Je Hae’s willing to risk imprisonment to pray for a stranger warmed the heart of this North Korean woman.
So why was Je Hae walking to work everyday in sub-zero temperatures? She did this because North Korean police and informants could not hear her conversations with her new friend when they were walking along the road. Je Hae had been able to get her friend a job at the blueberry farm and during their walks to work each day she led Ms. Pak to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The 20 kilometer walk (40 kilometers round trip) in the freezing winter of North Korea is now a one-on-one Discipleship / Bible Class. Twice a day, Je Hae is able to disciple Ms. Pak.
When serving as a missionary, being fit is extremely important. There are many challenges that living in an unfamiliar country brings, such as close living quarters, hostile environments, limited water supplies, traversing rugged terrain, and many other physical demands. Below is a simple fitness checklist used on the mission field to keep fit. 1. Hand washing: before touching any food 2. Potable water: drink lots of it 3. Insect repellent: make efforts to avoid insect-transmitted diseases 4. Foods: only well cooked and hot 5. Stretching: each morning for at least 5 minutes 6. Cardio: at least 20 minutes of cardio training 3 times a week 7. Sunscreen: for protection during extend periods of outdoor activity 8. Register with the Embassy: They will keep you updated of any health concerns in your area 9. Rest: to maintain physical strength, the ability to manage stress and mental acuteness 10. Relax: make sure to schedule leisure activities periodically 11. Prayer and Bible study: don’t neglect your own spiritual well being for the sake of others These simple fitness steps can help a missionary stay physically, mentally, and emotionally fit for his or her mission.

There are not many places that discipleship takes place in sub-zero weather, while hiking 40 Kilometers a day, but such is the life of a Back To Jerusalem missionary in North Korea. Faith and fitness are a potent combination for Chinese missionaries. These people are “bodybuilders” with an agenda to serve God and help others. Consider how you can expand the value of your fitness lifestyle by supporting these missionaries through your personal prayer time. Don’t stop there. Use your physical strength, muscular agility, health and your motivated active lifestyle to help others. You may not be hiking daily in the cold of North Korea but you can train like a missionary in North Korea and serve God with strength.

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