In the book, Torn Asunder by Alana Terry, we are faced with the hard facts of life in North Korea. To be a believer in Jesus Christ is a death sentence, or a sentence of condemnation to life in a labor camp or torture, or at the very least, living a secret life filled with the fear of discovery. In the book, Slave Again, the reader is introduced to an American businessman and his wife, Roger and Juliette Stern. They run a Secret Seminary where they train North Korean refugees who want to return to their country with the gospel of Christ as missionaries. It is the most dangerous mission field in the world. Slave Again tells us a little about the men and women who volunteered to return to their homeland.
Even with the references to the Sterns and their training program, Torn Asunder still stands on its own very well. Rather than being a sequel to Slave Again, the reverse is more true; Slave Again is better described as a pre-quel to Torn Asunder. In this suspenseful story, we follow Simon and Hannah, two of the Sterns’ pupils, as they enter North Korea, their first missions and subsequent capture. The story is gritty and sometimes difficult to read. But it is also inspiring.
Simon had fallen in love with Hannah the first day he met her at the Stern’s home in Sanji. His love for her grew during their year of training together, learning to become secret missionaries in their homeland. When the Sterns attempts to disuade Hannah from re-entering North Korea failed, he tried to convince her to do something safer. But she remained adamant. It was the Sterns’ policy to send out each missionary out alone. They were not to work together as partners because of the dangers of betraying each other under duress. Simon knew this but he was determined to follow Hannah once she crossed the river. It wasn’t long before he regretted this decision. Only two days into her mission, Hannah was captured and taken to the local jail where she was interrogated. Broken-hearted, Simon completed Hannah’s mission and warned the recipients of the Bibles of her fate. Just as he was about to begin his own assignment, he was taken and placed in the same jail. After their grueling experience, they were separated. Simon was taken to Camp 22, while Hannah was somehow placed in a safe house where her wounds would heal. Hannah had been chosen by the mysterious and legendary “Moses” for work in the underground church.
This is an exciting and chilling tale of native North Koreans and how God used them to encourage other members of the underground church. I just couldn’t put this book down once I started reading it. The nail-biting suspense kept me glued to the pages. It isn’t a pretty story, although the love between Simon and Hannah is endearing and uplifting. Their love for God and for each other sustains them through many painful encounters and long days of solitary confinement. Hannah often repeated hymns and Scripture to herself to keep her morale up, while Simon had vast reserves of Bible verses hidden away in his heart. But what kept Simon sane most were his dreams of a life with Hannah some time in the future.
While this book may be tough to read because of the realistic descriptions of their suffering, it is well worth reading. The reader gets to view the ugly underbelly of a nation’s efforts to squelch Christian voices. We see through Hannah and Simon’s eyes what happens to people whose only guilt is to be discovered loving God and their fellow believers. For me, this was an eye-opener. It has given me a closer look at the way many people bear unfair treatment for Jesus. I have a newly formed empathy and love for these believers. This book has played a part in reforming my prayer life.
The third thing I like about this book is the author’s writing style. The subject matter Ms. Terry has chosen to write about isn’t an easy one to convey without crossing over the invisible line of what is acceptable to put into a book of the Christian genre. But I feel that lines need to be crossed if we readers are to be shaken out of our safe, secure, and unfortunately complacent worlds. In my opinion the author has accomplished this fragile balance. I can only hope many people will read her books, feel the pain of empathy, and be compelled to reach out to help. There are many ways available. In addition, I hope many will become prayer warriors in earnest for those suffering for Christ. May we also display more gratitude for the blessings in life that already surround us every day.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”