On Christmas and Sister Yang

Stories like this one make me remember how significant Jesus’ birth day really is.

Click on the above link to see the short video, or read her story below:

At the height of the famine in North Korea, 10 or 11 people were dying of starvation daily in Sister Yang’s village. At times, she had to eat wood and even sand. In 2002, she escaped to China in search of food and a chance to earn some money. It was in China that she first heard about God.

“A woman in China told me about the existence of God and that if you meet God you will be blessed,” Sister Yang said. “I believed in God and returned to North Korea as a Christian. It was then I was overheard praying. When a co-worker asked what I was doing, I didn’t answer. But soon I was arrested and tortured for 30 days.”

Sister Yang was watched constantly by police, and her family disowned her. With no place to go, she again fled to China. But after reaching China, she was kidnapped and sold as a slave to a Chinese businessman.

“I had been raped by my slave owner and was six months pregnant when a friend and I hired some brokers to help us escape into South Korea. But we got lost on the Mongolian border. There, I miscarried and laid the baby in my handbag, which I carried with me. All around us were bones – bones of others who had gone before us trying to escape.”

Sister Yang’s friend died from the cold and hunger. Finally, she lay down next to the bodies of her friend and her miscarried child and prayed that God would save her. Two days later, she was discovered lying in the snow by Mongolian border guards. All of the toes on her left foot had to be amputated because of frostbite.

“My faith has been tested,” Sister Yang said, “but God has saved me and I am living for God. I want to be a missionary. I want to return to North Korea and tell my people of God’s love.”

Sister Yang wants to return to North Korea to tell them about Jesus.

That blows my mind.

If anyone has a “right” to be bitter about their circumstances, it would be her: the woman whose God failed to answer her prayers of rescue, and instead struck her with starvation, abuse, rejection by her family, imprisonment, miscarriage, slavery, amputations, and death.

But Sister Yang instead rejoices in God’s love lavished on her, and calls herself blessed for knowing this God.

Yang isn’t just an immutable person who just takes rape and torture with unflappable grace. Those people don’t exist. Abuse cuts to the very center of your soul– to the core of who you are. It shapes and defines how you see yourself and others from that day forward. Yang isn’t just a really nice woman (though I bet she is quite nice). Being disowned by her entire family and sexually abused by her captors had to tear away at how she saw herself and saw the world. But in Jesus, she is redeemed. She is recreated. She is whole. And she is more greatly loved than ever before and ever since.

You can’t make this stuff up. Nobody’s going to cling to a God who: (a) calls His way to heaven the only way; (b) sometimes calls His followers into times of unfathomable suffering for the sake of proclaiming His name — unless that God is real. Unless all that love, that grace, that freedom, is really real.

Jesus is that real. He really was born, a tiny baby in a dirty manger, to a young unmarried couple. He really was and is the Son of God, who came to save you from your sin and redeem you into a glorious life of freedom and hope.

He saw you. He knew you before you were made — he knew your every sin, even those ones you haven’t told anyone about. He knows all the times you chose to worship something other than Him, all those times you chose something else over following Him, all those times you failed those close to you.

He really knows who you are, all the way to the very bottom. And He loves you all the way to the top.

Enough to come as a vulnerable baby born to die for you, take on the sins of the world, and defeat Satan, sin, and death– for His glory and your gain.

That’s the Savior of Yang’s heart. And that’s the man whose birth day we celebrated yesterday.

Happy birthday, Jesus! Thank You for coming to earth to die and resurrect to save me… and save Sister Yang. Your love is better than security and worldly acceptance and control. It is really, really real… and it is life.

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