By Susan Verstraete
Grandmother Bae burned all three Bibles that her family owned. All night long she sat by the fire, tearing two or three pages at a time out of the book she loved and feeding it to the flames. A North Korean State Security Officer could knock at any time, which made keeping the books just too dangerous.
Can you imagine what was going through her mind as she burned the sacred pages? Did tears stream down her face? Did she wish she had memorized more? And what was Grandfather Bae thinking as he guarded the door until it was finished? How could he lead his family without the Word? How could God save their family or the rest of North Korea when Scripture was outlawed?
These are the Generations tells the exciting and heart-wrenching story of the next three generations of the Bae family, Chinese Christians who escaped to North Korea to flee persecution by the Japanese after World War 2.
I’ve read a great number of Christian biographies, but this one struck me as unique in its honesty about the extremely difficult choices faced by believers under persecution. For example, some Christian families actually hid their beliefs from their own children for fear that the children might slip up in public and bring the Security
Office to the family doorstep. Others, like the Bae family, felt they had to burn God’s Word. A Christian mother asked her son to steal to keep the family from starving, and her believing son did what she asked. The Pastor hid in fear when the Japanese army came to burn down his church, and no one spoke openly about Christ.
I kept asking myself, “What would I have done? Where’s the line between protecting my family and betraying my faith?”
The only criticism I have of the book is that the gospel is not clearly explained in this narrative. At times it sounds as if being a Christian is equivalent to obeying the Ten Commandments, for example, and Mr. Bae never mentions Christ. But Mrs. Bae does mention Him later in the book, and I think that this oversight may be attributed to the lack of systematic teaching in their lives rather than to a completely faulty understanding of redemption. Still, while I heartily recommend reading These are the Generations as a family, I wouldn’t let a preteen read it alone without making sure to explain that we all often believe more than we articulate.
Susan Verstraete is the Church Secretary at FCC.