Genre: Inspirational Fiction
Author: Alana Terry
PURCHASE THE BELOVED DAUGHTER HERE
A BRUISED REED
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will
not snuff out.” Isaiah 42:3
The wind howled, pummeling gusts of snow through the
cracks in our cabin walls. If the stinging cold and the hunger
pains weren’t enough to keep me awake, my parents’ hushed
argument was. I hugged my blanket as I listened to their voices,
forceful and angry as the winter gale.
“We can’t risk drawing attention to ourselves,” Mother
warned. “These inspectors report to Pyongyang.”
I slipped one eye open, just a crack. I knew my parents were
anxious about the arrival of the inspections unit from Pyongyang,
our nation’s capital. Kim Jong-Il, the Dear Leader himself, sent
these inspectors to Hasambong to weed out any subversive
citizens. No one in Hasambong felt safe, even us children.
My parents stood in the middle of our cabin facing each
other. Father didn’t move at all. His face reminded me of the
statue of our nation’s founder in front of our school. Kim Il-
Sung’s bronze image never yielded in rain or snow or hail or
storm but gazed resolutely at his starving citizens with cold and
“I will not renounce the truths of Scripture just to make my
life here on this earth a little more comfortable,” Father spat. He
was still whispering, but the forcefulness of his words filled our
cabin like the roar of the angry Tumen River in flood season. “‘If
you falter in times of trouble,’” Father quoted, “‘how small is
Mother swore. “Don’t talk to me about strength! Don’t you
think I wish things were different? But they’re not. You think I’m a
coward. But I’m the one who watches out for our daughter’s safety
while you bring open suspicion upon our household right in front of
the inspectors. No, Husband.” Mother pointed a finger in his face.
“It is you who are the coward.”
Instinctively, I longed to rush to Father’s aid. In the candlelight,
I saw Father’s frame droop. His shoulders sagged. He looked older
and frailer than I ever saw him before. I waited for Father to
respond, willing him to defend himself, but he was silent.
“You dare speak to me about courage,” Mother continued,
probably unaware that she was close to shouting now. “You
don’t realize how much courage it takes to get up every morning
and go to work, knowing that my daughter could be interrogated
any day by her teachers at that school. Knowing that I’m
powerless to worship God like the Good Book says if I want my
only child to see her thirteenth birthday. Knowing that my
husband thinks I’m an apostate because I would rather see
Chung-Cha survive to adulthood. And meanwhile you – for the
sake of a mere philosophy – are willing to condemn our entire
family to prison camp. Of course you realize what those guards
would do to Chung-Cha there, don’t you?” I prayed for sleep to
shield me from my mother’s words, and I clenched my thin
blanket tight against me.
“And do you know what will happen to Chung-Cha if she
dies without ever learning the good news?” Father asked quietly.
“She knows the good news,” Mother insisted. “Why isn’t
that enough? Why do you continue to endanger our only
child? Especially now with the inspectors here, looking to
make an example of traitors?”
“The Lord will care for us,” Father promised. I pretended not
to hear the strain in his voice.
“You are certain of God’s provision,” Mother countered.
“Yet if Chung-Cha doesn’t die of cold and hunger this winter,
she’ll just as likely die in a prison camp this spring. All because
of your recklessness. You have the word of God in your heart.
Why can’t you keep it there instead of speaking so openly and
condemning us all?”
Father was speechless. I willed away the sob that was rising in
my throat at the sight of my dear father so humiliated. Could
Mother be right? I never met anyone like my father, who
memorized whole books of the Bible although Scripture was
outlawed in North Korea, who whispered the gospel to his co-
workers but never was caught. Father’s faith was so strong that I
was certain the Hasambong mountains themselves would one day
cave in at the sound of his prayers breathed in the darkness. Could
this man – whose love for his Creator was so vast that the entire
North Hamyong Province hardly seemed large enough to contain
it – really be wrong to love God so deeply? Was Father foolish to
obey God so fearlessly?
Father always promised that God would care for us just like
he cared for the sparrows. Years ago, I was quick and eager to
believe Father’s words of faith. But as each month of the famine
grew worse, as each night I shivered from the cold and clenched
my empty stomach while listening in on my parents’
disagreements, I wondered if my mother could be right. Seeds of
doubt found fertile soil in my empty belly.
In our Hasambong village, even the sparrows were falling to
the ground from starvation, not to rise again.
Now with the inspectors here, the danger was even more
real. The prison camps were more than rumors. Two families in
our small village of Hasambong had been relocated since the
start of the famine. One couple was caught with a stolen potato.
The other family, whose infant I played with before she starved
to death, was accused of cannibalism.
Was Mother right? With the People’s Safety Agency here
to inspect us, wouldn’t God understand if Father was less vocal
about his faith, given the circumstances and grave dangers to
My father sighed, and I held my breath to hear what he
would say in his defense. “I am not a fool. I know what risks
come from following Jesus Christ.” Father’s voice wasn’t angry
anymore, but gentle, like the snow that occasionally covered the
Hasambong mountainside in a blanket of unblemished white.
“Chung-Cha is a gift from God … as are you.” Father reached
out his calloused, work-worn hand to wipe a tear off Mother’s
gaunt cheek. She turned away with a disdainful snort.
Father continued, “Nevertheless, if I began to love these gifts
more than the One who entrusted them to me, then I would not
be able to look my Savior in the face when I stand before him
and give an account of my life.
“It is God who gives me breath.” The confidence of
Father’s quiet confession filled our cabin with uncharacteristic
warmth. “And as long as my old worn-out heart keeps beating,
as long as these tired lungs continue to draw air, I will not
remain silent. I cannot. I will proclaim the Good News until my
Savior returns to rule the earth or until he calls me home.”
My heart swelled at Father’s words of triumph and faith. I
watched Mother’s face to see if she felt the same wave of
power, the same surge of hope, that transcended the suffering
and fear – even the constant hunger – of our provincial lives in
rural North Korea.
Mother brushed past Father and unpinned her hair. She
walked to the bed, yanked down the tattered blanket, and hissed,
“Your stubborn faith will be the death of us all.”