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Pastor Lim at his church -- World Watch Monitor
Pastor Lim addresses his congregation after arriving safely in Canada.
Photo: World Watch Monitor

The large congregation of Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Canada, was ecstatic on Sunday, August 13th, when welcoming home their senior pastor, Hyeon Soo Lim, who was held for more than two years of a life sentence as a prisoner at a North Korean labour camp. The church was also crowded with media personnel recording his significant and almost unexpected return.

Looking happy and healthy, Pastor Lim spoke of his experiences at the labour camp. Overwhelming loneliness was the emotion he remembers most during his imprisonment. He recounted unending days of hard labour which took such a toll on him physically that he lost 23 kilograms (about 50 pounds) and was hospitalized four times. During the winter, he was also subjected to harsh conditions which resulted in severe frostbite on his fingers and toes.

Yet, despite all the hardships he endured, it was the prayers of believers everywhere that sustained him. Over time, his feelings of loneliness and isolation turned into "peaceful solitude with God." Though his days were filled with labour, he "prayed without ceasing." In his message to the Canadian church, he further explained: "I did not have a day of gloom. My moments of discouragement, resentment and grumbling turned into courage, joy and thanksgiving."

In times like these, the 62-year-old pastor was able to see the Lord's mighty hand at work. Once, after almost a year behind bars, friends from his church in Canada sent him Korean and English Bibles. Remarkably, in a country ranked the hardest place in which to practise Christianity, the guards allowed him to keep them. He recounted reading through the Korean Bible four times and the English Bible once, memorizing more than 700 Bible verses. During this time, he also wrote five new hymns in Korean -- some of which were sung on Sunday by the members of his congregation...with tears streaming down their faces.

Pastor Lim was first arrested in January 2015, after being charged with "defaming" North Korean leader Kim Jong-un -- which he denies -- and sentenced to life in a labour camp. It was a charge that came across as shocking for a man who had merely shown compassion towards the suffering people of North Korea through his devotion to help them. As a result of the ministry he and his church began in 1997, millions of dollars of charitable assistance was poured into North Korea -- from orphanages to homes for senior citizens, as well as farming and educational programs.

Upon arriving at a Canadian military base in Toronto after his August 9th release, Pastor Lim was a most blessed recipient of hugs from his wife, son and one-year-old granddaughter, whom he had never before seen. In accordance with the welcome festivities, a reception was held at the church the following day. It was filled with overwhelming and contagious joy. We rejoice with Pastor Lim's loved ones and church family over the wonderful news of his safe return home, and our prayers will continue to be with him as he adjusts to life back in Canada. To view a recently televised interview with Pastor Lim, visit this page.