Friday, November 20, 2015

Former Church of God Member Was Imprisoned In North Korea For Smuggling In Bible

Glynn Washington had a link up on Facebook to an article about Edward Fowle, who was imprisoned in North Korea, for leaving a Bible in a bathroom as a way of evangelism.  You may remember this story from last year.  It made the news everywhere, though the connection to Armstrongism was missing from most reports.

The complete story is here and is absolutely fascinating to read.  Holiday at the Dictators Guesthouse:What possessed a family man from Ohio to smuggle a Bible into North Korea?

On the morning of August 1, 2014, Jeffrey Fowle woke before seven in his room at a guesthouse in Pyongyang, North Korea. Soon a young woman arrived with his breakfast of rice, broth, and kimchi. She smiled as she set the tray down on the large desk at the foot of the bed, then walked out of the room and locked the door behind her. It was Fowle’s 87th day in custody.

He sat at the desk, watching a shadow play across his window. An opaque vinyl film had been applied to the glass, so Fowle could see only silhouettes walking past. That April, when Fowle had traveled to Pyongyang, he’d felt that God wanted him to help North Korea’s oppressed Christian underground. His attempt took the form of a Korean-English Bible, left behind in a bar bathroom; he was taken into custody as he tried to leave the country. Fowle poured the broth over his rice and began to eat.

An hour later, Mr. Jo, Fowle’s interpreter and minder, appeared at the door: His slacks were ironed, and he’d traded his usual polo shirt for a crisp dress shirt. “Today is the day,” Mr. Jo said. “Be ready.”

A few weeks earlier, Mr. Jo had told Fowle that he might be allowed to speak with international media. It would be his first chance to tell the world about his situation, and to remind the U.S. government that he needed help. At noon, Mr. Jo led Fowle to a conference room on the other side of the guesthouse, reminding him of his talking points along the way.

“Emphasize your desperation for wanting to get home and that your family needs you back,” Mr. Jo said. “Put some emotion into it.” He suggested that it might be good if Fowle cried. In the conference room, Fowle was seated at a long table with a couple of North Korean journalists from the Associated Press Television News. Instead of press badges, each reporter wore a pin with the smiling face of Kim Il-sung.

Later on in the article there is this bit about the Worldwide Church of God:

Fowle had stopped going to church when he was 12. His parents, Edward and Virginia, were Episcopalian when they married. Edward was a guidance-systems specialist in the Air Force. They lived in Florida when Fowle was born, in 1958, but a few years later, Edward was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, outside Dayton. The family built a house in nearby Beavercreek. Virginia was a homemaker, raising Fowle and his three siblings. Each Sunday, they attended services at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

As the family settled into their new home, Edward began to have a crisis of faith. At a time when new religious movements were multiplying, he became fascinated by the Worldwide Church of God, an organization led by Herbert W. Armstrong, who had helped pioneer the use of radio and television to reach far-flung worshippers. His teachings leaned heavily on the Old Testament and British Israelism, which held that white Europeans of the British Empire descended directly from King David.

Edward quickly became serious about his new beliefs. He forbade the family from celebrating Christmas, pushing them instead toward Old Testament celebrations. In the fall of 1967, he took the children out of school and drove the family to the Pocono Mountains, to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles. During the festivities, Fowle’s brother, Jaime, ran through a window, slicing his eyelids open; his younger sister, Lynn, developed pneumonia. Virginia’s patience ran out, and she returned to St. Mark’s.

Despite the rift, Edward’s commitment deepened. When Armstrong said that his adherents could serve only one master, God or government, Edward left the Air Force after 13 years of service. He resigned without hesitation and without Virginia’s blessing. He continued working at Wright-Patterson as a private contractor but forfeited his pension.

The Fowle household was divided. On Saturdays, Edward dragged Jeffrey and his sister Laurie to Worldwide Church of God services. On Sundays, Virginia took Jamie and Lynn to St. Mark’s. By 1970, Jeffrey Fowle had stopped going to church altogether.

Jeffrey Fowle, American Detained in North Korea, Was on Vacation, Lawyer Says

Jeffery Fowle, American  Detained In North Korea Released

Jeffrey Fowle, American Held By Norht Korea, Is Freed 


Connie Schmidt said...

Sounds like Fowles experience in North Korea was more tolerable than being in either Flurrys or Packs churches!

I wonder what would happen to someone who smuggled in a copy of the recent Merideth articles here at BANNED and left them in the bathroom as a form of evangelism at their local Living Church of God services?

Byker Bob said...

This is such an awesome story! Are there any Jeffrey Fowle T-shirts?