Just the other day, CT Senior News Writer Kim Lawton counted up the countries she has visited as a reporter: In her 11 years as a professional journalist, she has visited 16 countries on assignment. A surprising tally. Although she has worked in a variety of journalistic posts (Christianity Today's Washington editor, UPI radio's religion editor, managing editor for News Network International), she has recently made her primary beat religious persecution and freedom-of-conscience issues in oppressive societies.

When reporters like Kim travel, they often make sacrifices and take risks to get the story. That takes dedication. But more amazing than the risk-taking reporter is the risk-taking national who puts life or livelihood in peril in order to get the story out beyond the borders of a totalitarian regime.

Among the repressive societies Kim has visited are Vietnam and China. She visited 'Nam in '95 just before the U.S. renewed diplomatic ties. Christian leaders responded to secret underground news of her presence by risking their lives to meet with her. One pastor traveled several days on a bus from the highlands to tell his tales of persecution. Had that clandestine meeting with an American Christian journalist been discovered, the pastor would have faced charges of treason, punishable by a long prison term or even death.

"They risked treason charges to meet with me because they wanted people in the West to know what they were suffering because of their faith," Kim says. "For me, it was such a humbling experience to meet with those who had already suffered so much and were willing to risk more."

One pastor described for her--"in a very nonchalant, matter-of-fact way"--the details of his imprisonment. "He was in a crowded cell ...

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