For the last 15 months, Phillip Buck, 69, an evangelical pastor from Seattle, Washington sat in a jail cell in northeastern China his health deteriorating, not knowing when—or even if—he would get out and see his family in the U.S. again.
Now he is free. Buck had been a key member of the so-called underground railroad that moves refugees from North Korea through China to safety in South Korea.
Buck told TIME, "I did nothing wrong. All I was doing was helping the [North Korean] refugees." Buck had devoted his ministry since 1997 to the cause of aiding North Koreans.
"They [the Chinese authorities] had been after me ever since 2002," Buck says. His sentence includes a ban from ever going back to China, but Buck says he still has a network of people in the country helping run the underground railroad, and he will now figure out ways to help them from afar, in part by raising money to house and feed North Korean refugees in China.
"Every day in prison--457 days—I thought about the refugees and prayed to God to help them. My work is nowhere near finished."
[Excerpted from TIME magazine]