In what some are calling an answer to prayer, Hyeon Soo Lim, the Canadian pastor freed from a North Korean prison on humanitarian grounds, is healthy and not in critical condition.
On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Lim family, Lisa Pak, said the latest update on the pastor's well-being is that he is healthy and "not in critical condition." The family is "relieved, grateful, excited, anxious to see him home," she said.
Raymond Cho, a member of parliament who knows Pastor Lim, said Lim's release - and reported good health - is an answer to prayer. "I believe in the power of prayer," he said, "I prayed for him every night, twice a night."
Another politician who had campaigned for his release, Senator Yonah Martin said, "I had a great sense of relief but it took me by surprise only because it had been so long."
Lim, who pastored the Toronto-area Light Korean Presbyterian Church, one of the largest churches in Canada, had been sentenced to hard labor for life in December 2015 after North Korea accused him of attempting to overthrow the regime.
"I hope I can go home someday," Lim told CNN one month into his sentence. "Nobody knows if I will ever go home, but that is my hope. I miss my family. I am longing to see them again, and my congregation."
On Wednesday, North Korea's KCNA news agency said he was released on "sick bail".
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the release Thursday and said he was "pleased and relieved" the pastor "will soon be reunited with his family and friends in Canada."
"Pastor Lim's health and well-being remain of utmost importance to the Government of Canada, and we are working to ensure that he receives any required medical attention," he added.
Footage from Japan's ANN television showed Lim walking on a tarmac next to Canada's national security adviser, Daniel Jean, at the Yokata Air Base and shaking hands with various unidentified people.
Reuters reports that Lim's case was taken up by a delegation led by Jean that had gone to North Korea earlier in the week. Sweden's embassy in Pyongyang also helped, according to a Trudeau spokesperson.
Lim's family became particularly concerned for his well-being following the death of US student Otto Warmbier earlier this year, after his release from North Korean imprisonment. At the time, the family called on Canada to be more aggressive in ensuring their the pastor's release.
"The family is very concerned at this point," Pak said in June, according to Reuters. "They are hoping the Canadian government will turn (efforts) up a few notches in terms of active diplomacy and really start engaging."
A Swedish ambassador visited Lim earlier this year on behalf of the country, and said he was in decent health, according to Pak.
"There is a long way to go in terms of Reverend Lim's healing, therefore, in the meantime we ask the media for privacy as he reconnects with his loved ones and receives medical attention," the family said.
North Korea is ranked #1 on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.