A prayer service was held Sunday night aimed at keeping spirits high for friends and family of the Canadian minister facing a life sentence in a North Korean jail. ​

Hyeon Soo Lim, who is in his early 60s, is pastor of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont. He was charged with several offences, including harming the dignity of North Korea's supreme leadership and trying to use religion to destroy their system.

Last Wednesday, after Lim was sentenced to life in prison at hard labour, his Toronto-area community urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's new government to get involved.


North Korea sentenced church minister Hyeon Soo Lim to life in prison last December, accusing him of plotting to overthrow the North Korean government. (Kyodo/Reuters)

"We would love for the Trudeau government to let us know that they're on the case and they're doing due diligence and they're doing everything they can," Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman for the family and the church, told CBC News at the service, which drew a huge crowd.

"If they can give us their assurance, we're fully supportive of their efforts that they would address this issue and make it a high priority."

CBC News has learned Lim has received access to the Canadian consular office. 

Lim's relatives and colleagues have said the pastor went to North Korea on Jan. 31 as part of a humanitarian mission. They said he supports a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage in the country, and has made more than 100 trips since 1997 aimed at helping people. 

"The charges are curious," Pak said, adding Lim "always had a compassion for the people there and he's a wise traveller."

"There's one petition to the House of Commons just to urge the Trudeau government," Pak said, adding the government is doing the best they can but they'd like to ensure this remains an important issue. Another petition was also being signed — this one was being sent to the United Nations. 

"The Canadian community does stand behind us," she noted. "We really do want the UN to get on board with this and to help us as Canadians."

'We really do want the UN to get on board with this and to help us as Canadians.' - Lisa Pak, Lim family spokeswoman

Pak admitted the situation is " very chaotic," but these prayer services are aimed at bringing peace to the South Korean community. 

The spokeswoman also said the service was also a good way for the church to "regroup" and focus on the positives through a situation she referred to as "overwhelming."

lisa pak

Family spokeswoman Lisa Pak says she's hopeful Hyeon Soo Lim will return to Canada by 2016. (CBC)

"All that is so overwhelming and we do find strength in that," Pak said. 

"We would love to know when, exactly when he can come out so we can prepare but, again, that's something that's unknown at this point."

However, the lack of information isn't deterring Pak and her community from having faith that their pastor will not only get out of North Korea, but will be back sooner than anyone may have anticipated.

"I know this is optimistic," she said, "but before the end of the year. We would love that."

With files from Nick Boisvert