Out of Every Kindred, and Tongue, and People, and Nation: Korea

I was born in Seoul, Korea, near the end of the Korean War and grew up in a Methodist background. When I was ten, my father’s prosperous construction company was dissolved. At this time of disgraceful financial disaster, my family had to move to another district in the city. With my mother, who was greatly distressed over our financial condition, I fervently attended the revival meetings held by many local denominational churches night after night for many weeks.

One day I saw a huge tent erected in the market place near my home. That night I went to the tent where I heard the Gospel preached for the first time in my life. The preacher was the late Mr. E. A. James, who was the first assembly missionary from the UK, arriving in May of 1962. My soul shuddered when I heard his pleading voice and saw his sad countenance. I heard, “When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open unto us’; He shall answer and say unto you, ‘I know you not whence ye are!’”(Luke 13: 25) From that night, the words, “I know you not whence ye are,” frequently rebuked my soul even though I believed I was a Christian.

Soon spring came, and I started middle school. On my way to school, I daily passed through hills where a dozen traditional tombs were scattered among crooked pine trees. One day, I was suddenly hit by the thought that I would be buried under the ground someday. For the first time in my life I sensed that solemn and fearful reality of death confronting me face to face. A few months later, Mr. James visited my home and entered into my humble room. Sitting on the floor, he tried to tell me in English, but I couldn’t understand because of the language difficulty. In spite of my embarrassment, I was deeply impressed with his humility. I wondered why this gentleman left his home and came to this poverty-stricken country. My heart was deeply touched by his personal interest even in a little boy such as I was. Though I could not understand the language, I keenly sensed the message of God’s love emanating from him. I said to my soul, “I truly want to trust the God in Whom he believes.” During this time, I was unable to escape from the constant fear of God’s judgment. Meanwhile, in Sunday School, I learned about the second coming of Christ, and that added to my deepening concern.

In the spring, it was my daily job after school to go up the hills to pick up leaves of acacia trees. The leaves were dried and stored for the winter food for my chicks and rabbits. Wandering the hills and following the tree leaves, I often found myself picking the leaves beside the tombs that were situated there. One sunset hour, standing beside a tomb, I was reminded of the verse of the gospel hymn that I sang at the tent meeting: “Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, passing from you and from me; shadows are gathering death beds are coming, coming for you and for me. Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home. Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, calling, ‘O sinner, come home.’” My heart was yearning to be saved, and my soul cried for the salvation of God, yet I could not find the way to be saved.

Up to this point, much of my time had been spent in raising chickens. That summer, disaster struck. Disease broke out in the coop, and I had to kill all my chickens before they became infected. Day by day I painfully saw my dreams of success slipping away. Holding my aching heart, one rainy Lord’s Day, I headed to Sunday School. I was soaked to the bone when I arrived at the Hall. At the start of the class my teacher asked me if I was saved. As a weary soul, I responded to his question with much hesitation. But he continued, “Where is the Lord Jesus?” I answered, “He is now in heaven after the resurrection.” He briefly paused, and told me, “Yes, that is right. But if you believed on Him, He should be in your heart.” I was puzzled because I did not understand what he actually meant. While I was wondering, he asked me to read John 1:11-12. I read the passage out loud, as he requested. “He came unto His own, but His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.” By God’s rich grace, in the middle of reading, I suddenly saw the truth. The Holy Spirit opened my eyes and showed me the clear fact that to believe is to receive Him personally. His Word assured me! The fear that oppressed my soul many months since that memorable tent meeting wonderfully disappeared as “peace with God” overflowed in my heart! The fearful wonderings of a thirteen-year-old boy were finally over. I had met my Lord and my Savior Who loved me, shed His blood on the Tree for my sin, and rose again from the dead!