I grew up in a rural community in South Korea, helping my parents on the farm. I recall the work of growing tomatoes, egg plants, cucumbers, potatoes, watermelons, and strawberries. My parents were honest and hard working – I’m not sure they even knew how to cheat, lie, or steal.
I had no exposure to Christianity growing up. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that one of my friends invited me to his church. There was a talent show just before Thanksgiving.. I watched other high schoolers in some pretty funny performances. This farm kid found it to be an amazing experience. It made me curious about church.
Then I moved into Seoul, the capital city of Korea, and studied economics at Yonsei University. Student demonstrations were rampant against the tyrannies of the dictatorial regime. Such demonstrations interrupted campus activities considerably, and a few student activists were imprisoned for their leadership against the regime. Some churches were imbued with social justice movement, embraced leftist ideologies (e.g., liberation theology), and even led anti-government movements. As such, some churches did not provide a good social environment to pursue the biblical truth and meet Jesus genuinely.
But I was curious, so I began attending a church my freshman year and read the Bible regularly. I struggled to accept the message from the Bible that I am a sinner and need to repent for salvation. The claims in the Bible did not make much sense to me.
I practiced religious activities at church, but was not successful in obtaining sound faith. Also, partly because of such social and religious movements, it was not easy for me to meet a spiritual mentor who would lead me to the truth.
One significant event took place to my family when I was a college junior. My mother experienced maldigestion for a few months and was eventually diagnosed with stomach cancer. She struggled over a year, accepted Jesus during the struggle, and in the end passed away with severe pain.
Meanwhile, the family members tried their best to rescue her, including attending church and praying hard. After the passing of my mother, I left church with deep sorrow thinking God does not exist or does not care for my family.
After graduation from college, I joined the military, which is mandatory for all Korean males. After the initial training period of three weeks, I was introduced to someone who helped me dispatched to a special force in the army. After this arrangement, he invited me to church. Without hesitation, I accepted his invitation, and finally came back to church.
I cannot describe enough how much mental distress I experienced after the death of my mother. In retrospect, I interpret this invitation as a calling by God to rescue me out of the troubles through his grace and lead to the truth. After this comeback, I accepted Jesus as my God and Savior, and was baptized in a year.
Since then, I have never deviated from this faith, and God has blessed me and my family abundantly. All the tears I shed because of my parents are gone with the grace of God, and those past events haunt me no more. When my mother was sick and close to death, she said to me: “I did not do anything wrong in my life, but then why am I having this trouble?” This is true.
My parents were farmers, and they were not involved in any wrongdoing. They were innocent, but this does not mean they were righteous in the sight of God. We have to realize one important fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Thus, whatever we do, our acts cannot satisfy God.
But, here is good news: the righteousness of God is revealed through Jesus, and we can acquire that righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-22). This righteousness is available to all who believe in the name of Jesus.
Now I hope to be recognized as someone who is faithful, trustworthy, true, content, and peaceful. If someone were to describe me, I hope that they would say I was a man of integrity, diligence, and generosity.
My faith isn’t just about me; I want to feed those who are in hunger, comfort those who are mourning, encourage those who are in distress, and guide those who need direction for accomplishing their goals.