BE FAITHFUL, EVEN TO THE POINT OF DEATH, AND I WILL GIVE YOU THE CROWN OF LIFE
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10b)
I thank God for your coming to attend the retirement and inauguration ceremony to witness my 40 years mission life in America. I am honored and humbled by your presence. It is God who called me and used me to serve God’s people in America. God chose me to reveal his glory to declare his grace through my life.
From my childhood I was familiar with suffering due to my parent’s horrible death during the Korean War. They were killed moonlit night in Korean Thanksgiving Day Choosuk in 1950 along with my cousin. I was only 4 years old at that time. Suddenly I became fatherless with my other 4 siblings. From that time God became my father and he never left me since that time. God reared me as his precious child with his love. Jesus said in John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” I wanted to display his work through my life. In all things God was good in my life and there was no accident. Often times I envied others kids who were walking with their parents holding hands side by side. Fatalism smeared into my hearts and I felt there was a deep hole in my heart and I hated the communists who stole my happiness as young boy. I suffered from the emptiness that nothing could satisfy in the comfort of the world. God prepared me to be a father to young people who need father’s love. It is wonderful to know that God had a greater purpose in my life to save souls in his redemptive history. In this way God trained me to become his servant who was familiar with human sufferings. But relatively I was a happy boy running around the rice fields and climbing mountains for hunting wild rabbits and catching fish in the rivers. My brother loved me like a father and my sisters cooked me like a mother.
One summer day I came to Seoul to prepare government exam to become a high ranking civil servant. My sister Jeongaie introduced me to M. Esther Lee by God’s provision. This encounter changed my life completely. It was like meeting between Jacob and Rachel though I did not kiss her like Jacob in the Bible. Then M. Esther invited me to UBF. God is revealing his plan to use me as his servant. In this way I entered UBF University in 1970 by sovereign grace of God. Before knowing Christ I began to work a lot because there were a lot of girls but not many boys. So I became fellowship leader and my fellowship coworker was M. Rebekah Lim. Her straight talk surprised me. I invited M. Luke Lim to our fellowship who was a medical student. He was studying the book of Jeremiah in the library when I met him. Later, I worked with M. Esther Lee in another fellowship. Many sisters spoiled me with a lot of love during my shepherd life in college days. Many times I crashed with M. Esther and Isaac Koh because I was young spiritually. Mother Barry influenced me when I attended her English Bible study. I got a job at LG after graduation and I went fishing for a while to enjoy the pleasures of the world. God moved my heart and enabled me to return and established a house church with M. Esther. Shep. Ben Hur presided our wedding though he was a single. My father-in-law walked out of the wedding hall after he brought Esther Lee with wedding march to me when he saw a young man standing in the podium. She left America and I received a missionary training under late Dr. Samuel Lee.
It was the toughest training I received for 2 years. I raised my beard to overcome self-consciousness and I received a box training to become a soldier of Christ. One time my boxing partner was M Paul Hong. There were many women missionaries from Germany and they came to watch our boxing match. It was three rounds match. With the ring sound M. Paul Hong who had a black belt in Hapkido dashed me like a brown bear but I turned around like a butterfly. We fought well and the judge declared tie game. He saved our dignity before many women missionaries. One day I had another boxing match with tough guy at Chongro center and my nose was bleeding. I fought shedding blood and I won this time. Then I took Acts summary test and got 100% and M. Mark Yang gave me reward with 100000 won. One time one missionary candidate did not do well in his English test and the whole missionary candidates received training by putting their heads into water basket. Dr. Joseph Chung stopped us because it might cause heart attack because our bloods were flowing in wrong direction. Though I did not realize why we needed such unreasonable trainings to become a missionary, God was molding my character to survive in any situation in the mission fields. Later, those trainings paid off in the mission front when I confronted toughest challenges in my life. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Indeed training is necessary to change our heart ready for mission. Since God saved me from the robbers, I felt that I was living an extra life. I decided to be faithful unto death. So I gave my life to God and God has done marvelous work as you see today.
In 1977 I came to America with 100 dollar in my pocket. When I crossed Key Bridge in Georgetown between DC and Arlington Virginia, I felt a fresh air of freedom and unlimited possibility. I began to work in the bottom of American society as a dishwasher, bag inspector, housekeeper, lab technician and 7-11 cashier. One night at 2 AM two robbers pointed gun at me while I was working in 7-11 store in Langley Park. I raised up my two hands and gave all money in cash register and they took some merchandises and did not shoot me. I felt that I was going to die without finishing my mission. God showed mercy and saved my life from the hands of robbers. I went to school majoring in Information systems and got a government job at GSA and later at UMCP. I worked at Academic Data Systems as systems analyst for 21 years. God blessed our ministry starting from College Park 210 where M. Elijah and Grace Park lived. John Goff, David Brogi, Alan Wolff, Wynelle Nett ,Bruce Hollinger and Bob Von Moss, Rimas Orentas, Paul Sambuco and his sisters and Faith Sambuco came and grew as leaders. M. Moses and Sarah Chang joined us from Pittsburg. Missionary Wynelle Nett was sent to Germany in 1988. From 1990 many junior missionaries began to join us. God allowed to build this church in 1992 and again expanded it in 2016. All things were done by prayers. God blessed our 5:30 prayer meeting for last 20 years. It was the engine of our ministry. My three sons were born and they were my joys and crowns. God blessed me to work with KIMNET and other church leaders from 2007. Then I retired 2007 from my school job and finished seminary school 2010 and today I am retiring. Looking back, my life was not an easy one and it was hard and difficult but God displayed his glory through my life as we see today.
I learned several things from my 40 years of mission life.
First of all, I thank God for his love and grace given to me by becoming my heavenly father. Though I did not know how to become a father, he blessed me to become father to Abe, John and Jacob allowing me to have three daughters and 7 grandchildren. I can only say, “Thank God, Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us." (1 Sam. 7:12) I am unworthy servant and I have only done my duty. (Luke 17:10)
Second, Sharing, serving, and sacrifice with love enriched my life abundantly. Basically I was a selfish man but I practiced what Jesus taught me. Serving God and serving others are greater life. Imitate Jesus life.
Third, double cross is double blessing. Taking up many crosses made me to become a strong person in God’s grace. I encourage you to take up the crosses given to you so that God can bless you more.
Fourth, missionary vision. Jesus’ great commission is too great to do alone and it is too important not to do it. M. Wynellet Nett, M. Steve and Allison Haga, M. Abe Lee and Phillip Brown, M. Moses and Sarah Chang gave us inspiration for the world mission. My successor M. Phillip Brown is the fruit of our missionary vision. He is a true American who suffered for Christ in China. God will use him to carry the baton of the gospel ministry to the next level. Please pray for him to expand the kingdom of God with the help of prayer support.
Fifth, Co-working. I am grateful to M. Elijah and Grac Park and S. David and Mary Brogi who remained faithful to the end. I owe a lot to all coworker for the work of God. I enjoyed working with CBF teachers, Youth group leaders like Augustine and YDJ leaders like Fred and all board members and fellowship leaders and music team and my 1 to 1 students. I am eternally grateful for my wife and shepherd who suffered with me and endured my shortcoming with prayers and tears and love. My sons became my partners in Christ. My senior staff and American shepherds became source of encouragement.
Sixth, Humility. I love young people and served them with humility. I went camping with them and slept with them. Relationship building was a key for our youth ministry. Though I was weak and helpless like an orphan, God has been with me and had done great works in me. God loves you and I love you all. Remember God’s grace in your life and be faith to the end and God will give you the crown of life. Once missionary, always missionary. All of you will be in my prayers! Thank you all! May God bless you all!
One word: Be faithful even to point of death I will give you the crown of life