1. Thumbs up from the head of my village heightened my heart
When I was in my second year of middle school, together with my five friends, we sold garlic we had stolen. The police caught us and I ended up confessing that I was behind the whole incident. So I was locked up and released only when my parents had compensated for the price of garlic we had stolen.
When I returned to the village, all the villagers were out cheering for me. Especially, the head of the village applauded me saying, “Ki Sung is a fine boy. He will make it big one day!” and he added that my friends who had also stolen with me, “Those are bad boys. What will become of those boys who are not loyal?” Out of the blue, I had become a hero of the village.
2. Lost taste for work due to my heightened heart
Ever since then, the image of the village head cheering me with two thumbs up always lingered in my mind. After graduating high school, I moved to Seoul. However with an arrogant heart, I was not able to get a job. I was not good at studying, so the only work I could do was hard labor in places like factories and bars. But I always thought ‘I need to make a lot of money and make it big!’ Even though I had nothing to eat because I couldn’t work anywhere, I thought ‘how can someone become big working here!’ I wanted to return to the village successful and hear from the villagers, “We knew Ki Sung would succeed!”
3. Cutting a finger off with a straw cutter just to protect my pride
Not so long after, I received a warrant to join the army. I did not want to go because I wanted to make a lot of money. I asked someone from the village who had been discharged from military service because he hurt his knees while playing soccer, how one could escape going into the army. He told me the only way was to cut off the index finger used to pull the trigger. I thought by sacrificing my one finger, I could save three years from military service to make a lot of money. I felt this was a much better option so I bragged, saying I would do it. In reality, as I was about to cut off my finger, I was too scared. However I thought to myself how shameful I would be if I didn’t do it after bragging so much about it. I put my finger on top of the straw cutter, closed my eyes and proceeded on. My mother, who saw my bleeding hands with a finger cut off, fainted on the spot.
4. The thought that I would succeed with one big last job
One year later, I returned to Seoul. I could not do any significant job and with the heart of still wanting to make a lot of money, I entered the path of crime. I could live without being hungry just by snatching and stealing money, but I had the feeling that I needed to do one last big job to get a lot of money. With time, committing crime became even more serious and I was bolder about it. Then just in time, I heard that an organization was to transport some cash. With my colleagues, I decided to rob the vehicle. We almost succeeded since we had planned carefully, but when the person carrying the money didn’t let go of it, I was compelled to stab him. Unexpectedly, he died and within one year we were caught by the police.
5. To protect my pride until the end
In the first trial, the judge gave me the death penalty. However with an appeal for sentence commutation, I was given 15 years imprisonment. Even in prison, I told myself ‘I will live a short but
a full life like a man!’ and fought with whoever crossed my path. I would fight with inmates and prison officers. In fact solitary confinement was always my spot. Once I kicked the face of a prison guard when he was tying me with a rope. Twenty people from the strike force team dragged me to the underground bunker and I was beaten up badly with clubs and stomped with the military boots they were wearing. The more they did this, the more revengeful I became. Ultimately, together with some inmates, we sharpened the metal supporting frame of a trough into a knife and threatened some prison officers. Hundreds of prison officers and security guards struck and came into the room where we were holding hostages and I fainted in the end, fighting with bare hands.
6. Regret from living a life worse than a brute
After creating several hostage situations in prison, I was given more punishment. However, no one could touch me. When I was moved to another prison, I would do violence and make trouble again. Each time, I was locked in solitary confinement with my hands and feet tied. I would eat only with my mouth and relieve myself in my pants on just like a pig. I wasn’t a human. With time, my body and soul were worn out and ultimately, I got acute hepatitis. That was the first time I felt regret. I had come such a long way through a tunnel of suffering just to get recognized, but now I hated it and was afraid. I remembered my parents and felt sorry for how I had troubled them. One day I saw a death-row inmate who was struggling desperately as he was being dragged to execution. I felt like that was my image. When I thought about death, I felt even more regret.
7. Even though I searched for God and devoted myself to religion
For the first time, I searched for God while I was suffering from ill health. I prayed that I wouldn’t live like this if I was given another chance. After a while, I was somewhat better and began living a religious life. I thought I should be a good son to my mother who was a Buddhist, so I woke up in the early dawn memorizing the Heart Sutra and bowing on my knees 108 times facing my home village where my mom was. Since I was living well in prison without causing any trouble, I was introduced to a famous pastor who taught me the Bible every week. However as time passed, I felt the burden of my sins pressing on me even more. Every dawn, I prayed so that I would not commit sin, but every night I went to sleep suffering from my sinful self.
8. Through <The Secret of Forgiveness of Sins and Being Born Again>
I did the best I could to become righteous, but I always wondered ‘What can I do to become righteous?’ I shared the room with a prisoner named Seo Hyung Man who was serving a life sentence and he told me he became righteous through Jesus. I was told by a pastor that he was a heretic, but I wanted to solve my sins so bad that I carefully read the book written by Pastor Ock Soo Park, The Secret of Forgiveness of Sins and Being Born Again. I realized through this book that there was nothing I needed to do to become righteous because Jesus had already fulfilled everything for me. I realized deep within the meaning of “It is finished.” that Jesus said in the Bible. I didn’t know this truth so I was struggling on my own to finish my sins! That night, I shed the tears of joy reading this book on the toilet. God gave me a new heart that I did not have before and allowed me to live a new life.
9. Gospel evangelist witnessing in prison
From then on, I started witnessing the gospel even though I was not an expert. Every day during the 30 minutes of exercise time, I would carry The Secret of Forgiveness of Sins and Being Born Again book and witness to inmates about the gospel I had received. I prayed to God so that I could witness the gospel to more people. God answered my prayer and I was transferred to a bigger factory where I led a Bible study meeting. In this meeting, around 10 people attended and they all received salvation in the end. Until I was released from prison, I preached the gospel almost every day. One day a prison officer in charge told me “You don’t need to do any work, just witness the gospel.” Since then, when all the other inmates were working, I would witness the gospel to those who wanted spiritual counselling. According to the regulation, no inmate is allowed to do personal work during work hours; however God gave me grace.
10. Becoming a gospel evangelist
As my day to be discharged from prison was near at hand, my friends were waiting for me. However I was not confident about living a life like them because I knew I would end up in prison again. The day I was released from prison, I said that no one should come meet me and I went to Daejon Hanbat Central Church where I stayed, volunteering. I was happy. Even though I was picking up rubbish and cleaning; I was happy to be in church. After a year God gave me a wife. I was so happy that someone would marry to a person like me. Not long after we were married, I joined the Mission School. I wanted to live only for the gospel. I was so thankful to the Lord and the church for opening a way for me to become a gospel evangelist.
11. I still hear the tempting voices that heightens my heart
Recently, I hear there are a lot of frauds via phone calls. Sometimes, when I pick up the phone, I can hear voice of a woman with a Chinese Chosun accent on the line. Even though she tries to talk very nicely, I can immediately notice the accent. Whenever I heard such a voice, I would not waste time hanging up the phone. This is because it is not even worth hearing. Even now, I can clearly hear the tempting voices that heighten my heart, but I disregard this because I have already failed once by following that voice. That’s why I am so happy.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:5
After Jesus’ heart entered into mine, all my complicated problems have been unravelled. When I was led by a heart to raise myself, I ended up in prison living a life of taking away lives. Now, as I am led by the humble heart of Jesus, I am living a life of saving lives. I truly thank and glorify God.