PASTOR OCK SOO PARK

  • 15. Market Day's Witnessing

  • The small town of Ahpgok where we lived consisted of forty families. Although the townspeople were poor and lived in poverty, they experienced a happiness of their own. Since the people of the town were poor, they couldn¡?t dream of eating good foods, wearing good clothes, or even driving a good car. The one thing they look forward to each week was going to the market, which was held every five days. They went to look around and buy necessary items. Even though they weren¡?t in need of anything, they always went. When you visit the market, you often meet people from other towns, and at times there are interesting and new items to see. The venders would set out a couple of sacks of barley, rice, or meal to sell, and with the money they made; they would buy goods they needed. That is why the townspeople would be excited when they came to the market. 

    Near Ahpgok village where we lived there were two markets near by; Mt. Byo and Mt. Myo markets. Every fifth and tenth day of the month, Mt. Byo market opened; and every first and sixth day of the month, Mt. Myo market opened. Mt. Byo and Mt. Myo was located about four kilometers away, it was a good distance for us to walk. We would walk there during the afternoon and gather the people and witnessed to them. Brother Yoo and I would go to the market and pick a place to sing hymns. The people then gathered around us curious of what there might be to see. One by one they gathered. After singing a couple of songs, one of us would start out with the introduction, while the other preached the Word. If I did the introduction, brother Yu would preach the sermon, and vice versa. In this manner we proclaimed the word of God with a powerful voice in the market. 

    After the Bible seminars we held, we would meet individuals to preach the gospel and talk of Jesus. We also evangelized, going from store to store saying, ¡°Believe in Chr"t," and preached the gospel to those sitting in the restaurants eating their soup and rice. 


    The Comfort and Happiness Felt In the Cross 
    One day, as one of our Bible Seminars ended, as usual, we witnessed to those we met. That evening brother Yoo and I both went to the barber shop, flier in hand, and witnessed the gospel. It was the first market day in a long while, therefore there were many people who had came to the barber shop to cut their hair. There were nearly ten people always to be found at the barbershop; consisting of the people sitting waiting to be assisted, those who were getting their hair cut, plus the barbers themselves. Brother Yoo and I opened the parlor door and walked in. The people¡?s eyes all turned towards us. While passing out the seminar fliers, we invited them to believe in Christ. 

    As I passed out the fliers, I got a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. I hadn¡?t seen myself in several months because our house in Ahp Gok village lacked a mirror. I was startled by the reflection of myself in the mirror. My hair was long, and my face, having lost all color, was white and thin. I thought to myself, ¡°My face has gotten thin, and lost all it¡?s co"r." 

    I had been prepared to preach the gospel with might, but as I saw my reflection in the mirror, I realized that people must be thinking, ¡®Believers of Christ, hah! They probably don¡?t even eat properly...!¡? And so I couldn¡?t help but loose strength. Not only I, but Brother Yoo¡?s vigor had vanished as well. Not able to say a word, we left the barbershop. 

    We quietly walked home without uttering a single word; as if we had promised to do so. We couldn¡?t have been more listless. It was the first time in months that we saw how thin we had become, and it just drained all the strength out of us. Without a word, we followed the broad road to Ahpgok village. However, as we walked along, we began to mumble a hymn. 

    ¡°The cross that stands upon Calvary, it stands as a sign of Christ¡?s "ony..." 

    As we murmured this song, we forgot how hungry we were. On our way home, we sang the hymn so loud that the mountains almost blew away. 

    ¡°Till the last day when I go in spirit, I will love the Lord¡?s cross. Till the day I trade it for a crown, I will hold on to the cros"" 

    Just a moment ago our hearts had been tied down to the fact that our faces where listless due to hunger and starvation, but as we sang the hymn, our hearts emerged from the self pity and was filled in Christ¡?s cross. Once our hearts entered within the cross, I was thankful and empowered. 


    The God Who Filled Us 
    At times, the life we led in Ahpgok village was difficult and stressful. However, God renewed our hearts each moment, so our hearts would not become tied down to the difficult situations that surrounded us. He prevented me from falling deeply into the hardships, and allowed me to forget all of it, by placing me within the abundance in God and the Word. Therefore, the time that I spent in Ahpgok village was not agonizing, but those honestly were blissful times. 

    One day I had starved because there wasn¡?t any food left to eat. We had gotten up that morning, prayed, and read the Bible. During that time, in my heart I felt as if, ¡®today God will provide me with food to eat.¡? At the same time, brother Yoo then opened his eyes from prayer and called me. 

    "Brother Park." 

    "Uh...yes?" 

    "I feel that God will fill our stomachs with good food today. God is going to provide us with food today, so lets fully eat." 

    "Oh, let's." 

    As I answered brother Yoo I thought, ¡®I felt the same way, brother Yoo must have felt what I did. How were we able to have such similar thoughts?¡? I was then assured that God was going to provide us with food that day. 

    The sun hadn¡?t yet risen when someone came looking for us. 

    "Minister, are you he?" 

    Back then, everyone in Ahpgok village called us by our surnames, Mr. Yoo or Mr. Park, no one called us minister. Although a bit bewildered, we opened the door to find a young man looking for us. 

    "Uh, how may I help you?" 
    "I live in a town across from here. A young man from our town had gone to the army a while ago and served as a driver. He was brought back in a casket, having died in a car accident. He had made a mistake and drove off a cliff. Now according to the town elders, it is tradition that the corpse of one who died outside of town cannot be brought back in. So, we couldn't bring the corpse in to town, but placed it under the shade of a tree. That evening, all of us stayed up all night guarding the body. We have held funerals for people who had passed away within the town, but it's our first with one who has died outside of town. The town elders gathered to figure out what to do, but there wasn't much else they could do. However, one youth stepped up and said that, 'In Ahpgok village there are two preachers who believe in Christ, and if we give charge of the funeral to them, they'll do well.' So the townspeople approved of having the two of you to come and carry out the funeral. Please come and supervise the funeral for us!" 

    With a grateful heart towards the Lord, we followed the youth to the house of mourning. Passing over a mountain ridge, we heard the sorrowful cries of the women, who¡?s mourning filled the quiet country village. As soon as we reached the town, the adults approached us saying, "Thank you for taking the pains to come her." And offered for us to eat before we began. For the first time in a long while, we ate beef broth and white rice till we were full. We were so grateful. Then we held the funeral service. It was our first time leading a funeral, but we couldn't refuse having the service for them, seeing how much they trusted us to do it. So, what we did was have a series of services. Once before and after the bier was made, after the corpse was taken to it¡?s burial place, and once after the coffin was lowered into it's grave. Brother Yoo and I took turns preaching. We had shouted all day while delivering the Word that our voices became hoarse. That day we ate till our stomachs were about to explode. 

    Through the eyes of the world, the life led in Ahpgok village was filled with uncertain circumstances, without an ounce of peace. There wasn¡?t a single condition there that might have brought about happiness, gratitude or peace. But, God had provided us with a peaceful heart and faith, and it was through this we were able to always be at peace. When I think of the lack of food and help from others, the life we led in Ahpgok village was a miracle. Each moment, God had clothed, fed, and led us in many ways. 


    Bible Study In Apshil 
    After leading the funeral, the people of that town became fond of us. From that day forth, we not only evangelized in that town, but we also formed a bible study group. Once a week during the afternoons, we would visit each house in the village to witness and let them know where the bible study will be held that evening. The young man that came to us about the funeral was Byoung-dae Cho. He would often happily receive us into his home, and gave up his room for that Bible studies. 

    In the afternoon, we went around witnessing and greeting the villagers, but when it came time for dinner, we went into the mountain and prayed, so as to not be a burden upon others. After the villagers had finished their meals, we returned to visit their homes. The whole family would gather around that time, and so we were able to open the Word and share the gospel and words of Christ and the cross till late at night. After the Word, we would sing a hymn, pray, and then return home. The youth of the town often asked us to spend the night, because the mountain was very dense and full of wild beasts. However, assuring then that, ¡®we¡?ll be fine because God is protecting us,¡? we left for home. The young men in town walked us to the ridge of the mountain, and then we sang and talked happily to each other the rest of the way home. 

    From that point on, through God¡?s grace, Bible study had started in Ahpgok Village. Within Ahpgok village where we lived, there was a place called Saetuh, where peoples with the last name Paek lived. In another place, people with the last name Cho lived together. The Cho¡?s welcomed us more happily than the Paek¡?s that we naturally went more often to the Cho town to preach the gospel. Among them, there were many that heard the words we shared, and received salvation. We also gathered the fifteen and sixteen year olds of the town and taught them hymns, and the Word. When we would sometimes climb the mountain, the sound of the children singing in the fields and village, would echo all the way to our ears. Hearing the children singing brought us great joy and happiness. We became very close top the villagers, who at times brought us things to eat. 

    The time spent in Ahpgok village was also a chance for us to deeply discover God. We gained happiness within the Word. In another sense, we were also able to see new people change and receive salvation. Therefore, we were able to live in Ahpgok village with a happy heart. 

    Even after all this time, when I return to that place, the memories are vivid. The God who had helped me, He who fed me, who had protected me, who continuously led me to have a grateful heart, who had always given me words to preach before anyone; thinking of Him brings me unspeakable gratitude. All I can do is to thank Him.



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