• 17. In Apshil

  • In Apshil 

    In the #1 district of Ahpgok village, there is a town called Ahpshil that I will never forget. Although I stayed there for only a little while, God had taught me a lot during my stay. While staying in district #1, I was able to deeply engage into the Word, and as I witnessed to individuals, for the first time in their life the people of that town heard the gospel through me. It gave me great strength to see them receive salvation. Ahpshil was a place where whenever I prayed in the bamboo garden, it felt as if God was approaching my heart and was strongly leading me. 

    Ahpgok's #1 district is where the Cho's from Changnyung gathered and lived together. It was the early 1960¡?s and in all of Korea, no matter what region, the people where all poor. Especially in Ahpshil, located between the mountains, there weren¡?t enough plots of land to farm on, so the people there were poorer than others. Surviving on the harvest was difficult in itself. Yet, all they had was what they harvested. Nothing else was imported into the village, therefore making their lives all the more poverty stricken. On the other hand, they had love. The people were mannered in a way, striving to keep the Cho family reputation. The whole family lived together in that town caring and respecting each other. 

    I preached the gospel in that village that is forty or fifty houses. The grandmother who lived there was very old and had three sons and grandchildren. Her sons, three brothers, had gotten married and lived in that town, and she lived with the eldest. But sadly enough, her eldest was demon possessed, and so therefore not mentally able. He often took apart their perfectly fine house and rebuilt it in a strange way. Whenever I visited that home, I found him sitting alone and thinking, with disheveled hair. The grandmother, who lived with such a son, was the first to accept the gospel and decided to believe in Jesus. 

    Of course she had tried all that was in her power to heal her demon-possessed son. She tried begging earnestly to idols, but that didn¡?t work. And so, figuring she had to believe in Jesus, she accepted the words we preached and started to attend bible study. I was often invited to their house for dinner. I was thankful that when I personally preached the gospel to the demon possessed man, his wife, and his children, they accepted me. 

    At that time, the grandmother¡?s second son was living downstairs. I came to live in the room next to his house. They didn¡?t receive rent and treated me warmly. I can¡?t easily forget the love they have shown me. However, I don¡?t know if it¡?s because I¡?m bad at preaching, but they didn¡?t easily open their hearts and have faith. It made me disappointed that they didn¡?t accept Jesus. 

    However, as I stayed at their house, the Lord allowed me to be free at heart. While staying at that house, I was able to come closer to God. The hours I spent reading the Bible in the mornings were very pleasant. Early in the morning, I would get up and pray, then after eating breakfast I would read the Bible all morning. In the afternoon I would go out and witness in the town and markets, and during the evenings we made a Bible study group and held bible study. 

    Sister Sohn 
    Then one day, I had just eaten breakfast and was reading the Bible when I heard something outside. Someone was talking with the landlady. "You came?" 

    "Yeah, how have you been?" It seemed as if the landlady knew the other lady well. After they greeted each other and spoke for a while, the lady asked, "Is someone renting the lower room?" 

    "Yeah, he's a church minister." 


    The lady asked the landlady many questions regarding me. "Where is he from? What does he do? Is there a church? How many people go to the church?" she asked such detailed questions. As I read the Bible and over heard their conversation, I thought that she must be a person who believed in Jesus. So, I stopped reading the Bible and went out to meet her: "Ms., do you believe in Jesus?" 

    "Oh no, I don't." She boldly denied her faith in Jesus. But the way I saw it, she must have had some interest, so that day I opened the Bible and began preaching the gospel to her. I talked in detail of how Jesus Christ had died on the cross and shed blood out of His love for us; and how we can resolve the problem of sin in our heart. That lady, who was a vender, had come to sell her goods, but forgetting to do so, she listened to the gospel all day and received salvation. After receiving salvation, that lady said, "I'm sorry that I lied to you. I am a believer in Jesus, but because I had lived such a poor life, I didn't think it would be to God's glory for me to say so, that is why I had lied." 

    That day she happily returned home. Her last name was Sohn, and she lived in the village across called Kwonbin. Due to an accident, her husband had lost his eyesight. A difficult life followed, that sister Sohn went to the village her in-laws lived in and with the seaweed, anchovies, and other similar items she brought back, she sold them, at times receiving meal and barley as payment. However, that day she received salvation and became a precious sister. From that day on, whenever she didn't go out to work, and each moment she had, sister Sohn came to Ahpgok village and stayed till late at night having Bible study. When she went off to work, she missed a week of Bible study, then would return and visit us. While doing so, sister Sohn freely partook in our Bible studies. 

    Around that time, many children and young women began to receive salvation one by one. Young women such as Kyung-ja, Hang-yeh, Sun-rye, became workers within the church. During the day they labored in the fields and in the evenings they cam and as they cleaned, they read the Bible, and led Sunday school. Although there weren't many adults, the young adults and elementary school students partook in the Bible studies. Therefore, when I quietly sat anywhere in the village, I was always able to hear the village children sing the hymns I had taught them, while they picked grass and fed the cows. For this reason I was overjoyed. 

    As a result, through God's grace, Bible study and Sunday service had started in Ahpgok village. Every Sunday and Wednesdays, as well as other evenings, we would gather and have fellowship about what we had read. The students and Sunday school kids would gather and have Bible contests and hymn presentations. The time I spent with them was very enjoyable. 

    Not only that, but after sister Sohn received salvation, although it was difficult, she often brought rice and food for me to eat which I was grateful for, and with such gratitude I was able to spend my days in Ahpgok village. As the people around us began to receive salvation and change one by one, I gained strength in witnessing and traveled to neighboring villages to witness. 

    Sister Sohn's Husband 
    Back then, I often visited sister Sohn's house and she often visited ours. Her life was difficult due to her blind husband. Although I often went over, whenever we had Bible study or service, I was uneasy because her husband wouldn't receive salvation. Therefore, I decided within my heart and spoke with him a couple of times. Not only was he blind, but also being a gentle person, he wasn't able to easily accept the gospel in his heart. And so with pity, I would return praying earnestly, "God, God! Please allow sister Sohn's husband, Mister Kim, to receive salvation." 

    However, it was one hot summer day. I went to their house, and mister Kim, in a surprised manner, quickly ran out exclaiming, "Preacher, is that you?" that it startled me. He was such a gentleman that when people came over, they were never once able to see him alter his sitting posture. He always just sat blatantly smiling. But that day he ran out so urgently that it startled me. When listening to his story, his situation went like this: 

    The other night, due to the rainy season, the rain poured down, causing a part of the mountain to collapse upon house. Water began to pour in. Sister Sohn had gone far away for business, and so Mr. Kim, who was blind, with his children was left to sit in the dark with the rain pouring in. Unable to do anything, Mr. Kim went from this room to that, carrying the children. Within no time the water rose to his ankles. He thought in his heart, "Oh my, these children might die because of me tonight," and was scared. So he prayed saying, "God, help me. Please save these children." But then he remembered me saying that, "God doesn't listen to the prayers of sinners," and earnestly thought, "If I don't receive salvation, these children will end up dying because of me." 

    They lived in a house that was offset from others, so there weren't people around. No matter how much he screamed, there was no one who came to help. The night grew deep and the water continued to rise, but he was unable to see.... Mr. Kim carried his three children back and forth, then in one corner of the room, he placed his children on top of some blankets that were resting upon a crate. The day soon brightened, and the rains stopped. Hearing me come, he was so happy and so he quickly ran exclaiming, "Preacher, is that you?" 

    That evening I told him in detail. I accurately told Mr. Kim of God's love, how our sins were forgiven through the death of Christ upon the cross, and how by His blood our sins are no longer remnant in God's sight. That day, Mr. Kim immediately received salvation. It had only been a couple of months after sister Sohn had received salvation. 

    Small Heaven in the Heart 
    Thus, the gospel was gradually proclaimed in the town of Gwonbin. Mr. Kim's house no longer felt as that of a stranger, but it was like my own. I was able to have such blessed times, going and freely having service, singing hymns, and eating meals together. Often times sister Sohn would run to our house carrying Bean paste Stew in a small kettle after preparing breakfast, and if there were any new vegetables available, such as lettuce, she would bring it over. We shared the heart of Christ, His love, which is unseen in the world, with sister Sohn's family. I was also able to have the love to impart my heart upon the students and young adults of Ahpgok village. 

    With faith in Jesus Christ, the heart that I have changes to that of Jesus. If each person with faith, changes through the faith in Christ, they'll have the same heart. Therefore, it is peaceful and liberating to enter a world where all have the same faith. Yet, after living such a life, when one enters a world where others have a different faith, there is no doubt that things may seem burdensome and difficult. 

    To tell you the truth, I didn't have anything back then. We didn't have anything to eat, and life was difficult. Not only I, but sister Sohn also led such a difficult life. That went for everyone else in the town as well. However, because we were one at heart in Christ, having received salvation, even as we were hungry we lived a life sharing food with other brothers and sisters. Within the heart of sister Sohn of Ahpgok village and her family, along with other young adults who had received the Word, they have a little heaven within their hearts. As others received salvation, they too gained this little heaven within their hearts. When I think of this before God, I feel such inexpressible gratitude.
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