• 22. Brother Young Mok Hwang

  • Brother Young Mok Hwang 
    The Jangpali Church was about three kilometers south of downtown Kuhchang. When one crossed the large river that passed through downtown Kuhchang, there was a farm raod, which was just a narrow road where cars were barely able to pass through the fields. Three kilometers down that road, there was a small town called Jangpali. Past Jangpali, by way of a road that led to the upper village of Gomshil, was our church, which was situated by a river. 

    On market days, the people of Gomshil would often pass our church to go to the country market place. Therefore, just by seeing the people pass by the church, I knew it had to be a market day. In Kuhchang, markets were held on every first and sixth day of the month. 

    Every market day I went and witnessed. As I sang hymns, people would look at me and gather. Then I would preach the Word and have individual fellowship. One day, upon returning from witnessing, I met a young boy who looked about fifteen or sixteen years old. The way he dressed was tacky, and he seemed very shy. I called him over and told him about Jesus. I preached the gospel and surprisingly enough, the young boy accepted it and received salvation. That young boy lived two kilometers further in from Jangpali, in the town called Gomshil. His name was Young Mok Hwang. I was so happy that I asked him to come to church on Sunday mornings, evenings, as well as on Wednesday evenings. 

    However, that following Sunday, the young boy didn't come. I waited for him, but had to proceed with the service. After about a month had passed, that young boy reappeared. I was so happy that we went into a room to have fellowship with the word and prayed. I asked him why he hadn't come on Sundays, and urged him to attend Sunday services. When I looked at the young boy's face, he had a happy expression, but it was a bit difficult to hold a conversation with him because he wouldn't respond. 

    That day, the brother left and never returned. I thought to myself, "Why wouldn't he come if he's always home doing nothing and not attending school?" Later I found out that the young boy worked as a hired hand who took care of animals in the town of Gomshil. He said that he would love to go to church and listen to the words of the Bible, but he could not attend because he worked as a servant for someone. My asking him to come to church made him feel burdened. So this is what I said to Brother Hwang, "Brother Hwang, there is nothing God cannot do. Let's pray to God. Although you have to work for your master, if we pray to God, He will lead you to be able to attend service." 

    When we looked at the reality, it seemed impossible and didn't make sense. But the way I saw it was if God opens the way, there is nothing that cannot be done. So I told him to pray. 

    I'm Not That Kind of Person 
    Not long after, winter had arrived. It was another market day, and I had decided to go out around eleven o'clock to witness in the market place. So with my lunch in hand, I was preparing to leave, when I heard a commotion outside among the villagers. I found out that a fire was raging through Gomshil. There was a huge fire in the middle of winter. 

    The moment I realized this, I got on my bike and rode downtown to let the firefighters know what was going on. There was a buzz among the people as they were gathered in front of the market place downtown. I realized that the people in the crowd were all from Gomshil. "What are you doing here? Let's hurry and go back." But no matter how much I appealed to them, not knowing what to do, they just chattered amongst themselves saying, "You don't think my house caught on fire do you?" 

    I caught sight of the fire engine heading towards Gomshil and hopped on to back, hanging on to a handle with the other firemen. But unfortunately, the fire engine broke down just before we reached the city of Gomshil, and the firemen remained there trying to fix the fire engine. 

    I was so bewildered by it all that I jumped off the truck and ran towards the village. The village that consisted of many houses was already a sea of fire. In this village covered with fire, you could only hear the cries of children and the elderly. Because it was market day, all the young people had gone out to the market place, and it was only the little children and elderly who were left at home when the fire broke out. 

    On top of that, there were mounds of pine branches near each house. The branches were used for firewood and were sold when they dried. The houses were so close to each other that there was no way to control the fire. Because it was winter, the creek was frozen, and the water in the well was not enough to put out the fire. 

    Instinctively, I began to think, "If the village burns down, what will the villagers eat?" Without a second thought, I ran from house to house and began dragging out the grain into the front yard. I kicked down the doors to houses that were locked because the owners weren't there, and brought out whatever rice or wheat I could get a hold of. I continued to go on like this for a couple of hours, running senselessly from house to house. 

    As I ran into one house, a young girl saw me and entreated me to help her: "There's a baby in that room." Even though the fire had already reached the room, and it was already thick with smoke, I ran in and searched all over looking for the baby. But no matter how much I looked, I couldn't find the child. So I couldn't help but run back out and tell her that the child wasn't there. She said, "Then maybe the child went to play at someone else's house." For a second I was baffled in that urgent situation. 

    In one house, there was a wooden crate with rice in it, but the door was too narrow that I couldn't bring it out. I still don't know if it was because I was young, or where I got the strength from, but I kicked twice at the mud wall of that country house, and it crumbled. Through the hole, I dragged out the wooden crate and set it outside. 

    For hours, in this same manner, I went into each house in that village and dragged out blankets, rice, and whatever was at hand. In one house, there was a man about fifty years of age who saw the fire coming. Not knowing what to do, he just went about saying, "Water! Water! Water!" But there was no means of getting water. So I went in and looked around. There were about twenty newly stitched sacks which were probably prepared for the winter. When I opened the door to the storage room, it was filled with rice plants. I turned to the man and shouted, "Mister! Hurry, come hold this!" Without a thought, he stood there holding the sacks open for me. We were able to bring out all the rice plants without leaving a single one behind. 

    While I had been running in and out of each house, hundreds of students came from downtown to put out the fire in Gomshil. Those hundreds of students relayed buckets of water from a far off reservoir, but there weren't enough buckets, and the water didn't have any effect upon the fire. So the whole village just ended up burning down. I was so tired that eventually, I passed out. Later, I was told that when I had passed out, the newspaper reporters came and took my picture. And that a couple of days later, President Jung-il Park came in a helicopter and shed tears at the sight of Gomshil in ashes, then left. 

    God Had Done This 
    Days after that incident, early one morning, the man from the house where I helped drag out the rice plants visited me. He brought two boxes of Blue Bird cigarettes, the ones that the adults used to smoke in the past. Even though I told him, "Mister, I don't smoke. Why don't you enjoy them?" He earnestly requested me to take them, saying, "Why are you refusing? It's okay. I'm giving this to you out of gratitude, so why don't you use them. Is it because it's small? Although it isn't much, please accept my sincerity." It was awkward for me to even be holding the cigarettes, so I said, "Since I don't smoke, you should keep them." 

    However, he responded, "No, no. Even though this gift is very small, please accept it, I will treat you again next time." He requested so earnestly that even though I wasn't going to use the cigarettes, I accepted them from him. 

    After that, I sat and spoke with the man. I found out that he was the master of Brother Young Mok Hwang. Therefore, as I spoke with him and talked about Young Mok, I asked him, "Not when you're very busy, but when there isn't much to do, would you please allow Brother Young Mok Hwang to attend service?" Being very grateful, he said that he would. 

    From that point on, Brother Young Mok was able to attend Sunday services. He didn't attend all the time, but he came maybe once or twice a month. During the busy summer season there were times when he couldn't come at all, but he came often in the winter. The fact that we were able to have service together made us thankful. 

    When I first told Brother Young Mok Hwang to come and attend Sunday services, it seemed so vague and impossible. But God had led me to be the first person to run into each house the day the fire spread through Gomshil. It was something I would have never done on my own, allowing me to encounter Brother Young Mok Hwang's master. In order to allow Brother Young Mok to attend our church, God caused me to go to his master's house to change his heart by allowing me to fill the sacks with rice plants and bring them out. When I think about how God had worked amidst the fire in that village, it would be inadequate to just say that we were thankful. 

    God Who Grows, and I Who Shrink 
    As these incidents occurred one by one in my life, I was able to experience God who led me by opening the paths before me. Before, I had seen myself as a great person and God as being so little. So that if I didn't do something, I would feel uneasy, and leaving things up to God made me nervous. However, as time passed, God grew within my heart as I grew smaller. I could see that as I disappeared, God was the one who was alive working in my heart. 

    While staying at Jangpali, I had nothing. I was young, shabby, didn't eat well, and was very poor. Nevertheless, when I think of it, I was closest to God back then compared to any other time. I was under His abundance, and in a state where His power continued to live and work in me. So I cannot help but say that the most blessed time of my life was in Jangpali, which I will never forget.

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