• 25. You Still Haven't Changed

  • You Still Haven't Changed 
    We were having a conference in Taegu when I was told that a middle-aged, married woman was looking for me. I met her and didn't have a clue as to who she was. That middle-aged woman greeted me most cheerfully, but I just stood there bewildered.Then she introduced herself saying, "Pastor, it's me! Ock-Sun." 

    "Ah!" I was so surprised. It was a person named Ock-Sun from when I lived in Jangpali. Taking a closer look, there was no doubt that it was she. Back then she was a little girl who was always poor and had undergone so many hardships that she always wore her knee-torn pants. It was that Ock-Sun who stood there before me forty years later as a woman. "Ah, is it you Ock-Sun?" Now it felt awkward calling her Ock-Sun (informally). 

    We spent a brief moment catching up and talking about the past.It was touching and pleasant to think about the things that had occurred while I was in Jangpali. Then I quietly asked her: "Back then, I had talked about salvation from sin, do you still have that assurance of salvation unchanged in your heart?" 

    "Pastor, of course. Although I was only in third grade then, but the gospel which you preached to me; the salvation I received then; even after these forty years and the many changes throughout; although everything else in my heart might have changed, that's the one thing that hasn't." 

    That Sister gave me a tear filled testimony. After that encounter, I often thought of the brothers and sisters who attended the Jangpali Church and who I read the Bible, prayed, witnessed, and fellowshipped with.I thought of each brother and sister, where they were, what they were doing, and was also curious to know if they still had Jesus Christ in their hearts and were living happily due to Him. Brother Jong-yong Kim, Myung-Taek Suh, Ock-kyu Son, Sister Jung-ock Lee, Ock-Hyun Kim, Ack-soon Lee, Wei-Ja Lee, Kyung-hwe Im, Nae-soon Kim, Pil-cho Jung. I often think of the brothers and sisters back then; at times wondering how they are, and wanting to meet them. 

    After meeting Ock Sun, as I held conferences in large gymnasiums, God often gave me the joy of reuniting, one by one, with people I had preached the gospel to in the past, allowing us to have fellowship. During a Conference held at the Buchun Gymnasium, I met Sister Soo-hee Cho.And during a conference at Pusan Kooduk Gymnasium, Sister Soon-Duk Cho gave me a call.Although I wanted to meet up with her, I was unable to see her and just had fellowship with her over the phone. 

    A while ago, a conference was held at the Masan Gymnasium when Sister Yong Sook Park came. She greeted me saying, "Pastor, it's me Yong Sook." At first, I couldn't remember whom she was, and mistook her for someone else. But after she left, that's when I remembered. I was able to remember that Sister Yong-sook Park used to live close to church, in the house behind the fields. Her brother also attended church, and always planted flowers; living a different life from others. This is what she had told me: "Pastor, it was so nice and full of grace back then.When my friends and I went to the church, we often heard you praying in a loud voice, crying.We were afraid that we might interrupt your prayers, so pastor, we also prayed kneeling outside the door. Hearing the prayers for food and witnessing, our hearts were so touched that we cried with you, but we didn't have anything so we couldn't help." 

    Hearing one talk of the past caused memories of Jangpali to arise in my heart. The brothers and sisters back then, now liveall separated. And the sisters who were then little girls, had married, then had children and sent them all off to marriage and are now grandmothers.And when I see how the brothers also have grandchildren, I realize that many things have changed during the last forty years. 

    Although I have met Sister He Ock Lee, who lives in Jinju, Sister Pil Cho Jung, who lives in Taegu, and others of the past, I still miss them all. I often think, "Where is Brother Jong Yong Kim and what is he doing? I really miss Brothers Myung Tae Suh and Ock Kyu Son." And there are others like each of the children who didn't know anything and naively ran around and played; who I remember and very much miss. 

    At times I come to meet those brothers and sisters of the past and share memories. But as forty years have passed, their lives, appearance, and the way they think have all changed, but there is one thing I find that hasn't changed.The thing I strongly realized within Sister Hee Ock, Yong Sook, Ock Sun, Shim Sun, Brother Jae Yul Shim, and other brothers and sisters is that the assurance of salvation they had received forty years ago in Jangpali, at that small church where we often prayed, had fellowship, and shared the Word, had not changed. I was so happy when I saw the surprising reality of how their hearts continued to walk with Christ that I cannot express such joy in words. I often had the heart that although the brothers and sisters who were with me in Jangpali are now aged, and are grandmothers and grandfathers, if possible, I would like for us all to reunite and have service, pray, and live a life together serving the Lord. 

    To tell you the truth, when I first went to Jangpali, I did not know a thing. I didn't know how I should lead a ministry, how to preach the gospel, how to confront and deal with the many different problems I would face. However, when I look back, at that time there was nothing in my heart.I didn't have knowledge, experience, money, and those to help and supprt me, yet the one sure thing is the Lord lived with me. And through a young, immature and na\'efve person like me, He had planted the heart of Jesus into these brothers and sisters, and provided them with unchanging faith and hope, as well as to poured His grace upon them. No matter where they may be living now, when I see them live with the Jesus they had accepted then, the salvation they have received then, and the forgiveness of sin they had received then, I can't express in Words how thankful I am to God. 

    Brother Ock-Soo Park, God Has Done This 

    In September of 1965, I had to leave Jangpali to join the army. At that time, I had received an extension a year ago, and after receiving it, I prayed before the Lord. 

    "God, I am working for the gospel here in Jangpali and would like to continue to preach the gospel here. But God, I know that you're not sending me to the army because you cannot prevent it. If you want me to join the army, I believe that its because you have decided upon a place for me to preach the gospel, and there are people who are waiting to receive salvation." 

    In the middle of prayer, faith arouse in my heart. from then, every night I woke up and prayed for the army. 

    "God, even though I don't know what kind of army will I attend in and who will be my superior, please let me receive the grace from the superior and my fellow and preach the gospel powerfully." 

    I prayed daily. At first my prayer was faint and vogue, as times went by, faith started to be added more and more in my heart and my hear gained strength more in front of God as praying. 

    One day of September, 1965, I should leave Jangpali. Some brothers of Deagu Mission School came and pick me up in their car. At that evening, we gathered at the church and had a tea time, prayed, and shared our testimonies and fellowship with brothers and sisters until 11 at night. The next day, when I rode in a car fro Deagu, all of brothers and sisters waved their hands in farewell with breaking heart. In the car, I heard various stories from some brothers. 

    "Brother Ock-soo Park, there isn't anyone to come to Jangpali and work like this. It isn't you who has done the work, but God has been working in Jangpali. We thank God who has worked in Jangpali." 

    Even now, when I get the chance, I sometimes visit the church I used to minister in Jangpali. I visit the now seemingly empty church, with overgrown weeds in the lawn, and think of the brothers and sisters I used to pass the time with, and think of the inexpressible gratitude that God has given me during my year and a half-long stay there. 

    During my year and a half-stay at Jangpali, God had saved many souls, and He had planted faith into their hearts. And when I had departed Jangpali with gratitude towards the grace God had shown me, and with praise and content he had allow me to leave. So when it comes time for me to leave this earth, I will praise Him all the more. And I am thankful and content when I think of how God, for someone who is as worthless as I, has saved me. And as my savior, has held me and has poured the grace of bringing many people before the Lord through me. I don't know where all the brothers and sisters of the past are, and wish that each of them live preciously in the gospel. I sincerely hope that the God who has led me has also led them, and through them, the gospel is preached, wishing that they receive the glory from God.

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