• 31. The Two Friends God Had Given Me

  • In December of 1965, a couple days before Christmas, I had completed my first six weeks of training as a foot soldier and was dispatched to the communications-training base. For 16 weeks, I trained as a radio operator, learning Morse code at the communications-training base. Soldiers dreaded the 16-week training while learning Morse code. However, I'm unable to deny that God was with me there, too. 

    The Two Friends God Had Given Me 

    At the communications-training base, I was number 28 of the 311 ROC class. Number 29 was Soon-jong Song, and number 30 was Chang-won Kim, both were from Kwangju. When looking at the personalities of these two friends from Kwangju, they were very gentle and meek. I was able to realize that I, who was from Kyungsang Province, was very rough compared to them. But regardless, the three of us were real close friends. 

    One day, I had the heart to preach the gospel to these two friends. Yet, although their personalities were real kind and good, it was very difficult for them to easily receive the gospel. So I often thought, "What if they don't accept the gospel even after I preach it?" 

    Every Saturday, all the soldiers in the nation who had gone through the basic 6-week training would gather at our communications-training base. The seniors taught the lower class men. After their training, the seniors would take everything the lower classmen had, then drink and dance. Therefore, the merriest times at the communications-training camp were Saturday evenings. That day, there were a lot of under classmen that came, and so the upper classmen taught them, then took all their possessions and danced and drank enthusiastically. However, to me, those were the most uncomfortable times. I would quietly leave the quarters with Soon-jong Song and Chang-won Kim, and we would go to the empty quarters next door. 

    There were no lights in the empty quarter, so it was dark and cold. While shivering in the cold, I sat with Soon Jung Song and Chang-won Kim, and began to preach the gospel. What I strongly came to realize was that although Satan tries to interfere whenever the gospel is being preached, God gives me strength. Even though I didn't know what to say, whenever I preached the gospel, God allowed me to remember Words that I hadn't thought about, and helped me in preaching the gospel. Since much time has passed, I cannot remember what Words I preached, or how I preached the gospel that evening, however, one thing I will not be able to forget during my lifetime was having experienced the joy of both Soon-jong and Chang-won receiving salvation. 

    The two quarters were so contradictory. In the room next door, the people were drinking, dancing, and singing with their lights. On the other hand, in our cold room, where the three of us were, two friends listened to the gospel. Our hearts were bright while the three of us prayed after I preached the gospel. It was impossible not to feel that God was with us. 

    Beginning Service At The Training Camp 

    From that day on, Soon-jong Song and Chang-won Kim were one with me. At that time, as the instructing soldier at the ROC, I was the head in charge of educating the soldiers. Soon-jong Song was the director, and Chang-won Kim was the secretary. Therefore, as the three upper classmen, we had led all activities when we went off to receive training. We were so happy and thankful that all three of us were saved. 

    Soon-jong Song and Chang-won Kim wanted to help me in preaching the gospel. Since it was a bit burdensome for just us three to gather and have service at the communications-training base, we decided to gather all our underclassmen and have service officially. However, to have service while being trained at the communications-training base was very difficult. The reason being that there were many soldiers who deserted from the barracks, and if we wanted to bring the trainees to the service area, each person had to report early to the staff sergeant and higher officer. On top of all this, we didn't bring the soldiers from just one quarter, but from many other quarters. So, even though we were the upperclassmen, it wasn't a simple task of gathering all the soldiers together. However, as Soon-jong Song and Chang-won Kim helped me, we were able to smoothly carry everything out and committed to have service every Sunday. 

    After the new soldiers entered on Saturday and our class went to train them, I would go into each of their quarters. Since I was their superior, the new soldiers would all stop what they were doing and sit upright, but I told them, "At ease," and would talk to them about the training camp. "Did you all sleep well on the train last night?" 

    "Yes!" they would answer. 

    "Do not worry too much. Most people are uneasy when they arrive at the communications-training camp, but wait till a week passes, each training camp is preparing soldiers to come and clean your shoes and draw water so you can wash your faces." 

    Then a feeling of relief came over the new soldiers. I would explain that, "Time will quickly pass and it will soon be next week, and your underclassmen will come in making you upperclassmen." Then if I say, "Those of you who believe in Jesus raise your hands," then in a room with about 40 people, 20 to 30 soldiers would raise their hands. I wrote down their names, one by one, and ordered them saying, "Tomorrow there will be an announcement so come to the designated place." 

    On Saturdays, I went around to the different rooms and announced the church service to the soldiers, as well as to announce it on Sunday. When the underclassmen gathered, we counted their numbers and went to the staff sergeant, superior officer, and commanding officer, early on to report them and then went to hold service. 

    However, at that time, there was no place to hold service. During that cold winter, we went into the mountains and picked a spot in the sun and held service. After everyone sang hymns, I preached the Word. When I think of those times, I cannot fully express in words how thankful I am. Not only was the communications-training base that God had prepared large, but also, as a training camp, there should have been a chaplain. Yet, strangely enough, that base did not have a chaplain. If there were a chaplain, I would not have been able to do the things I did. Because there was neither a chaplain nor a private soldier to help a chaplain, I, who was only a trainee, was able to take on those jobs. This was the path that God had opened for me. 

    As I preached the Word during service, there were those that went to the restroom and those that stepped outside. I began to worry: "What if that trainee runs away? If he runs away, we will not be able to have service. They will not let us out in the future." 

    Whenever I thought this, I became worried and prayed. To tell you the truth, the best time to run away was when we had service. If one wanted to run away, one could freely escape during services. But during my three years of service at the communications training camp, not a single soldier ran away. God had protected us. 

    The Help Of Two Friends 

    Then one day, Chang-won said to me, "Hey, Ock-soo, I'm not going to attend service in the future." 

    "Hey, what are you talking about?" 

    "No matter how much I think of it, if all three of us go to have service, there will be a discrepancy in the running of the base. Therefore, I'll do the organizing indoors and other stuff that you guys have to do. You two go and lead service. Can't I just pray and have fellowship with you during other times?" 

    I was so grateful for that friend's word. To tell you the truth, my personality was so rough that I was unable to do the organizing and straightening of government property well. Yet Chang-won Kim and Soon-jong Song were so exact and detail oriented that they did the job well. Starting from then on, Chang-won didn't attend service, but stayed behind and did the tremendous amount of work that Soon-jong and I had to do as well. Also, Soon-jong helped me by gathering the underclassmen from each class to have service. In this manner, service time was so gracefully prepared. 

    The gospel was preached to many private soldiers. There were more people who attended our service, even without a church, than the church located at the headquarters. A few hundred of us would gather in a valley and sing hymns, pray, and at times, saved brothers would give testimonies, and I would always deliver the sermon. 

    As I preached the Word, strength overflowed my heart. After the service was over, the soldiers would come to me and received counseling for many things. During those times, I was able to preach the gospel to them individually. While spending three years at the communications training camp God had sent me to, hundreds of people came in and out of the base. Among them, many people attended our service, heard the gospel, and were then dispatched. God had allowed me this precious blessing. 

    For Three Years Without A Single Day Or Night Out 

    For three years during my army life, unlike others, I had never once gone out for the day or night on Saturdays. I was always so busy on Saturdays and Sundays. Also, when I had entered, I hadn't brought any money, and during my three years, I had never brought money from home to spend. Therefore, I had no money. There were times where we gathered money within our quarters, but I had told them straight out, "Since my family is poor, I cannot get spending money from home. I will not spend the money that I receive as salary, nor smoke my cigarettes, so you can use all of that. Another thing, don't ask me for money when you see me." 

    In that manner, I lived my army life without a single penny. But, since I did not leave the base on Saturdays or Sundays, I had no need for money, and since I did my own laundry, I didn't have much trouble. 

    Each Saturday, I would always wonder, "What type of underclassmen will arrive this time?" and I would go around looking for them to invite them to church. When it became Sunday, I gathered them and witnessed the gospel. Amidst all this, God had saved many people and the church at the communications training camp was blessed in its growth. 

    If I think of it, no matter where it may be, there isn't a single place where God isn't present. Therefore, God and I became one, and when I live for the gospel, that God is pleased in, no matter what situations I may encounter, there is no need for me to fear 

    God Is With Us. Look Upon Him 

    Many years have passed, I miss Soon-jong Song and Chang-won Kim, who were at the communications training camp with me. However, there was no way for me to find them. Yet one day, as I happened to enter the Internet, I looked up Soon-jong Song's phone number in the Phone number Search of the Kwangju area. The results were three numbers under that name. I called those numbers and the first and second were not him, but the third number I called Brother Soon-jong Song's wife answered the phone. So, I was able to meet Brother Soon-jong Song a few times, sharing memories over a pleasant meal. 

    Although everyone is now aged with children and busy with our own lives, but the hearts we shared in the army remained and so meeting was very enjoyable. Soon-jong Song and Chang-won Kim were dear friends whom God had allowed me to meet so we could preach the gospel together at the communications training camp. Although they could not preach the Word as I had, but God had led their hearts to take upon themselves the work that needed to be done to preach the gospel. Those two friends had allowed me to preach the gospel without worrying, and did the tasks that were difficult for me. 

    Still, when I think of those friends, I thank God. I was able to see that the God who sent me Soon-jong Song and Chang-won Kim to help me when I was at the communications training camp, had protected me and granted me people to help me in all that I did after that. 

    Those three years of army life were the most blessed times for me. Many had said that army life lacks freedom and is very wearisome, but I lived each day with the heart that, "Let's say Jesus was to come at 10 o'clock this night, then how should I spend this day?" Each morning as I woke up, I wanted live together besides Jesus. Even though I was a trainee with a low status, I lived within grace, lacking nothing because God was with me. So even now, when our brothers go off to the army, I often say this, "Since God is with you, look up to Him. Then your army life will be full of grace and blessing."

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