• 32. Incredibly Lucky Guy

  • The communications-training base that I had trained in for three years is a close distance of only 500m from the present day city where the Wonju Church is located. I had never dreamed that one of our churches would be established so close to that army base. Whenever I go to Wonju, I think of that base. During the three years I was at that base, God had truly protected and watched after me. When I think back to those times, I long for that life once again. Also, the more I think back to the many occasions of having preached the gospel I am filled with gratitude and happiness. 

    Incredibly Lucky Guy 
    I had Brother Soon-jong Song and Chang-won Kim by my side. We were both brothers in Christ and friends as well. In our spare time, we were so busy gathering for prayer meetings, Bible studies, and discussing the future and how we were going to go about evangelizing. Each time, the three of us would be very grateful before God, with one heart and one will and the promise that He had given us. 

    The three of us were always together. One day, after finishing the training, everyone else left while we, who were in charge of the education department, stayed behind and cleaned up the place. Afterwards, we were walking towards our quarters when suddenly in front of the commander's office, we saw that the Major General of the education department walking toward us. We were taken aback. It was nearly impossible to see the trainee Major General in person, and we had never done so before. We braced ourselves. As the Major General passed before us, we saluted him in a loud voice, saying, "Unite!" The trainee Major General stopped abruptly and called the three of us over to him. "You guys, come over here for a second." My two friends and I ran over and saluted him saying, "Yes! Private Ock-soo Park and two others have come upon the Major General's request, Sir!" 

    The trainee Major general had us standing there and asked the aide,"Hey, aide, is it possible to give official commendations to trainees?" 

    "Yes, it is possible," replied the aide. 

    "Then report these three to a senior officer. I want to award them." 

    The reason for the official commendation was because we had saluted him well. When the three of us were together, we often laughed and had a good time, but especially that day, after giving our positions, numbers, rank, and names, we returned to our quarters and couldn't stop laughing. Having to salute to the Major General was unquestionable. It isn't that great of an act deserving an official commendation. Yet our Lieutenant General was extremely happy to hear that the trainee Major General had awarded us with an official commendation. The day before receiving the commendation, our Lieutenant General called us in and checked the status of our attire and said, "When the Major General asks to shake your hand, do not grasp his hand, but just offer your hand to him." He taught us other mannerisms of how to act when receiving the award. 

    Even on the day of the official commendation, we had to practice for ten minutes in front of the Lieutenant General before going to receive our award. Finally, the time came for us to receive the official commendation at the drill field before all the officers. As we heard our names called, "Ock-soo Park! Soon-jong Song! Chang-won Kim!" we ran to the front. After saluting, the trainee Major General read the official commendation. I don't know who wrote the draft of the official commendation, but beginning from the words, "These are exceptionally minded soldiers," it seemed that he used all the complements that existed in the world. That day, everyone in our base witnessed us receiving official commendations. 

    I hadn't thought the award was very significant. However, I found that it was all in God's plan. There were over 100 commissioned officers at our army base, and over a thousand enlisted soldiers. I was merely a second-class private. But after I had received the award, there wasn't a single person who didn't know me. Soon after, as our base found out that I was a believer in Christ, I always heard people say, "Ah, that fellow, the one who received the commendation, the Jesus person." I didn't hate it when people said this. Therefore, whenever I had the chance, I evangelized. At times, I would be called to go to work, and when I got on the truck to go to work, the soldier driving would see me and say, "Hey, Ock-soo Park is going today. Then God will help us. I bet there will not be any accidents today." Even though those words may have been a joke, everyone felt and realized that I was with God, and that God was helping me. 

    I acquired a nickname at our base, and that was, "Extremely lucky guy." Even when I was discharged from military service, God had helped me and I could be discharged with such grace. All the commissioned officers at our base would say, "That soldier has such luck even till the day of his discharge." When Joseph was sold into Egypt, he lived a life of a servant. When others looked at him, he seemed but a lowly servant, but God was with him. Even when he went to prison, God was with him allowing everything to go smoothly. Although at my base I had the lowest rank as a trainee, God was with me, and I was able to see Him help and guide me through all things. 

    Let's Build A Chapel 
    One Sunday, as I called all the trainees together and we were long into service, the door behind me opened, and the trainee Major General walked in. The Major General didn't come to work on Sunday's and so it was rare to see him at the base. I don't know for what reason, but that day he came to the base, going from here to there. Then finally, hearing that we have service, he had opened the doors to our service area. I was in the middle of preaching the Word, and when I saw the Major General walk in, I hesitated. But the Major General said, "That's okay, continue with the religion." With the Major General sitting in the back, I continued with the service, but I cannot express how burdensome it was. 

    However, the Major General sat and listened to the Word for a long time till it was over. And as soon as I finished the sermon, he got up and said, "I have something to say to all of you. May I?" It's the trainee Major General who wished to speak in a training base, so who would dare oppose? "Yes! Please tell us." 

    You could hear his heavy footsteps as he marched up to the platform and began to speak: "Although I do not know when you have started this religion, there are soldiers who are on duty for the week who haven't reported to me about this. And even though there are soldiers on duty during the day, there isn't a single person who reports things to me." 

    I thought to myself, "We're in big trouble!" Just because we had service we will be scolded by the Major General and will not be able to have service anymore. But the Major General continued saying, "After being assigned to this base as a Major General, I was most disappointed that there wasn't a church nor chapel here." Then he said this: 

    "During the June 25 disaster, I was a Lieutenant General in the infantry. At that time, I lead our battalion and participated in the war, in the legendary Baekma-go-ji battle. During that battle, there were a lot of lives sacrificed on both sides. If one battalion entered into battle, they were all almost completely annihilated, with virtually no one left alive, except for about five or ten soldiers. Those army bases that were to participate in the Baekma-go-ji battle were practically dead. The night before the dash upon enemy lines, with my pistol at my side, I patrolled the bomb shelters. As I thought of how all the soldiers would die the next day, I thought back to my hometown and shed tears with anxiety. However, when I entered into one bomb shelter, there was a Korean soldier who was on his knees, hunched over, and mumbling to himself. I asked him, 'What are you doing?' and he answered, 'I was praying, sir.' That is when suddenly in my heart the thought of 'prayer' arose. I asked that soldier, 'Did you pray for the Major General?' 'Yes, I will sir!' he replied. Then I said, 'Good, pray,'and left. Then as I continued to patrol the bomb shelters I said, 'You! Pray. What do you believe in? God? Buddha? The Dragon King? Whoever it may be, pray to them.' Since everyone was thinking about death, they all prayed in tears with sincerity. 

    As dawn arrived the next day, I commanded the soldiers to 'Charge!' Amongst the soldiers I had seen till now, they were the most unified and bold. At that time, I realized, 'Ah, this is the power of religion. Religion is truly needed. Religion is really important in our army.' So, when I came to this base and found that there wasn't a church, I was very saddened. But seeing you guys having service and a religion, I wonder why I hadn't known this sooner. I will build a chapel for you guys. Let's gather our strength and together build a chapel." 

    We were so happy we let out cries of joy. That was the second meeting between the Major General and I, and we became close, putting our heads together in discussing and building the chapel. Of course the economy of the base was not that great at the time, and it was impossible to be funded by the head base. Almost every day we would take trucks to the riverside and transfer sand to the brick factory. Then the brick factory would give us 20 bricks for every truck load of sand we brought. In that manner, we saved up the bricks. The glass and wood we acquired from other places. It was time to change the roof tiles in the army base, so among the old roof tiles, we chose clean ones to use. After the chapel was completed, we had service with the Major General present. You do not know how happy we were. No matter where I was I saw that God was always with me, leading me. For three years I would gather the new recruits into the chapel every Saturday and preach God's gospel to them. I cannot express in words how happy I was to see the amazing works of those soldiers receiving salvation and changing.

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