• 34. To The Testing Department

  • The long, 16 week training had come to an end. It was graduation day. Together with Soon Jong and Chang Won, for 16 weeks, we endured hardships and difficulties, and it came time for us to part. Although I was reluctant to part with my fellow soldiers, I was more dissapointed about having to separate from Soon Jong and Chang Won. We sat upon the hill chatting, while sharing a loaf of bread. 

    "Hey Ock Soo, although we are leaving, stay here and continue to preach the gospel." 

    "Hey, thanks. Farewell. If you go, be sure to keep in touch. Take care." 

    We shared our parting regrets and best wishes, and I was stationed at the Communications Training Base, where I continued my life. 

    To The Testing Department 

    It wasn't that difficult living at the base. During my four-month training, I rose to the rank of private, and so I was no longer the lowest ranked soldier in our quarters. Everyone at the headquarters knew my face, so we were all at ease with each other. Plus, the First Lieutenant at the Division of Education treated me well, therefore, I had no problems at all. First Lieutenant Bang always spoke to me in a kind manner for example, he would say, "Private Park, please do this. Private Park, please do this, this way." This is why the lower ranked soldiers and corporals in the instructor's headquarters were unable to speak harshly towards me. Even the head soldiers would impart commands in a polite fashion saying, "Private Park, do this; why don't you do this?" they behaved in such a manner that made my settings very pleasant. 

    On my first day of work, First Lieutenant Bang offered me a choice: "At our instructing division, we have an education department and a testing department. Private Park, which department would you like to work in?" 

    "I do not know how to work in the testing department, nor the education department. My writing skills aren't that great, so I would like to do anything besides those jobs that require me to write." 

    "Ah, then I think you should work at the testing department." 

    First Lieutenant Bang arranged it so that I was able work in the testing department. The Communications Training Base Instructing Headquarters usually creates the weekly time schedule and prepares for the classes. But, the testing department administers the tests to the students after they have finished their training, and would then divide them into their respective ranks according to the results. There are many classes that graduate each Saturday; after the tests are taken, they are corrected, and the ranks are then reported beginning from 1 to 5: those who received between a 1 and 5 were stationed wherever they wanted to go. Therefore, the trainees at the Communications Training Base studied diligently. The test results determined if one was to go to the front line or to the rear its influence wasn't to be taken lightly. 

    Is It Money, Or Is It The Lord? 

    After delivering the sermon every Sunday at the church, I would always invite the soldiers for individual counseling if anyone wished to do so, and I would always be willing to talk with them. There were always about ten people who remained. I went to them, one by one, and preached the gospel, but their plans were to bribe me to send them to the rear lines. This was a great temptation. While staying at the Communications Training Base, I was unable to bring a single penny from home. Plus, there was no other source of income, so I had no money to spend. As I led my army life, I didn't need much money, but there were times when money was needed. I needed to pay for dry cleaning my work clothes, and at times, I craved snacks. So, those who were offering me money served as a temptation for me. 

    One day, I was sitting and thinking of this problem, and this was my conclusion: If I were to take a person's money, then go and get their test, fix the answers so that they are all correct, then take the red ink, grade the test, putting the person in first place, then that person can go to the rear lines. If I were to save up money in this manner I realized that I would be able to save up a huge amount. In the Communications Training Base, there were many classes that graduated every Saturday, and if I am able to send five soldiers to the back lines, then I would be making fifty dollars a week for every class that graduates. And since there are so many classes which graduate each week, that would be an incredible amount of money. 

    However, I am truly thankful before the Lord that after receiving salvation, God was within me, leading my heart through the Holy Spirit. Often times, my flesh is tempted by the world, and I was attracted to the desires and ambitions of the flesh. Yet, when I received temptation and was directed by my desires, the Holy Spirit gave me a new heart allowing me to follow the Lord and not my temptations. Even when I had calculated in my mind and thought, "Before I am discharged from military service I would be able to save up at least a few of thousand dollars and lead an abundant life." 

    While leading an army life, there is one heart God had placed into mine. During that time, life as a trainee at the Communications Training Base was so difficult, so I prayed each day, and praised God with a thankful heart for allowing me to have this one heart, "If God were to come tonight at ten o'clock, then how should I live? Let's say that Jesus were to arrive upon a cloud at ten, then wouldn't a life like this be shameful?" I often thought this in my heart. Therefore, during my three years in the army, I was able to assume that the Lord was coming at ten o'clock that night and lived my life preaching the gospel. 

    I was in need of money, and the trainee soldiers offered it to me. There were those who were going to go to the rear lines regardless, so for me to change their grades and send them to the back lines wasn't a difficult process. That is why, although those things were a temptation, God held on to my heart. 

    One day I thought deeply about this problem: "Let's say that while leading an army life for three years here at the Communication Training Base, I were to make nearly a hundred thousand dollars, then I would be rich and would left with lots of money. On the other hand, if I were to do that and cause Jesus disappointment, would that be beneficial for me?" 

    This is what I strongly felt and the conclusion I came to was: "It would not be beneficial at all. For me to gain the world, but to be far from God would be a great misfortune. To be with God although I were to have nothing, would be a grand thing. Although it's true we shouldn't commit sin before God, but to cause Jesus disappointment is an incredible loss." 

    That day, I had made up my mind: "If I am in need of money, I am one who cannot avoid falling into temptation. Then how am I to continue my army life? I cannot fetch money from home to spend. I have to ask God for the things I need. This is what I will do: since the need for money arises when soldiers leave the base and spend the night out, I shouldn't leave the army base." 

    During my army life, although I went on vacation a few times, I had never gone out or slept outside of the army base. The time granted for us to leave the base was mostly on Sundays, but leading morning and evening services made it impossible for me to leave. Besides, I had no reason to leave or sleep outside of the base. 

    Secondly, I wondered what I needed money for. It was because I had to pay the cleaners for washing and ironing my work clothes. Hence, from that day on, I began washing my own work clothes. In those days, there was a rice cooker called, 'Hang-go.' I would fill it with sand, place it upon the furnace, and when it got hot I used it as an iron to iron my clothes. Among the soldiers that were serving their term, I was the only one who did not send my clothes to the cleaners, but washed them myself. When we went out to work, mine was the most ragged looking, however, this wasn't a problem, nor was it an embarrassment. 

    The third area where money was needed was when the soldiers gathered money in our quarters to eat out, or on special occasions. This is what I told my bunkmates: "My situation doesn't allow me to bring money from home to spend. I don't have money. So, when my wages are given, I will not spend that money, then you can use it anyway you wish. Another thing, I do not smoke, so you can either smoke the cigarettes that are allotted to me or do whatever you like with them. However, do not ask me for money." 

    I openly announced this, and as a result, I did not see a single penny from the salary I earned during those three years. However, because I did not receive my salary, I did not leave the base, did my own laundry, and because I didn't partake when they collected money in the quarters, I rarely had the need for money. While leading three years of my life in the army, I spent nearly no money at all. Once in a while, lower ranking soldiers would offer me a pack of Pagoda cigarettes to smoke. I would say to them, "I don't smoke." But there were some who would respond saying, "Whatever, I saw you smoking," and urge me to take the cigarette. I was thankful to God, because with that I would then be able to buy stamps. During those times, a pack of Pagoda cigarettes was about 4 cents, and stamps were less than 1 cent each. If I took the pack of cigarettes to the PX, I was able to barter for 5 stamps. With this, I wrote letters to the brothers and sisters of the church. 

    At any rate, through such methods, God made it so that I lacked nothing during my three-year stay in the army. Due to God, I was able to work at the testing department of the Communications Training Camp without debasing myself by using unethical methods to send soldiers to the rear lines. This wasn't because I was more willful or decisive than others. In the past, when the temptations of sin arose, I would immediately fall into those temptation without a thought. Yet after receiving salvation from sin, being born again, and having Jesus reside in my heart, every time there were difficult situations, Jesus had always protected my heart. Especially during my army life, there were many temptations and hardships, but every time, the Lord held onto my heart and opened the way for me to avoid them. In turn, I was able to live those three years without spending money and getting involved in shameful acts. 

    Because I Am A Christian-Relinquishing The Government's Property 
    There was an unforgettable incident which occurred around the time of my discharge. Right before I was to be discharged, there was a chaplain named Jung Soo Lee who arrived at our base. Although he was a first lieutenant, he had just been appointed to an officer. I was merely a soldier who would soon leave, and we would often have fun conversations. I often sat down with him and talked of the gospel. 

    Upon the verge of leaving, I had a problem. In preparation for my departure, I went to my quarters and found that my helmet, gun, and grenade band were in place, but the government property that was appointed to me, was missing. In order to be freed from service, I had to quickly turn all those items in, but not a single one remained. Although Corporal Park of General Affairs Department said to me, "Sergeant, aren't you going to be discharged? Return the government property that is in your possession. You have to return the items in order to leave," but I didn't have anything to turn in. I prayed to God: "God, for three years I had led this army life through your grace, and I am thankful that it is now over. However, I don't have the government issued property. What should I do about this?" 

    A private under me said, "Sergeant Park, take ours and turn it in." During those times, the seniors in the army would take the lower ranked soldiers property if they didn't have their own. If this didn't fancy them, they called the soldiers together and would scold them saying, "Hey you guys, can't you even take care of your senior officer's property?" Then the soldiers would replace them on their own. However, because I was a Christian, I couldn't do that. I prayed to God for a few days. 

    Then one day, the chaplain said to me, "Hey! Sergeant Park, did you turn in your gear?" 
    I responded saying, "Uh, yes. Well, it went okay." But the chaplain gave me two dollars and thirty cents and said, "Use this to replace the missing item, and turn them all in." 
    "I'm okay." 

    "No, please take it." 

    In this way, I received two dollars and thirty cents. Then I thought carefully about it: "Although I went and prayed often at the chapel about the government issued items, I usually went at night to pray. The chaplain leaves the base after his work is done, so there is no way he could have heard my prayers. Then why is he giving me this money to turn in my stuff? Plus, the chaplain is an officer, so he doesn't know about this kind of stuff." I knew that God had done this. Therefore, from the day I was enlisted, till the day I was discharged, I was able to avoid all misdemeanors. It was because God had filled all my needs. 

    there is no way he could have heard my prayers. Then why is he giving me this money to turn in my stuff? Plus, the chaplain is an officer, so he doesn't know about this kind of stuff." I knew that God had done this. Therefore, from the day I was enlisted, till the day I was discharged, I was able to avoid all misdemeanors. It was because God had filled all my needs. 

    I Cannot Do That 

    During my three-year stay at the testing department of the Communications Base, when many people offered me money to send them to the rear lines, I was able to evade those temptations. There were times the officers would call and command me, saying: "Hey, Ock Soo Park! Put ROC number# of #class in first place!" 

    "Sir, I cannot do that sir." 

    "Do it! If I tell you to do it, you do it!" 

    "Then you do it sir. I am a believer in God, and so I cannot do it, sir." 

    Of course, although I was of lower rank, the army headquarters or officers could not look down upon me, and with that faith in God, I was able to reject their requests. At times, a senior sergeant would require money from me or my lower ranked fellows, but still, I did not receive a single penny from the trainees. I did not even partake in any such dishonest acts. 

    It Was All Possible Through God Who Lived My Life For Me 
    The reason I was able to lead such a life wasn't because I was cleaner or purer than others. This was all possible because God was with me, protecting and pouring His grace upon me. The God who had protected the three years of my life in the army, continued to live my life in my stead. I have that God. Therefore, I am able to live in grace within this evil world. The protecting and guiding hands of God are always perfect and whole. That is why I can't help but depend upon and fear Him.

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