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I Am Not One ofthe Chosen People

My mother attended church since she was young. After she got married, she could not dare tell her parents-in-law that she was attending church. When I was young, I often heard the hymns that my mother would sing while sewing. “When Christ Jesus returns to this world...” Then one day, my mother started to take us to church.

I attended church since I was very young. At church, there were so many fun things such as Sunday School, Summer Bible Camp, and Christmas preparations. I received many awards and heard many compliments.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I basically grew up in church. Therefore, it must be normal for me to be a good person. However, that was not the case. I started to commit more and more sins as I grew up. At first, I committed small sins as I hung out with my friends thinking, “It is fine as long as I do not commit too many sins.” But strangely, while it was extremely boring, not committing any sins, it was so fun when we actually did commit sins. So I grew up drinking and feeding off of sin. As a result, it was so painful for me to go to church on Sundays.

As I moved up to Seoul, I attended school while living with some older friends. Every month, my family would send some money from home, but for about three months, they did not send me anything. My older roommates would pressure me more and more for the rent to the point where I would not even want to go home after school. I thought to myself, “I shouldn't just sit here, I should make some money.” Coincidentally, I saw an advertisement in the news for a newspaper delivery boy, so I went to the newspaper agency and had an interview. They told me that I would need to put down a deposit of 10 won in case I would run away with the money collected from selling the newspapers. Back then, 10 won was a large amount of money, so I just barely got the money. The manager told me that I would not be able to get my deposit back if I quit within 3 months. After agreeing and signing the contract, I was given around 300 houses for newspaper delivery.

I was told that the money remaining after submitting in the set amount to the agency would become my income. I estimated that around 50-60 houses would amount to be my income. But after diligently delivering newspapers to households for about a month, many households would not pay, saying, “Who asked you to give us newspapers?” There were around 50 households like that. It seemed the agency included those houses to increase the number of subscribers. I delivered like a madman for a month, but there was no money remaining, whatsoever. I wanted to quit, but I would not be able to get the money I deposited if I left within 3 months. Thinking back, newspaper delivery was a completely unprofitable job. After thinking, “How should I pay the agency back?” I collected all the delivery money in one day, and ran away with the money which was about twice the amount of the deposit.

I felt nervous staying in Seoul, so I returned to my hometown. My father and brother were concerned, saying “Why did you come back in the middle of your semester?” However, I could not tell them anything. It would not have been a problem if I just told them, but I was very scared. Whenever my father called me, I just put my head down and did not answer. My roommates and the school sent letters, saying that they would take responsibility for whatever happened, but I ripped up all the letters. Around 2 months later, the incident was appeased, but the countryside was just so boring that I could not bear it anymore. My father told me, “If you are going to play, go and weed the barley field,” so I went, but all day long, I only weeded one row of barley. Country life was so boring, and whenever I would hang out with my friends, I would only go around doing bad things. I would also go to church all the time because I had no other choice.

At church, I would fall into this fear: “I think Jesus will come soon, but I think I would fall into hell as soon as He comes.” I was always tied down to the fear and guilt I felt from sin. 1962, was a year in my life which I do not want to remember. I could not continue with school or farming, and I did not have the skills to take the civil service exam. My last resort was enlisting in the military, but I failed the physical exam. I begged the medical officer, I'd rather die if I can't get into the army.” but he rejected me saying, “I can clearly see that your front tooth is broken, so how can I pass you?” Nobody welcomed or wanted me. This is when I realized that there is no greater loser than me in the world. Before this occurred, I thought I was great and smart. I decided to kill myself, but being a man with complicated thoughts, I was not able to. I was also afraid of death. I considered what I did back in Seoul to be just, but at church, all of that was considered sin. I drank and smoked out of distress.

When I got together with my friends, we would go to the peanut or sweet potato fields. Once, I dug up and ate a whole bunch of peanuts in someone's field, but that field turned out to be ours. Even in church, all we would do is play, when we got together. In the summers we went to the orchards, and in the winters we went to the movie theaters or bakeries. As soon as service ended, the youth group members would put away the New Testament pocket Bible in their pockets, and we would meet to eat, drink, and play. It was fun when we played, but it was painful to stand in front of God later on. “Yeah, I've done wrong all this time, but from now on if I set myself straight, things will work out fine.” I would try to depart from sin, but strangely, the more I tried with all my heart, the worse it turned out. Every revival and every New Year, I cried, vowing not to sin and repenting; but I fell into sin again. “Oh, I'm not one of the chosen people! I am destined to hell.” I even thought, "I'll just sin all I want and go to hell with a comfortable heart, since that's where I'm going anyway.” It would have been okay if I felt comfortable after sinning, but my heart felt much pain. So once again, I had to go back to church.

Once during a revival, I heard the words, “Jesus washed all our sins away on the cross.” It would have been good to stop there, but I also heard, “If all your sins are washed, you won't remember any of them.” I was distressed for a long time thinking that my sins were not washed, because I still remembered them. On the days we did not have service, I would go to the chapel and cry, “God, tell me if my sins have been washed or not. If all my sins are washed, just tell me they're forgiven.” No matter how long I waited, God did not speak and all I heard were the sounds of rats shuffling around in the ceiling.

I always confessed and asked for forgiveness of sins in my prayers. It was embarrassing to confess my sins in front of others, so I would go out to early morning prayer service. Being the first to arrive, I would turn on the lamp and ring the bells. It was a huge bell, with a sound reaching more than a meter long so the only way I could ring it was by hanging onto the ropes. After ringing the bell, I would go to the parsonage and wake the pastor up, saying “Pastor, it is time for early morning prayer.” After that was a time for me to confess my sins alone. I would sin and repent, sin again and repent... I did not know the basic way of dealing with my sins, so I cried and confessed.

One evening, I went to see the pastor.

“Pastor, I came for spiritual counseling.”

“Oh, Mr. Park, come in.”

“Pastor, this is embarrassing, but while studying in Seoul, I committed these kinds of sins. And I'm a bad person who also committed such other sins. I tried confessing my sins, and they told me that my repentance should bear fruit, so I even paid them back. But the root of sin in my heart still remains and torments me. Pastor, what shall I do! Without getting this off my back, I can't live a spiritual life any longer.”

It was so serious, that I still remember the conversation that I had with the pastor.

“Mr. Park, I too have three daughters whom I send away for school. Nobody knows the things they do away from home. Mr. Park, everyone commits similar sins when they're young. Just because they're my daughters, I can't say they do not do the same. Mr. Park, it is times like these you have to strengthen your faith. If you fall down here, your faith will crumble, and it'll be the end of you. It is times like these you should pray and live a life of faith even more zealously. Mr. Park, do you understand?”

“I understand.”

I answered, but I had no strength. Even if the pastor did not tell me, I knew that I had to pray and read the Bible zealously. But those things did not work out for me.

On October 7, 1962, it was a Sunday early in the morning and I was praying alone in the empty chapel. While I was confessing my sins, people started flooding in, so I stopped, and continued my confession after everyone left. But that morning, the fact that “Jesus washed all my sins on the cross,” had entered my heart. No one preached to me about the Old Testament sin offering, or about the eternal remission of sins Jesus brought. But my heart felt at peace as I thought, “All my sins were taken care of back then on the cross.” Amazingly, I started to change without even realizing it. I started to feel that God was close to me, when he seemed so far before. I did not pray formally as I did before, but I started to pray one by one about the things that were in my heart. The Bible became more and more exciting each time I read it. I could not put down the Bible from my hands, and oftentimes, I fell asleep holding it.

God first showed me what kind of a person I was before he gave me salvation. He showed me how I was a lacking, incompetent, and dirty sinner, and I could only go to hell. After receiving salvation, I only looked up to God because I hated my old life so much. When I stopped expecting things from myself and looked only to God, He amazingly held onto me with the Word and began to lead me.



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