I spent a chaotic first week at the Communications Training Base, getting berated by my senior officers. As I began to feel a bit more at ease, the heart to pray, to read the Bible, and to have service sincerely arose within me. One Saturday night, I used my break time to call a colleague over and preached the Gospel to him. His name was Soon Jong Song, and his salvation was assured through the Words. Later on, another friend named Chang Won Kim also listened to the Words and received assurance of salvation. The three of us gathered our hearts, saying, “Let’s preach the Gospel to other trainees, and have Sunday service at the base.” It was decided that I will lead the service, Brother Soon Jong Song will gather the trainees, and Brother Chang Won Kim will address any internal conflicts.
There were various challenges for a trainee like me to lead a religious service. Back then, there were many cases of desertion. Trainees were kept back from attending such events, even when they were off-duty. Brothers Song, Kim and I had to get permission from the commander, the cadet instructor, the sergeant, and the barracks leader. And even when we received their permission, we still had a problem – we did not have a chapel for service! We visited each barrack shouting, “Those who want to attend service, come out.” Over a hundred trainees would gather together. There was no place to hold a service, so we ended up having service outside at a mountain valley. It was a cold winter, so everyone was shivering at the service. After preaching the Word, when I asked, “Those who want to believe in Jesus, please raise your hands and come forward,” several people raised their hand and stepped forward. I preached the Gospel on the forgiveness of sins. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred... As time passed, more and more people attended service. I was able to preach the Gospel to many of the trainees at that place.
One morning as I was on going out on a departmental business trip, I heard an announcement from the headquarter speaker, saying, “ROC 311 Ock Soo Park, report to the head office.” I felt nervous, since such announcements made in the army are rarely due to something good. When I went into the head office, the lieutenant, said, “Private Park, come sit here.” My eyes became round. It was given for a private to be yelled and cursed at in the army, but this lieutenant was treating me formally, offering me a seat.
“Private Park, what sort of work did you do before coming to the army?
“I was a minister.”
“Ah, as I suspected! I was a fervent believer before coming to the army too. But once I came here, I began drinking, smoking, and wasted my spiritual life away. Now I’m just like a non-believer. It hurts my heart a lot to live like this. Yesterday, I went to the valley because I heard the sound of hymnals, and saw you leading a service with the trainees. Seeing that really hit me hard. I thought to myself, ‘A private, a trainee is even doing the work of God! What am I, a lieutenant doing?’ And throughout the whole night, I was tormented. Private Park, I want to help you with what you do. Is there anything for me to help you with?”
“Yes, lieutenant. We have no place to hold a service. I would like it if you could provide us with a room.”
“Oh, such things are possible.”
The lieutenant gave orders right away to the sergeant next to him.
“Sergeant Kim, give Private Park the key to room 16 so he can have service there at any time.”
That is how I obtained a place where we could have service, and the lieutenant and I became personally close. He would often say, “Private Park, pray for me. And when you have the time, tell me about the Words in the Bible.”
After sixteen weeks of training at the Communications base, we were to be sent to the next base where we would serve out the remainder of our service to the army. My two friends and I had a discussion, “At least one of us should stay at this training base. If all three of us leave, who’s going to lead the service? Let’s pray to God, so at least one of us can remain here.” We began to pray for at least one of us to remain at the base and continue
to do the works of the Gospel.
After sixteen weeks of training, we graduated. On graduation day, I was promoted to Private First Class, and I was so thankful to the lieutenant that I went to say goodbye to him.
“Lieutenant, thank you so much for helping me in many ways during my training. We graduate today.”
“Wait, Private Park! I have something to say to you. I knew you were graduating today, and I actually tried hard to send you to a good base. I was thinking of this base and that base, but I thought that you could be of great help to my spiritual life, so I made arrangements for you to remain here. So I hope you won’t complain and help me to do the work of the Gospel at this base.”
As I left the headquarters, I was moved beyond words. Even as I prayed to God to remain here and preach the Gospel, I deemed it impossible. For a trainee to go to the base he chose would require him to be within the top five highest ranking scores on graduation day, or have significant backing, but I had neither one of those. When I graduated, I was ranked thirteenth place. Looking at the situation, remaining at the Communications Training Base was impossible. That day, I had no other way to contain my thankfulness, so I went down to the soundproof communications bunker, where I used to kneel and pray.
“God, you are truly God. You are the living God who does not disappoint all those who pray to you. How can there be any other like you? God, you are the best!”
I screamed this after locking the doors to the soundproof bunker. As I walked out after screaming my prayer of thanks, I was so filled with thankfulness that I shed tears. Until I had fulfilled my service to the army and was discharged, I stayed at that base living my army life and preaching the Gospel to countless trainees through the grace of God.