One day, I received a call as I was holding a Bible Study session with our missionary students. The person on the phone asked me, “Is this Pastor Ock Soo Park?” When I answered that I was, they replied, “This is the Suwon Prison.” It seemed strange that a prison was asking for me when I had not committed any crimes. However, the person on the line told me the reason for this phone call.
“Pastor, I’m calling from the Office of the Warden of Suwon Prison. A while ago, I heard your sermon through a broadcast. It was so graceful, but I did not have any of your information, so I didn’t know how to contact you. However, this morning, someone mailed one of our prisoners a magazine called, “The Good News,” and I saw that your name and address were printed on the magazine. I was so happy, so I decided to call you. Pastor Park, would you be so kind as to come and visit our prison?”
As I have been working for the Gospel, the truly amazing thing is that before God begins the things He wants to bring to fruition, He stirs my heart ahead of time. At that time, I had already received the heart to preach the Gospel to the inmates in prisons. That was when this man from the Office of the Warden called me.
There is a hymn that reads: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight,” which comes from David’s poetic Psalm 19, verse 14. There were many times I wanted to change the lyrics to read, “I clearly believe that the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart have been accepted by the Lord.”
The very next day, I visited the Suwon Prison. The front entrance was a huge metal gate, and when I said to the guard, “I’m here to meet the representative from the Office of the Warden,” he brought a worker from the registrar department. He led me to the person who called me from the office, and we greeted one another.
“Hello, I am Pastor Ock Soo Park.”
“I’m Warden so-and-so.”
After greeting each other, the Warden asked me for a favor. “Pastor, I have a favor to ask of you. March 1st is a national holiday. Could you preach the Word to the inmates on that day? Please lead a Bible Seminar here.”
“Alright,” I answered.
Then, the Warden gathered everyone on staff in his department, and asked them if they could help out with the Bible Seminar for March 1st, even though it was a national holiday. Everyone readily agreed. And so all the department staff came to work on March 1st, so we were able to have a Bible Seminar the entire day, beginning at 9 am. Other than a short lunch break, we continued to preach the Gospel. That day, many people received salvation. The Warden was so happy, and asked me, “Pastor, how about April 5th?” March 1st, April 5th, May 5th, July 6th- I went to the prison to preach once a month for four consecutive months. That’s when I realized why there’s at least one national holiday every month.
All the department workers could not take the day off on any of the national holidays for four months. I was so thankful to them, that I decided to buy them a meal. God worked in such a way where many people received salvation. As I heard some of their testimonies, I clearly felt that God opened the doors for us to preach the Gospel in the prison for those inmates. When I saw how the released inmates came to live differently, with a new life within the church, I have truly been thankful to God.
Brother Jae Yong Yoo murdered his sister-in-law and was arrested and incarcerated before he could attempt to kill two more people. He had been happily married, but his sister-in-law introduced his wife to dancing. As she began going to cabarets, there was trouble within the family. He begged his wife many times to stop dancing and care for the family, and he even asked his sister-in-law to help stop his wife from dancing, but he was treated coldly by both of them. His wife would not stop going out to dance, and the family began to break apart, causing hatred to arise in his heart. Eventually, a fight broke out at his sister-in-law’s home. He tried speaking to his sister-in-law, but she despised him, saying, “You uneducated fool.” This enraged him so much that he grabbed a knife from the kitchen, and swung it around in a craze. When he came to his senses, he had a knife in his hand, and his sister-in-law was lying on the floor. As he was attempting to kill the remaining people of his family there, he was caught and arrested.
As resentment and hatred accumulated towards those who caused his happy family break apart, he vowed to kill the rest of those people once he was released. The misery and hatred in his heart had not disappeared. However, during the Bible Seminar, the Gospel entered his heart. Once he received God’s words, which said, “Jesus was crucified for him to wash away all of his sins, and that Jesus continues to love him,” his heart changed and all of his hatred and misery changed to thankfulness and happiness. He acted as a model inmate in order to reduce his sentence in order to get out as early as possible. He tried to be acknowledged as a good person in order to achieve his goal of taking revenge. However, he had changed inside of Christ. Now, he truly came to love his neighbors. Jesus’ heart that loved him was established in his heart, and a heart to love Jesus arose in him. Once his heart was changed, he was released on parole.
As soon as his in-laws heard that he was on parole, they filed a petition. “This person will commit an even bigger crime if he’s released.” His in-laws were so afraid that he would be freed that they did not know what to do. He was released from prison after having been imprisoned ten years by the grace of God, and the first place he visited was our church. He cleaned the church vehicles and lived volunteering in the church. Seeing his changed lifestyle, the pastor of the church he was staying in got him a job, and he is now living a new and happy life with a wife and family within faith. Anyone will change once the precious love of God is established in them. As the Words in Genesis 1:2, And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, there are many people, today, who have no happiness and are suffering in a life filled with emptiness and without form. Brother Yu was such a person, but God, who changed the Earth, also changed his heart beautifully.