As I look back on my life — especially the last 10 years — I can see how the Providence of God has directed my life.
In the past, I had worked as an elementary teacher in a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) school and then as a children’s pastor at a Korean church. It was there that I felt the desire to get in touch with my roots by moving to South Korea for a few years. I had made arrangements to visit for more than five months, but God had other plans.
Doors seemed to be closing in Korea, but ironically, my dream job of being a principal (at a K-10 SDA school in Oregon) was offered to me. Excitedly, I began preparing to return to America to begin a new job and a new life. It was then that I started hanging out with a new friend in Korea. She had volunteered for a few weeks in a leper colony in China and urged me to take a trip there. “It’s like a detox from the world! You have to go!” she told me.
I caught a wind of her enthusiasm, and decided that since I was in Asia already, I could spare about ten days before heading back to the US. I wanted to scope out the ministry in the leper colonies so that I could lead groups of young people on short-term mission trips. But those were my thoughts. Yet again, God had other plans!
In those ten days, God turned my life inside-out. I met the precious leper grandmas and grandpas, who have so many needs. Many are missing fingers and limbs. Some are blind. The majority are over 70 years old. When I witnessed the purity of their hearts and acceptance of their condition, my heart was captured. In fact, as many of the lepers became Christians, their lives began to be filled with forgiveness, unselfishness, and generosity.
“….I wanted to give all…I just didn’t know how to do it.”
I also met many of the missionary volunteers. I was able to hear their testimonies and I was astounded to meet a group of people, many of whom had given up jobs or their plans to pursue higher education. They sold their homes or left their families for the sake of serving the leper grandmas and grandpas. These humble people had diligently sacrificed their lives for the greater mission of preparing for and hastening the coming of Jesus. Wow! Here were the real Christians living like the early church, having all things in common, helping the needy, and preaching the gospel!
During my first five days, we were able to study the Bible for five to seven hours every day. It was a feast of the Word of God. Although I had been born into the church and had a lot of Bible knowledge (or so I thought!), everything seemed so new and fresh. Now, all the pieces were coming together; this all made perfect sense! When we live up to the light that we have, God gives us more light.
The Bible studies we engaged in, highlighted Matthew 16:24 when Jesus gives His disciples and us a most solemn message, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” God gave everything to us in the Gift of Jesus, and He is simply asking us to give up all the things of this world for Him.
In the past when stirring sermons were preached and appeals were made, my heart longed to give all to Jesus. Unfortunately, back then, surrender was just a concept as I sang along with the congregation: “I Surrender All.” The thing is, I wanted to give all, but I didn’t know how to do it.
But this time, the opportunity was real. It was concrete and it was in my face. I began praying earnestly and searching the Bible for God’s will in my life. After a long, hard struggle, I realized that I didn’t want to lose this opportunity to give my whole heart, my whole life to Jesus. I thought that if I rejected Him at that time, it would just get easier and easier to reject Him altogether. Also, I knew my limitations. On the outside, I looked like a model Christian. I had fooled myself to think that since I “looked” like a better Christian than most of my community, I was okay. As a professed Christian, with one foot firmly planted in the things of this world and the other playing footsy with Christianity, I didn’t realize how lost I was. I wasn’t all in. At that moment, I knew that if I went back to the States to begin my new job, I’d be in the same boat. I would be working hard in my own strength (leading to stress and other issues stemming from pride and self-centeredness), instead of being led 100% by the Holy Spirit.
So in the end, I chose Life. I sent a sincerely apologetic email, explaining my circumstances and God’s call, to the school superintendent and the school board chair. Thankfully, their response was favourable. They sent me this response: “Well, there’s not much to say except that the Lord gives and He takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
It has been a little over three years since I first began the work with the leprosy ministry in China. It has been completely life-changing! I have come to thank God for His goodness, patience, and grace. In working for His service, I have come to find that there is no greater joy.
Look out for Part 2 in this series!
Photos Copyright: elwynn / 123RF Stock Photo
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