Sunday Chronicles #266 9/19/21
In 1974 while working as a writer in A/G Foreign Missions offices, I sat in on an interview with David Yonggi Cho and Philip Hogan, Executive Director of Foreign Missions. Cho told us his story, and I prepared it for publication. Today’s blog relates how he came to know Jesus and is excerpted from that article, “When Buddha Didn’t Answer.” Cho died this week at age 85, after a long and successful ministry. He served in many leadership positions, including co-founder of Yoido Full Gospel Church and the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.
My family lived in North Korea. War broke out, and we lost our home. As refugees, we traveled south to Pusan, South Korea. Money and food were scarce, and I worked hard to eke out an existence on one meal a day and continue my education. One day at work, blood came up and filled my mouth. Soon it was coming from my nose also. and I lapsed into unconsciousness. When I came to, my clothing was soaked in blood. I struggled to my feet and managed to reach home.
All night I was in and out of a coma; my fever rose, and when I coughed, blood gushed out. By morning I was more dead than alive. My parents took me to a hospital and a doctor examined me. He took X rays, then he said, “I am very sorry, but we can do nothing for you. You have less than a month to live.”
“Doctor,” I cried, “are you telling me the truth?”
He showed me the X rays and explained, “Your right lung is completely destroyed by tuberculosis. The upper part has collapsed, and gangrene has set in. Your left lung is also tubercular. Malnutrition and hard work have caused your heart to enlarge, and it cannot circulate the blood properly. There is no medical help for these things, so I have no choice but to tell you the truth.”
At home my father tried to reassure me. “My son, there is no life and no death, no joy and no sorrow – only in Buddha is there reality. Forget about life and death and have peace.” I said. “My suffering is real. Buddha and your philosophies have not helped me. I reject them all.”
I lay there in the only shelter I had – a shack – covered by a dirty, torn blanket, waiting to die. One day desperation overcame me and I cried out, “Is there any God? If there is anyone called God anywhere in the universe, please come and help me! I want to be made ready to die.”
God answered my prayer, but in a way I least expected! A young girl knocked at my door and entered, carrying a Bible. I was stunned, for in our culture men dislike being taught by women. Arrogantly I ordered her to leave, but she said, “I can see that you are dying. I want to tell you about Christ Jesus my Savior.”
I became angrier and cursed her. I told her that millions of tuberculosis germs were flying around and that she would become infected. She only replied, “My Christ will protect me,” and continued to witness to me. Finally she left, and I said, “Bless Buddha, she is gone!”
The next morning, she was back again. This time she sang songs and read aloud from her Bible. I cursed and called her a Christian dog, but she did nothing against me. All day she talked of Christ.
On the fifth day when she came, I asked why she continued to come and pray for me. “There is Someone who constrains me to come here and pray for you,” she replied.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“My Jesus,” she answered, and tears began to roll down her cheeks. Suddenly my obstinacy was broken, and I too began to cry.
“Your Jesus I want to know,” I said. She gave me a Bible, and I began reading at the place she indicated – the first chapter of Matthew. After a few minutes I exclaimed, “This is like a telephone directory. How can this help me?” She told me to read on and I would find a wonderful story. After praying again, she left.
I read on, expecting to find difficult philosophy such as I had studied in Buddhism. But I found the Bible was about a Man called Jesus Christ, the Son of God! I read about Jesus healing the sick. If only I could come to this Jesus, I thought, He would help me! But I could not come. I had cursed and hated Him! I tried to find a Scripture showing that Christ hated sinners, but I could not find one. Instead I found that He healed the sick and sinful. Slowly the realization came that although I was the poorest of the poor, a great sinner and dying with tuberculosis, Jesus Christ would receive me!
Since the day she had given me her Bible, the girl had not returned. I did not know her name or how to locate her, but I needed someone to tell me how to contact this Jesus. I struggled out on the street and made inquiries. A man told me about a mission where there was an American “priest.”
I was so weak that I could walk only about 10 paces before I had to rest, but I begged the man to take me to the mission. When we arrived, the people were singing. Their faces glowed with happiness. The American “priest” stood up to preach. He had to speak through an interpreter, but the words penetrated my heart. When he invited sinners to come forward, I was the first to reach him. He took me into his office, told me the plan of salvation and asked me to pray the sinner’s prayer.
As I prayed, great peace showered down upon me. Every cell in my body seemed charged with new life. Something began to bubble up inside, and I thought I was going to vomit blood, but I found it was joy! I wanted to sing, but I didn’t know how.
“Is this real? Am I hypnotized?” I asked the man, who was Louis Richards, an Assemblies of God missionary.
He answered, “You are not hypnotized. Jesus, the fountain of life, has come into your heart. This is the witness you feel!” I returned home, and the joy and peace went with me. When I told my family what had happened, my father said that I should leave his home. I took my few belongings and went to my uncle’s house. He met me on his porch and said, “Unholy Christian dog, you are not welcome here. Go away.”
I had nowhere to go, but still the joy and peace were with me. I decided to go out to the mountains and wait for death. Then another thought came to me: I should go pay my last thanks to the American who helped me find Jesus. At his door I said, “Brother Richards, I sincerely appreciate your kindness in leading me to Christ. Since I have accepted Him, my family has disowned me, so I am going to the mountains to die. But I wanted you to know how I thank you.”
Brother Richards drew me inside. He and his wife made a place for me in their home. Sister Richards prepared good food, and we sat down to eat. I cried as I ate. “Brother Richards,” I said, “You are not related to me. How can you love me like this?” He answered, “Because Jesus has saved me, too.” My conscience would not let me stay in their home and expose them to tuberculosis. By the help of God, I rented a small room nearby.
Brother Richards continued to teach me God’s Word. He said, “The Word of God has tremendous creative power. It will heal you.” This news was almost too good to be true, but he showed me many Scriptures. I memorized them, and one day I was ready to test them. I locked the door of my room and began to pray. “Jesus,” I said, “I want to meet You and have a consultation about my future.” I waited, but Christ did not come. Then I shut my eyes, hoping He might come in a vision. But no vision appeared. I prayed all day. By midnight, strength had left my body, and I lay down to rest. Suddenly, the room became bright. Billows of what I thought to be smoke rolled in. Thinking the house was on fire, I tried to call for help, but no sound came. In desperation I looked about, and beside me I saw two feet. I looked up higher and saw a white robe. Then I looked into a face that was like a powerful sun with rays of light going outward. Still
I did not know who He was until I saw the crown of thorns piercing His temples; blood was streaming down. I knew then that He was Jesus Christ. His love seemed to pour over me.
My gods had been gods of fear and curses. Always I had gone into their temples to beg them not to punish me. But Jesus was different. I felt His love, and joy came from my inner being. My tongue and lips began to speak. I tried to stop, but it seemed that another Person was controlling them and forcefully expressing himself. I did not know what was happening, but I realized that the more I spoke, the better it felt, so I spoke and spoke.
When I became aware of my surroundings again, Jesus had gone, but the glory was still in my soul. I forgot about the pain in my heart and lungs and ran to the mission house. I told Brother Richards that I had seen Jesus and had spoken in a strange language. He opened his Bible to Acts 2 and explained that I had been baptized with the Holy Spirit as the early believers were. We cried for joy. This new experience made me want to witness more. I went out on the streets and told people about Jesus.
One day I realized that I no longer suffered from heart pain or shortness of breath. I went to the hospital, and after examinations and X rays the doctor told me that my lungs were well. No tuberculosis! Even my heart was its normal size.
The Assemblies of God missionaries encouraged me to attend Bible school in Seoul, so I went for training. I had no money, and in the cold weather one of the missionaries loaned me a coat to keep me from freezing. But I had God, the Bible and peace. Later I began to preach in a ragged tent on a vacant lot. A handful of poverty-stricken believers met there. I told them what God had done for me and that He would do the same for them. Soon the tent was packed, and people were standing outside. Property was purchased in downtown Seoul for a church, and the revival continued. We moved to a new location and built a larger building.
Yoido Full Gospel Church grew because we preach Jesus Christ “the same yesterday, today and forever.” When I was dying, He saved, healed, and filled me with His Spirit. The world needs more than a philosophy, more than a religion. It needs the presence of Jesus Christ.