EDITORS’ NOTE: Billy Kim, president of the Baptist World Alliance and pastor of Central Baptist Church, Suwon, South Korea, preached to 10,000-plus evangelists and church leaders on the opening day of Amsterdam 2000, the Billy Graham-sponsored global meeting July 29-Aug. 6 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Kim recapped how he came to faith in Christ in the following portion of his sermon.
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (BP)–For 17 years I never heard the gospel story. No one ever told me that Jesus died for my sins. I never heard John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
During the Korean War, thousands of people were killed and 90 percent of my city was destroyed. One day an American Army camp moved near my home. Some of us boys went over to see them because we had heard that the American soldiers were wonderful and very generous. They would give us chocolate candy bars and chewing gum. It was a treat for us just to see the American soldiers.
I saw one tall American soldier. He whistled and told me to come over. Because it was a cold winter day, the soldiers needed some wood for their stove. So I got wood for them. The payment for my work was candy bars, gum, a pack of cigarettes and some big unlabeled number ten can of food. I ate the candy, chocolate bars and chewing gum. I gave the cigarettes to my mom and she sold them on the black market. I didn’t know what was in that big number ten can. We opened it and it was a can of prunes. We gave it to our ox.
The next day I went back and subsequently I began working for American soldiers as a houseboy.
One day I met Sgt. Carl Powers. He said, “Do you want to go to America?” It’s the dream of every Korean teenager … they want to go to America.
I said, “Yes, I want to go.”
One day he showed me an application form from a school in Greenville, S.C. … Bob Jones University. I was scared to death. I told him I didn’t want to go. He said, “Why?” I had to give him three excuses real fast:
1) I can’t speak English.
2) I’m too small.
3) My mother won’t let me go.
He said, “You can learn to speak English.”
“You can grow up.”
“I can get permission from your mother.”
He didn’t accept any of my excuses.
One day he came to me in my pup tent. He was pleading. He begged. I saw tears coming down his cheeks. A strange feeling came to my heart that I should go to the United States. I didn’t know what it was then, but I know now. It was the providential hand of God working in his life as well as my life.
I left for America to attend school. I had a great big nametag. It read, “To Whom It May Concern: Send this boy to Route 1, Box 75, Dante, Virginia.” He thought I might get lost, so I wore that nametag.
I went to the school and registered and said goodbye to Sgt. Powers. I was left all alone on the campus. I got so homesick and I didn’t understand English. Everything was in English. Nobody spoke Korean.
One day somebody gave me a black book, which I had never seen before. He said, “Open it to John 3:16.” “For God so loved the world.”
He said, “You aren’t a Christian, are you?”
I said, “No, sir.”
He said, “Would you like to accept Christ as your personal Savior?”
I said, “If I accept Christ, would it take away my home sickness?”
He said, “Yes! He will give you a new life. He will give you peace. He will give you joy. He will give you purpose in life.”
I said, “Yes”
We knelt down, I said in Korean, “Oh, God, I’m a sinner. Please forgive my sin. Come into my heart.” After I finished praying, he prayed in English. I didn’t know what he prayed and he didn’t know what I prayed. After we prayed together, he said, “But we have a God who understands Korean as well as English.” There on the third floor of the dormitory I accepted Christ as my Savior.
After one semester, I returned to Virginia for summer vacation to the home of Sgt. Carl Powers.
One afternoon after mowing the lawn, I told Carl Powers that I had opened my heart to accept Christ as my personal Savior. The tears began to come down his face. It was my joy to lead my soldier friend, Carl Powers, to Jesus Christ.
After college and seminary I went back to Korea. I told my mother about Jesus. She became a Christian. I told my oldest brother and his nine children. They all became Christians. I told my second brother. He and his wife have five children. They all became Christians. My sister, her three children, my third brother and his three children, they all became Christians. My whole family came to Christ!