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Seminary community’s prayers bolster Korean student’s recovery

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Cancer. Tumors. For those who have seen the effects of these on friends, family members and fathers, perhaps no two words evoke as much fear.
For Southern Baptist Theological Seminary student Sunik Hwang, this fear became reality in March of this year. Yet 10 days after entering the University of Louisville Hospital with a baseball-size brain tumor, Hwang confounded doctors by walking out of the hospital.
Hwang’s ordeal began with simple, but persistent pain in his head. Since last November, the pain had produced many sleepless nights and even had caused him to lose consciousness while driving.
And as Hwang preached March 14 at his little Korean mission church in Columbus, Ind., he again battled against an all-too-familiar ache.
Hwang, a Ph.D. student from Taejon, South Korea, had prepared tirelessly for the sermon — one of his longest ever. Yet after several minutes, words began to escape him. At a loss, he ended his exposition.
His brevity baffled his wife. On the return home, she questioned, “What happened to your sermon?” He assured her of his health even though he himself was unsure.
Early the next morning his family woke to a strange sound. Their father was groaning and barely conscious. His eyes could not focus. He looked as if he was dying.
A 911 call and 15 minutes later, an ambulance hurried Hwang to the hospital.
Test after test showed the same thing. Hwang was suffering from a large brain tumor.
To the family’s relief, the tumor proved benign. Still, his condition required very serious surgery.
The news shocked Hwang’s family and the Southern Seminary community.
Students and faculty began praying for him in classes and in chapel.
Doctors informed Hwang that his condition required a complicated preparatory procedure. To prevent excessive bleeding from the brain during the main surgery, doctors needed to send a device from Hwang’s leg to his brain to limit blood flow and thus decrease the risk of brain damage.
Despite the risk, Hwang felt blessed to have access to the technology, especially after talking to a surgeon friend in Korea.
“It is a blessing for you to be in the United States,” the doctor said.
“The preparatory procedure is not available in Korea.”
On March 16, doctors succeeded in blocking the blood flow. Floating in and out of consciousness after the procedure, Hwang could not speak. He could hear, though.
“I knew many people were praying for me,” said Hwang, who said he remembers the voices of many who came to pray for him at the hospital.
Two days later, Hwang underwent the main surgery — a procedure which took 10 hours.
In a medical miracle, the surgery successfully removed all of the tumor.
Though many would credit doctors, Hwang knew immediately who should receive glory — even in his semi-conscious state.
According to Hwang’s family, he told his doctor while still under anesthesia, “God helped you to heal me.”
Hwang also unconsciously exhorted his doctor, “Believe Jesus.” The doctor happened to be Muslim.
Prayer also sustained Hwang through post-surgery syndrome. For many brain tumor patients, nightmares and visions fill the days following surgery. Hwang’s experience was especially frightening.
“I felt like I was going to die,” Hwang said. “I was very scared. I felt like I was in the borderline between life and death. Of course, this was just my feeling. It was not reality.”
He would see faces — those of his wife and two children.
“I thought, ‘If I die, my wife would be widowed and my children will be fatherless,’” Hwang recounted. “The saddest face was my daughter’s face. My sweetheart. I thought, ‘I need to be alive.’”
Hwang said he believes Satan caused these visions by capitalizing on his bodily weakness. But, prayer helped him persevere.
“Whenever I had these nightmares, I recalled the prayers of the students here,” Hwang said. “Especially, I remembered our chapel — the choir and the students. I remembered their singing of hymns and their praying. I remembered students’ prayers in the classroom. Every class at the start prayed for me. I thought, ‘A Christian army is praying for me. No problem.’”
Ten days after entering the hospital, Hwang walked out under his own power — a remarkably quick recovery.
Hwang sees God’s handwriting on the whole ordeal: the fact that the tumor was benign; the fact that it was on a side of the brain that would cause the least amount of damage; the fact that God had called Hwang to a country that had the necessary medical technology. These are not coincidences, Hwang said.
The surgery not only revived him physically but also spiritually. Even his sermons have improved, Hwang said.
“God gave me another life,” he said.
God created him. God saved him spiritually. And through the hands of doctors, God gave him new life with which to preach the gospel.
In a MRI check-up on Aug. 23, doctors informed Hwang that his brain remains free of cancer.
“God did not give us disease,” Hwang said. “But God used a bad thing to make a good thing.”

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  • Bryan Cribb