One of the greatest miracles in the world of missions in the last hundred years has been the millions of Koreans who have been swept into God’s Kingdom in Korea, Canada, and around the world. Korea, along with Brazil and USA, now have the highest percentage of missionaries sent around the world.
The earliest missionaries to Korea died faithfully as they were being decapitated. Often, the people killing them turned to Christ after, and shared the gospel of forgiveness with their fellow Koreans.
Pyongyang, North Korea, before the communist takeover, was known as the Jerusalem of Asia. Billy Graham’s wife Ruth attended one of the well-respected Christian schools in the capital city of Pyongyang.
Sang Sun Lee was one of many North Koreans who were forced to flee to South Korea during the Korean War. Sang Sun prayed, “Please let me escape to the South, and if you let me live, I will build churches.” During the war, he was lined up with four others to be shot, one by one. Just as he was to be shot, someone cried out, ‘Turn his pockets inside out and see what’s in there.’ Miraculously his life was spared.
The North Koreans who fled had to leave everything behind, and they brought the gospel to many South Koreans. Sang Sun had no money for food, and no place to stay. He became a street vendor and then shop owner in Suwon City, South Korea. With the help of nine other North Korean refugees, they planted the first church in Suwon.
Often families became painfully separated during this exodus. Sang Sun Lee did not even recognize his wife and three children when they were finally smuggled across the border. In Dr. Stephanie Chung’s new book My Father’s Amazing Journey of Faith, Sang Sun stated:
One day, I caught sight of a homeless-looking woman wandering near my store. She was carrying her belongings on her head, had a baby on her back, and her two hands held one child each…As she approached me, my heart stopped.
In order to pay for smuggling his daughter-in-law and grandchildren to the south, Sang Sung’s father had sold his entire apple orchard. Sadly, Sang Sun’s wife died within the first year of her liberation. He falsely blamed himself for his wife’ death. One day, a Christian woman from Pyeongtaek turned up at his home, and said to his three children, “Starting today, I will be married into this house and become your mother!” As a strong Christian from a non-Christian home, she was determined to only marry a Christian man. She had heard the voice of God telling her: “Get married into that household (of the widower) and become a mother to those three children.” Because Sang Sun could not get rid of her, he finally said: “If your parents give you permission, I will think about it.” The woman’s father turned up, saying that he hated Christians, but in a dream, his older brother told him to give his daughter in marriage to the widower. So, they got married, having another three children.
God gave Sang Sun unusual favour in first manufacturing long johns. This enabled him to sow a lot of finances into the North Korean refugees and help start many new churches. He gave his workers Sundays off, many of whom started attending church: “I vowed to treat (my workers) as I would like to treat God, for the workers were sent from God.”
Even after being forced to declare bankruptcy because of his radical generosity to creditors, God opened new doors and favour. After his factory closed, he turned this apparent defeat over to the Lord:
All I did was empty my heart and ‘lay it down.’…I felt my spiritual eyes open. The joy that came to me was overwhelming, and I could hardly contain that joy.
Unexpectedly, he was asked to produce the inside fabric for rubber boots, something that was invaluable in those muddy, wet Korean days before asphalt roads. Sang Sun never let success and wealth go to his head. Instead, he increased his relentless generosity, by helping many North Korean refugees and planting many more churches. The key for him was surrender to the Lord:
I said to myself that there was nothing I could do by myself. Everything is done by the Lord, whom I love. Everything…I had to die completely, let God live within me, and let him do his thing.
Despite the attacks on his life and many struggles, Sang Sun lived until age 108. His daughter, Dr. Stephanie Chung, remembers her dad as warm, faithful, and sincere, her role model, and the root of her growing faith in God. Sang Sun was “a true witness to God’s control of our lives.” He never forgot his pledges to God, even through great hardship. Sang Sun sowed faithfully into God’s Kingdom, reaping countless changed lives in Korea, Canada, and throughout the world.