FROM FIG LEAVES TO KING'S ROBE
You may have heard the phrase "from rags to riches". Well
materially, I am far from it, but spiritually speaking it fits my
life story very well. Thus, I chose to title the following testimony
"From Fig Leaves to King's Robe".
Korea, also known as the land of the morning calm, was the place
where I was born. During that time, Korea was under Japanese
Imperialist regime. Like most Koreans who grew up under peaceful
Confucius and Buddist teachings, my parents were not prepared to
cope with the hostile situation. Later I was told that there were
shortages of everything when I was born, and I was but the fourth of
my parents' eight children.
The house in which I was born had been newly built. One of my
father's cousins was a Christian, the wife of a deacon, and was
concerned for my father's soul. When she died, she had left a
substantial amount of money to my father with only one condition.
This condition was that the money was to be used to build my
father's house right in front of the country church. Of course, she
made that arrangement so that my parents could be exposed to
That started my early association with the church of God. I remember
seeing some old faded photos where I was a ring bearer for a few
church weddings. Life around the church must have been a happy one
until my father had a dispute with the church pastor regarding the
property line. My father became very bitter about the unfair
dealings by the pastor. According to my mother, my father used to
come home drunk and made big scenes in front of the church to
disrupt the church meetings. He even forbade my mother from
attending any church since that time.
Then World War II ended, and the Communists took over North Korea
including the small town where I grew up. We left just about
everything to escape the Communists. After arriving in South Korea,
my parents finally chose to settle down in Inchon, a sea port much
bigger than the town we left.
Like many other Korean parents, my parents were also determined to
educate their children through college. They knew that Korea was
overrun by the Japanese because its people had failed to educate
themselves and catch up with modernization. So they were ready
to sacrifice for their children's education.
Being forbidden to attend church, my mother resorted to Shaman's help
for any difficult situations like the times when we became sick. I
still remember the boiled pig head on the table and the bamboo leaves
shaking in the hands of the Shaman. The more she shook the bamboo
leaves, the more convinced we were that she had contact with the
Then the Korean War broke out which brought horrendous misery to so
many Koreans. Those who survived the war became much more cunning
and smart. Through the GIs and the missionary charity services we
were given fancy goods which we had never seen before. Missionaries
poured in and more churches were built all over Korea.
My eldest brother brought me to Sunday school in nearby churches. I
remember attending Christmas and Easter programs. But at that time I
had no idea about the reason for all those pageantries although I
remember hearing my father praising Confucian teachings. As usual,
life in Korea was not easy. By then my father, who loved drinking
and parties, became an alcoholic and a womanizer. He neglected and
eventually abandoned us. We lived poorer than all of our neighbors.
And even now, I still wonder how my mother managed to pay our school
tuitions year after year.
To my parent's joy, I did well, especially in the area of academics
and was an obedient student to the delight of all my teachers.
When the Boy Scouts were first introduced in my town, I was chosen to
join the experiment. From the very beginning, I enjoyed Boy Scout
life - the outdoor living, the group activities, and especially doing
good deeds for my fellowmen. I became a self-disciplinarian, greatly
influenced by my school principal who was also a self-disciplinarian
patterned after the teachings of Confucius. I not only built up my
body by weight-lifting but built up my character as well using
Benjamin Franklin's self-disciplining method.
Through the Boy Scouts and other activities that were held around the
USIS (US Information Service) building, I was deeply impressed by the
things of America and the West. I was a frequent visitor to the USIS
library where they also showed film strips every weekend. I sat
through most of the USIS's free films and read many of their library
books and magazines. One of the books I still remember having read
was the autobiography of Booker T. Washington, a negro educator.
Reader's Digest became my "Bible" as well.
To me, knowledge was everything; knowledge freed people from bondage.
I read a lot, absorbing as much as I could. I became an intellectual
who embraced the philosophies of men above all else. It was at this
time that my dream was to become a sailor so that I could travel all
over the world as a free man. Also during this time, a friend
invited me to his Catholic church. I did attend some masses with
him, but to a young intellectual, the religiosity of Catholicism did
not appeal to me much.
In the meantime, my mother contracted a serious illness. Elder Park,
a cult leader like Jim Jones, was conducting miracle healing all
over Korea at that time. My mother attended one of those meetings
and was cured, as she thought, by his healing. Since then, she
became our resident preacher in our home. At almost every meal, my
mother preached to us to repent of our sins and get the baptism by
the Holy Spirit. We all learned to shut off our ears during those
meals and to leave home as soon as we could.
I left home when I was 16 to attend a high school in Seoul, the
capital city of Korea. All of the bright students in Korea were
supposed to attend schools in Seoul. Therefore I was one of those
who went to one of the best high schools in Seoul. I was glad to
leave home even though I suffered from homesickness and loneliness at
While living at home, the pressure from my mother to repent had
increased day by day. To be a filial son, I had obediently
accompanied my mother to those revival meetings where miracle
healing were conducted. I had witnessed with my own eyes a miracle
or two. Even though I was greatly impressed by what I saw, I was
skeptical of Elder Park's claim that he was an instrument in the
hands of God. Enough reports had leaked out of Elder Park's commune
that discredited his sainthood. Despite these reports, spiritual
affairs held me much intrigued during that time of my life. So I
had read books on Buddism, which was a prevalent religion in Korea,
as well as Existentialism by Camut and Kierkegard. I had also read
the books of the New Testament in English to learn more about
Since I left home, I had to support myself by tutoring the children
of a rich family and boarding with them. I was still a model student
and had to remain one in order to maintain my scholarship. I was
also quite a serious young man who used to argue that education was
the ultimate answer for all of Korea's problems. I even joined the
literacy campaigns. Seeing such a solemn and idealistic man in me,
my high school mates used to call me a Korean "Don Quixote".
Can a man whose parents had split up and who had nothing much in
possession still be proud of himself? Yes, in fact it was my PRIDE
that kept me going. I was proud of my intellect and my school
grades. Because my time was bound by my duty as a tutor, I had no
time for extracurricular or social activities. Undoubtedly, I
graduated high school as a valedictorian. But I was a lonely young
man whose best companion were books.
Having lived with PRIDE for so long, I am very well acquainted with
it. Pride is nothing but fig leaves that one puts on to cover
up his nakedness. It is a defense mechanism to cover up a deep
feeling of inferiority. I was the proud "Don Quixote" who believed
that he could become whatever he wanted to become simply by trying
hard with sheer will power.
As I matured into the college age, things didn't turn out the way I
had imagined. I began to realize that after all, I could neither
keep the annual resolution nor the strict moral standard I had tried
to achieve. It was during that time that what is called the fever
of first-love hit me hard. I found myself pining after a co-ed who
was much older than I. My grades fell as I day-dreamt. It became
very difficult to concentrate on school work. I hated finding myself
in such a vulnerable condition. The harder I tried to shake off the
emotion, the more love-sick I became.
Not knowing how to relate that feeling in the real world - I was
living in the world of books, you see - I became a withdrawn man. I
turned to a little drinking and smoking and excessive music listening
for comfort and solace. I fell into temptation and youthful lust
which shattered all my pride. By then my grades were such that I was
barely hanging on.
It was during that time that I attended an English-speaking JOY Youth
Club. It was a Christian fellowship group that attracted those who
wanted to practice speaking English. The club counselor who was an
American missionary used the New Testament as our discussion
material. As I look back, I read the Bible mainly to acquaint myself
with the world's most renown piece of literature and at the same time
to have an upperhand over my mother on the subject of God. Yet, as I
read on in the Bible, the Book gradually convicted me of my sins.
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
At that time, I regarded Jesus as a good moral teacher and thought
that religious fanatics like my mother had gotten him all wrong. But
it was there at the club that I met some good Christian brothers and
sisters whose lives reflected the peace and joy that I did not have.
The Christianity they lived was quite different from what I saw in my
mother and her associates. By then, I had no problem acknowledging
that I was a sinner. When the counselor used Matthew 11:28 to offer
an invitation to accept Jesus as saviour, I raised my hand and
prayed the sinner's prayer to receive the peace and joy Christ
promised to those who accept Him in their hearts.
"Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest." Matthew 11:28.
At that time I was tired of a lot of things but most of all of being
a lived-in tutor. There was a college dormitory run by the
Presbyterian Missionary. The church I attended belonged to that
denomination. One of the requirements for admittance to the dorm was
baptism by the denomination. I joined the Presbyterian church as a
member and got baptized quickly to secure a space at the dorm. The
Presbyterian group was quite liberal in doctrine. All students in
that dorm were also liberal Christians who were politically oriented.
There, all seemed to agree that the real answer for all problems in
Korea was political reformation.
Meanwhile the Students' Uprising of 1960 broke out which overthrew
the existing government and set the stage for a military government.
Some of my friends in the dorm were imprisoned later by the military
government for planning socialistic insurrection. My growth as a
newly born again Christian was minimal under the teachings of that
liberal Presbyterian group because the gospel I heard was very much
like a social gospel.
About the time when I graduated from college with a bachelor-of-law
degree, I was worn out by love-sickness. And then came the call of
military duty from the government. It was a welcome escape. I
remember my boot camp experience as the loneliest time of my life.
No one came to visit me and every letter I ever received from home
contained grim news. My dear elder sister was dying of tuberculosis
and we did not have money to put her in any hospital. She was prayed
over many times by famous faith healers of that time but without much
improvement. Of course she was blamed for her lack of faith when
nothing improved. After much suffering she was reduced to skin and
bones and eventually died.
My only consolation during that time was reading the pocket New
Testament that one of my church friends gave me. I served four years
of military duty as an Air Force officer living mostly in remote
mountain tops manning radar sites. For a year or so I spent most of
my leisure time preparing for the bar exam but soon lost my
ambition and interest in pursuing a career in Korea. I knew that the
way of the Lord was the right way but I lived like many other
officers doing what was right in their own eyes.
Anyway, I was very much disillusioned with the way things were going
in Korea and with the way I was living too. I wanted to go abroad to
start a new life in America. The only way to get out of Korea at
that time was to get an admittance from an American university and a
sponsor who would guarantee my tuition. Those I did manage to obtain
about the time I finished my military duty. As soon as the Korean
Air Force released me, I left Korea with a suit case and just $100
cash in my wallet.
I went to Oklahoma State University as a foreign student. The Student
Counseling job at the university provided for my room and board, but
I had to earn the tuition. Every vacation and recess found me
working to earn my tuition. Sometimes I had two or three jobs and
thus had to catch up on sleep even during breaks. During that time,
I met a few good Christian couples, American as well as Korean. By
then I had seen many different life styles, and found Christian
marriages to be the most desirable.
One Korean Christian couple who frequently satisfied my hunger for
Korean food was a member of the Church of Christ. I went along with
them to their church and enjoyed their Bible studies. Another couple
who treated me with nice Korean dinners was Mormon. They never
invited me to their church but their clean religious example
impressed me a lot. There was also a couple of American families who
invited me to their homes for Bible study fellowship and desserts. I
wanted a happy home like what I saw. I began to pray for a Christian
My main goal at that time was to get a Master's degree and then
settle down in the USA with a Christian wife. As soon as I made some
money, I wanted to help my poor family in Korea. It was during my
usual summer job in New York city that I heard of Billy Graham's Shea
Stadium Crusade. I went to the Crusade alone and rededicated myself
to the Lord. I repented of my sin and my pride.
One female co-worker at my summer job had a friend who had gone to
the same Crusade. After hearing my Crusade testimony, she insisted
that I meet her friend, which I complied to do. Her friend was a
good Christian woman well grounded in the word of God. Her
encouragement and emotional support meant a lot during that time. Our
Christian friendship developed into an even deeper kind of
friendship. When I graduated from the University, we were married
and settled down in New York.
My wife's former roommate was an avid Family Radio listener. Thanks
to her, my wife started to listen to Family Radio and became a fan.
She often left our radio tuned to Family Radio. I came to like
listening to it also. Family Radio had been airing Calvary Baptist's
church services. After hearing Dr. Stephen Olford's sermons several
times on the air, we decided to attend his church. Until that time,
we had been church-hoppers, visiting all kinds of churches including
Witness Lee's local church, which turned out to be a cult.
Dr. Olford was a man who radiated a sanctified life. Every word of
his sermon drove home in my heart. We sought to become members of
that church. It was then a black deacon asked me if I was born again.
I got upset with him for asking such a personal question. But then I
realized that I didn't have the blessed assurance most other
Christians have. Instead of looking at the author and finisher of my
faith, I was examining myself critically and taking note of all my
failures as a Christian. I was still looking out to the world and
myself from my own perspectives. I was trying to become a good
Christian with my own strength.
When we heard an announcement on Family Radio about its summer Bible
conference at Keswick, we went with anticipation to hear God's
messages. I had an excellent time there learning about Logos living,
that is living by the word of God. Another thing that stood out was
the sweet Christian fellowship. We met and got to know many godly
people. And before the end of the conference I was given a chance to
witness publicly. As I testified what the Lord had done in my life,
I felt a definite sense of the Spirit of God anointing me. I returned
home a changed man with the full assurance of my salvation. My
tremendous hunger for the Word led me to read the Bible fasting. I
started to see things from God's perspective agreeing with God on all
I wanted an instant fix for my spirituality and sought for the
ability to speak in tongues by attending a Charismatic church in
Brooklyn New York in the evenings while attending Calvary Baptist
church in the mornings. We even attended a Bible conference
sponsored by the Charismatic church. By doing so, I thought I was
reconciling to the religion of my mother and my elder brother who
later became an ordained minister of the Assembly of God.
One of the wonderful things which happened while we were at Keswick
was an invitation by the vice president of Family Radio for me to
consider working for Family Radio as an accountant. It was quite an
unexpected offer, but we were pleased to have been considered. What
kept us from responding to the call quickly was the relatively low
salary we were offered and our fear of moving to a totally new place
in California known to New Yorkers as earthquake country.
It took a few months of praying and counseling before we were sure
that it was the will of God to respond to the call. Soon, we were
happily selling most of our possessions to follow the Lord's call to
serve. I was then full of zeal, feeling as if I were walking on
cloud nine, and even speaking in tongues. I thought God would use me
to bring Charismatic zeal to Family Radio.
It was quite a step of faith on both of our parts to leave our
comfortable living, combined salaries, and many friends to go to
California, which may any day go down under the Pacific Ocean. (Would
you believe that such concern was real to us then?) But God gave us
the joy of walking by faith. While learning to adjust to Californian
life style, we also learned how to stretch dollars by means of
coupons and thrift shops.
After visiting many churches (Charismatic churches being the first),
we settled down at Fairhaven Bible Chapel, a brethren type church
which we have attended for the last 16 years. We chose to attend the
church because its humble atmosphere was inviting and the humility of
the elders was impressive as well. It is a church where every one is
expected to exercise his or her gift for the edification of the body.
And almost all its members were ministers of the Word. I realized
quickly how little I knew of the Bible and attended all of the Bible
studies, including the midweek Bible studies, and most of the
seminars that my church has sponsored.
One of the elders who was a member of the staff of the Navigators was
kind enough to disciple me for a year or so. He made sure that I was
on a solid Biblical ground and built in me the basic Christian
characters. I also learned how to be a good husband and also the
head of our home. The Lord blessed me with two children and
parenting became my priority. Because it had good programs for young
parents and a good support group as well, I owe a lot of my Christian
training to the body of the church.
Serving at Family Radio has been a great blessing too. I have the
privilege of listening to the edifying teachings and music it
broadcasts all day long while at work and even in the evenings. It
is like being in a full-day Bible school. Mr. Camping, who is the
President and General Manager of Family Radio, has been a tremendous
challenge to my walk with the Lord. Once a week, he also teaches us
from the Scriptures on the things of God. It took a couple of years
of study with him before I could see that tongues, dreams and visions
are no longer valid. Well, that was the end of my zeal for the
Seeing from the inside how the Lord guides and blesses the ministry
of Family Radio day to day is also a tremendous experience as well.
My family has been given the annual privilege of attending the
Family Radio summer Bible conferences every year since the time I
first served at Family Radio. The Summer Bible conferences have been
the source of encouragement and learning as well as fun for the whole
family. To see my children grow in the fear and nurture of the Lord
is a great delight, not to mention the pleasure I experience as my
wife becomes a better friend and companion and further enriches my
life. I am indeed a happy and fulfilled man in Christ Jesus.
While all this was happening in the States, I heard that the woman my
father was with had abandon him because he was dying of bleeding
ulcer. I went back to Korea to take care of my father. I brought my
father to my mother's apartment and ministered to him as much as I
knew how to until he died. I believed he died a saved man. And I
should be very happy to know that he died a born-again christian,
shouldn't I ? Yes, I was, but I felt that there was also a part of
me that was still angry with the way my father had lived his life and
wanted to see him pay for it himself. But then I realized, it was
Christ Jesus who paid the price on the cross for my father's hard-
to-forgive sins and evil lifestyle. There was actually nothing left
that should make me cry for vengeance.
That's when I fully understood the meaning of the parable of Matthew
20:1-16, the story of the laborer who received the same payment of a
penny even when he joined the labor force late. The grace that saved
me also saved my father. It is God who saves and it is His pleasure
that saves all those upon whom He will have mercy. None deserves His
mercy and grace. The fact that my father who hardened his heart so
long by sinful living could still come to God for mercy was the work
of wonderful grace.
Before then, I had been struggling to reconcile in my mind the free-
will doctrine of my church with the Calvinistic reformed doctrine of
Family Radio. But then all became clear to me that it is God's grace
alone and none of my works that caused me to be able to come to
salvation. I have no apologies now for my being a five point
Calvinist. I know from deep in my heart that it was God who guided
my life from birth until now to let me see that nothing of my own
ability or intellect could help me to attain the grace of God. It
was all by His good pleasure that I am what I am. He redeemed me by
His work on the cross and doubly won my heart by His patient dealings
with me over all these years.
How did He do that? He did it by first planting His Word in the
hearts of those who became good models for me and then finally
planting His Word in my own heart. He cleanses me daily by his
Word, not by the feeling that I experienced but by the washing of my
mind, heart and will by the pure water of the gospel. As a result, I
am more than persuaded that the Bible alone in its entirety is the
infallible Word of God, by which every man should live with faith,
and that Jesus Christ is the sole answer to all the problems of the
world. I have also resolved in my heart to live the rest of my life
as a witness of His grace and mercy. My goal is to declare as much
as I can of the blessed Word of God to the lost world.
Indeed it is by the grace Jesus showed by becoming poor that I am
made rich in Him. I was poor and totally depraved. But God in His
good pleasure made me not only one of His sons who are clothed in the
robes of the King's righteousness but also a joint heir with Jesus
Christ. What a rich man I am. Praise God!
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was
rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his
poverty might be rich." 2 Corinthians 8:9
Richard Yim. 1991.
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