Saturday, May 6, 2017

An Unusual Man of God


I can never forget the day I met this man for the first time. My youngest son, Joe, was born on December 7, 2006. The next day he came to meet me and to see my newborn son in the hospital. He had recently shifted to Hyderabad from Bangalore and someone suggested my name to him. So, he wanted to meet me. And since the day we met in the hospital, we became close brothers in the Lord. This man is Kim Taeyeob. His Indian name is John Kim.

Brother John was born in South Korea on August 4,1960, to a poor family. He grew up facing many challenges in life and ended up becoming a young rebel. Thankfully, he came to know the Lord at a young age. Thereafter he went to a seminary for training and served as a pastor for few years. Later, he felt the Lord calling him to India to serve as a missionary. After much thinking and prayer, in 2003, he finally moved to India with his beloved wife and son.

Brother John faithfully served the Lord in India for 13 years. A few months ago, he felt the Lord calling him to another third world country (which I leave unnamed) to serve as a missionary. After giving much thought, going through emotional struggle, and praying, in May, 2017, he moved to that country.

I have known brother John for more than 10 years. During his stay in India, he has been a blessing to many people, and I am one among them, perhaps the most. I write this article to share what I observed and learned from this man of God. There is so much to speak about the Lord’s work in him that I could easily write a book. I hope these brief words would be a great encouragement to the readers, especially to missionaries, pastors, and other Christian leaders.

Note: Whenever we read a person’s biography or listen to a testimony about others, we must know that it is a witness about the power of the gospel of Christ Jesus in transforming a worst sinner into a beautiful saint. Therefore, all glory goes to God for His amazing grace and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

1. A MAN OF SELF-DENIAL

I cannot speak about brother John without mentioning about his commitment to the Lord’s work. When he felt the Lord calling him to India, he left his comfortable life in South Korea and came to India. He was not disobedient to God-given vision. (Acts 26:19)

Due to his serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus, he constantly suffered from weakness and sickness. He faced the pressure to return to his homeland many times. However, he wanted to serve and die in the land to which the Lord had called him to serve. Even on the day he was leaving India to serve the Lord in another country, he was physically unwell.

The country that he has now gone to is not an easy place to live. India is a lot better in comparison. Nevertheless, to brother John, what matters in life is not enjoying the comforts of life, but walking in obedience to the Lord who loved him and gave His life for him.

During his stay in India, brother John lived a simple life. He was a man without love for material riches, worldly pleasures or comforts. He was extremely cautious about how he spent money, especially when spending money on himself. He had very few pairs of clothes, so much so that at times we were tempted to buy him some. On one occasion, we pooled in money and bought a new windshield for his vehicle which had worn out. This is not because he had no money. Although he had the opportunity to live a luxurious life, he chose to live a frugal life for the sake of using money for better purposes.

2. A PEOPLE PERSON

A lot of missionaries and Christian leaders seem to be ministry-oriented, not people-centered. On the contrary, brother John is a people person. He puts people before ministry. In fact, to him, ministry is loving people.

In TENTS ministry, which is established through his encouragement and efforts, all the brothers can testify that brother John cares for people. When brothers or their family members fell sick or became unwell, without even caring about the distance, he immediately went to visit and to encourage them and kept following up about their welfare. If you live in his circle, you would know that there is a brother who always cares for you.

Here is a testimony of one brother: “My wife became quite sick to the point of death. At this dark hour, brother John and his wife stood with us. He fervently prayed for us and even raised prayer support from his countrymen. He gave away his own medicine to help my wife. He constantly visited us traveling a long distance and encouraged us. He cared for us more than our own family members.”

I must also mention the grace he shows towards people despite being hurt by them. I personally witnessed his immense patience and gracious attitude toward others, including myself. I wonder whether I or others would be as gracious as this man. He doesn’t easily give up on people. This may be because he is familiar with the gracious God and His amazing grace.

3. A WONDERFUL FAMILY LIFE

Brother John is married to Oh Hyunju. We call her Elizabeth. They have been married for more than 25 years and are blessed with only one son. They are one of the rare, loving and joyful couples I have ever seen in my life. Their love and commitment to each other causes us to envy their family life. One of my wife’s desires is to be like them.

Living closely to their family, we have seen that sister Elizabeth is a submissive wife and highly respects her husband. Brother John loves his wife and takes great care of her. They are physically, emotionally, mentally and heartily one flesh. This doesn’t mean they are a flawless couple. Yet, their strength in loving each other is greater than their failure of getting into occasional conflicts.

They not only loved the Lord and each other deeply, but have also devoted themselves to love and serve others as a family. Theirs is an open house, devoting themselves to show hospitality. We learned that when we go to their house, we must go with an empty stomach, because they would spread the table with a variety of foods, and that too nutritious ones. We had memorable moments in their house. Their hospitality and care makes us to feel guilty for failing to live up to their generosity.

4. A MAN OF HUMILITY

We do not easily testify about someone, ‘He is a humble man’ as we quickly and usually say, ‘He is a good man.’ I would unhesitatingly testify, along with the brothers in TENTS ministry, “Brother John is a humble man.” Despite the fact that Korean churches are generally known for having authoritarian, highly pastor-centered, and top-heavy hierarchical leadership structure, brother John was different.

Brother John’s aim was not to build a name for himself. His passion was not to build an organization centered around him. His motive was not to be served by others. His expectation was not for others to elevate him. His conduct was not controlling, authoritarian, and dictatorial. Many times I have watched him giving preference to others' opinion than to his own.  His goal was only to glorify God and to build His kingdom. And we give glory to God for his humility. I sincerely desire to become like him in his patience, gentleness, and humility.

Out of the many incidents which speak about his humility, here is one. Once brother John and I went to Nepal. I was teaching in a Bible college for a few days. Since the roads were sandy and dusty, my shoes became dirty at the end of the day. Every morning, he would polish my shoes and keep them ready at the doorstep for me to wear. Only a person who intimately knows the humility of Christ, who washed His disciples’ feet, would be willing to serve others humbly.

5. A MAN OF PRAYER AND WORD

Brother John is a man of prayer. He believes in the power of prayer. When it comes to important decisions, he takes time to pray rather than make hasty decisions. If he has problems with any person, he gives himself first to prayer and prays hard. In difficult situations, he pours his heart before his God like a child. If he thinks a lot, he also prays a lot about what he thinks. He has earned the right to say with Paul, “I served the Lord with all humility and with tears” (Acts 20:19).

Brother John and his wife have also developed the habit of studying the Holy Bible in an incredible way. They study the Old Testament twice and the New Testament 20 times every year. Their desire is to live a Bible-saturated life. He keeps encouraging others to study the entire Bible more than once every year. I am slowly toddling in their footsteps, studying the whole Bible at least once a year.

6. A MAN FOR GOSPEL AND FOR CHURCH

Brother John’s greatest passion was for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the unreached places and for the planting of local churches. Like many missionaries, his focus was not on doing some social work, although he believed and practiced charity. His priority was the gospel and the church, which were also the main thrust of the book of Acts. He strongly believed in the importance of local church and was co-shepherding a church along with an Indian brother.

The co-pastor who served alongside brother John wrote to me, “Brother John is a man of commitment to church. His heart was for church. His sermons were gospel-centered. He gave himself unreservedly to serve the church members. Even when his health was in bad condition, he made himself available for church meetings and to encourage the brothers and sisters in church. Any part of the day or night, whatever the distance, if any church member was in need, he did not miss to serve them. Serving the church diligently and faithfully was his motto. And he patiently and graciously encouraged all the church members to do the same.”

I have known missionaries who were not part of any local church and some who nominally attended the church, but brother John took the local church seriously to heart and had poured his life into it. I wish many missionaries and Christian leaders would imitate his commitment to the gospel and to the local church.

Finally, this is my assertion. In my more than twenty years of Christian life, I have never seen a foreign Christian missionary in India like brother John. My wife wonders whether she would ever meet a missionary couple like them in the future. Although not immune to imperfections, brother John lived an unusual life among us. In a conference which I attended in India, one of his own countrymen said to me, “He is like Jesus.” What a testimony! All glory to God for this unusual man of God. May we imitate such men who imitate Christ.

We miss you, brother John.
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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful Testimony....Praise God for his life and ministry...Praying for his family....

    ReplyDelete