A LIVING HOPE
Dr. Peter Kim
Kiev UBF Director
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…" (1 Peter 1:3)
May God be with all of our missionaries who have committed their lives and their families to God and who are serving him on the front lines of world mission. I pray that God's comfort and joy may be with them all. When I read about our missionaries who are participating in the remaining sufferings of Christ, my eyes become hot with tears. As a missionary, I find that I must also reexamine and renew my own missionary calling. God included even me as one who could participate in the suffering and hardship with front line missionaries and coworkers. This is God's grace. I pray for the grace to share in their pain and suffering. On the other hand, I am thankful, for I know that all the hardships in the world become the assurance of our reward and inheritance in the heavenly kingdom. As I have been called as a soldier of Christ by God who does everything according to his own will, I pray that I and all of our precious missionaries may be faithful to death and receive the blessed crown of life from our Lord.
In 64 A.D. the Apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage the scattered believers in Asia Minor. Those who received this letter were suffering fiery persecution under the oppression of the Roman Emperor Nero. They were in such an extremely hopeless and despairing situation. But the Apostle Peter begins his letter to these believers with praise to God as a matter of first importance. "Praise be to God" (3a). How could he exhort these suffering people to praise God in that difficult situation? If they looked at the difficult situation in which they were suffering, they could not praise God. Rather they could not but be filled with regret and despair. But these believers had a reason to be filled with great joy in spite of their situation. That reason was that God had already begun a great work in the life of each one of these believers "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…" (3)
He gave to me also new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And he gave me his mission. Like the early Christians I became one of the diaspora, for by the will ofGod I became a missionary and was sent to this distant land to live among foreigners, having no sure hope or certain future in this world, and without regard to my future I am serving the gospel among these people. This March will mark the 10th year of my arrival in the old Russia. From a human point of view this place is a wilderness with no promise of what will happen tomorrow. When I think about it, I wonder how I survived the past ten years in this place. Indeed, there were many difficult things. But with each difficulty has come the amazing grace of God poured out in abundance on me. At first I had an idealistic and romantic idea about being a missionary. But soon things happened that made me realize that being a missionary is not just flying on a plane to arrive with romantic ideas in a distant country. I realized that in order to succeed as a missionary I must live as a soldier of Christ, and more than this, I must have the clear attitude of a front line foot soldier. And whether I live or die, I must never surrender and never retreat. I must have this kind of courage and decision power. I do not have this courage, nor the decision power to fight as a matter of life or death. But by the help of my Lord I have been able to endure here on the front line. I praise and thank God who has helped me. I confess that I have been able to remain to this day only by the grace of God. When I was walking a peaceful, easy road, I was not aware of Jesus' presence, but when I became tired and helpless and wounded by many events and was ready to fall down, his hand of mercy reached out to take hold of me and lift me up. I could hear his voice, "Get up and walk." He touched my sagging shoulders and encouraged me. It was in these difficult times that I met and walked with him and came to taste his grace. I confess with a heart full of gratitude that Jesus has been with me all the way on my life's road.
I generally try not to remember the hard and difficult times, but it seems good to talk about several difficult things, just as they are, so that others may get a glimpse of missionary life and understand a little better. So I'm going to mention several things that I have hesitated to speak about before. The Ukraine, where I am living and working, is a place that foreigners hate even to visit. When I first came here, foreigners, especially Koreans, would not eat the food raised here or drink the water. The reason for this was Chernobyl-the nuclear power plant accident which contaminated the land and water of this whole region. The Ukraine was famous as a beautiful vacation spot. The infamous Yalta conference was held in the Crimea, on the shores of the Black Sea. But after the Chernobyl accident, the demon of nuclear contamination worked powerfully. Several women missionaries who were my coworkers in the early days left after a short time, one by one. They gave many reasons for leaving. But their real reason was fear of being affected by the nuclear contamination. Among the shepherdesses in Kiev one contracted cancer of the larynx. From the point of view of the gospel, and faith, it was hard to understand these women coworkers leaving, but when I thought about their humansituations, I could understand and I did not try to stop them. Now, God has granted us some faithful coworkers. They are Korean students who have come to study here in Kiev. Shepherdess Kyung Sung and Shepherd Yong Sun have been a great encouragement to us. However, after our early women coworkers left, only my family remained. My wife and I had our first child in Korea. In Kiev, she miscarried three times and for the next six years we could not have a second child. She was continually sick and was in and out of the hospital so many times. (I realize that women missionaries in Russia had the same problems, so her miscarriages and sickness may not be related to nuclear contamination.) In spite of her sickness, we did not doubt the Lord's calling or the mission he had given us. We did not complain to God even once because of our suffering. The reason is that in the world there is much greater suffering. My wife and I were grateful for our life here and we knew that God would help us bear any difficulty on the mission field because he had called us to serve here. Our faith in God who called us and sent us to the Ukraine has not dimmed.
I praise and thank my God who is good. For the past 10 years I have trusted only in him, the living God. I had nothing in my hands but I only had faith in God who is living. As I walked with him one step at a time, this God has faithfully answered all my prayers and has met me in times of need to provide everything. I only praise and thank him. When I studied Philippians, I realized that to be always thankful and always rejoicing and full of praise to God is basic to the Christian life. This is God's will for us. I realized that an attitude of joy, thankfulness and praise to God is the spiritual foundation of a gospel-centered life and ministry and it is basic to missionary life. I found that the starting point of a happy life is joy, praise and thanksgiving. My family and I and our Kiev Center are full of joy and happiness. The students of Kiev were very gloomy and fatalistic. I prayed for our Kiev UBF to be joyful, bright, healthy and full of songs of praise. Our spiritual slogan for 2000 is "This is the year of change and spiritual revolution, starting with me." We pray that this may be a year of spiritual revival and spiritual revolution. So if there is a brother or sister among us who looks gloomy or doesn't smile, we call him or her out and give three minutes of smiling training. When we praise and thank God no matter what the circumstances and obey his word of promise absolutely and live by faith, God will surely remove the idols made by men and bring about a spiritual revolution and revival to this desert-like land.
There is a 1000-year history of Christianity in Kiev. This is the time for revival and renewal. The sheep are wandering without shepherds in a wilderness of despair. Many are hungry. They ask, "Why are there so many gorgeous Orthodox churches when the people are so hungry that they cannot even eat three meals a day?" These churches are beautiful on the outside, but as empty on the inside as a KGB office. Even though Jesus is alive, the church is preoccupied with death and funerals. The beautiful church buildings are used as tourist attractions. The Russian Orthodox Church is likean old wineskin. It must be changed into a new wineskin. Christians should be salt and light, but they are not. They have no influence in society. I pray for them to beat their breasts in repentance so that God can change them. If the Christians of the Ukraine are not changed, this nation cannot but be beggars for the crumbs of America and other rich nations. There must be a great spiritual awakening, a spiritual revolution in Russia and the Ukraine. The problem of Russia and the Ukraine is a spiritual problem. The spiritual problem is not a matter of quantity-there are countless so-called Christians. It is a matter of quality-a few Christians who are committed to Jesus. We cannot put our hope in the hardened establishment. But when a handful of UBF students commit themselves to Jesus and to one another, they can become the creative minority who can spark a spiritual revolution. It is for this purpose that God called our missionaries to this land, and for this purpose that he is raising a few young students as sprouts of hope in this land. I believe that as God continues to reveal his will and works to accomplish his purpose in this desert-like land, the fires of healing and revival will be kindled and will bum brightly. I believe and pray that God may work until the people of this land bow their heads and bend their knees and give glory and praise to the mighty God.
We can be joyful and praise God in the midst of suffering because God has given us an eternal and living hope and an inheritance which can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us. Every person in this world has some kind of hope. Without hope we lose all of our strength to live in this world. Men toil and sweat and work hard under the sun from early morning to late night to realize their hopes. But everything under the sun fades, spoils and perishes. More that this, in the end, every man dies and all of his work becomes meaningless, "..you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (Jas 4:14) So people want to enjoy their lives even a little bit before death overtakes them. However, they fall into fatalism and despair when they think about the death that will come upon them like a thief in the night. But Jesus gives us living hope. The hope that comes from Jesus is real hope, hope that gives true meaning and value to our lives. This hope shines into our lives like the rising sun. It gives us strength to rise up on eagles' wings. Most of all, this hope gives us a philosophy of life and death which sets us free to serve God anywhere, anytime, joyfully doing the work God has given us to do. We can live in this world as holy pilgrims, traveling toward the eternal kingdom, where our possessions lie.
In the past when I was a slave to my petty desires and worldly hopes, the meaninglessness of my life and my lustful desires kept me from digesting my food properly. But after I accepted the living hope and the eternal kingdom of God as my inheritance, I could live with my family in a difficult mission field. I could joyfully take the cross of school study, disciple-raising, and self-support on the mission field during these past ten years. Even though our family is the only missionary house church in Kiev, God has been our comfort and strength. God has given us a spacious center. I thank God with all my heart that many directionless students, who are like sheep without a shepherd, come and go and find rest and strength in our center. They are studying the word of God and growing as disciples of Jesus. God is answering our prayers for this nation to be a shepherd nation and missionary-sending nation. We are praying for 120 worship service attendants. The Eagle Team shepherds (Volodya, Sasha, Stas, Maria, Ira, Vlad, Anastasia, Vladmir, Oksana, Ivan) each made a decision to join me in committing his or her life to Jesus for the spiritual revival of Ukraine and for world mission.
From time to time I meditate on Psalm 57. Especially, I like verses 7,8: "My heart is steadfast, 0 God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn." This Psalm was written by David while he was in the cave of Adullam. Because Saul was trying to take his life, David cried out to God for help. David overcame the sorrow of his soul and awakened the dawn again and again with a cry of praise and victory. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him in the cave. The Bible records that there were about 400 men with him (1 Samuel 22:2). I thought about why so many people risked their lives to be around David who was running for his life, hiding in the cave. I believe that David had faith to thank and praise God in any kind of adverse situation. He had vision to awaken the dawn and overcome the utter darkness. I see that the world cannot do anything to a man with a vision. I believe that the world will give up and Satan will surrender to one who is faithful to death to hold on to a God-given vision.
I believe that God wants to have one person who, like David, is faithful to his vision in this generation. I am convinced that this is the reason all our coworkers must be faithful to the vision of disciple-making and world mission which God has given us. Also, I praise God for establishing Dr. Samuel Lee as a prophetic servant of God's word and as a spiritual front line general for world mission work. Dr. Lee has been faithful to this vision of God. I thank and praise God for using Dr. Lee and our UBF coworkers, for they are not afraid of fighting for the sake of realizing this vision. God has used them to destroy the darkness in Korea; and now to destroy the power of darkness and awaken the dawn in America, Germany, Russia and many countries of the world. Although I am still very young and immature as a missionary, I really like the vision of Dr. Lee and want to learn his vision. I confess that because of this vision I love our UBF ministry.
In fact, what kind of hope can I or these poor people of the Ukraine have? Even though I do not understand many spiritual secrets yet, I believe in the God who blesses our faith. God has given us his vision to bring the light of dawn to a land in deep darkness. I believe that when I come to God with faith and with the decision to make his vision my own and to fight to the death to make that vision a reality, I can also live a great life like that of Dr. Lee. I frequently pray with Kiev shepherds, "Lord, since we have decided to believe in you and obey and follow you and you only, help us to really believe. Grant that we may enjoy all the privileges of believers and live lives that are truly great lives." When we live with faith and with God's vision and serve the work of the gospel in this land, we may seem to lose a lot. But even though it seems that we lose everything, we lose nothing. When we serve the work of the gospel with God's vision and with faith in him, God is the one who fills us, clothes us and feeds us. As he promised, he gives us everything we need. Everyone has to say goodbye to this world someday. We are truly blessed to have the eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade waiting for us in the kingdom of God. I pray that my heart may be filled with the living hope in the kingdom of God and that I may live the life of a pilgrim missionary while on earth. I pray that God may help me understand the true value of the eternal kingdom of God in times of weakness. May he help me overcome this corrupt and adulterous world, and be triumphant over persecution so that I may march into the City of Zion, the Kingdom of heaven, singing hymns of praise.
Then what must I who have this living hope wholeheartedly pursue in this world? 1 Peter 1:13-15 says, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do." Why must we live a holy life? It is because God chose us and called us and gave us a different life value system to live a different life from the world. I live a life as a Christian, shepherd, and missionary. But I cannot influence anyone unless I live a holy life. I cannot but fight against my sinful desires for the world-against my desires for material things and a comfortable life. I must fight secularism and materialism and the sin of an easy-going lifestyle. If I do not do battle with the world, I will lose the happiness of life. I will be a miserable person who cannot give good influence even to my three children. My life as a missionary, my discipleship-making ministry and vision for a spiritual revolution in Ukraine, my own family, and our Kiev UBF, and my own spiritual life all depend on how much I can learn and practice the holiness of God. For this matter, I made a decision before God to fight the good fight seeking after the holiness of God. I earnestly pray that I may be a useful servant of God as I participate in his holiness. I cannot maintain a right relationship with God when I do not fight this holy battle by faith. I cannot have clear leadership or spiritual influence to our ministry without a right relationship with the holy God.
Then what should I do with all my strength as a shepherd and servant of God? 1 Peter 2:1-3 says, "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." I confess that when I am weak and have no spiritual strength, when I am not growing and seem to be stuck in spiritual stagnation, the only way out is to love and long for the word of God. God did not abandon us like orphans in this world. God already gave us the source of power to overcome any kind of difficulty and win the victory. This power source is the word of God. I believe that only the word of God can bring a work of repentance, change, and growth. I believe that the word of God is the only source of power to change our families, our society and our nation. Only through the word of God can we be raised as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. I repent that I did not prepare Bible study materials for my Bible study with sheep with the fear and love of God in my heart. I did not have yearning desire to receive the word of God through personal Bible study. I repent my habitual attitude toward the word of God. May God forgive my unfaithfulness in Bible study. May he pour out on me his grace so that I may have an absolute attitude toward his word. May he restore fear and love of God in my heart as I study his word and may he enable me to be a servant of God who digs out God's word until the spring waters of life pour out from my Bible study.
I believe that where the seed of God's word is sincerely and faithfully planted there will be a changing work of God. God changed the sorrowful and fatalistic Koreans through the seed of the word of God planted in their hearts during the dark time under the Japanese occupation. God changed Korea to be a shepherd nation and a priestly nation through which the whole world is blessed. Who could imagine that a nation filled with idolaters and exorcists could be changed into a shepherd nation? This is because the word of God has power in it to drive out false ideologies, idolatry, and humanism and put them all under the name of Jesus. I learn that I have to have an absolute attitude and faith in the word of God if I want to be a servant of God's word and a missionary with a successful disciple-making ministry. I am sure that God blessed our UBF ministry to be a world-wide missionary sending organization because Dr. Samuel Lee and all senior shepherds had a genuine love of the word of God. I pray that I may not think only about what I do not have (such as no coworkers), but may I love the word of God which he has given me as the best spiritual weapon. I pray that through loving the word of God I may be molded into a great messenger of God's word until my mouth is like a sharpened sword in this generation.
For this, I pray that this year I may read and do a factual study of the whole Bible, be faithful in early morning prayers and daily bread, prepare one-to-one Bible study materials and Sunday messages. Please pray for me to do these things faithfully as an expression of my love for the word of God.
I earnestly pray that God may pour out his Spirit on all of us so that we may be one in Christ and in our mission. I pray that America, Pyong-yang in North Korea, Moscow, and Kiev may be restored as God's fortresses through our UBF coworkers.
May God accept our united prayers for the unification of Korea, which still remains shamefully as the only divided nation in the world. May God lift up the curtain of division and blow the trumpet sounds of the united Korea so that we all may sing the song of praise, dressed in traditional Korean clothes and holding hands with one another. I long for this day to come.