Thanksgiving and Joy

A letter from Choon and Yen Hee Lim serving as Regional Liaison for East Asia, based in South Korea

October 2015

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Every year the months of November and December remind me (Choon) to embrace life with thanksgiving and joy, no matter what situation I am in. This is because during this season we remember that the incarnate God, Immanuel, came to this world to liberate us from our bondage to sin. When we believe in the Son of God, thanksgiving and joy well up in our hearts as an unconditional gift. That is why we celebrate this wonderful and great season.

Jesus came to be one of us. Now we are called to go and be bearers of Christ’s presence in our world.

In my life, God graciously has granted me two role models that illustrate this way of living. One is no longer here in this world and the other lives in Seoul, South Korea, now.

When we believe
in the Son of God,
thanksgiving and joy well up in our
hearts as an
unconditional gift.

The first is the Rev. Son Yangwon (1902-1950). Rev. Son was a respected educator in the time leading up to the Korean War. He was born in what is now North Korea and his father was a Presbyterian deacon. During his youth Korea was occupied by Japan and schoolchildren were required to bow before an image of the Japanese emperor. As a Christian, Son refused and was jailed as a dissident.

Son graduated from seminary in 1938 and became the pastor and schoolteacher in Aeyangwon in North Korea, an isolated community that had a church, hospital and rehabilitation facility for sufferers of Hansen’s disease. From this distant pulpit, he became renowned for his deep piety, for his willingness to stand up to oppression and injustice, and for putting his own life on the line in defense of the marginalized.

He didn’t leave this community even during the Korean War (1950-1953). He stayed to protect the leper patients. Furthermore, he lost two sons to the Communist forces, but adopted the man who killed his sons as his own son. He was later shot to death as well. For me, Rev. Son is the second greatest human after Jesus Christ. He is my mentor forever.

The other person is Rev. Rim Insik, who was a pastor of Noryangjin Church in the poorest area in Seoul.  Rev. Rim is a former moderator of Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK). He is 92 years old now, but lots of churches still invite him to preach in Korea and abroad. I met him for the first time when I was serving as an associate pastor at Hanmee Presbyterian Church in Itasca, Ill. Later the PCK invited Yen Hee and me to serve their Island Medical Mission work as PC(USA) missionaries, with Rev. Rim’s recommendation. At that time Rev. Rim was the moderator of the PCK.

Today Rev. Rim is one of South Korea’s most respected ministers. When we have ecumenical gatherings, such as the prayer meeting last year for the reunification of Korea, Rev. Rim was invited to deliver a sermon to challenge the young pastors.

I was surprised last January 1 when he called me on the telephone, wishing me a Happy New Year.  I was speechless and felt embarrassed. He is the type of man who goes beyond the strictures and formalities of Korean tradition and reaches out to people to maintain relationships with them. Because the surnames Rim and Lim are the same in Korean, many people ask me if we are related. We are not, but I tell them that even though we are not blood relations Rev. Rim has been like a father to me and I often seek his guidance and spiritual help when I confront challenges in my life. He has come to be my friend, spiritual helper, guide and mentor, and the mirror of my soul. I want to follow his steps like I follow Jesus.

We are deeply thankful for your faithful prayers and support for our ministry throughout the year. With God’s grace, and because of your prayers, this has been a fruitful year for our ministry. Please continue to support us and other mission co-workers in my region, East Asia, as we face difficult financial challenges in 2016. Jesus came to be one of us. Now you go and be one of our strong supporters so that God’s mission may move forward further than ever before.

Joyful Christmas to you all!
Choon and Yen Hee Lim

The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 243


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