L'Abri Newsletter, November 2015
November 18, 2015
Dear L’Abri praying family,
Snow falls on Seorak Mountain this morning. Downhill in L’Abri, we have sleet all day. It’s a dark and dreary day that no one likes. I am not fond of this weather, either. Yet I feel that even this gloomy day is a special gift from God.
Perhaps I feel so because the high school seniors who had been chattering all night returned home just yesterday. Perhaps it is because I have to spend all the sunny days with guests, and all the snowy days shoveling a path for them, but sleety, in-between days are free. Or maybe it is because there is so much sufferings—diseases and terrors—around the world these days. Most likely it is because of all these reasons. Yet in times such as these, we cannot afford the leisure to huddle up and sit back. A series of terrorist attacks of late brings us sharply to our senses.
Below is a brief summary of my thoughts about the recent attacks in Paris. 1) Terrorism is ruthless violence, a challenge to civilization, and a shocking infringement of human rights. 2) Terrorism feeds on extremism, economic inequality, unconditional pacifism, distorted pluralism, and religious conflicts. 3) We need to confront, not remain silent in the face of, terrorism and all other crimes against God and humanity. 4) We must strive to recover a healthy community in our families, churches, and society at large, with love and justice, grace and truth, and freedom and form. 5) We need to be spiritually awake even more as the world is distraught with terrorism, conflicts, and diseases.
The most urgent of these is the last one, an intimate relationship with the Lord. We know that even when the world is in turmoil, if the center of our soul—our spiritual center of mass—is firmly grounded in God, we will not shake easily. It does not matter how much education you have received and how long you have attended church. If your spiritual relationship with Jesus is distant and insecure, everything will crumble down. Your soul will readily tremble in horror and anxiety upon hearing the news of the Paris attacks, for instance.
I am a weak person as well. I have just recently realized that I can break down even on small things, such as bad weather, let alone terrorism and severe hardship. At daybreak a few days ago, our hot water tank leaked and our dormitories were all flooded with water. After scooping up the water for an hour with my wife, I stood on the Sunday pulpit to preach. Suddenly my eyes filled up with tears that I couldn’t let out a word. I was surprised and flustered by my unexpected emotional upheaval. If God hadn’t embraced me and pushed me forward, I might not have been able to finish the sermon.
Where does unshakable faith come from? The Bible is full of stories of faithful people who lived wisely in the face of hardships. Hezekiah was a king of Judah who remained strong despite war, disease, corruption, and other difficulties. The secret to his unshakable faith was quiet simple: “For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses.” (2 Kings 18:6, ESV) It is admirable enough that a politician could live by God’s words in such tumultuous times; holding fast to Him, even, is a singular quality indeed.
Here, “hold fast to the Lord” means “stuck to the Lord,” “remained close to the Lord,” or “was strongly united with the Lord.” The phrase indicates a mysterious and personal union with God. It is different from a physical or subjective union with God, which is often emphasized by unhealthy spiritual movements. It is also distinct from ecstatic union in a state of super-ego, devoid of thought and mind, as some people suggest. Looking back to Hezekiah’s life, he too had sinned and he too had been arrogant at times. Yet throughout his reign, he handled important matters of state for God’s glory, with God’s power, while depending on none other than God. All of these would have been impossible if he had not maintained a personal, mysterious, yet intimate relationship with God.
I cannot yet fathom the true meaning and depth of spiritual union that Hezekiah enjoyed. Still, I believe that it was the hand of God that sent countless young people and leaders to L’Abri throughout this year, as well as watching over every corner of our fragile house. The kind elder who donated energy-saving heat pumps last month replaced our three hundred light bulbs with LED as he promised. I am thankful that they not only save electricity but also brighten up the whole place better than ever before. Yein Church in Bucheon (Pastor SeongKyu Jeong) built us a spacious balcony in front of our Old Gas Station. It feels happy just to imagine students who will sit there and discuss life and truth over ChungSeong’s hand-drip coffee.
KyungOk and I are planning to visit Argentina and the U.S. for two weeks from Nov 25. In Argentina, we are going to give about ten lectures in several meetings arranged by Pastor SeungHyuk Lee and Dr. Yeari Lee. They stayed at Korean L’Abri about ten years ago, studying and working with us for quite a while. We had hesitated several times to visit them due to the threat of terrorism, expenses, and our health. However, we decided to go with an obedient heart—for the sake of spiritual revival in the Spanish world, to prepare young Korean leaders there, and thanks to Erom Group (Chairman SungJoo Hwang) who paid for KyungOk’s plane tickets.
On our way back from Argentina, I am going to attend the trustees’ meeting of International L’Abri in Southborough, Massachusetts. KyungOk is going to visit for the first time her sister’s house in L.A. However, KyungOk has been suffering from fever and headache for weeks. We need special prayer so that she may get better in time for the trip. JinSeong and Sul-Ah, along with our children, are going to take care of L’Abri in the meantime. ChungSeong plans to take some rest with his parents in GimHae.
We will be having a few special programs this winter. Please pray that many young people will take interest and that we will have lively discussions to warm up the cold weather. In Jan 7—9, fifteen students and professors of Christian Media Academy (President JeongMin Cho) will visit us for a special session. They will sleep in the village nearby, and listen to lectures and have discussions in L’Abri. In Jan 11—15, we will do a book study of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, led by InYeong Jeong who recently produced a study guide for that book in Korean.
Between Jan 28 and 30, L’Abri and the Christian Worldview Studies Association of Korea (Chairman BongHo Son) will jointly hold the School of Christian Worldview in the 100th Anniversary Memorial Church (Pastor JaeCheol Lee, Mapo-gu, Seoul). Our long-term prayer family Pastor Youngjeon Yang will give lectures on “the Gospel of the Cross,” and many young speakers in their twenties and thirties will share their research as well. This is the first time that we are organizing an event in Seoul since we left the city. I would like you to think of this year’s SCW as a “homecoming day.” Please come in person, meet young people who have been to L’Abri, and encourage them. Please pray that God will send us those who truly need our help.
Living busily among young people, I forget that this year has almost gone by. I realize that I haven’t even had a chance to thank you for your faithful prayer and precious gifts. I am sorry that we are leaving another year behind without tasting the profoundness of true personal union with Christ and His mysterious powers. Instead, the closing weeks are again full of depressing news about terrorism and war. I pray that all of you will greet Christmas and the New Year with a moment-by-moment, intimate relationship with God, living according to God’s words as Hezekiah once did.
Translated by Haejin Sung