L'Abri Newsletter, December 2016
The day before Christmas, 2016
Dear L’Abri praying family,
How have you been doing this year? It is not easy to ask people this question these days. Because of the political instability, every Korean has been going through a hard time and it seems like it will be hard going for the next few months as well. I would like us to acknowledge that the world we live in is unreasonable (“meaningless” as the Ecclesiastes says), hope for the Kingdom of God, and endure the times with prayer and wisdom from God.
There is a sign in our front yard saying “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).” I think we put it up in 2001 as soon as we moved to Yangyang. A few weeks ago, at the chapel, we thought about the meaning and context of this passage in the Bible. I would love to share it with all of you because this passage gives us a lesson for the hard times we are having today. The sermon was on John 8:31-59, titled “the Habits of Stubborn Slaves.” The key point is that stubborn slaves make stubborn masters.
To begin with, a stubborn slave does not even know that he is a slave. When Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” the Jews argued with him, saying “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.” The Jews were under the control of Rome at that time, and they had been slaves of Egypt and Babylon before; nevertheless, they did not realize their status as slaves both physically and spiritually. We also used to be slaves to sin, and often work as servants of other people. Even leaders are little more than servants whose authority comes from God. However, we are often deluded into thinking that we are masters of our own lives.
Why does a stubborn slave not know that he is unfree? The Jews in the story were blinded by their own myth of legitimacy – being Abraham’s descendants. They were very proud of being the chosen people and insisted that God was their “father.” But Jesus told them that children of God are born not of biological descent but of faith; evildoers have their own father, the Devil. Even though the Son of God came and said that He would set them free from the slavery of sin, the Jews did not listen to Him because of their dogma about being the chosen people. They were so obsessed with their own sense of legitimacy that they even set up ranks among themselves. They probably wanted to get on their master’s good side (the Devil in this passage and our bosses in our world). When a servant tries to be superior to another servant, their argument helps neither servant – only the master. During the colonial era, Japan tried to govern Korea by installing Korean middle managers. We love to talk about orthodoxy and legitimacy, too. We need to ask whether our arguments with one another only benefit someone else.
A stubborn slave cannot see the big picture beyond his own experience and knowledge. Like some of Job’s friends, he judges God with his narrow perspective and limited knowledge. The Jews said that they knew “Abraham and prophets,” but they did not really understand who they were. They did not recognize the one who was higher than Abraham. Even though the Jews sounded as though they respected prophets, they actually oppressed the prophets when they were alive. When Jesus, the Messiah who Abraham had waited for, came, they ignored Him because they did not expect Him to be so humble and weak. What about us? Don’t we also live as if there is no bigger picture than our own understanding? Don’t we often overlook the truth because it conflicts with our experience and knowledge?
Stubborn slaves opposed Jesus who pointed out their problems. When Jesus told them to know the truth and be free from sin, the Jews denigrated and ostracized Him by calling him “Samaritan” and “demon-possessed.” They neither accepted their reality as slaves nor tried to understand why Jesus disagreed with them. Instead, they ignored Him because He was neither educated nor from a good family. Don’t we treat our teachers like they did? Don’t we disparage those who point out our problems for us?
What motivates a stubborn slave to have such a stiff attitude? It is hatred (“murderer”, verse 44). Who profits when slaves hate one another? The master does. It is easy for the master to control his servants when they are competing with one another. The same thing happens today when political leaders incite social division and hatred based on region, school rankings, and kinship. Who would laugh when we are divided? Satan does.
Jesus gives answers to the stubborn and wicked servants of his time. Firstly, He said, “The truth will set you free (verse 32).” Secondly, he said, “I do know Him and keep His word (verse 55).” It is a wicked servant who tells what is not true or lies through his silence. Maintaining neutrality in the face of evil makes one an accomplice to evil in this world. I think this passage has a lot of implications for the political disturbance in Korea today, as well as our spiritual war in everyday life.
Even in the face of adversity, the year has been full of God’s grace. It was very impressive to read C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity as a group, led by InYeong Jeong, in January. There were about 20 people and all of us sat around the fireside in the cold winter. We enjoyed reading together and having discussions. Once we had a better understanding of the book, we became good friends of Lewis. InYeong built “the house of jolly beggars” in Dongducheon where he keeps reading Lewis’s works.
On the last day of the event, a fire broke out at the top of the stovepipe. It was a really dangerous moment. JinSeong quickly went up to the roof barefoot and poured water down the pipe. We tell the tale of his quick wits and bravery even to this day. We are so thankful that nobody panicked or complained. Everyone stayed calm and cleaned up ashes.
InKyung hugged YoonSeok so tightly that day that YoonSeok later told us he could feel how frightened InKyung was. He was not relieved until Ji-In Jeong finally removed the stove in November. He kept telling me that he dreamt of fire. I give glory and praise to God for His protection and for helping us obey and cooperate.
For a month starting in mid-February, the old library was renovated into bedrooms for workers’ family and guests. InKyung and I have finally moved into Narnia to live in the same space as our children. The attic where we stayed for so long now belongs to Julia. I thank Ji-In Jeong for managing the construction with no profit margin. During the construction, the workers not only helped with the work but also were paid less than usual because of a shortage of funds.
Since April, L’Abri has been full of visitors again. I was happy to see young people having discussions with a cup of tea here and there. Discussions lasted not only during lectures or Bible study times but also at the table and during breaks. After JinSeong and Sul-Ah went back to Canada, a new team of the workers was formed, including SamWon.
Now I would like to share some prayers with you.
Please pray for visitors so that those who really need L’Abri can come.
Even though we usually do not welcome minors, many middle- and high school students visited as a group. Students of Vision Classical Christian School have been visiting every year for three years now; they send 12th graders to stay with us for a few days after they have finished their college entrance exams. The students talked a lot about their freedom, anxiety, and concerns about their future. We hope to help them more next year. Other schools that heard the story of Vision Classical Christian School are also asking about sending their students to L’Abri, so we will need to think more about the program.
We also saw many young people in their 20s and 30s. However, it is not like the past. In the midst of high unemployment rates, we need to ask if we are missing any young people who are going through hard times. No age group is less important than any other. But please pray that we can take especially good care of young people in their 20s and 30s who are having the most difficulties in our society.
These days, it is said that people go through their second adolescence in their 40s. There were many visitors in their 40s, saying it was high time for them to prepare for the second part of their lives. We found that it is not easy for them to change their preconceptions about vision, their future, religion, and marriage. At the same time, they were humorous and mischievous in their own ways.
We also had quite a few people in their 50s or later. Our young workers find it difficult to work with them; however, we know that the age does not always make one more mature, faithful, or wise. Because older generations have their own concerns about life and faith, it is good to become friends with them, respect them, share in their hardship, and encourage each other.
Among foreigners, I cannot forget Stephanie from the Philippines, who said she learned a lot while staying with us. I remember also Juan from Georgia, USA, who went home after accepting Jesus even though he only stayed at L’Abri for two days. Please pray for their faith and wisdom.
SamWon suggested having an “Academy for Workers.” Please pray for our study sessions. Our group includes SamWon, ChungSeong, Julia, InKyung, and me. Since InKyung and I must retire in a few more years, we had been thinking about how to train our young workers, so we were very happy when they volunteered to study. I hope that this academy will help the workers a lot and that they will be able to help many people with what they learn. Please pray for our young workers so that they will be humble, sincere, and competent successors to InKyung and me.
Terms at Korean L’Abri have been short, only 4-7 weeks, for the last few years for several reasons. We are very sorry that some young people who would have benefited from longer stays could only be with us for a short time this autumn. Even though they were in good condition at L’Abri, they often regress to their former habits when they go home for the break. We are thinking about ways to let young people stay with us long enough to firmly change their minds and lifestyles. In order to have longer terms, there seems to be no way but for our workers to work harder or for more workers to join the team. Please pray for this issue.
We are going to host the School of Christian Worldview in Seoul for the second time from January 5 to 7, 2017. Many lecturers will share their wisdom, but we are especially honored to announce that Wim Rietkerk will be one of them. Wim has been the President of International L’Abri for over 20 years, and also served as the Chairman of Korean L’Abri. He is going to give a talk as part of a panel on how to help refugees. The panel also includes Dr. BongHo Son, the Chairman of the Christian Worldview Studies Association of Korea, and JongChul Kim, our attorney and former worker. I believe Wim’s insights will be a great help for us as he has thought a lot about how to live as a Christian in Europe where refugees and terrorism are major concerns. He is arriving on January 3 and, after the School of Christian Worldview, will stay with us in Yangyang until the 11th. Please pray for his safe journey, health, lectures and the translation. His expenses will be fully covered thanks to a special gift, but we are also expecting to incur more expenses for our stay in Seoul for the duration of the conference. Please pray that our needs will be met. Please also pray that young people who are seeking God’s wisdom and strategic thoughts for this confusing age will visit and find help.
I really appreciate that all of you have prayed for and supported L’Abri as a family throughout 2016. As you know, it is very difficult for a person to get a new life in Jesus and be changed, so we always need not only workers on the front lines but also a barrage of prayer from the rear. Praying is always worthwhile. I pray that all of you will know the truth, be set free, and spread the truth in 2017.
Translated by EunHa Kim