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L'Abri Newsletter, December 2023

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December 15, 2023

Dear praying family,

It seems like 2023 started yesterday, so it is hard to believe that there are only a few days left. “Unbelievable! When did all those days pass?” I was dumbfounded for a moment before slowly looking back on the past year.

1. Your comfort, constant prayers, and loving gifts have filled L’Abri’s year with abundance. Shall I say that we are blinded by the glory of God’s will being accomplished in both what we can and cannot see?

2. 2023 was the year when we welcomed the highest number of guests since COVID-19. The number of people who made reservations in advance increased, and so did the number of visitors who stopped by unexpectedly. There were also cases when we served meals spontaneously. It seems like the things that have become rare or forgotten over the past three years are coming back to life. This year was also one of experimenting with weekend openings. This was because of a staff shortage and my older age, since I cannot work as much as I used to. However, school and church meetings continued to be held during the week. Starting January of next year, teacher training for an alternative school will also take place during the week.

3. In the past year, there were many outside speakings. Among them, the one that meant a big deal to us was the Revival Bible Study that InKyung led at Yangyang Presbyterian Church in October. Should I say that it felt like we were accepted into Yangyang Christian Society only after 20 years of surviving in Yangyang? I also gave lectures a few schools, churches, and organizations, but I barely managed to prepare for them properly. Giving them would have been impossible without my daughter Hae-jin’s loving and fierce drive to accept challenges and help. Please pray that each lecture and sermon would faithfully convey the Word of God and that our attitude would be that of a servant’s.

4. Since July, L’Abri Chapel and the brothers and sisters of ‘Jeongdaun Village,’ a facility for the severely disabled located near L’Abri, have been worshipping together. The Christians of ‘Jeongdaun Village’ haven’t been able to worship during the three years of COVID-19, so they adore worship and listen carefully to the preaching of God’s Word. The L’Abri Chapel family is in charge of leading worship service and prayer, while Sang-rae from ‘Jeongdaun Village’ creates the PowerPoint slides each week. Other brothers and sisters prepare the worship venue. In addition to InKyung and Sang-ki’s preaching, the sermons for the past few months have been delivered by Jin-hyung, Jun-won, and Sang-rae. The L’Abri Chapel family also holds Bible studies during the week, but the village families cannot. Please keep the village friends in your prayers.

5. This past year also reaffirmed that we are connected with those of the faith who have passed through this land with a ‘living hope’ and that we who are alive today continue living with that same hope. Looking at the retaining walls strengthened by the legacy of the late Puk-kyung and his wife Cynthia and the pleasant bathroom fixed by the legacy of Mary McCain, I am amazed that we have been passed the baton of living hope. Hope is invisible to the eye, but it is amazing to be able to see, touch, and cultivate it. Last month, the maintenance of the memorial arboretum was completed as a result of a special donation from the bereaved families of those buried there, in addition to Kwang-sik and his wife Nam-jeong. It has become a good place to confirm that those in heaven and we who are here now are connected with the death and resurrection of Jesus. This walking path has been loved by all those who visit L’Abri. Thanks to this, the ‘tree house’ has become so prominent that some people in the village occasionally ask, “Have you built a new house?”

6. The Lord sent many people to help us this year. Tae-yoon and his wife Hyeon-ji traveled back and forth from Ilsan, Gyeonggi-do to Yangyang (3½ hours journey) dozens of times to help with meals, practical works, and lectures. Without the help of this couple, we wouldn’t have been able to handle everything. In a few days, Hyun-ji will give a birth to her first baby. Please pray for a healthy delivery and for the family of three. Former worker Sam-won, who resigned from L’Abri this past August and is pursuing a career as a counselor, has also come often to help us with maintenance and finances. Gwang-sik and his wife Nam-jeong, who supervised the construction work, not only did the construction well but also organized and cleaned up afterwards. I would also like to thank Jae-kyung for his twenty years of help with the forklift ever since Typhoon Rusa hit in 2002. Jae-yong, who takes care of L’Abri’s gardens, took time off in the fall to prune the pine trees. Thanks to this, I feel relieved that the branches won’t fall from the snow in the winters. Please pray that helpers will be sent our way in the new year, especially workers with whom we can share the work.

7. As for my family, it’s been a year in which InKyung and I grew weaker and made more mistakes. My mother (InKyung’s mother) is still healthy and alert at the age of 90, but she cannot walk well. However, I cannot thank her enough for reading the Bible and praying every day. Thank you to those who have been praying for our daughter, Hae-jin. Hae-jin has suffered from herniated discs in her back and neck for nearly 20 years, and for the past 5 years, she hasn’t been able to eat properly due to indigestion. However, while teaching English online to neighborhood children, she has been helping with L’Abri’s registrations and with meal prep, little by little. These days, she is also helping with some housekeeping tasks. Thanks to an online device, she can read books while lying down, which allows her to help InKyung and me with our studies, lectures, and sermons. When I see Hae-jin, I am reminded that “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

8. InKyung is continuing his sermon series from the Book of Acts and recently preached on chapters 21 and 22. There was something I wanted to share with our praying family, so I am including it here. After his third missionary journey, despite his disciples’ dissuasion, Paul went up to Jerusalem, saying that he would not value his life if only he could finish the work of testifying to the gospel, even if bondage and tribulation awaited him (Acts 20:23-24). In Jerusalem, Paul was moved into a military camp “by the Roman soldiers” due to commotion amongst the Jews. Right then, Paul asked the Roman army commander to preach the gospel to the Jews who wanted to kill him. Although it was personally safer for Paul to enter the military bases, he did not miss the opportunity before him. He shared the gospel politely and calmly, addressing the crowd as “brothers and fathers” (Acts 22:1).

Why did Paul do such a dangerous thing? Why did he preach the gospel instead of trying to run away from those who were trying to kill him? Paul’s love for their souls was greater than his desire to protect his own life. Does this kind of sacrifice apply only to great men of faith like Paul? No. The heart of our Lord, who loved humanity to the point of sending Jesus to give up his own life for us, was implanted in Paul. Even now, those who choose suffering over safety like Paul and are spreading the gospel all over the world are driven to small martyrdoms to live out the gospel in their daily lives. But why does it feel like that love and heart have cooled or are absent? Isn’t it because, without even realizing it, we are buried in comfort and abundance, thinking that we will only bear our crosses if we could maintain a decent standard of living and support our desires? I’m sure there are many people already carrying heavy crosses every day, but I pray that our L’Abri family, including InKyung and I, will live with the same spirit as Paul had wherever God calls us.

9. We are short on helping hands, so we would like to ask you in advance for donations. We will send donation receipts to your current address listed with us at L’Abri. If your address has changed, please text or call 010-7498-0037. If you wish to receive the receipt by email, please let us know by email (yangyang@labri.kr). We will send receipts for tax returns as soon as they are ready in the beginning of the year.

We sincerely thank you for being L’Abri’s companion, and we pray that you will have a good time with the grace and truth of the Lord this coming Christmas and New Year holiday.

Yours faithfully,

KyungOk Sung

Translated by Ye-Jin Ahn

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