Mission life: THE KUKMIN DAILY

"What made me smile was not money, but evangelizing just one person"

2017-09-01 17:30

It was drizzling rain on August 24 in front of Ewha Womans University in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul. A gray-haired gentleman holding an umbrella was ordering meat fried rice at the cup-rice stall. At one time this man had been the richest landowner in the Shinchon Rotary area, but following the failure of his business, he became a pastor preaching the Gospel to students. This is the story of Rev. Lee Jong-ung (73, photo), retired pastor of Chamjoeun Church in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul.

Rev. Lee started his life of faith at Seogyodong Presbyterian Church in Mapo-gu, Seoul. He entered the department of civil engineering at Seoul National University in 1963, and in 1965 became the first president of the Christian Student Association of the SNU College of Engineering. He also served as the first president of the united Christian Student Association, formed by 11 colleges within SNU.

Just after graduation in 1970, he inherited from his grandfather a building in front of Shinchon Station, where he established the Gwangshin Bookstore. At the time, about one third of the land in the Shinchon Rotary area was owned by his family. In 1972, at the age of 28, he took charge of Hwado Middle School in Hwaseong city, Gyeonggi-do, serving as its fourth principal. He opened a number of retail clothing stores around the Shinchon area, displaying his capacity for business. He took over a general construction company, handled a road paving project in the Gangwon region, and in 1983 constructed Seogyo Hotel near Hongik University Station. With the hotel in the black, in 1985 he built Crystal Department Store, the predecessor of Grand Mart in Shinchon.

Rev. Lee’s first ordeal came at this time. Following his failure to parcel out the units in the department store for sale, he managed it directly but incurred a deficit of more than 5 billion won per annum. His checks bounced due to insufficient funds, and in 1990 he was imprisoned for three months in Seoul Detention Center for violating the Illegal Check Control Act. He was released with a suspended sentence.

“When you were a hotel president you were comfortable, but were you at peace?”

Lee, who as the youngest prisoner was responsible for washing the other prisoners’ dishes, heard God speaking these words. “I realized that I had lived for comfort, but had never lived for peace,” Rev. Lee said. He recalls that when he sang the hymn “Amazing Grace,” giving thanks for God’s “salvation for a sinner like me,” the prisoners in the next cell would cling to the bars and their tears would flow together.

His second ordeal soon arrived. After his release from jail, he suffered a return of the kidney pain he had suffered temporarily in 1974, and in 1993 he received a kidney transplant. In the intensive care center, once again he stood before God. God said, “Write the names of 10 persons you have evangelized,” but he could not write even one.

The next year, Lee started roadside evangelizing at Seoul National University. Having lost both his money and his health, he sat on the steps in the campus and wept. When a young person, seeing his tears, was moved and promised to follow his words and believe in Jesus, at last the ache in his heart was eased, like the melting of snow. “I had been the president of a department store and of a hotel, but I had never before experienced such deep emotion,” Rev. Lee said. “It was the words of the Bible, heaven rejoicing over the entry of one soul.”

Following that, his campus ministry was trouble-free. He organized the SNU Christian Professors Prayer Meeting, led an evangelical rally in the Cultural Hall Auditorium, and guided Christian orientation and other activities. During this period he graduated from divinity school. In 1998 he founded Chamjoeun Church. The church has stood at the forefront of university evangelism, for example by paying registration fees for African exchange students, and providing a meeting place for faith gatherings.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)

Rev. Lee holds fast to this verse of the Bible. In his life of twists and turns, it was at the very bottom of life that he found the light. Since November last year, he has been selling cup-rice in Shillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul. His business is still in the red, but he sees it as an opportunity to help his neighbors by means of his small savings. Reflecting on his life, the moment that made him smile was not money or honor, but the evangelizing of just one person.

Reporter DongWoo Kim (love@kmib.co.kr), with Marion Kim (marionkkim@icloud.com)
Photo by intern reporter Shin Hyeon Ga

Original Article in Korean:
[나와 예수] 나를 웃게 만든 건 돈이 아닌 단 한명의 전도: 신촌 땅부잣집 아들서 캠퍼스 전도자로 이종웅 참좋은교회 은퇴목사

Popular Articles

Total Mission Kuki
Yoido Full Gospel Church


2013 WCC Myungsung church