Messiah - My Testimony to
by Bo Hi Pak
Chapter Three - From the Trenches to Fort Benning
New Year's Day 1952 brought the beginning of another year of war. This tragedy of Koreans killing Koreans had already gone on for a year and a half, and still there was no end in sight. Meanwhile, each passing day meant the loss of more young lives.
The Ninth Division was given the assignment to defend the section of the Iron Triangle' near Cholwon. Our Twenty-eighth Regiment was deployed on the famous White Horse Hill within the Iron Triangle. The enemy could not break the stalemate and control the entire Iron Triangle without first taking White Horse Hill. The hill we had been assigned to defend was crucial to the war effort of each side. It was only natural, then, that we would soon be in the middle of a fierce battle.
The Chinese army was deployed directly in front of us. Every night punctually at 2:00 a.m. they would begin their attack. First, we would hear the sound of some sort of whistle, and then there would come the sound of small drums followed by some shrill sound that we never were able to figure out. Then we could see swarms of Chinese soldiers marching toward us. Our Twenty-eighth Regiment fought bravely and used our superior firepower to fend off the enemy's human wave tactics.
In the morning, the battlefield would be blanketed with layer upon layer of dead bodies. Even more painful, our side also suffered substantial casualties. Each day we knew only that we had been permitted to live that particular day, but none of us knew whether we would live to see the next day. Everyone was thinking about how to live to see tomorrow. This, though, was only the beginning of the Battle of White Horse Hill.
About that time, I received a curious notice. It said that a certain number of mid-level officers would be selected to receive military training in the United States and I had been chosen by the regimental commander to be one of them.
"What? This is strange." I thought. "We're in the middle of war, and they want me to go to America to study?" I wondered if it might be some kind of joke. The other officers who had been selected were also confused.
I soon learned that President Rhee and General MacArthur had decided it was necessary to provide a modern military education to junior Korean officers. For this, selected officers were to travel to the United States for training at the U.S. Army Infantry School at the expense of the U.S. government. Still, it seemed a comic error that a person such as myself, who spoke almost no English, should be chosen for such an assignment.
It turned out to be true, though. I was told English was not a requirement because interpreters would be provided for the whole group from the beginning. A few days later, I climbed out of the trenches, changed from my battle-soiled fatigues to a clean set, and headed for Taegu.
Before I left the regiment, my commander called me into his office.
"I hate to see you go," he said, "but this is an excellent opportunity for you. It's an assignment that requires people with the best minds, and that's why I chose you. I want you to study hard and come hack with plenty of new knowledge. I don't know if I will still be alive when you return."
This was the reality of war. When we said farewell to someone, we could never promise to see him again some day.
I had received a great deal of attention from my commander during my time in the regiment. He believed that I had a great future ahead of me. The loss of his tactical officer would cause immediate inconveniences, but he took a longer view of the situation and made the decision to send me to America. I was nearly moved to tears by the generosity of his decision.
"I am grateful to you, sir," I said. "I will do my best to study and be sure to live up to your expectations for me. The Twenty-eighth Regiment is my home. I will return soon."
I gave him a formal salute, and he gave me a warm handshake. As it turned out later this commander probably saved my life. The battle for White Horse Hill became much harsher soon after my departure. The two sides began what is known as a "millstone tactic," whereby the two sides grind back and forth over the same territory.
The enemy was desperate to take White Horse Hill, using wave after wave of soldiers. In fact, they took the hill fourteen times. Our side took it back fifteen times. The final attack on the hill by our side placed it permanently in the hands of the Republic of Korea. By the end of the battle there wasn't a single bush or even a blade of grass left growing on the hill. They say that the two sides bombarded the top of the hill so much that its elevation was actually reduced by several feet.
The loss of human life on both sides was almost unprecedented. As far as I know, the famous war hero Lt. Woon Gi Kim was the only junior officer of the Twenty-eighth Regiment who survived the Battle of White Horse Hill. Lieutenant Kim was a platoon leader in my noncommissioned officer training company. I remember him as a handsome young man who looked younger than his age. He led a company of soldiers up White Horse Hill fourteen times but was pushed hack each time. Then, on the fifteenth attack, he managed to reach the top of the hill and plant the Republic of Korea flag. He is a hero of the Korean War, and he survived the war.
It is difficult to imagine that I would have survived this fierce battle. I remember feeling at the time that Heaven, for whatever reason, had acted to remove me from an environment in which my life would be endangered. I felt that some mysterious force was guiding my life, and I could not help but feel an even greater sense of awe.
I arrived in Seoul, a city that still lay in ruins. From Seoul, our group headed directly to Taegu, where ROK army headquarters was located. Here, we were issued a new officer's dress uniform to wear instead of battle fatigues. It was my first chance since the Korean Military Academy to put on a dress uniform.
There was one matter that troubled me about leaving for America. I wanted to return to my home village where my parents were, but I didn't have the means to get there, and besides, I couldn't get any leave. I had not seen my parents since the war began almost two years before, but the fact that I missed seeing them was not the only reason I wanted to go. I had a package that I wanted to deliver to Father. I knew he would have no way of purchasing bicarbonate of soda in the village. I had explained the situation to a number of medics who were with me on the frontline and they had each given me a small amount to take home when I got the chance. I needed to get the package to Father before leaving for America.
I sent a telegram to my home, telling my parents the exact date and time that my military transport train would pass through Chon-An Station and asking that Father come to the station to see me. I discovered that the train would not actually stop in Chon-An. I planned to watch for Father on the platform as the train passed through the station and throw the package to him at the right moment.
I put the package in a sack made of strong material, something like a soldier's backpack, and attached a letter to the outside explaining the situation. Then, as the train approached Chon-An, I went out on the landing between two cars and waited for the right moment to throw it to my father.
The train approached Chon-An at full speed. I quickly searched the platform, but Father was nowhere to be seen. Before I knew it, the train passed the platform. I wasn't sure what I should do, but I saw a man checking the tracks within the limits of Chon-An Station, so I shouted at him as loud as I could to get his attention. When I saw him look up at me, I threw the package in his direction and waved my arms in a large motion to let him know that I needed him to do me a favor. I saw him walk over and pick up the package.
As the train passed out of sight, I prayed: "God, please let that medicine reach my father. He needs this bicarbonate of soda. Please take pity on him." I wept as I prayed.
Later, I learned that my father had, in fact gone to Chon-An Station that day. The authorities, however, had placed the station house off limits to civilians because a military train was passing through. The railroad worker who picked up my package delivered it to the station master, who read the letter I had written and quickly paged my fattier on the loudspeaker. This happened when my father was just about to leave the station.
My father heard his name being paged and went quickly to the office. When he read the note I had attached to the package, he thanked the station master and added. "It's a shame that I as a father have to worry my son who is on his way to America. I wish I could tell him how sorry I am." Father could not help but weep as he spoke.
The station master comforted him, saying, "What a wonderful son you have. He certainly must think a lot of his father. I hope you take this bicarbonate of soda and become healthy." Father then took the package, which still smelled of the battlefield, and returned home.
During our one-week orientation prior to departure, we learned that none of the junior officers selected for the program knew very much English, and this gave rise to a number of humorous incidents.
First, we were told to learn a few greetings in English. These were phrases such as "good morning," "good evening," "how are you?" and "good night." In particular, we were told to be sure to memorize the phrase "thank you." These two words, they said, could be used in almost any situation.
Then we had to learn how to use a western-style toilet seat. I remember how hard we laughed when we were told that you weren't supposed to squat down with your feet on the seat but actually were supposed to sit clown so that your bare skin was in contact with the surface.
Next came a lesson in table manners. We had to learn how to eat properly with a knife and fork, instead of chopsticks. There was also a lesson on the custom of handshaking. The point that impressed me most about this lesson was that we were cautioned not to squeeze too hard when shaking hands with a woman.
We also learned a few things that seemed extremely odd. When we got to Georgia, we were told, we would see that there were toilets for black people and toilets for white people. Also, there would be separate drinking fountains for black people and white people. Under no circumstances, we were told, were we to use the facilities that are designated for black people. Also, we were not to sit at the back of a bus, because seats in that area were "reserved" for black people.
At the time, I had no idea what a "Coca-Cola" was and that it was the most widely available drink in America. I didn't know that there were machines everywhere that would give you something to drink if you just stuck a coin in them. If you didn't have a five-cent coin, you could put in a larger amount of money and somehow you would receive the correct change. Even after our arrival in America, it took us considerable time to understand the phenomenon of machines making change. At first, some of us thought there really were people inside the machines who were giving out the change. We even had a big argument about this among ourselves. We were all naive.
In a way, we were like kindergarten children. In another way, we were like astronauts being trained to go live on the moon.
First Trip to America
The group of 150 officers headed for training in the United States arrived at the pier in Inchon. There, we found a military band had been brought to greet us, a large stage had been built, and the area was decorated with many flowers. Behind the stage there was a large sign that said: "Congratulations to Army Officers Going to America." All of us were surprised to see that such elaborate arrangements had been made for our departure.
Soon someone announced over the loudspeaker: "The president of the republic is now arriving!"
'What? You mean to say that President Syngman Rhee is going to be here?"
No one needed to reply. The military hand struck up a fanfare, and President Rime climbed up the steps onto the stage. He had tears in his eyes as he addressed us. This is what I recall of his speech:
You are the hope of our country. You are our only hope. We have been invaded by North Korea and are faced with the greatest trial, the most difficult period in our nation's history. It has only been five years since we were able to establish our own independent government. Do we have to lose our country again after so short a time?
If we are to win this war, we must make ourselves stronger. Knowledge is power. That is why I asked General MacArthur to provide an opportunity for you to he trained in the United States to become elite military commanders. I wanted to make a special point of corning to see you off today.
Your time in America will be short, but I hope you will be able to absorb a lot of knowledge. Come back with all the information about the most modern strategies so that we can push our way back up to the Yalu River.
I believe this is a Heaven-sent opportunity to reunify our country. Only when we reunify our country will we he able to say that we have truly established our country. Otherwise. we will be forced to live in shame.
Seeing you here today gives me great confidence. All of you look very dependable, and you are very handsome. I ask you to defend this country. Return to this country as quickly as you can.
Republic of Korea President Syngman Rhee shakes hands with the author (foreground with back to cameral as one of 150 Korean military officers being sent to the United States for training.
Our president wiped the tears from his eyes during the entire time he was speaking. As I listened, it occurred to me that there was probably not another person in the world who loved his country as much as President Rhee. First he dedicated his life to winning independence from the Japanese, and now he was working to preserve Korea through this grave crisis. It was a moment for me to reflect how, on the first day of the war, I had encountered a flood of refugees north of Pochun and clenched my fists in a firm determination to save my country. That same determination was burning within me now.
President Rhee shook hands with us one by one as we boarded our ship. I pledged to him: "Mr. President, we will unify our country. I promise you."
We sailed from Inchon in March 1952 on a large military transport ship named the John Pope. It inspired me to think that ships like these had brought all those American soldiers to our country. I felt grateful to the ship for that.
I was sailing the Pacific for the first time in my life. The ocean swells undulated gently, as if to say that it was totally unconcerned with any war being fought on its shores. The seagulls followed after the ship, hoping to pick up morsels of food. Also for the first time, I had the chance to watch the sun rise over the ocean and then set below the opposite horizon. I couldn't decide which was the more majestic of the two.
The John Pope was a large ship, but on the vast ocean it seemed as insignificant as a little fishing boat. When a person cones face to face with the majesty of nature, he instinctively straightens his posture and becomes more humble.
After sixteen days, we could make out mountain peaks on the horizon. It was wonderful to see land again. I was excited to know that I was getting my first glimpse of American soil. I had survived long enough to see America. My heart pounded with excitement.
The ship made its way toward San Francisco harbor, which I knew was famous as one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. The buildings on the hillsides far away seemed like a scene taken straight from a painting. The ship slowly approached the Golden Gate Bridge. By this time, all the passengers, including some one thousand American servicemen, were out on deck. It was a warm spring day.
For the Americans, it was a homecoming and they were overcome with joy. When the ship came directly below the Golden Gate, the soldiers all took their hats and threw them as high as they could, as if to try and reach the bridge itself. It was a grand sight. They were all yelling at the top of their voices in excitement. This was the joy of people returning home. They had been to hell and were now returning alive to heaven. They were happy to he going back to their loved ones. I felt envious of them that they could be born in a powerful and rich country.
Soon, the ship reached the pier. I could hear the sounds of a military band playing music to welcome the soldiers home. A stage had been set up and there was dancing. Each time a dancer performed, the soldiers onboard the ship went wild with joy. I saw young blond-haired women, holding the hands of small children, standing in line on the pier. They were obviously family members of the returning soldiers.
Then, the American officers and enlisted men began to disembark. Everything was done in a free atmosphere. Family members would run up to the line of soldiers as they disembarked. Both sides would let out a shout of joy, and they would grab each other in a tight embrace. They were running around and making a big noise. It was a very beautiful scene.
In fact, it moved me to tears. Before long, the pier was transformed into a dance floor for people of all races.
Eventually, the crowd began to scatter. Family by family, the people got into their cars and drove away. The cars were of all different colors. They drove away with the blond-haired women in the driver's seat. The sight of women driving cars was something very new to me.
We Koreans remained onboard during this time, watching. It was a lonely experience for us. The joy of the Americans at returning home stood in such extreme contrast to our feelings after leaving our homeland behind just sixteen days before. That night in a San Francisco hotel room, I wept and cried out to God in protest.
"God," I said, "if You exist, then how can You be so unfair? Why do our people have to live such meaningless lives? Why do so many people have to be dying in our country from the ravages of war? What righteous things did America do that You give them so much blessing?"
"Are we Koreans not even as good as American cats and dogs? Can't we take some of the food from the cats and dogs in America and give it to the hungry orphans in Korea?"
"God, if You are really there, why are You so heartless and unfair? When I see this. I am certain that You don't really exist. But I want to believe that You exist."
I spent my entire first night in America tearfully protesting what seemed to me an incredible unfairness in God's treatment of Korea in comparison to America. God did not answer my angry questions with so much as a word. It would be years before I began to understand why Korea suffered so and why He had let me survive and then come to America.
The Longest Taxi Ride
Our group crossed the North American continent by train. On the ship, the ocean was so large that we could see from horizon to horizon, and now on the train the same was true with the vast expanse of land.
We slept in sleeping cars and ate in a dining car. It took six days and nights to travel from San Francisco to Fort Benning, Georgia, where the infantry school was located.
The author in 1952 during his six-month assignment at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. Georgia.
We passed through an expanse of desert and saw the moon over the Colorado Rockies. America was so big that we had a hard time grasping it in our minds. Eventually we arrived in Georgia.
On the gate leading into the C.S. Army Infantry School, there is a sign with the slogan "Follow Me" written on it. It signifies the fact that infantry commanders must always go before their men in a field of battle. Soldiers are also taught at this school that the infantry is the "Queen of the Battlefield." In other words, infantrymen are the principal players who determine the final victory in a battle. This was also the spirit in which our training was conducted.
Each morning, before lectures on all the newest battlefield strategies began, we were given a briefing on how the war was progressing in Korea. The situation on White Horse Hill was always an important topic in these briefings. The American instructor told us that the battle for White Horse Hill was sure to go down in world military history as one of the fiercest battles ever fought. He described it as the final major battle between our side and the enemy that would determine which would be victorious in the war. He also told us that my old unit, the Ninth Infantry Division, had been given the nickname "White Horse Division."
I thought about the platoon leaders I had taught and the noncommissioned officers I had sent into battle. I couldn't help but feeling that I should he there with them. Yet, here I was in the American South, far from my homeland, listening to briefings on the battle for White Horse Hill.
"God, why have you called me here?" I would pray, but there was no answer. I was filled with remorse for my comrades who had fallen in battle, and I prayed that the rest of my comrades would still he alive when I joined them again.
The six months I spent at Fort Beaming were extremely rewarding. It was an experience that allowed me to discover a new world. I didn't speak more than a few words of English, but this was no obstacle to understanding the lectures, because we had the assistance of a Korean officer trained in English-to-Korean interpretation. I drank Coca-Cola for the first time. I became accustomed to a process of going to a store, using whatever means I could aside from words to make my purpose known to the storekeeper, and successfully buying what I wanted. I used the words "thank you" at every opportunity and found that these words really were quite handy, just as I had been told.
Col. Kyung Won Park, the leader of our group, demonstrated a quality of leadership that was more than sufficient to present Korea in a favorable light. I have a deep respect for Colonel Park as a military instructor and as my senior officer. At the army comprehensive training school, Colonel Park had been our instructor for defensive strategy. I had been very impressed by his lectures and Col. Young Sung Choi's lectures on military instruction methods. These men exemplified both resolute military spirit and a comprehensive intellectual grasp of military affairs and were examples to all those who were fortunate to study under them. I was fond of Colonel Park from my days at the training school and respected him highly.
We never forgot that we were soldiers on temporary leave from the war that continued to rage in our homeland. We were destined to return to the battlefield. We all believed that this was likely to be our only opportunity to see America, even it, by some chance, we managed to survive the war. That being the case, we decided that we would use this opportunity to see America. We decided we had to go to Washington, DC and New York City. We would regret it for the rest of our lives if we were to return to Korea without visiting at least these two cities. There was no way, though, that we could get a furlough to travel. The attitude was: "There's a war on. There's no time for leave."
The one chance we had during our six-month stay was a three-day weekend at the time of the July 4th Independence Day celebration. If we had enough money, it would be a simple matter to get on a plane and fly to New York and Washington. We couldn't afford that. So five officers including myself got together one day and came up with a plan. We would go into town, find a cab, and spend three days visiting Washington and New York. It was a reckless idea, but it was the only way we could think of to fulfill our goal. One of us said: "Either we are a group of very brave officers or very foolish officers, but I don't know which." and we all laughed.
We each contributed $50 to the kitty, and on July 3 we went into Columbus, the city nearest the base. There, we stood on a curb, put out our hands, and hailed a cab. Three of us crowded into the back seat and two into the front. The driver said something, but of course none of us understood him. We figured he must be asking where we want to go, so all five of us called out in unison: "Washington!" It was obvious the driver couldn't believe what he was hearing. So, we repeated: "Washington." We showed him a map where we had circled Washington, D.C.
The driver exploded in anger. None of its could understand a single word, but it was clearly one of those situations where we were better off not being able to understand the language. We took the $250 we had and put it in his hand. Magically, his mood changed. The money seemed to satisfy him that we were not just pulling his leg. With an expression of resignation, he said "goddaln" and began to drive. The five of us cheered and clapped.
The trip from Columbus, Georgia to Washington, DC took sixteen hours. On the way, the driver naturally became very tired and his eyelids began to droop. The car wove back and forth within the lane. Then, it started to weave from lane to lane, even crossing into the oncoming lane. This worried us a lot. We hadn't survived the battlefield in Korea only to die in a traffic accident on an American highway. We decided that we would take turns staying awake with the driver, feeding him coffee and cigarettes. At one point he became so tired that nothing would keep him awake, so we stopped the car and let him take a nap for an hour.
Finally, we arrived safely in Washington. We went first to the Korean Embassy, where Ambassador Yoo Chan Yang was kind enough to welcome us personally. When we told him we had taken a taxi from Georgia his jaw dropped in surprise.
The officers of our national army really are brave! This must he a new record for a taxi ride." Laughing, he said, "Well have to send it in to the Guinness Book of World Records."
Ambassador Yang treated us to a sumptuous meal, and then a member of the embassy staff took us out on a tour of all the major sights around Washington. First, we went to the Capitol. It is a huge and grand building. I took lots of pictures to make sure that I would have proof later on that I had been there.
Inside the Capitol, one place in particular left a deep impression on me: the prayer room for members of Congress. It was not an ostentatious cathedral. Rather, it was a dimly lit room located in an out-of-the-way spot in the building. We were told that the lights here were always turned down low so that anyone could cone and pray here easily. In the front there was a stained glass mosaic depicting the scene of George Washington kneeling in prayer just before going into a decisive battle at Valley Forge. We were told that American congressmen come to this room to seek divine guidance before casting their vote on important matters of state. When I heard this. I felt that I had discovered one of the fundamental reasons for America's greatness. The fact that the leaders of this country demonstrated humility before God, I told myself, must be an important reason for God to bestow His blessing on America.
Our group also visited the White House. We saw the statue of President Abraham Lincoln and the Jefferson Memorial. Finally, we stopped near the Washington Monument for a group picture. We had seen all the most important sights in Washington in just three hours. The five of us, however, were as happy as if we had actually conquered the city, and we were delighted.
I fully believed that this would be my first and last visit to Washington, but it later turned out that God had other plans in mind for me. Twenty-four years later, in 1976, I stood once again on the National Mall. This time, I was on a stage in front of some three hundred thousand people, acting as translator for Rev. Sun Myung Moon as he addressed the largest religious rally in the history of America. In 1952, though, there was no way that I could have even dreamed of such a thing. At the time, I hadn't even heard Reverend Moon's name. There is no way for me to deny that my life has been guided by God's providential plan.
Ambassador Yang made arrangements for our Georgia taxi driver to rest in the embassy and advised us to take the train to New York. In New York City, the main thing we wanted to see was the skyscrapers. We climbed to the top of the Empire State Building and looked down at the view of New York. The grandeur of that view from 102 stories above the street was beyond words. I was deeply inspired to discover that human beings were capable of such feats as this. It was a man-made grandeur that I felt rivaled nature. Looking down on New York's Manhattan Island, it seemed that I had traveled to a completely different world. While I was on the top of the skyscraper, I even took a photograph with a woman with blond hair.
By the time we had taken a tour bus up and down Fifth Avenue a few times, we felt as though we'd seen all there was to see in New York. We stood in the middle of Manhattan and shouted with joy: "We have conquered America'" We were just a group of simple, pure-hearted soldiers who had come from the battle-field and were about to return.
From New York, we returned to Washington, and the same taxi driver who had driven up from Georgia drove us all the way back again. I was deeply moved by Ambassador Yang's character and his love for fellow Koreans. I believe that this, too, was a relationship that had been arranged in Heaven. When I set about establishing the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation in Washington in 1965, I discussed the matter with Ambassador Yang before anyone else, and he served as vice president. From that date, until the day he passed away, he and I worked closely to elevate Korea's profile on the world stage. He is one of the people who enabled me to become what I run today.
America, a Country Blessed by God
Why has America been so blessed by God? This question was never far from my mind during my first visit to this country. I began asking the question and looking for an answer from the moment that I first set foot on American soil. It was not difficult to find answers. In fact, it wasn't very long after I arrived that I began to discover answers to this question through my daily experiences.
I gradually understood that America was established for the sake of God's purpose and that America has tried hard to be a godly country.
During my time in Georgia I learned that at the beginning of public events, Americans recite the Pledge of Allegiance. They do this with their right hand placed above their heart. This pledge includes the phrase, "One Nation Under God." The words imply that Americans take pride in believing that theirs is a country that has been blessed by God. On the back of every dollar hill, we find the words, "In God We Trust." Every piece of paper currency and coin that Americans use carries this promise that they will put their faith in God alone.
The founding of America began when a group of Puritans set out on a dangerous voyage in search of a new world where they could enjoy freedom of religion. It took them fifty-seven days to cross the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower. Many of them died during the voyage, without ever setting eyes on the new world that they sought. As they were about to land, the Puritans agreed to the Mayflower Compact (1620), and this document began with the words, "In the name of God Amen."
I also learned that many of the people who died during the voyage suffered from malnutrition, which was a result of insufficient food supplies. The Puritans knew that there was grain in the ship's hold, but they chose death over consuming the seed grain that would have extended their lives. This was grain brought for planting crops in the new continent. During the first winter after their arrival the Puritans endured extreme hardships. Again, they had to watch as many of their number died, this time from the extreme cold as well as hunger. Still, they refused to touch the grain until spring, when it could be planted.
Finally, spring came, and the settlers began their first attempt at agriculture in the new land. Then. in the autumn, when they harvested their first crop, they dedicated the harvest to God. This is the origin of Thanksgiving Day, a celebration that is unique to America. The settlers worked together and built first a church and then a school. After that, they built their own homes.
Who could he more deserving than these settlers to have God on their side? The tradition that they established has continued for more than three centuries. Both houses of the U.S. Congress begin each day's session with a prayer. When an American president is inaugurated, he places his left hand on a copy of the Bible and raises his right hand in order to recite the oath of office. Prayers are offered at the beginning of university graduation ceremonies. On Sundays, hymns of worship can be heard all over the country, as Americans dress up and attend church. This was the America that I found in 1952. It was a country and a people well deserving of God's blessing.
The people of Georgia extended warm hospitality toward this group of young military officers who had cone from a strange land and couldn't even speak their language. On Sundays they would cone to pick us up in their cars and drive us to church. After the service, they would often invite us to their homes and serve us lunch. Even those who couldn't help us materially would serve us in whatever way they could. The sermons we heard at church were filled with fervor, and the homes we visited overflowed with love. The America that I experienced in Georgia was an almost heavenly paradise.
Unfortunately, if I were to describe the America of today, I would not be able to give the same praises as I did in 1952. In just tinder fifty years, America has changed drastically. The reason for this change is quite simple. During much of the past few decades, America has been going in a direction opposite to that which brought it God's blessing. All the problems faced by America today derive from this point.
Americans have created idols, which they now worship in place of God. These idols are material wealth and free sex. America has forsaken its former God-centered society and fallen into materialism. Previously. Americans were "other-centered," that is, they were eager to help others.
'Today, however, they have fallen into extreme self-centeredness and individualism. In a later chapter, I will discuss this point in greater detail and suggest ways to resolve this situation.
In any case, it is a fact that I was deeply moved by the America of 1952. I came to firmly believe that the way for Korea to become a wonderful country was to follow the same principles that had made America great. Seeing America inspired me to have faith in my own country's infinite potential for advancement. This potential is eloquently expressed in the words of our national anthem.
Until the Tonghai Sea dries up.
And Mount Paekdoo wears away.
May God protect our homeland
For endless ages to come!
Bedecked with Rose of Sharon,
Land of beauty rare,
The people of Korea in the land of Korea.
May they prosper forever.
As the words suggest, the important thing is for Koreans to become a people who can receive God's protection. We must become a nation of faith to whom God can give His support. I decided that I would begin by becoming such a person myself.
I met Rev. Seuk Ki Dong, who was working as an evangelist at Fort Benning. He was a Korean minister who had a full head of silver-gray hair and a heart overflowing with love. With Reverend Dong's guidance, I began regularly attending church on Sunday mornings. It was a Church of Christ located in Columbus. I related to Reverend Dong my impressions of America in much the same way that I described them above. He told me he was very much in agreement with me. He then suggested that I become a Christian before returning to Korea. I was happy to comply; rather. I answered that I would consider it an honor.
The following Sunday, I was baptized by immersion into the Church of Christ. I became a novice Christian. From then on, I began trying to answer the questions of life that I had struggled with on the battlefield within the context of my Christian faith. I had taken one step closer to God. In a real sense, my baptism marked the beginning of another new life for me. I was determined to seek out a new future for my country with God's help. I was filled with a new fervor for life and faith.
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