Missionary to America Professor Shang Ik Moon
“Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know about me and what I am doing. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about us, and that he may encourage your hearts.” Ephesians 6:21-22
Professor Shang Ik Moon had seen the movie. It was a good thing because chances for his survival were not good.
The bullets flying and the bombs falling were just the beginning. It was after this, as a child on a dark mountain in South Korea, with snow piling up, cradling his infant nephew in his arms, hiding in a crevice away from the freezing cold winter weather, with hostile soldiers moving around him, it was then that the memory came back. A classmate had invited Shang Ik to see the Jesus Movie. He had not gotten a lot out of it, but he remembered one thing, Jesus saying, “I will be with you always.” Now, for the first time, he prayed – “Jesus, be with me.”
St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, cited above, was written from prison – a time when Paul must have been wondering how, if at all, his suffering would have a purpose. But Paul sends his representative Tychicus to comfort the Ephesian Christians in their struggles! What an act of love; what an act of faith. Matthew quotes Jesus, “Lo (pay attention, this is important) I am with your always.” Sometimes it means just putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that He knows where we should go and we are just following Him, blindly, believing He is with us. You and I know about that. I sure do.
In 2016, LK Wood, the scion of the Wood Realty Company in St. Louis, asked for my help to write his biography. LK (Lowell Kenneth) had a story of survival and faith he wanted to share. I had never written a biography, and really wasn’t interested. I had my own purposes to fulfill, but LK was persistent. So, it turns out, was the Lord.
I interviewed LK, recorded the interviews on audio tape, and wrote what he told me. It took months, and before I was finished LK, eighty nine years old, passed away. Patty, LK’s loving wife, wanted the world to know his story and brought the manuscript to a publisher, Rebeca Seitz. This had not been my understanding when the work began – it was supposed to be an account for LK’s family. The publicist concurred. What I had written was not for commercial consumption – but, she said, if I wanted to work with a coach, learn to write biography and rewrite the book, well, maybe there would be a future for the book in bookstores.
To make a long story short, I worked with a wonderful coach, Julie Ieron, who had many books published. We took six months to re-write LK WOOD, AS EVERYONE SHOULD, for sale in bookstores and online. But that was just the beginning. I wondered what I would to do with this new skill. I realized the Lord had opened a new door for ministry: I began Mission Nation Publishing Company to publish the biographies of new missionaries to America. These are courageous, intelligent, passionate men and women whom I had met while leading missions in the United States for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Missionaries like Shang Ik Moon.
When US Army Air Force Chaplain Eduard Vajda asked the Korean boy, “What is your purpose?” he had no idea. However, he was willing to go through the door Jesus was opening. Decades later Professor Shang Ik Moon retired as the Provost of Concordia University. You can read the full story of how one child in the midst of a horrific experience in a horrific war found the purpose created for him by the God he had met in a movie.
Maybe you are just trying to put one foot in front of the other, unsure of where the Lord is leading. At those times, allow Him to cradle you in His arms, to carry you through the fierce storms and hostile challenges and bring you to the purpose He has for you. This may be difficult, may even be impossible, and we may even have given up. That is why Jesus died in our place. Jesus did keep going. He followed through on God’s purpose for His life. He did that for you and me and for all who are confused about where the Lord is leading. He said for us all and on our behalf, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus did not give up because it was God’s purpose for Him to love and forgive us all.
Still, out of His love, when you and I commend ourselves into His hands, in time He will reveal His purpose. He will help us to know Him, and He will encourage our heart.