Immediately following liberation, our country was in indescribable chaos. Even if a person had money it was not easy to obtain rice. My wife and I had run out of rice in our home, so I set out to Paekchon, Hwanghae Province, a community north of Seoul and just south of the 38th parallel, to pick up some rice that had already been purchased previously. On my way, though, I received a revelation that said: "Go across the 38th parallel! Find the people of God who are in the North."
I immediately crossed the 38th parallel, and headed for Pyongyang. It had only been a month since our first son was born. I was concerned for my wife. I knew she would be anxiously waiting for me, but there was no time for me to return home going North. God's commands are very serious, and they must be followed without reservation or hesitation. I took nothing with me, except for the Bible that I had read dozens of times, filling its now well-worn pages with underlines and notes to myself in tiny letters the size of ant eggs.
Already, refugees were streaming south to escape Communist rule. In particular, the Communist Party's rejection of religion meant that
many Christians were heading south in search of the freedom to worship. The Communist branded religion as the opiate of the people, and made it so that no one could have a religion. This was the place where I went, following the call from Heaven. No minister would want to go into such a place, but I went there with my own two feet.
As the number of refugees heading south increased, the North began to tighten its border security. It was not easy for me even get across the 38th parallel. During the time it took me to walk 48 km to the border and until my arrival in Pyongyang, I never questioned why I had to go such a difficult course.
I arrived in Pyongyang on June 6. Christianity had set its roots so
deeply in this city that it was known as "Jerusalem of the East." During their occupation, the Japanese had tried several ways to suppress Christianity there. They forced its citizens to worship at Shinto shrines, and even had them bow in the direction of the imperial palace in Tokyo, where the emperor lived. After arriving in Pyongyang, I began my evangelical work in the home of Mr. Seob Rah Choi, who lived in the Kyongchang Ri neighborhood near Pyongyang's West Gate.
I began by taking care of the children in the neighborhood. I would
tell them children's stories that illustrated Bible verses. They were children, but I spoke to them in the polite form of speech normally reserved for adults, and did my best to take care of them. At the same time, I held out hope that someone would come wanting to hear the new message that I had to convey. There were days when I would watch the front gate the whole day, hoping that someone would come. Soon, people with sincere faith began coming to see me. I would speak to them through the night, teaching them the new
message. It didn't matter who it was that came to me. It could be a three* year-old child or a blind old woman with a bent back. I treated them all with love and respect. I bowed down in front of them, and served them as though they had come from Heaven. Even if my guests were old men and women, I would share with them late into the night.
I never said to myself, Oh, I hate it when such old people come." Everyone is precious. Whether it is a man or woman, young or old,
everyone has the same precious value.
People listened to this 26-year-old young man talk to them about the Book of Romans and the Book of Revelation. What they heard was different from what they had heard elsewhere, so gradually good people began to gather. One young man who would come everyday and listen to me speak, but would then leave without ever saying a word himself, was Won Pil Kim. He became the first member of my spiritual family. He had graduated from Pyongyang Normal School and was working as a teacher. We took turns preparing the rice for meals, and this was how we formed the relationship of spiritual master and disciple.
Once I would begin lecturing on the Bible, I could not stop until members of the congregation excused themselves, saying they had other places to go. I preached with such passion that I would sweat all over my body. Sometimes, I would take a break and go into a separate room where I was alone, take off my shirt and wring the sweat out it. It was like this not just during the summer but even in the cold of winter. That was how much energy I poured into my teaching.
For services, everyone dressed in clean white clothing. We sang the same hymns dozens of times in repetition, making it a very passionate service. Members of the congregation would be so moved and inspired that we would all begin to weep. People called Ut"the weeping church." When services ended, members of the congregation would testify about the grace they had received during the service. During these testimonies, we felt intoxicated in grace. It was though our bodies were floating up to heaven.
Many people in our church had spiritual experiences. Some would go into trances, some would prophesy, some would speak in tongues, some would interpret. On occasion, a person who did not belong in our church would be in the congregation. Another congregant would go to him with his eyes closed, and tap him on the shoulder. Then that person would suddenly begin praying a tearful prayer of repentance. In such instances, the hot fire of the Holy Spirit would pass through our gathering. When the Holy Spirit did its work, people were cured of long existing illnesses, as cleanly as though they were being wiped away. A rumor began to circulate that someone had eaten some of my leftover rice and been cured of an abdominal condition. People began to say, "The food at that church has medicinal effect," and many people began to wait for me to finish eating, hoping to eat any rice that I might leave.
As such spiritual phenomena became known, our congregation grew, and soon we had so many people that we could not close the doors. Grandmother Sung-do Ji and grandmother Se-hyun Ok came to the church, because they each had a dream where they were told, "A young spiritual teacher has come from the South and is now across from Mansudae, so go meet him." No one evangelized them. They simply came to the address that they were given in their dreams. When they arrived, they were happy to see that I was the person they had heard about in their dreams. I only had to see their faces, and I understood why they had come. When I answered their questions, without first asking them what they wanted to know, they were beside themselves in joy and surprise.
I taught the word of God through stories about my own experiences. Perhaps for this reason, many people found they were able to find clear answers to questions that they had not been able to understand until then. Some believers of large churches in the city changed their affiliation to our church after hearing me preach. In one instance, 15 core members of the Jangsujae Church, the most prominent church in Pyongyang, came to our church as a group, causing members of the elders board of that church to lodge a strong protest with us.
Mrs. In Ju Kim's father-in-law was a well known elder in Pyongyang. The family home was directly adjacent to the church that her father-in-law attended. Yet, instead of attending that church, she would secretly attend our church. To leave her home without her in-laws knowing, she would go to the back of the house, climb up onto one of the large earthenware jars, and then climb over the fence. She did this when she was pregnant with a daughter, and the fence she climbed was two or three times the height of a normal person. It took courage for her to do that. Eventually, she received severe persecution from her father-in-law for this. I would know when this was happening. On days when I would feel a strong pain in my heart, I would send someone to Mrs. Kim's home. As they stood outside her home, they could hear her being beaten severely by her father-in-law. He would beat her so severely that she would shed tears of blood. She would say later, though, that the knowledge that our members were standing outside the gate for her would take away her pain.
"Teacher, how did you know I was being beaten?" she would later ask me. "When our members are at the gate, my pain goes away, and my
father-in-law finds that it takes much more energy for him to beat me.
Why is that?"
Her in-laws beat her and even tied her to a post, but they still could not stop her from coming to our church. Finally, the family members came to our church, and started beating me. They tore my clothing, and made my face swell up, but I never struck them back. I knew that doing so would only make the situation even more difficult for Mrs. Kim.
As more people from large churches around Pyongyang began
attending our services, the ministers of these established churches became jealous and complained about us to the police. The Communist authorities considered religion to be a thorn in their side, and they were looking for excuses to suppress it. They jumped on the opportunity given to them by these ministers and took me into custody. On August 11,1946, I was charged with coming from the South for purposes of espionage, and imprisoned in the Daedong Security Station. I was falsely accused of being sent to the North by South Korean President Syngman Rhee as a part of an attempt to take over the North.
They even brought in a Soviet interrogator, but they could not establish that I had committed any crime. Finally, after three months, they found me not guilty and released me, but by this time my body was in terrible shape. I had lost so much blood while being tortured that my life was in grave danger. The members of my church took me in and cared for me. They risked their lives for me, without expecting anything in return. Once I recovered, I resumed my evangelical work. Within a year, our congregation became quite large. The established churches would not let us alone. More and more members of their congregations began attending our services. Finally some 80 ministers took action by writing letters to the police. On February 22, 1948,1 was again taken into custody by the Communist authorities, I was charged with being a spy for Syngman Rhee and disturbing the social order. I was taken away in handcuffs. Three days later, my head was shaved and I was placed in a prison cell. I still remember how it felt to watch my hair, which I had grown during the time I was leading the church, fall to the floor. I also remember the face of the certain Lee who cut my hair then.
In prison, the authorities beat me endlessly and demanded that I confess my crimes. I endured, though. Even as! was vomiting blood and seemed on the verge of death, I never let myself lose consciousness. Sometimes the pain would be so great I would bend over at the waist. Without thinking, I found myself praying, "God, save me.** In the next moment, though, I caught myself and prayed with confidence, "God, don't worry about me. Sun Myung Moon is not dead yet. I won't let myself die in such a miserable way as this." I was right. It was not yet time for me to die. There was a mountain of tasks before me that I had to accomplish, and I had the mission to take responsibility for these tasks. I was not someone so weak as to be beaten into submission by something so trivial as torture and beg for pity.
Each time I collapsed from the torture, I would endure by telling myself, "I am being beaten for the sake of the Korean people. I am shedding tears as a way of shouldering the pain of our people." When the torture was so severe that it took me to the verge of losing consciousness, I would invariably hear the voice of God. In the moments when by life seemed about to end, God would appear to me. My body still carries several scars that I received then. The flesh that was gouged from my body and the blood that was lost have been replaced, but the pain of that experience remains with me in these scars. I have often looked at these scars and told myself, "Because you carry these scars, you must succeed."
I was scheduled to go to trial on April 3, the 40th day of my imprisonment. This was delayed four days, however, and my trial was held on April 7. Many of the most famous ministers in North Korea came to the court and accused me of all manner of crimes. The Communist Party, too, scorned me, saying religion was the opiate of the people. Members of our congregation stood to one side, and wept sorrowfully. They wept as though their child or husband had passed away. I did not shed tears, however. I had members who would weep for me with such sorrow that they were writhing in pain, so I did not feel lonely as I traveled Heaven's path. I was not facing with misfortune, so I felt I should not weep. As I left the courthouse after sentencing, I raised my shackled hands and shook them as a sign to our members. The shackles made a clanging sound that sounded to me like bells. That day, I was taken to the Pyongyang Prison.
I did not fear life in prison. It was not as if this were the first time for me. Also, there was a hierarchy among the prisoners in each cell, and I was quite good at becoming friends with the head prisoner who sat at the top of this hierarchy. All I had to do was exchange a few words, and any head prisoner would quickly become my friend. When we have a heart of love, we can open our hearts with anyone.
After I had been in the cell a few days sitting in the farthest corner, the head prisoner moved me to a higher position. I wanted to sit in a tiny corner next to the toilet, but he kept insisting that I move to a higher position in the cell. No matter how much I refused, he insisted.
After making friends with the head prisoner, I looked carefully at each
person in the cell. A person's face tells everything about him.
"Oh, your face is this way, so you must be this way." "Your face is such a way, so you much have such a trait."
The prisoners were surprised to find how I could tell them about themselves by reading their facial features. In their minds, they didn't like the fact that a person they were seeing for the first time was able to tell so much about them, but they had to acknowledge that I was describing them correcdy.
I was able to open my heart and share with anyone, so in prison, too, I had friends. I became friends with a murderer. It was an unjust imprisonment for me, but it was a meaningful period of training. Any period of trial in this world has important meaning.
In prison, even the lice are friends. It was extremely cold in the prison. Lice would crawl in single file along the seams of our prison clothes. When we took the lice and put them together, they would attach themselves to each other, and become like a tiny round ball. We would roll these, similar to the way horse dung beetles roll balls of dung, and the lice would do everything they could to stay together. Lice have a character of digging in, and they would put their heads together so that only their back ends were sticking out. We had a lot of fun in the cell watching this.
No one likes lice or flees. In prison, though, even lice and flees become important partners for conversation. The moment that you set your eyes on a bed bug or fell, some realization flashes in your mind, and it is important that you not let this pass without notice. We never know when, or through what means, God will speak to us. So we need to be careful to examine carefully even things like bed bugs and flees.