Serving in the Military with Jesus by My Side
For strangers have risen up against me,
And oppressors have sought after my life;
They have not set God before them. Selah
Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is with those who uphold my life.
He will repay my enemies for their evil.
Cut them off in Your truth.
Ps 54:3-5 (NKJV)
Hallelujah, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I testify. I am from South Korea. Korea is not simply a country of K-pop with stars like Girls Generation or Super Junior; it is a country full of God's grace. Just like in any other part of the world, God is present among us. I would like to share with you how God guided me during my military service in Korea.
Korea is a divided country and men who are over eighteen years old must do military service for a year and nine months. The military service is not easy. Nowadays, it is a lot better, but previously, everyone had to suffer beatings, insults and wrongdoings from senior officers or senior soldiers. From young, I have heard many negative stories about military service, so I was quite afraid to enter the army.
PREPARING FOR MILITARY SERVICE
One Sabbath, when I was in twelfth grade, I met a brother who was doing military service. The next week and the week after, the brother continued to attend Sabbath service. I was really surprised that he could do so while serving in the military. It turned out that he had applied to be an officer, which allowed him to take some days off on weekends. To be an officer, you have to serve for two years and six months, but you have more freedom. I decided to do the same and began to pray for this matter. I prayed for three years. Then a year before applying, I started to prepare for the officer training entrance test. I woke up at six every morning, exercised for one hour, and then studied military science.
I went through all this preparation for the officer exam because I wanted to keep the Sabbath. I felt that if I did not go to church once a week, I would not be able to endure the harsh military life. But my parents were not very happy. At that time I was studying at Seoul National University of Education to become a teacher. They thought that by preparing for the officer exam, I would fail in my studies to become a teacher. Thanks to God's grace, I passed both the officer exam and the exam to become a teacher; a rare happening at that time in Korea.
Finally, it was time to join the army. I was sent to serve in a place near town, while many were sent far away to the countryside. It was as if out of one hundred people, ninety-nine were sent to Iraq and I was sent close to New York. So everyone envied me. Some asked if my dad worked in the army, but it was not the case. It is just that I had God watching over me, because I am His child. Luke 12:28 says, "If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind." Through this event, I could experience that God, the heavenly father, knows my situation better than anyone in this world, and He knows what is best for me.
My unit was a twenty-minutes car drive away from the nearest True Jesus Church. As an officer, I needed to be on duty during some weekends, but, thank God, through prayers, I was granted permission to go to church every Saturday. When my friends learned of this, they started calling me Lucky Brian. But was I really lucky?
TRAINED AND SUSTAINED BY GOD
As an officer, I had thirty soldiers under my command. All had serious problems. Some were affected by troubled single-parent family backgrounds, while others even had criminal records. I do not discriminate against them, but they tend to be relatively more unstable and insecure. People called my platoon the “bomb platoon”; they felt that something could go wrong at any time.
In addition, I worked together with my senior officer in the same unit. He was very harsh in character. From day one, he interfered with everything I did and made me do his work. Whenever he could, he insulted me and verbally attacked me. I also had to share a room with him. Usually, after training, I would return to my room around 11 p.m. If I went to bed before him, he would play his K-pop music very loudly or talk to me. He was also obsessed with cleanliness; in the summer, I could not open the window because he didn't want dust in the room. I had to do all the cleaning, laundry, and cooking, which is how I learned to cook very well. Even though he mistreated me, I obeyed him. I did not resist or file a complaint to my superiors because in Ephesians 6:5, we are encouraged to “be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.”
During this period, I also had to go to drinking parties. Initially, there were lots of drinking parties, sometimes up to four a week. The army in Korea has a very authoritative culture. If your superior tells you to do something, you have to obey him, even after your shift is over. That's the rule. So I had to attend these drinking parties, but I never drank any alcohol because I am God's child. However, merely having to attend these parties was very stressful. But God helped me avoid drinking parties. There would often be parties when I was on leave or sent to another place for training.
Once, there was a drinking party while I was on duty. The partygoers became very drunk and caused some trouble; everyone except me were punished. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul says: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." Through the trials and temptations that I had to encounter, committing my way to the Lord was my way of escape.
Because I had much work and training, I could not sleep more than four hours a day. My mind and my body became tired—but God trained me. I woke up early in the morning and prayed in another room or underneath the blanket. Sometimes, while I was undergoing training, I would say a quick prayer in the bathroom. I carried a small Bible with me, and read a chapter every day. God’s Spirit and word enabled me to endure my military service. I did my best in my duties and God guided me and answered my prayers.
THE LORD IS MY HELPER
After two and a half years, miraculously, the soldiers who were under my command were discharged without any problems. The senior officer who harassed me failed to be promoted and had to spend the rest of his military service in another location under a senior officer who treated him worse.
Today, I have been discharged safely, and I am able to share God's grace with you. So, do you think I am lucky? Should I be called Lucky Brian? Let us read Nehemiah 4:9: “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.” Nehemiah prayed and guarded the wall day and night. In the church of God, there is no such thing as luck. We live under God's grace. Yet we cannot simply live under such grace without putting in any effort. We have to pray day and night, be on our guard and strive to receive His grace. Despite the tribulations and temptations we face, through steadfast prayers and through our good conduct, we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper” (Heb 13:6). May we all be filled with God's wonderful grace.