As A Peace-Loving Global Citizen: Episode 18

As A Peace-Loving Global Citizen: An Autobiography by Rev. Sun Myung Moon
Chapter 2: My Heart Flows With a River of Tears
A Command That Must Be Obeyed, pg 64-70

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A Command That Must Be Obeyed 

Immediately following liberation, our country was in indescribable chaos. Daily necessities were difficult to come by, even for people with money. We ran out of rice in our home, so I set out for Paekchon, Hwanghae Province, a community north of Seoul and just south of the 38th parallel, to pick up some rice that had 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 been only 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 before 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 and had filled with underlined notes to myself in tiny letters the size of sesame seeds.

Refugees were already 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 communists branded religion as the opiate of the people and insisted that no one could practice religion. This was 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 to get across the 38th parallel. During the time it took me to walk forty-eight kilometers 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 down its roots so deeply in this city that it was known as “the Jerusalem of the East.” During their occupation, the Japanese had tried in several ways to suppress Christianity. They forced 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 Choi Seob Rah, who lived in the Kyeongchang 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 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 came. 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 twenty-six-year-old young man talk to them about the Letter to the Romans and the Book of Revelation. What they heard was different from what they had heard elsewhere, so gradually people hungry for the truth began to gather.

One young man would come every day and listen to me speak but would then leave without saying a word. This 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 began lecturing on the Bible, I could not stop until members of the congregation excused themselves. 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 of 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 us “the weeping church.” When services ended, members of the congregation testified about the grace they had received during the service. During these testimonies we felt intoxicated by grace. It was as 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. Sometimes a person who did not belong to our church would be in the congregation. Another congregant would go up to him with 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 chronic illnesses, as thoroughly as though they had never existed. 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 effects,” and many people began to wait for me to finish eating, hoping to eat any rice 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 Seung Do Ji and Grandmother Se Hyun Ok came to the church because they each had a dream in which they were told, “A young spiritual teacher has come from the South and is now across from Mansudae (the central square of Pyongyang) so go meet him.” No one evangelized them. They simply came to the address 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 to understand why they had come. When I answered their questions, without first asking them what they wanted to know, they were beside themselves with 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 receive clear answers to questions that they could never get answered before. Some believers from large churches in the city converted to our church after hearing me preach. In one instance, fifteen 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 against 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 secretly attended ours. 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, 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. 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 praying 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, her 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 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 the purpose of espionage, and was imprisoned in the Daedong Security Station in Pyongyang. I was falsely accused of being sent to the North by South Korean President Syngman Rhee as part of an attempt to take over the North.

They even brought 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 saved my life without expecting anything in return.

Once I recovered I resumed my evangelical work. Within a year our congregation had become quite large. The established churches would not leave us alone. More and more members of their congregations began attending our services.

Finally, some eighty ministers took action by writing letters to the police. On February 22, 1948, I 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 man, a Mr. Lee, who cut my hair.

In prison, the authorities beat me endlessly and demanded that I confess my crimes. I endured, though. Even as I 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. I had a mission. I was not someone so weak as to be beaten into submission by something as trivial as torture.

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 my 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 fortieth day of my imprisonment. This was delayed by four days, however, and my trial was held on April 7. Many of the most famous ministers in North Korea came to the courtroom and accused me of all manner of crimes. The Communist Party also 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 engulfed in grief, so I did not feel lonely as I traveled Heaven’s path. I was not facing misfortune, so I felt I should not weep. As I left the courthouse after my 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 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 anyone’s heart.

After I had been in the cell, sitting in the farthest corner, for a few days, 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 must have such a trait.”

The prisoners were surprised to find how much I could tell them about themselves simply 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 correctly. I was able to open my heart and share with everyone, 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 can be friends. It was extremely cold in the prison. Lice would crawl in a 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 fleas. In prison, though, even lice and fleas become important partners for conversation. The moment you set your eyes on a bedbug or flea, 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 mindful to examine carefully even things like bedbugs and fleas.

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