Mother of Peace: Episode 08
Mother of Peace: And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears from Their Eyes
A Memoir by Hak Ja Han Moon
Chapter 2: I Came Into This World As The Only Begotten Daughter, pg 28-32
The Dallae Bridge legend
“Mother, why is where we live called Pyong-an Province?” I was full of curiosity, and whenever I had a question about something, I ran to my mother and asked her for the answer. Every time my mother responded kindly. “Well, dear,” she replied, “it is called that because the Pyong part is the first character of Pyongyang and the An part is the first character of Anju.”
“Why do they take one character from each name?” I asked.
“It’s because both of them are big districts,” she said. Over time, Anju had grown into a large town. It was surrounded by expansive plains that were ideal for farming, and there was normally plenty to eat. My father, Han Seung-un, was born on January 20, 1909. He was the eldest of five children of Han Byeong-gon and Choi Gi-byeong of the Cheongju Han clan at Yongheung village, by the city of Anju. My father entered Mansong Public Primary School in 1919, when he was 10. He had to leave after finishing the fourth grade, but his desire to learn led him to enter a private school, Yukyong School, in 1923, from which he graduated in 1925 at age 16. He then became a teacher at his alma mater, Yukyong School, for ten years. During the chaotic period from Korea’s liberation until 1946, he served as the vice principal of his other alma mater, Mansong Primary School.
I lived with my father for only a brief time, but his gentle nature and features are engraved in my mind. He was meticulous and thrifty, and he was very strong. One day he was out for a stroll on a local road when he saw some people struggling to clear a big rock from a rice field. He went over, lifted up the rock and moved it out of the way. He was a devout Christian and follower of Rev. Lee Yong-do, pastor of the New Jesus Church. Because of my father’s work as a teacher and his active life of faith, he was rarely at home. He lived a life of service to God, even though the government tracked and persecuted Christians from independent churches such as his.
My mother, Hong Soon-ae, was born on March 18, 1914, in Chongju, North Pyong-an Province. That is the town where my husband, Father Moon, also was born. She and her younger brother (my uncle) were born to a devout Christian couple, Hong Yu-il and Jo Won-mo.
My maternal grandmother, Jo Won-mo, was a direct descendant of Jo Han-jun, a wealthy scholar of the Joseon Dynasty. Jo Han-jun lived in a village of tiled roofed houses in Chongju, a community of people who held government positions. Not far from his home was a bridge across the Dallae River. It once was a sturdy bridge made of neatly piled, large stones, but over time it had deteriorated to the point that no one could cross it. No one had the time or resources to fix the bridge, and one day a flood swept it away and buried its stones in the riverbed.
As did everyone else, Jo Han-jun knew the prophecy that had been passed down for generations:
If a rock carved like a totem pole standing beside the Dallae River bridge is buried, then the nation of Korea will fall, but if that rock is clearly exposed to the people, then a new heaven and earth will unfold in Korea.
The Dallae River bridge was important for another reason as well. In order for Chinese envoys to make their annual trek to the seat of Korea’s government in Seoul (then named Hanyang), they had to cross that bridge. Now it was gone, and the government did not have money to rebuild it. In desperation, officials posted a bulletin calling upon the citizens to rebuild the bridge. Grandfather Jo Han-jun accepted the call and rebuilt the bridge using his personal wealth. The sturdy new stone bridge was now high enough for boats to pass under.
Grandfather Jo Han-jun spent his entire fortune on this task, and when it was done, all he had left were three brass coins. These were just enough to pay for the new straw sandals that he needed in order to properly attend the bridge dedication ceremony the next day. That night, he had a dream of a grandfather in white clothes who came to him and said, “Han-jun, Han-jun! Your sincere devotion has moved Heaven. I was expecting to send a Son of Heaven to your family. However, because you bought the sandals, I will send to your family the Princess of Heaven.”
Grandfather Jo Han-jun awoke from that dream and found that a stone statue of the Maitreya Buddha suddenly had appeared near the bridge. Over the years, this miracle created such an atmosphere that all those who passed that Buddha would get off their horses to offer a bow before proceeding on their way. The people of the village marveled at this sign from God and built a shelter over the statue so that it would not be exposed to rain or wind.
On this foundation of devotion and loyalty, generations later, in the family line of Jo Han-jun, God sent my maternal grandmother, Jo Won-mo. We three women—Grandmother Jo Won-mo, her daughter (my mother), and I—all had a very deep Christian faith. We were also the only daughters born into our families over three generations.
The providence to bring about the birth of God’s only begotten Daughter on the Korean Peninsula was based upon countless conditions of devotion that started long ago with my ancestors Han Lan and Jo Han-jun and continued through the generations to this time.
God is your Father
“My sweet child, shall we go to church?”
When I heard those words, I would run to my mother. She would take my hand in hers, and we would walk to church. I think the long walk with my mother was why I liked going to church. One Sunday, as we arrived back at our village after church, my mother stopped in her tracks. She plucked a wildflower blooming shyly on the roadside and tucked it into my hair, right behind the ear. She kissed my cheek and whispered to me with a delicate, loving voice, “How pretty you look, my one and only daughter of the Lord!”
Mother’s eyes always looked the same. They were clear and deep, almost as if her irises were one with the blue sky. As I returned her gaze, I could glimpse traces of tears but, not knowing her deep heart, I was only excited and delighted by the words, “one and only daughter of the Lord.” Mother often called me “precious daughter of the Lord” with emphasis, as if she were praying. Throughout her life, this was the term that she used when she prayed for me, her only daughter.
In this way, I grew up feeling honored that I was the daughter of God, the daughter of the Lord. My maternal grandmother, Jo Won-mo, also looked into my eyes and told me clearly, “God is your Father.” Because of that, whenever I heard the word “father,” my heart would burst in my chest. For me the word, “father” brought to mind not my own father, but our Heavenly Father. Because of such love in my home, I never worried about my life. Despite our poverty, and despite my father not being with us, I always was content. This was because I knew that God was my Father, that He was my reason for being alive, and that He was always right there by my side, taking care of me. I sensed that God was my real Parent from the moment of my birth.
I realize now that I had a sensitive spiritual intuition. My husband recognized this in me, and complimented me for my insight into things that were taking place. He did so sometimes during his talks to members.
* * *
My grandmother and mother taught me the duties of heavenly love, and not to obsess over what I was going through personally. They set the example for me, obeying God absolutely and wholeheartedly. For Him, they did not mind carrying out exhausting endeavors that seemed to melt their very bone marrow. They offered their devotions of prayer most earnestly and carefully, almost as if they were building a tall stone tower. They also made other extraordinary conditions that I didn’t fully understand. They would bow before Jesus hundreds and even thousands of times in a day. They cooked meals for Jesus and sewed clothes for him, as if he were living in our house with us, and then they did the same for the Lord whom they expected to return to Korea. They shared their faith with everyone they met and their meager food and resources with anyone who needed it. Their generous and happy spirits moved me and shaped my character as I grew up.
Several times a day, I would stand at the edge of our front porch and look up at the clear sky. It was astonishing how often I saw three or four beautiful cranes in flight. I would continue my gaze at the sky even after the cranes were out of sight, my arms wrapped tightly around my chest to contain my heart, which I felt was about to burst out of me and join the cranes in the heavens.