Mother of Peace: Episode 09
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 32-38
One day, out of the blue, my mother asked me, “Do you know how you cried when you were born?”
“I was a little baby,” I replied, “so I must have cried, ‘Waah.’”
“No, you didn’t,” she said. “You cried, ‘La-la-la-la-la’ as if you were singing! Your grandmother said, ‘Perhaps this child is going to grow up to become a musician.’” I engraved her words in my heart, for I thought they might symbolize my future. However, my mother was not done telling me about my infancy.
She said that after she ate her first bowl of seaweed soup, the traditional meal for a mother after childbirth, she cradled me in her arms and fell asleep. As she dreamed, she saw Satan, a monstrous demon, appear before her. He shouted so loudly that even the mountains and streams rang with his fearsome voice. “If I let this baby be, the world will be in danger,” he yelled. “I must do away with her right now.” Suddenly he made as if to strike me. My mother held me closely and cast upon him all her energy to declare his defeat.
“Satan, be gone at once!” she said fiercely. “How dare you try to hurt her, when she is the most precious child to Heaven! I cast you out in the name of the Lord! Get out of my presence! You have no right to be here! Heaven has claimed this child and your days of power have come to an end!”
Mother was shouting so loudly that my grandmother rushed into the room and shook her. She collected herself, looked deeply into my face and searched her heart for the reason Satan was trying to strike me. She took this experience as a sign that I was destined to strike the head of the serpent. And this was the answer to her and my grandmother’s prayers. “I must raise this child with complete devotion,” my mother vowed to herself. “I will raise her to become a pure and beautiful girl for the Lord, and protect her from the pollution of the secular world.”
About a month later, she had another dream. This time, a heavenly angel dressed in shimmering white came to her on a sunlit cloud. “Soon-ae,” the angel spoke; “I am sure you must feel incapable to prepare this baby for the service that our Heavenly Father has in mind, but don’t be. This baby is the daughter of the Lord and you are her nanny. Please devote all your energies to raising her with absolute faith, love, and obedience.”
Satan, however, did not give up. Until we left North Korea, he would appear in mother’s dreams, looking hideous and voicing threats both dramatic and subtle. Mother fought hard to protect me over a number of years. When I heard about these dreams from my mother, I became very serious: “Why was Satan trying to hurt me? And why did he keep stalking me?” I wondered.
My father played an essential role
“Alright, from now on, you should wear these when you go out,” my maternal grandfather told me. I looked at the strange footwear and asked, “What are these?” “They are called high heels,” he said.
During the Japanese colonial rule in Korea, Western fashions such as high heels were almost never seen in rural areas. My grandfather, Hong Yu-il, however, was an enlightened gentleman who welcomed modern things. He personally had gone into the city and bought high heels for all the women in his family. He was tall, friendly, and handsome, and everyone highly respected his progressive thinking. Even though he had grown up in a household of strict Confucian tradition, he was ahead of his time. Interestingly, when I met Father Moon for the first time, I thought in my heart that he resembled my grandfather. That was one reason I could feel at ease with Father Moon when I first met him, even though I was only 13. He was not a stranger to me.
My maternal grandmother, Jo Won-mo, was a petite woman with beautiful features. In addition to being a devout Christian, she was industrious and active. She made a living by running a small business, called the Pyong-an Store, selling and repairing sewing machines. At the time, sewing machines were expensive, and they were considered the most important part of a bride’s trousseau. Townspeople admired my grandmother for giving big discounts to the families of new brides and for setting up payment plans, something unheard of back then. Grandmother used to go from village to village to collect the monthly payments, carrying me on her back. I first experienced the wider world on those excursions.
My grandfather’s family moved from Chongju, which is my husband’s hometown, and crossed the Cheongcheon River to the town of Anju—to be precise, Shineui, a village in the town of Anju. My mother inherited Grandmother Jo Won-mo’s devout faith; they attended a local Presbyterian Church in Anju until she was age 19. The pastor of that church actually gave my mother her name, Hong Soon-ae. My mother studied at Anju Grade School and, in 1936, graduated from a Christian mission school called Pyongyang Saints Academy.
* * *
My parents were married in the New Jesus Church on March 5, 1934, and I, their first and only child, was born in 1943, nine years later. That unusually long interval elapsed not because my parents were infertile but because they were living separately, each engrossed in their lives of faith and, for my father, his career as an educator. He taught in Yeon-baek County, Hwanghae Province, which was some distance from my maternal home, and my mother did not want to move there. My mother’s intense devotion to Jesus led her to focus all her time and attention on her church work. There was another reason as well. My maternal grandparents, the Hongs, wished to make my father, Han Seung-un, their heir, but he did not accept it. As the eldest son of the Han family, his parents did not allow him to put his roots down in his wife’s home. So she would not move in with him, nor him with her. But God wanted me to be born, and so I arrived in my grandparents’ home in Shineui-ri, Anju. I grew up there, and came to accept God quite naturally.
* * *
In 1945, when Korea regained its independence, the great powers divided our peninsula at the 38th parallel, and soon the joy of having our country back turned into despair. The Russians put the Korean communist party in charge, and it implemented policies backed by brutal oppression. I was four years old when my father suddenly appeared at our home to announce, “Conditions are not going to improve here. I cannot have my family live in North Korea. Let us go south.”
My mother could not help but think hard about my father’s unexpected request. While she had been living with the sole purpose of meeting the Lord at the Second Advent, she actually did not know what she would do when she met him. Her husband’s request tore her in two: “Would it be better to stay here and walk the unknown path of God’s will? Or should I elect to live as an ordinary housewife?” She pondered these things and then made up her mind. “I will not succumb to the communist persecution,” she said. “I will stay here and continue to walk the path of faith to receive the Lord.” My father was dumbfounded, but he left as he had determined to do.
My mother was not the only person to remain in the North out of faith that Jesus was going to appear there. Pyongyang was called the “Jerusalem of the East,” and Christianity was in full bloom there. It was a holy place where churches were making preparations to receive the Messiah at the Second Coming. Though mainstream Christians said he would come on the clouds, the spirit-led groups in Pyongyang believed he would come in the flesh. My mother along with my grandmother believed that completely. They were now attending the New Jesus Church, one of the most fervent churches in the city. My mother resolved to remain in Pyongyang and continue her mission as a member of the faithful household of the Messiah.
Though my father did his best to fulfill his duties as husband and father, God’s providence broke up our family in the end. Watching him as he left through the gate, I thought, “This will not be the last time I see my father.” However, I was wrong. That was the last time I saw him.
* * *
Except for when I was very young, I lived my life without my father, Han Seung-un. Sometimes I would wonder where he was and what he was doing, but I never set out to find him. This was because of the words I had heard from my grandmother and my mother from the time I was a little girl, “Your Father is God.” I grew up knowing those words to be the unchanging truth. Since I was born as God’s daughter, I firmly believed He is my true Father. That is why I did not harbor any hurt over my father’s departure.
I was molded from my conception to be the True Mother who would devote her life to God’s purposes. I see everything from that perspective—the Japanese colonial rule and Korean War, my childhood full of hardships, my family consisting of my maternal grandmother and mother, the Christian love that enveloped us day and night. I treasure it as a growing period designed by Heaven. When all is said and done, my father played an essential role.
I later learned that my father dedicated his life to education in South Korea, teaching in more than 16 schools over a period of 40 years and retiring as a principal. He was peacefully taken into God’s embrace in the spring of 1978. A long time later, when our Unification movement was building its international headquarters on Cheongpyeong Lake, I learned that my father had taught at the Miwon Elementary School in the village of Seorak, a few kilometers from our complex. As I live at this location now, I take it that God’s plan was to unite my father and me together in the end.