From Ordinary to Extraordinary


I am so privileged to be a part of the church I pastor. It has a long history of producing great men and women of faith. These great ones started out just like you and I. Some were youth when God called them. Some were already established and God called them out of their routines to give up everything for a life of adventure with HIm. One man in particular was a janitor at our church years ago. He responded to the call of God to be a missionary in Korea. Now because of his obedience, thousands upon thousands have been touched by the love of God. This man’s name is Louis Richards and this story reflects how an ordinary person can be used by God in an extraordinary way!

When Buddha Didn’t Answer.
By Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho
Pastor of Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, Korea.

I lay there in the only shelter I had—a shack—covered by a dirty, torn blanket, waiting to die.

It all seemed so unfair. I had toiled to live, subsisted on one meal a day, struggled for schooling, prepared for life. I had wanted to make something of myself, but now I was dying.

From childhood I had prayed to Buddha; but now Buddha offered me no help. I really was not surprised, for in all the years that our family had honored him, I had never known of his answering a prayer.

My family lived in North Korea. When the war broke out, we lost our home. With other refugees, we traveled south to Pusan. Money and food were extremely scarce, and I worked very hard to eke out an existence of one meal a day and to continue my education.

One day while I was working, blood came up and filled my mouth. Soon, it was coming from my nose also, and I struggled to keep from choking until I lapsed into unconsciousness. When I came to, my clothing was soaked in blood. I was too dizzy to rise. How long I lay there, I don’t know.

Finally, I struggled to my feet and managed to reach home. All night I was in and out of a coma; my fever rose, and when I coughed, blood gushed out.

By morning I was more dead than alive. My parents took me to a hospital and had a doctor examine me. He made X-rays of my chest. Then he said, “I am very sorry, but we can do nothing for you. You have less than a month to live.” “Doctor,” I cried, “are you telling me the truth?”

He showed me the X-rays and explained, “Your right lung is completely destroyed by tuberculosis. The upper part has collapsed, and gangrene has set in. Your left lung is also tubercular. Malnutrition and hard work have caused your heart to enlarge, and it cannot circulate the blood properly. There is no medical help for these things, so I have no choice but to tell you the truth.”

I returned home dazed. My father tried to reassure me.   “My son, there is no life and no death, no joy and no sorrow—only in Buddha is there reality. Forget about life and death and have peace.”

I protested, “The blood that I am vomiting is real; my suffering is real. Buddha and your philosophies have not helped me. I reject them all.”

One day as I lay there, fear and desperation overcame me, and I cried out, “Is there any God? If there is anyone called God anywhere in the universe, please come and help me! I want to be made ready to die.”

God heard my prayer and He answered, but in a form I least expected! A young girl knocked at my door and entered, carrying a Bible. I was stunned, for in our culture women are not forward, and men dislike being taught by them. Arrogantly, I ordered the girl to leave, but she said, “I can see that you are dying; I want to tell you about Christ Jesus, my Savior.”

I became more angry and cursed her. I told her that millions of tuberculosis germs were flying around in the air, and that she would become infected. She only replied, “My Christ will protect me,” and continued to witness to me. Finally, she left, and I said, “Bless Buddha, she is gone!”

The following morning she was back again. This time she sang some songs and read aloud from her Bible. I cursed and called her a Christian dog, but she did nothing against me. All day long she talked of Christ.

On the fifth day when she came, I asked why she continued to come and pray for me. “There is Someone who constrains me to come here and pray for you,” she replied.
“Who is it?” I asked.

“My Jesus,” she answered, and the tears began to roll down her cheeks. Suddenly, my obstinacy was broken, and I, too, began to cry. “Your Jesus I want to know,” I said.

She gave me her Bible, and I began reading at the place she indicated—the first chapter of Matthew. After a few minutes I exclaimed, “This is like a telephone directory! How can this help me?”

She told me to read on and I would find a wonderful story. After praying again, she left.
I read on, expecting to find a difficult philosophy such as I had studied in Buddhism. But I found the Bible was about a Man called Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

I read about Jesus healing the sick and dying. “If only I could come to this Jesus,” I thought, “He would help me!” Reason argues that I could not come. I had cursed and hated Him. I tried to find a Scripture verse showing that Christ hated sinners, but search as I would, I could not find one. Instead, I found that He forgave an adulteress and delivered a demon-possessed man. Always, He received the sick and sinful. Slowly, the realization came that although I was the poorest of the poor, a great sinner, and dying with tuberculosis, Jesus Christ would receive me!

Since the day she had given me her Bible, the girl had not returned. I did not know her name or how to locate her, but I needed someone to tell me how to contact this Jesus. I struggled out on the street and made inquiries. A man told me about a mission where there was an American “priest”.

I was so weak that I could walk only about ten paces before I would have to rest, but I begged the man to take me on to the mission. When we arrived, the people were singing. Their faces shone with happiness. The American “priest” stood up to preach. I was surprised that he was not wearing long robes as our Buddhist priests do. He had to speak through an interpreter, but the words penetrated my heart. When he invited sinners to come up, I was the first to reach him. He took me into his office, told me the simple plan of salvation and asked me to pray the sinner’s prayer.

As I prayed, a great peace showered down upon me. Every cell in my body seemed charged with new life. Something began to bubble up inside, and I thought I was going to vomit blood, but I found it was joy! I wanted to sing, but I didn’t know how.

I asked the man (who was Louis Richards, an Assemblies of God missionary): “Is this real? Am I hypnotized?”

He answered, “You are not hypnotized. Jesus, the Fountain of Life, has come into your heart. This is the witness you feel!”

I returned home, and the joy and peace went with me. I told my family what had happened. In Korea, serving Jesus means that one ceases to worship the spirits of his ancestors. This often leads to excommunication from the family. My sister, whom I loved dearly, pleaded with me: “Do you love this Jesus more than your family? Would you give us up for Him?”

My father came to me and said that he no longer cared about my life or death, and that I should leave his home. I took my few belongings and went to my uncle’s house. He met me on his porch and said, “Unholy Christian dog, you are not welcome here. Go away!”

I had nowhere to go, but still the joy and peace were with me. I decided to go out to the mountains and wait for death. Then another thought came to me: I should certainly go and pay my last thanks to the American who helped me find Jesus.

At his door I said, “Brother Richards, I sincerely appreciate your kindness in leading me to Christ. Since I have accepted Him, my family has disowned me, so I am going to the mountain to die. But I wanted you to know how I thank you.”

Brother Richards drew me inside and told me the Scripture, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” He and his wife made a place for me in their home. Sister Richards prepared good food, and we sat down to eat.

I cried as I ate. “Brother Richards,” I said, “I did not know that you loved me. You are not related to me. How can you love me like this?”

He answered, “Because Jesus has saved me, too.”

My conscience would not let me stay in their home and expose them to the dangers of tuberculosis.. So by the help of God, I rented a small room nearby.

Brother Richards continued to teach me God’s Word. He said, “The Word of God has tremendous creative power. It will heal you.” This news was almost too good to be true, but he showed me many Scriptures. I memorized them, and one day I was ready to test them.

I locked the door of my room and began to pray. “Jesus,” I said, “I want to meet You and have a consultation about my future.” I waited…but Christ did not come. Then, I shut my eyes very tightly, hoping He might come in a vision. But no vision appeared. I prayed all day. By night I was soaked in perspiration, but I still prayed. After midnight, the strength had left my body, and I lay down to rest.

Suddenly, the room became bright. Billows of what I thought to be smoke rolled in. I was awe-stricken! Thinking the house was on fire, I tried to call for help, but no sound came.

In desperation I looked about, and beside me I saw two feet. I looked up higher and saw a white robe. Then, I looked into a face that was like a powerful sun with rays of light going outward. Still, I did not know who He was until I saw the crown of thorns. They were piercing His temples, and the blood was streaming down. I knew then that He was Jesus Christ. His love seemed to pour over me.

My gods had been gods of fear and curses. Always, I had gone into their temples to beg them not to punish me. But Jesus was different. I felt His love, and all fear left me.

Glorious joy came from my inner being! My tongue and lips began to speak. I tried to stop, but it seemed that another Person was controlling them and forcefully expressing himself. I did not know what it was, but I realized that the more I spoke, the better I felt, so I spoke and spoke and spoke.

When I became aware of my surroundings again, Jesus had gone, but the glory was still in my soul. I forgot about the pain in my heart and lungs and ran to the mission house. I told Brother Richards that I had seen Jesus and had spoken in a strange language. He opened his Bible to the second chapter of Acts and explained that I had been baptized with the Spirit as the early believers were. We cried for joy.

This new experience made me want to witness more. I went out on the streets and told people about Jesus. As I grew stronger, I went from house to house.

One day I realized that I was no longer suffering from heart pain or shortness of breath. I went to the hospital, and after examination and X-rays, the doctor told me that my lungs were well. No tuberculosis! Even my heart was its normal size.

The Assemblies of God missionaries encouraged me to attend Bible school in Seoul, so I went for training. Often, I had no money, and in the cold weather one of the missionaries would loan me a coat to keep me from freezing. But I had God, the Bible, and peace.

Later, I began to preach in a ragged tent on a vacant lot. A handful of poverty-stricken believers met there. I told them what God had done for me and that He would do the same for them. Soon, the tent was packed, and people were standing outside.

A permanent place of worship was needed for this growing church, and property was purchased in downtown Seoul. The revival continued, and soon hundreds of people were flocking to the church. The auditorium was enlarged with a balcony, and that, too, was filled. We scheduled two Sunday morning services, then three, four, and five. Our new church seating 10,000 was completed in 1973. Since then, our membership has grown to more than 250,000.

Our church is growing because we preach Jesus Christ “the same yesterday, today, and forever”. He took me when I was dying, saved me, healed me, and filled me with His Spirit. The world needs more of that. It needs more than a philosophy, more than a religion. It needs the presence of Jesus Christ.

Division of Foreign Missions, Assemblies of God
1445 Boonville
Springfield, MO 65802

(Tract no longer in print). Copied with permission.)

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