I moved into a children’s home in South Korea at the end of 2005 with a vision of entering North Korea within five years to care for the orphans there. I felt like the children’s home in South Korea was meant to be a stepping stone for me. In South Korea I would learn the language, the culture, how to minister to orphans, and how to live off of support. In South Korea I would develop a ministry that would get built up and equipped for North Korea. So initially I found myself not fully giving myself to the kids I was living with in Seoul. I knew eventually I would be leaving and I initially viewed living in the orphanage in Seoul as just a time I needed to get through. God quickly corrected that mindset. While the orphans of North Korea are indeed important, so are all of God’s people. We’re called to love those God leads us to, and God had led me to the orphanage in Seoul.
A few months after this conviction hit me, I named the orphanage ministry I started “Jerusalem Ministry” off of Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem (where the disciples were when Jesus spoke these words to them), in all Judea (the favored land to the south) and Samaria (the rejected land to the north), and to the ends of the earth.” I felt from God saying that as long as I am faithful in my Jerusalem (Seoul) that God would give me Judea (South Korea) and specifically Samaria (North Korea), and then our kids would take the ends of the earth. So I turned my focus to the orphans in Seoul more. While my staff still prays for North Korea together once a week, we know we’re not meant to get ahead of things. We need to love those who God has given us now.
So initially my mindset was “North Korea or bust.” I felt if I didn’t get into North Korea to start serving the orphans there within 5 years, that my ministry would be a failure. God didn’t give me that time-frame. I just made it up myself. I thought 5 years was a very long time. But over those years God indeed turned my heart and my focus to the orphans of Seoul. God kept reminding me of how long His promises took for Abraham, Moses, and David.
My mindset then turned to, “I need to see fruit in the orphans here in South Korea.” I felt if I was to stay here for long that I should start seeing salvations, healings, and kids radically transforming. I felt such things would justify me being here in South Korea. And years passed, and still not one salvation, healing, or kid being radically transformed. I knew God wanted me here in Korea, but my performance mindset was continuing to be tested and crushed. Finally after 7 years we saw a radical transformation, with a college girl one of my staff had mentored for many years inspiring us to create Oak Tree Project. In the next few years another staff would lead some girls to Christ and I would have the privilege of baptizing them. Hallelujah! But the irony is, despite the fruit we’ve seen, I haven’t felt fulfillment from them. Instead God keeps warning me to not put my identity in performance or results. My identity has to be in Him. My contentment has to be in Him alone.
People have asked me over the 11+ years I’ve been in Korea, “If North Korea opens up tomorrow, will you go in right away?” My response has always been, “No. No way. I won’t go until God speaks to me to go.” I still stand by that response today. But to be honest, I used to feel that once God would tell me to go that I would go running into North Korea full of zeal and feeling like in North Korea I would finally achieve my calling and purpose in life. This mindset has had to change too.
Ephesians 5:10 reads, “And find out what pleases the Lord.” I’ve realized over the years that for me, personally, God is pleased when I love His kids. And God is pleased when I spend time with Him. And the truth is that there is nothing greater than being near to God and experiencing His pleasure. My flesh keeps trying to convince me that other things are better: performance, achievements, laziness, distractions, sin, etc. But in my spirit I know the truth: I was made for the glory of God. I was made to be in relationship with Him. I was made to please Him. And there is no greater joy than to know Him and to walk with Him.
As the years have gone by I’ve realized that God has continued to refine my heart through the waiting. While North Korea is part of my calling, it isn’t what will fulfill me. Only God can do that. And now I feel that by the time North Korea opens up and God calls me to go, I won’t be going out of zeal or performance. Instead I will be going to be with God in North Korea. If God is there, that is where I want to be. If being there is what pleases Him, then that is where I’ll want to be. And if God calls me elsewhere, or if there is very little results, then that is fine as well. My fulfillment is no longer in plans, in ministry, or in results. My fulfillment is in walking with God. There is nothing greater!