1993 – Followup letter by James J. Kim to Samuel Lee

January 25, 1993

“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6,7)

Dear Missionary Samuel C. Lee:

Thank you for calling me on January 20th, 1993. It was a very good thing that we had an opportunity to have a long conversation. I was very glad to converse with you after a couple years of silence. It was also very thoughtful and prayer provoking. Among the many things you said, what concerned me the most was the issue of “unity.” In fact I had been praying to the Lord secretly in past years. The purpose of writing this letter is to share with you what seems to be on our mind, from my point of view, as we strive to restore the unity amongst us.

We all know that there is a discord among us. I know you also want to solve this problem. And you also mentioned to me that the people of the world and the American shepherds would laugh at us for our discord. I agree with you. I also like to see the unity among us. And I also heard that missionary Sarah Barry said recently, “It’s time for us to be united.” God also wants us to be one in Christ. But the question is, “Are we ready? Is it really God’s time?” and “How?” or, “What is God’s way in solving our discord?”

It seems that the solution you insinuated through our phone conversation was so simple. You said, “The power of sin is very strong.” and “I did my best. I even cried to Peter Chang on the phone. What else can I do?” and “I am ready to do anything, even to the point of stepping aside, after giving my directorship to Peter Chang.” These seem to imply to me that you are trying to convey the idea that it is Peter Chang’s or my sin of pride or rebellious mind or any other power of sin in us that are in the way of restoring unity. If that’s really true, I can and am ready to repent right now to solve our discord problem. I am also ready to do anything just as you are. But we can never solve the discord problem when we only consider one side of the story.

If we really intend to solve the broken relationship problem, we must first have a room in our heart to understand the other side and accept it rather than insist the other party accept our side first. In that way, we have to built up trust first over a period of time and let the healing process work itself out. And we need to be honest and genuine as we share our side of the story to the other party or deal with him, for any kind of trick or dishonest sayings with an underlying purpose will totally undermine the positive effort to build up unity.

If we do not have a mutual understanding and honesty before God amongst us, we can never reach any ground or accord. I believe that the bond of love of Christ should be based on accepting each other in Christ and the mutual understanding and honesty before God (Ephesians 4:15,16; 1John 1:6,7). If we lack this bond, we can never maintain the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3).

I want to stress this point through the illustration of your getting the report from M. Theresa Kim concerning the situation of Columbus UBF and the subsequent actions you took and the outcome resulting from them. Perhaps these were the contents of the report to you from some one: First, missionary Peter Chang resigned and second, about 10 through 20 members left Columbus UBF, and third, Columbus is looking to join another church. The third report was not quite right and another missing fact is that 20 or 30 new students are growing in Columbus.

This was your claim: “I have a deep father’s heart for M. Peter Chang’s plight. I really want to establish the Columbus UBF. So I have to visit Columbus for about a week in order to help them.” You really wanted to impress to me through the phone conversation that the reason why you let M. Sam Zun, M. Moses Chung, M. Augustine Sohn and S. Ron Ward was because you were really concerned about M. Peter.

Well, M. Peter should have been very much impressed and moved by your claim. But it’s quite contrary. When he recognized your sudden advancement through M. Sarah Barry’s calling and other missionaries’ calling, he was deeply distressed, angered and hurt for a while. Why? It’s because not only he was not impressed by your claim, but also he considered your motivation of advancement as an evil one. This was his claim: “What is he trying to do? Is he trying destroy Columbus UBF, using an opportune time, just as he used a trick on M. James Kim and drove him out of Toledo UBF?” As a matter of fact, he was so angered toward your action that about the time you called me he was on the verge of destroying the whole American UBF by taking whatever necessary measure he needed to.

When I delivered to him your claim concerning your father’s heart, he was thoroughly disgusted by your saying for he did not see it that way. He said that that was your false claim and that you had a different purpose in mind. When I told him that he might have an opportunity to talk to you, he made it clear that he didn’t even want to talk to you.

Why? What’s wrong here? Perhaps you really had a deep father’s heart to help him but that was not conveyed properly to him because of past distrust or he thoroughly misunderstood you. Or maybe M. Peter was right and you had ulterior motives in approaching him in that way. Or it maybe it’s a combination. I really don’t know. Only God knows the truth of our heart.

At the same time, I myself can not be sure of the truthfulness of your claim, because action always speaks louder than word and the words in UBF are too cheap these days. The problem is that M. Peter and I had too many incidents that had occurred past several years that illustrate that your words are too cheap. And these continuously occur even today.

I still cannot forget (perhaps I can never forget) that you repeatedly promised that you would send co-workers to Houston and all the board members signed concerning the promise. (I still have that copy.) Then you turned around and did the opposite thing through other people such as M. Paul Hong or other missionaries or other shepherds behind my back.

I understand that you did that because you were hurt by my letter in January 1990. But this is the repeated pattern of your dealing with other people, which everybody knows. Even last April you spent at least several thousand dollars in purchasing airplane tickets in order to bring three female missionaries from Myung Ryoon Chapter to New Jersey from California, using M. John Park. Your intention was very clear: You would do anything to prevent people from coming to Houston as pioneering co-workers. But what angered me the most was your way of handling this. You worked all these things behind the scenes and yet tried to pretend that all these things are decided by Korean shepherds. And you faxed the letter that stated that it was S. John Jun and S. Samuel H. Lee’s decision to send them to New Jersey and then you let them sign on that letter and they mailed it to me.

Even very recently you objected strongly when M. Joshua Lee asked to go to Dallas, Texas, to pioneer, simply because I was in Texas. And you don’t invite M. Gus Park, M. John Shin, M. Peter and myself to the staff meeting even as you invite young people like M. Timothy In to the staff Meeting.

I know that you have your own reasons for these things. But to me, it appears that with these actions you’ve treated me, M. Peter Chang and Texas co-workers like your dangerous enemies. But then you turn around and say to me that you’ve loved us like your own son and still consider us like your own sons. That’s what you said during last week’s phone conversation. These kinds of things make it very difficult to trust your words.

Well, you say that you forget about the past and are only concerned with the future. But there is no future without the past and present. You might have been so hurt by me because I unwittingly exposed your negative part through my letter. It was not my intention, so I am sorry for that. But I was deeply hurt because of how you have dealt with me. God has been healing me from this by not having me interact with you much in the past three years and by His having blessed me in Houston in many ways. I believe that He has been doing same thing for you. However, how can I believe your words and trust them again when your actions in the past, which hurt me so much, reoccur and speak louder than your words?

And it is the same for M. Peter Chang. There were too many past instances from which he got the strong impression that you aimed to destroy the Columbus ministry. He also heard last year that you said to some people that you could destroy the Columbus ministry by putting several people there. Maybe you said that out of frustration and anger without really intending it, I don’t know. But Bill Rankin also got the same impression when you mentioned to him something, which I don’t know in detail, at the staff meeting about three years ago. Even now, M. Peter Chang is convinced that you would really like to destroy Columbus, if you can within your power. The reason why you cannot accomplish it is because he is fighting hard and defending his ministry. So that’s why he was so distressed about your recent advancement toward Columbus. And when you say to him to come to Chicago and become my successor, he cannot but interpret it as your grabbing an opportune time to undermine Columbus further and put it under your control.

You are right. For what has happened in the past we shouldn’t try to hold against anybody. In fact, we have no bitterness or grudge against you. God healed the wounds I received from my conflict with you. But the problem is this; we can forget about the past, but we still bear distrust inside from the past experiences. So maybe you are changed and different. Maybe you are saying truthful things now. And what you say and do are quite consistent. But because of past experiences we are not convinced that you are telling the truth. Our natural response is, “Let’s wait and see. Truth must be tested by facts, not by words.”

I know that you do not see it that way. You might see M. Peter Chang and myself as Absaloms [2Sam 15:6] who rebelled against you because of ambition; and you are like King David who only gave loyalty and honor to the Lord and is so much wounded by your rebellious sons. And you might think that you didn’t do anything or use any harsh words that would hurt him. Maybe you still think that the problem would be solved if you give the position to M. Peter Chang and you are willing to give even your position to him like King David!

I am sorry to say, M. Samuel Lee, that this is totally out of context. M. Peter and myself were more like burned-out people and wounded people rather than ambitious people. Sure, all people are ambitious. But that’s only one minimal part of many sinful natures, which is not really our motivating force. I hope you don’t think that I went to Chicago to deliver a message two years ago because of my desire to receive glory from people. I tell you right now that I did so in order to show my every effort to restore unity. But later I found out that such an effort was futile because of your view toward me, which was well disclosed through your comments about me to the people around you after I departed from Chicago.

You know I really don’t care what people think of me. I am not interested in a position in UBF at all. If so, why did I give up the established position in Toledo and now work to pioneer Houston? I just want to see the work of God. That is the reason why I suffer endlessly. I believe that it’s just the same for you. It’s just the same for M. Peter. He clearly told me so many times and showed with action that he is not interested in your successor’s position. You have to believe it. If you insist your view, you will see the reality quite different from your perception.

The closest passage in the O.T. that can be applicable to our situation would be 1King 2:4. Why was the kingdom of David divided? You might not think that way. But before reaching to the breaking point, you had been endlessly demanding of us with so little support – not the support from your point of view but the support we needed. It was not easy for M. Peter to send his people to Chicago. But you didn’t seem to show appreciation for that. (For instance you said, “Hell was growing in Teddy’s heart when he was in Columbus, but the kingdom of God was growing in his heart when he came to Chicago.”) But then when he did not send some girl to Chicago for a clear reason, you announced that Columbus fell into Judaism.

I can say that this kind of thing hurt him very much, although that doesn’t matter any more. But you did not see it that way. Deborah Yu’s event was just the same. It’s really strange. It seems that you are so confident in your perception that you really don’t believe others words or even facts once you make your own conclusion for a certain thing. This is good when you are right. But this is really troubling when you are wrong. As a pioneer you had lived that way and God had used that point very much. And your one-sidedness always imposed on us such a heavy burden. That became the biggest hindrance in building up the right vessel of God among us.

I had an opportunity to talk to you at one of the staff meetings in Chicago two years ago. It was almost the same conversation topic as that when we talked on the phone last week – unity and M. Peter. I talked to you that the trust problem must be solved and you almost scoffed at me. What you said was like this “Why can’t Peter Chang trust me? I trust him. That’s his problem.” Well, that’s easy to say. That’s also one way you always brush aside the people. But the fact is that I see that you don’t trust people and you don’t believe the people. Especially, if any one has a different opinion than yours, you not only distrust them but also treat them like your enemy. I could almost feel that through my last two or three staff meetings I attended.

The last staff meeting I attended you did not even invite me. So I had to attend it without your invitation. It was a very unpleasant experience. Since then you did not invite me to the staff meeting and I also hated to attend it because of sensing such treatment. Maybe that was your intention, I don’t know. As far as your hurts and problems go, you take care of them with tender loving care and talk to people around you with your one-sided view and expect them to have the same view. (They know they will be in trouble if they don’t denounce your enemies and agree with you unconditionally. So they would agree with you not to have any trouble with you.)

But for others, you simplify their problems or brush them aside as if their inner problems could be solved by your few words or they could repent very simply according to your diagnosis. For instance, you told me about M. John Shin’s problem and M. Gus Park’s problem when I talked about them as we discussed unity problems. Concerning M John Shin you said, “Well, he wanted to get a job, so he went to Dallas. I invited him to Chicago many times and tried to help him. But he wanted to get a job anyway (regarding it more important than the director position).” Well, it’s so easy for you to say. But there is no understanding at all to why he and M. Grace Shin, who had loved you so much and was absolutely loyal to God and to you, had been distressed and hurt by your actions and words to the point of being driven to make such a decision as resigning his New York Chapter director’s position and going to Dallas to pioneer. Whenever M. Grace Shin tries to talk about these things, tears first come out due to the wounds she got from your treatment. But they also know your love down deep inside. And God has been very gracious and has been healing her and M. John Shin these days. Of course God works everything out for the good of those who love him.

I know it’s true for me too. I myself would insist my side be accepted by others unconditionally. In that process, I would unwittingly hurt others without any evil intention. And there is no way for me to understand everybody. Especially, I know you have so many people and so many businesses to take care of. Still we need to make every effort to keep the Spirit of unity. We cannot use the excuse that we cannot be unified because we are busy. If we insist this way without any agreement in the Lord’s grace, we will never see unity in our generation. And that will be bad to God and even to the eyes of the world. I believe that Jesus’ Golden Rule is the word of truth we must practice if we want to see unity among us: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

Please forgive me for giving a long account of things that are in the past. They are not even a problem any more. But I am trying to illustrate to you where our misunderstanding started. You might not have known and we might not have expressed it properly, but there was a definitely unbearable burden that has gradually been building up within us and which was looking for a breaking point. I don’t know about other chapters but that was certainly true for M. Peter and me who had worked closely with you. I know you seemed to be different by the way you readily accepted what M. Peter said about his situation when I talked with you on the phone last week. Maybe I am talking about the things that exist no more. If so, please forgive me for all this talks.

Indeed the past things don’t matter. We all have our limitations. As you said, I am a man of many faults and mistakes. If you begin to write about my faults and mistakes, the whole world would not have room for the books to be written. I don’t deserve to point out your faults or mistakes or whatever. And yet the reason why I wrote this thing again is because I pray to you that we must have a mutual understanding if we pray that the Spirit of unity should work among us.

This is the reason why we should first pray for mutual understanding before we try to do anything. I know that you too are wounded in many ways. And at the same time I pray that you might be able to see us as wounded people who are in the process of being healed rather than rebellious people. We need to pray that the Lord may touch each of our hearts so that the Spirit of understanding, love and unity might come upon us so that we can tolerate the differences of others. As long as we have one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, all other differences should not become a problem as long as we understand each other. (Eph. 4:4,5)

Then the Spirit of unity will broaden our hearts so that any hint of a judgmental mind, narrow mind, and misunderstanding may gradually be dissipated among us. I believe that any artificial effort would only undermine the trust and love relationship. But the mutual understanding, tolerance and love will create the unity in diversity.

I am praying that you, M. Peter Chang and myself might be able to meet face to face some time and pray together so that the Spirit of peace may come upon us. Even though you are in the position of the father and we, of the son, I pray that we might still have an opportunity to forgive the wrong the others had done and ask forgiveness for the wrong we have done to others. I don’t believe that this will solve all our problems. But that will be a very good beginning point. In that way the love of Christ can prevail. And trust will gradually replace distrust and any hostility, if there is any. And the work of reconciliation would begin. And God would begin to change us first. Then external things or any other issues would be solved according to his time schedule.

I believe that inviting me to Chicago to deliver a message or offering to M. Peter Chang for the directorship position without restoring trust would become another political maneuver that could only generate further damage of the relationship. In fact that didn’t help us in the past at all. I pray that God might open your heart too that you might be able to understand and accept M. Gus Park and M. John Shin and M. Joshua Lee to staff meeting and pray for their pioneering ministry. Thank you very much.

In Christ, your servant,
James J. Kim