Suddenly, he thought of his mother's twen jon chi gae soup-and the summer style kimchee with a steaming bowl of barley and clean white rice. He hardly ever thought of his family anymore, but today his thoughts wandered back to northern Korea, and he wondered if they were even alive. He didn't know, couldn't know. War had changed so many things. And his life with Father had changed so many things.
Anyway, he knew he had a lot to be thankful for. Every day, he came to the American army base and worked with Ju Won, another Korean refugee, painting buildings.
He wiped his hands on his gray coveralls. They were spotted with gobs of gray paint and gray fingerprints. He knew God had been good to him. And yet, he felt it wasn't so much because of him, but because of Teacher Moon that he had received so much blessing. With Won Pil Kim's job, they could buy the basics of survival, and Teacher Moon could go on with his mission for God. That was most important.
For one month Teacher Moon had also worked at the army base-as a carpenter. It seemed that he could do just about any job he decided to do, even building things.
During that month, Teacher Moon sometimes finished work first. Then he would come to where Won Pil Kim was working and wait for him so they could walk home together.
Won Pil Kim finished his meal with a cup of coffee. He was learning to like coffee a little. It had that bitter twang that the Korean soul naturally likes. All the Americans drank coffee. They made a big deal out of it. They wanted him to drink it black. "Like a man," was how they said it.
The army guys liked him because he was sweet natured and sympathetic. He was friendly, never complained and didn't have to have someone standing over him all the time to make sure he did things right.
"You're alright," they would say. He tried to learn the word. They also liked him because he never stole anything.
He got up and took his tin plate and cup over to the kitchen. He handed them to the Korean man washing the dishes. Behind this man, Won Pil Kim noticed a stack of pictures on a crate of onions.
"What are those?" he asked.
"Those are Ju Won's pictures," said the dishwasher man. "He left them here. And if you see him, can you tell him he better not leave them here anymore? They're going to get messed up."
Won Pil Kim went over to have a look. He picked up the stack of photos and thumbed through them. They were black and white photographs of soldiers and their families. "Why does Ju Won have these?" he asked.
"I think he paints them or something," said the dishwasher man. "I'm not sure."
"Does he get paid for it?" asked Won Pil Kim.
"Yeah. The soldiers like stuff like that."
"Interesting," said Won Pil Kim. Faces from other countries he had never seen. Most of them were probably Americans, he figured, although there were soldiers here from all over the world.
Now that the worst fighting was over and a truce had been called, most of the soldiers were going home-most of them, except for the Americans. Thank God for General MacArthur. He wore sunglasses and smoked a pipe. The General and his men were like a wall holding back that madman Kim Il Sung and the North Korean Army.
"I'll take the pictures to Ju Won," offered Won Pil Kim. He headed for the tool shed. He found Ju Won washing some brushes with turpentine.
"You're working so hard," said Won Pil Kim.
"Not that hard," answered Ju Won politely. "Finished for the day?"
"Yes. I just brought you these." He held out the pictures.
Ju Won stopped washing brushes and looked up with a surprised look on his face. He pushed his thick glasses up on his nose and peered at Won Pil Kim.
In North Korea this painter had been a rich and well respected lawyer. People had come to him with complex problems which he solved with his sharp mind. Now he was painting walls all day and cleaning paint brushes. "That's what war does to you sometimes," thought Won Pil Kim.
"Ah yes! Thank you very much," answered Ju Won. Then he sighed, as he said, "I don't know how I'm ever going to finish all these tonight."
"What do you do with them? Do you think I could help?" asked Won Pil Kim.
"I'd be glad for you to help. I draw a picture from the photo, and then I paint it so it looks like a portrait," he explained. "You could help by painting some of it in after I draw it."
Won Pil Kim was pleased. Just a few days ago Father had seen a sketch of his and had told him he should practice a little each day and develop his skills. What a coincidence!
The two young men found a spot and got to work on the pictures. Ju Won saw that Won Pil Kim did very well. He felt bad, though, that Won Pil Kim was doing such a nice thing for him without pay. Then he had an idea.
"Won Pil-A," he said. "I've got more pictures than I can handle right now. Let me give you one photo to do. Just sketch it and paint it in like I've been doing. Here's some paint and paper. I'll give you 10 won. What do you say?"
"Alright," said Won Pil Kim, using the only English word he knew.
Ju Won laughed. "Alright." It was getting dark outside as Won Pil Kim headed home. He stopped at the front gate of the army base where a soldier stepped out and stamped his passbook. Korean people looked at him enviously as he passed. He felt sorry for them, for all of them.
His thoughts went back to Pyongyang city where he had lived with his family and friends. (This seemed to be a day for remembering.) He had lived in a fairly nice house-nothing great, but always clean and comfortable. His family had lived there for generations-his parents, his grandparents, his great grandparents.
He smiled as he remembered his dear aunt, who had invited him to hear a man speak. And everything had changed for him. He had become part of "The Weeping Church." It was called that because when Teacher Moon preached a sermon, he wept. And when he prayed, he wept. And when he began to weep, everybody in the group began to weep, too. So, it was "The Weeping Church."
He trudged up the muddy hill, slipping here and there. Maybe someday people would want to hear about his experiences with Sangsaeng-nim (Honorable Teacher). But get up in front of people? Give a speech? Impossible!
Finally, the little hut came into view-home-and there at the door was Father.
"Good evening, Won Pil-a," he called out with a smile.
"Good evening, Sangsaeng-nim," answered Won Pil Kim, his face brightening.
As he lifted the cardboard flap aside, which was the door, part of it came off in his hand. Soon, they would need to replace it.
The kerosene railroad lantern lit up the room with a warm yellow light. There was a little charcoal grill off to the side, which they used to boil water and cook meals whenever they couldn't cook outside. Sometimes in the winter, they would wake up in the morning with a thin line of snow on their clothes where it had simply snowed through the breaks in the roof.
"Look what I have," said Won Pil Kim, and he took out the photograph and the paints, brushes and good paper. He found a dry spot on the floor and sat down. Father took the photo and held it up to the lantern light for a better look.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
"Ju Won gave it to me. If I can draw a picture from this photograph and paint it, he will pay me 10 won. Isn't that a good idea?" Father looked impressed. He examined the picture slowly, fascinated.
Won Pil Kim watched and waited. In the lantern light he looked at Teacher Moon's face. It was thin and serious. It was the face of a man who had not had enough to eat, and had not had much rest for many years. It was not the look of a starving man, but a man who didn't eat or sleep because he did not want to, a man with much to do and much on his mind.
"Have you eaten today, Sangsaeng-nim?"
"No, I guess I haven't," said Father, setting the photo down. "I fixed some food, but then I gave it to the people who came today. I taught them, and then I fed them. They had no money. The rest I used to buy matches. I'm so sorry the money is gone already. You worked so hard for it." "It's alright," said Won Pil Kim, feeling a little uncomfortable.
"I want you to know just how the money is spent," answered Father. Later he understood that it was Father's way of letting him know that he was very careful with the money Won Pil Kim earned, even though it seemed that they never had any.
Picking up the photo again, Won Pil Kim said, "I've never seen anyone like this, have you?" It was a black and white photo of a beautiful girl with a rather flat nose and large lips. She had dark wooly hair and dark skin. "What color do you think I should paint her?"
Teacher Moon wasn't sure. He'd never seen such a person either. "Maybe brown," he said. "Yes, brown is nice."
Won Pil Kim set to work on the picture. All the while Father sat by his side watching. For four hours he worked. Finally, he finished and put the paints away.
As he lay down on the mat, Won Pil Kim gazed sleepily at the walls around him. He looked at the names on the boxes, which were all in English, and he wondered what they said. He had brought some of them from the army base. Some boxes said "Sun Maid Raisins: California, USA" and had a picture of a pretty lady with a basket of grapes. Others said "Budweiser, the King of Beers" and had a picture of an eagle with its wings spread out.
He read some of the amazing things that were written in Chinese and Korean characters all over these boxes-the things Teacher Moon had written, sometimes while praying, sometimes jumping up out of his sleep with some new revelation which he would quickly scribble on the wall in the dark. Surely, not many people slept surrounded by eagles, ladies with grapes, and the most deep and heartfelt ideas about God imaginable.
Father turned out the lamp, and the room was instantly dark. A soft breeze blew through a chink in the wall. Won Pil Kim put his hands under his head, feeling very tired and a bit lonely. A little peace. As much as he loved his Teacher, living with him wasn't always easy. Sometimes he felt so little. Like a tree, like a rice field or a bamboo forest when the wind blows across the water, he sometimes thought about the meaning of peace.
But sometimes God chooses you for something great whether you look for it or not. And that's an honor.
Outside, he could hear sounds of the night. The bark of a dog far down the hill. Little night animals scurrying through the hills. He heard the squash, squash, squashing of footsteps coming up the hill, past the side of the shack to the little well Father had dug. The sound of a bucket. The sound of water. The sound of some weary soul squash, squash, squashing away again.
Many people further down the hill had heard about the little spring of clean water up by the shack where the two young men lived. They would come all the way up the steep hill just to fetch some of it, for clean water was hard to find in Pusan.
He listened for the sound he knew would soon come. There it was. Yes. Father was praying. Sometimes, the praying became singing. The singing was praying. And soon another sound would come. Yes, there it was, too. Sobbing. Desperate weeping.
Won Pil Kim began to drift off to sleep. He dreamed he was back in The Weeping Church again. The next day, Won Pil Kim took his painted picture to Ju Won a bit timidly. Would he like the painting? "If he likes it, I will be happy enough," he decided, "even if he does not think it is good enough to pay for." He held it out uncertainly.
Ju Won looked at it, and immediately his face broke into his biggest smile. "It's great!" he said. "You are really very good. Here I want to pay you 15 won instead of 10."
Won Pil Kim was surprised and very happy, indeed.
"Thank you, thank you," he said gratefully.
"Would you like to do more?" asked Ju Won.
"Sure." He would be able to offer more money to Teacher Moon.
That night Won Pil Kim took home several photos. As he drew and painted, Father again sat with him, watching, encouraging, even giving suggestions. It was about midnight when he finished.
The next day Father had the paints already laid out when Won Pil Kim arrived home. When the work was finished, Won Pil Kim immediately fell into an exhausted asleep. The next morning everything was cleaned up and put away, and the pictures were rolled up neatly, ready to go. Father had done this for him during the night.
A couple nights later, Won Pil Kim was delayed and got home later than usual. When he came in sight of the hut, he saw Father, standing by the path peering into the darkness.
"Oh, good," said Father with relief. "I was getting worried. Are you alright?"
"Yes, Sangsaeng-nim," he answered, "Everything is fine. It just took a little longer to find pictures to do, that's all." Then Won Pil Kim thought to himself, "My teacher is like a Father to me."
He sat down to work on the pictures. This time Father surprised him by picking up a brush himself. He started brushing color onto the background of each picture, and Won Pil Kim painted the people. They finished a little earlier that night.
As the days went by, Father also helped paint the clothing. Won Pil Kim drew the pictures and painted the faces, and Father added little details, such as lines in the hair. In this way, they could finish a picture in 20 minutes, and they were able to do 15 to 20 pictures in one night. Even so, they sometimes didn't finish the work until well after midnight.
This was their life. After a hard day's work at the army base, Won Pil Kim would come home and paint. Father, after his own long day of prayer, witnessing, teaching, and even cooking, shopping and cleaning, was always by his side while he worked. They were doing it together. This made Won Pil Kim feel strong.
When the last picture was done, he drifted off to sleep to the sounds of night, his heart surging with love-and a little peace.