"My mother was a good Christian, and she always told me to watch for the second coming of the Lord Jesus," she remembered. 'I haven't found him yet, but I feel in my heart that something is happening."
Then her thoughts skipped ahead to Mrs. Seung-Do Kim of the Holy Lord Order. "I was barely a teenager," she recalled, "but how my life changed at that time. It meant so much to me to be her disciple all those years-what was it, 13, 14-no, 15 years it was.' Now Soon-Ae Hong was 30 years old.
A smile came to her lips. "I loved the way they called her Kamsa Halmoni (grandmother)." In Korean, Kamsa Hamnida means thank you. When people went to Kim Halmoni's church, they had wonderful spiritual experiences. Then they would all bow and say over and over, "Kamsa Hamnida. Kamsa Hamnida. Kamsa Hamnida.." They started calling her Kamsa Halmoni, which means something like thank grandmother." Many people loved her dearly and came from all parts of Korea to worship in her church. As the row of crescent-shaped mandoo grew longer, Soon-Ae spoke to the air, "Mm Halmoni, how did you learn all those things? I don't even know what a revelation is like, but you had so many of them. You taught us that Jesus did not come to die young, but to get rid of Satan and build a loving world. And 'the Lord will come again,' you said, 'only it will not be Jesus himself, as everyone thought. A man will be born in Korea!
Often Soon-ae felt excited, but also impatient. "Where is he, Kim Halmoni? How long will we have to wait?'
"If only I could read all your messages now," continued Soon-Ae as she poured water over the rice and placed it on the fire. She knew that, even though Kim Halmoni had written everything on 12 rolls of paper, eight feet long each, they had been burned by a relative so the soldiers could not find any evidence against her.
Yes, evidence! Can you believe anyone would want to hurt such a dear lady? The Japanese, who were controlling Korea then, had heard that she was saying Japan would soon be overcome. They didn't like that!
It was a tragic day when Mm Halmoni was hauled away to jail to be questioned. The thousands of people who came to her church couldn't help her, so she was questioned and tortured for 100 days. It was awful. Soon-Ae's heart still burned with pain whenever she thought of it. The soldiers couldn't prove anything, so they had to let her go, but that dear 62 year old lady was so weakened by the experience that she soon became ill and died. It was the end of her church, also.
"It's so sad," thought Soon-Ae, wiping at her tears with one hand while dropping the mandoo into the sizzling oil with the other. "We sacrificed everything, and many of the people suffered terribly to prepare for the Lord's coming, and in the end they died without even meeting him. I still wish, more than anything in life, that I could meet him and serve him. Even to cook his food, would bring such joy."
As she poked at the mandoo with long wooden chopsticks, her thoughts moved forward to Mr. Lee, who had been one of Kim Halmoni's disciples. Soon after Kim Halmoni's death, his wife, Ho Bin Ha, began receiving revelations. Many of the messages were the same as Kim Halmoni's:. they should prepare for the Lord; the Messiah would be born in Korea, and so on.
But there was one big difference. When Mrs. Ha prayed, her abdomen started moving, almost shaking, as if there was a baby dancing inside. They all thought God was speaking from her stomach. Mrs. Ha thought it meant the Lord of the 2nd Coming might even be born from her womb. As people began listening to her revelations and praying with her, they became known as Bok Jung Kyo (Inside Belly Church).
Mr. Lee had told her about Mrs. Ha's revelations. and she had just joined that group. One day, as Soon-Ae was praying, she saw Jesus standing before her.
"Do you love me?" he asked.
"Oh, yes I do, Lord Jesus," she answered breathlessly.
"Then please cut your hair short and use it to knit a pair of socks for me," came his surprising answer. Korean women always wore their hair long. It was their custom, and everyone followed it. No one was different. But Soon-Ae immediately got the scissors and carefully cut her long hair. She smiled now as she remembered shaking her head in the wind and feeling so light and free, and the strange sensation of washing short hair as if there was nothing there. Most of all, she remembered the stares of the people. But it didn't matter. She loved Jesus.
After she knit the black socks, she started helping Mrs. Ha to make clothing and food for Jesus from the time of his birth until he was 33 years old. "Poor little Jesus," she sighed, remembering how she had felt at that time. "He had only swaddling clothes which is to say, rags-wrapped around him. Only God kept him alive in the cold stable."
Later, Mrs. Ha's group began preparing clothing for the Lord of the 2nd Coming. In fact, they were looking forward to meeting him in person. He wouldn't be wrapped in rags if they could help it. No, sir. They would prepare everything, and it would be fit for a king.
'As soon as I have this baby, I want to return to help Mrs. Ha," she promised herself. "There is so much to be done." But for now she was here in Pyong Yang Do (province) in the village of Sinli.
As she shifted her weight to ease the strain on her back, she felt gratitude for her ancestors who had been so good. Because of their goodness, God could work with her. No one told her this; she just knew.
Isn't it interesting, though, that I am the only daughter in my family, and my mother was the only daughter in hers, and her mother was the only daughter in her family? I wonder what it means?" She drained the mandoo on paper as it was finished.
Then her thoughts moved to a more recent event. She had met a young man named Han. He was from another group that was also looking for the Lord. This young Mr. Han had received a revelation saying, 'You should marry' the daughter of Yoo-Il Hong. If you have a baby boy, he will become king of the universe. If you have a girl, she will be queen of the universe!"
He had met her, and now she was about to have a baby. Whenever she thought of him, tears came to her eyes. Her parents had liked him alot. Because her brother had gone away, they asked this young man to become their son. "Please let us adopt you," they said.
But he was proud. How could he be adopted by his wife's family? He didn't want to be badgered about it, so he didn't come to their place much anymore.
"Well, maybe after the baby is born, he'll come back," she thought hopefully. She placed her hand on her stomach and felt the baby move. The meal was almost ready, and as she went out to dig up the kimchee, she felt a vague tightening of the muscles of her stomach. But then it went away.
The next day, at 4:30 in the afternoon, as the winter sun was about to touch the horizon, the cry of a newborn baby was heard in the house of Hong.
"It's a girl," announced the midwife, and she placed the tiny baby in her mother's arms. The lunar calendar, which all Koreans use, showed that it was January 6, 1943. The new mother forgot, for the moment, about the prophecy that her baby would be queen of the universe. She just felt joy. This was her own baby daughter-and such a beautiful baby at that. They gazed into each other's eyes, and the little princess had her first meal.
When the sun had disappeared behind the trees and the new mother had rested, her own mother brought in a steaming bowl of freshly made algae soup. Every Korean woman knows that this is what you eat after having a baby. Then you share it with everyone else in the family.
As she sat up on her mat to take the soup, she said, "Omma (mother), her name shall be Hak Ja. It means little crane. She will be beautiful and graceful."
The new grandmother smiled proudly and left her with her soup. Suddenly, Soon-Ae stiffened with a jerk, almost spilling the brown soup all over herself. She had become aware of a strange figure in the room with her, and it was very ugly and smelled like garbage. She couldn't move.
As it began to speak to her, she suddenly realized with a shudder that this must be Satan! She didn't know what to do.
"Soon-Ae Hong," he croaked threateningly, 'you must kill your baby tonight. If this child lives, the world will be in very serious trouble."
She set the soup down with trembling bands and reached for her baby. "But why?" she managed to gasp. "Why should I kill my little daughter?" She held the sleeping baby very close, protecting her.
Satan just had time to sneer, when her mother walked in. 'How's the sou-?" She stopped short when she caught sight of the terrified look on her daughter's face as she clung tightly to her baby.
She knelt down by her mat. "What's wrong? What are you doing." She caressed her hair, trying to help her relax.
Soon-Ae looked up, but the menacing figure had disappeared. Shaking and pale, she explained, "Satan was just here, and he said I should kill my baby."
Her mother didn't know what to say. She just continued smoothing Soon-Ae's hair, "There, there. Don't worry. Everything will be alright,' she said. "Maybe it was just a dream," she added lamely, knowing full well that Soon-Ae had been awake.
All week, Soon-Ae Hong DID worry. "What does it mean? Are we in danger? What should I do?" She prayed about it and thought about it every day, and she couldn't forget the awful feeling he gave her.
Seven days later, she was resting on her mat trying not to worry, when another figure appeared in her room. This time it was Kim Halmoni from spirit world. Kamsa Halmoni!
"My dear Soon-Ae," said Halmoni, "I have come to assure you that Hak Ja Han is the daughter of God. She will become queen of universe. God is her Father, a you are just taking care of her Him. Do you understand? should think of yourself as the babysitter or nanny, not her mother." Then she disappeared.
"Thank you! THANK You breathed Soon-Ae to the spot where Kim Halmoni had just stood. Now she understood that Satan had lied to her, had tried deceive her, because he did want HIS world to be in serious trouble. She would keep the words in her heart always a take very, very good care of her little girl-God's little princess.
As soon as she regained her strength, true to her word, Mrs. Soon-Ae Hong returned to her work with Mrs. Ho Bin Ha. While her little daughter stayed at home with her grandmother, Mrs. Hong was sewing clothes all day for Lord who was to come.
Little did she know that he had already been born in the very same province where her own daughter was born. Little did she know that he was over 20 years old already and would soon come to Pyong Yang. Little did know her daughter would become his holy bride.
(For the story of the Inside Belly Church, see Blessing Quarterly, August 1988, "A Cloud of Witnesses.")