Grander earth has quaked before Moved by the sound of His voice Seas that are shaken and stirred Can be calmed and broken for my regard Lydia Kim moved to adjust the volume on her computer. The words of the song “It Is Well” by Bethel Music surged to full volume. Laying on her bed, she clasped her hands over her stomach, closed her eyes, and imagined the song filling up her entire bedroom. Through it all, through it all My eyes are on You Through it all, through it all It is well Memories of her dad began to flash through her mind like an old-fashioned movie reel. Tears streamed down Lydia’s face as she remembered the man who was a loving husband and a caring father. A man who believed God was real and lived every day of his life showing how to love with his whole heart. To love the way he felt loved by God. Through it all, through it all My eyes are on You It is well It is well. The words vibrated through Lydia’s whole being. It is well with me. Each word ringing undeniably true. Lydia thought of Heaven. The place her dad spoke about continuously in the sermons leading up to his death. It had almost been four years since her dad, Chung Sun Kim, lost his life to cancer. Lydia wiped the tears from her eyes and realized she found a song that fully explained how she felt since her father’s death.
It is well with her soul.
Chung Sun Kim leaned over the cold porcelain, throwing up violently into the toilet bowl. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead. Though not usually one to celebrate his birthday, Chung Sun was thrown a party by the church he pastored in Bangladesh after they had their weekly meeting on May 16, 2010. Chittagong Korean Church just wanted a reason to celebrate their hard-working pastor, known lovingly by everyone as Pastor Kim.
He turned 59 that year.
As soon as the party was over, Pastor Kim rushed to the bathroom. The pain was so severe that his wife, Eugenia, took him to the hospital. The doctor in Bangladesh discovered a ten centimeter tumor on his liver and immediately advised Pastor Kim to fly to Korea for a diagnosis and possible treatment. Pastor Kim and Eugenia planned to fly out a week later, not realizing the seriousness of his illness. That evening, as his pain became nearly unbearable, Pastor Kim bought a ticket to fly out the next day.
Eugenia called Lydia, who was living in Palisades Park, New Jersey at that time. Lydia got off the phone and started to pack, praying for her father’s healing as she began to fill up her suitcases.
Lydia learned how to pray by watching her parents. After dinner every evening, the family gathered in their living room. Lydia’s mom held a notebook in her lap filled with notes of what to pray for.
notebook in her lap filled with notes of what to pray for. They prayed for Pastor Kim’s seminary schooling and a church for him to pastor. They prayed for their finances. They prayed for their health. Pastor Kim led each prayer topic, and Lydia and her mother followed, praying aloud at the same time, as one voice in different strings of conversation. All speaking to God.
At the age of five, Lydia began praying on her own. Being an only child at the time, she desperately wanted a sibling. Before falling asleep every night, Lydia pulled the covers over her head, whispering to God. Lord, I really want a brother or sister. Please give me a brother or a sister. She prayed the same prayer each night, always whispering the same words. Lydia wondered if God heard her prayers, knowing that people all around the world were praying to Him, as well. Tears started mixing with the five-year-old’s whispers. Lord, I really want a brother or sister.
Finally, in 1990, three years after she first prayed for a sibling, God answered her prayers. When Lydia’s mom told her she was pregnant, Lydia immediately started thanking God. You heard my prayers! You listened to me! You answered me! Lydia felt God’s love like she never had before. He cared about what she wanted. Lydia envisioned God looking down at her under her blankets every night, seeing the tears and hearing her simple words. He heard her prayers.
On the night Daniel was born, Lydia got down on her knees. Clasping her hands together, she thanked God through more tears. This time they were tears of joy. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for giving me a brother. Thank you for answering my prayers. Jesus had officially solidified His place in her heart.
*** In 2010, within three weeks of receiving the phone call about her dad’s illness, Lydia quit her job, sold her car, packed up her apartment, and left New Jersey to join her parents and brother in Seoul. With almost no family left in Korea and all of their possessions still in Bangladesh, the Kim’s borrowed a small apartment from a friend when they first arrived. Eventually, they were able to move into a missionary guest house in Gangnam, a southern portion of Seoul known for its affluent neighborhoods.
Nineteen-year-old Daniel, however, needed to head back to the U.S. for the start of his next semester of college. Although he wanted to be next to his family during this difficult time, he had no choice but to say goodbye. It would be the last time Daniel would see his father.
“This doctor called me and my mom and said, ‘There is no hope. It’s too big and it is cancerous. You guys came too late,’” Lydia remembers. “It’s so funny, though. My mom and I, we didn’t hear any of the words that came out of [the doctor’s] mouth. Everything went out of our ears, and we just thought, ‘It’s okay, we will pray.’ We didn’t believe her.”
The doctors decided to start Pastor Kim on chemotherapy. But after two weeks of radiation, Pastor Kim couldn’t handle it anymore. He did not want to feel worse than he already did. He did not want to be in the hospital anymore. He asked his family to take him home. At five feet six inches, a healthy Pastor Kim weighed 176 pounds. But after chemo, he lost 44 pounds, merely weighing in at 132 pounds. His stomach filled with fluid, growing larger as the rest of his body withered away.
Yet, Lydia refused to believe her dad was as sick as he was. She prayed continuously alongside her mom. Lord, heal my dad. Heal him and make him whole again. As she prayed, Lydia meditated on scripture.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:30-31).
Lydia sat by her dad’s side, watching him grow weaker. But in her mind, she imagined him gaining strength and bear-hugging her as they moved back into their apartment in Chittagong, Bangladesh. She thought about the incredible testimony he would have to share when his health was restored. Even when her dad could barely walk, she pictured him standing, running, and laughing the way he used to.
The Kim family sat in their living room, praying for a church for Pastor Kim to lead. Pastor Kim and Eugenia desired for him to serve a congregation, regardless of location. In 1996, a call came from Chittagong, Bangladesh, where a small Korean church needed a pastor. Pastor Kim looked at his children. Lydia was 11 and Daniel only 3. Although this answered his prayer, he was concerned about moving his family so far away from home. Eugenia, however, wanted to see her husband grow in his ministry, and unaware of the challenges of living in Bangladesh, she was very open to the move.
“Sure. Why not? Let’s go!” Eugenia said.
Three months later, Pastor Kim, Eugenia, Lydia, and Daniel moved to Bangladesh, ready to serve God. But after being used to the comforts of living in South Korea, life in Bangladesh was hard. The Kim family stepped out of the tiny Chittagong airport into a different world. Traffic signals and lines failed to exist, while cows roamed freely around the chaotic crossings of cars and bicycles.
failed to exist, while cows roamed freely around the chaotic crossings of cars and bicycles. Buses honked as they flew by with passengers packing out the inside and riding on the top.
Chittagong represented Seoul’s polar opposite. Seoul was clean, Chittagong was dirty. Seoul was organized, Chittagong was chaos. The food made them sick and the church community was extremely small.
Lydia’s family prayed together even more frequently after moving to Bangladesh. They knew if they were going to survive, they needed God more than ever. Every evening after dinner, Lydia watched as her mother cried during these prayer times. Filled with the overwhelming desire to comfort her, Lydia lifted her eyes up towards Heaven. Father God, be with my mom right now.
God answered her prayer yet again as Lydia saw her mother eventually fall in love with the nation. It took time, but after three years, Lydia’s mother thought of Bangladesh as home, a place God desired for her and her family to be, and she didn’t want to be anywhere else. As Lydia watched her parents lead the Korean church in Chittagong with a fierce commitment, she desired to join them one day as a missionary. Week after week, she saw her parents take care of people in their small community. She watched them lead weekly prayer meetings, teach Saturday Korean school, and be a listening ear to members of the church. She watched them create lessons from the Bible, play with kids, and help parents with meals, among other things. Lydia admired and respected her parents and wanted to do what they did.
But first, she needed to go to a proper school.
During the first year and a half in Bangladesh, Lydia met with private tutors every day because there was no school for her to attend. But Lydia’s parents knew that private tutors weren’t a sustainable option for her education, so they looked abroad for options.
parents knew that private tutors weren’t a sustainable option for her education, so they looked abroad for options. Lydia’s parents found a Korean school, called Hanguk Academy, in the Philippines to send her to.
Eugenia held her daughter to her chest, not wanting to say goodbye. She knew studying at Hanguk Academy was the best thing for Lydia, but she was only 13. Eugenia felt torn between wanting to bring Lydia straight back to Bangladesh, where she would be close to her family, and leaving her there, knowing this was the best place for her. Lydia, on the other hand, felt nothing but excitement. Eager to take classes with other students and be on her own, Lydia only grew in her anticipation to study properly.
But just after two months of being away, Lydia longed for her family again. She often sat on the bed in her dorm room, thinking of the notebook her mom wrote all of their prayers in. Lydia thought of the joy she felt when her family would share about their answered prayers. She wanted nothing more than to be in the living room with her family, praying for whatever topics her dad and mom thought of, as they had done every evening.
She missed their play time, too. Vivid memories of her dad throwing her and Daniel on a blanket and dragging them from room to room warmed Lydia’s heart. Remembering their giggles filling each room as Pastor Kim swept them over the floor brought a smile to her face.
She even missed the winters in Seoul. Every time it snowed, Lydia helped her dad build a Jesus statue before they made snowmen. Lydia remembered praying and wishing for more snow to fall so that she could play outside with her dad.
Being separated from her family gave Lydia a deeper appreciation for them. She spent many nights in the Philippines thinking about the love her parents had for her and Daniel. But the nights she longed for the most were the nights they spent praying as a family.
Lydia wasn’t planning on getting a job, thinking her dad would get better soon and they would once again move back to Bangladesh. Then, a friend needed someone to cover her position as an English teacher at a private language academy for a couple of weeks. As much as Lydia wanted to be there for her dad and her mom, being able to work gave her a chance to breathe. Even though she strongly believed her dad would get better soon, seeing him that sick was hard.
One night, Lydia came home late from work. Exhausted, she opened the door to her apartment to find her dad sitting back in a comfortable chair. With his feet propped up, he gave Lydia a huge smile. He then held his hand by his face to make a “V” with his fingers, the national “victory” sign in Korea. He wanted to show his daughter that he was still fighting through this sickness.
“I remember that. I remember his face and his gesture [even] now. From that night when I opened the door,” Lydia says.
As people visited to comfort the family, Eugenia and Lydia were confused at their outward grief. Pastor Kim wasn’t dying, at least not anytime soon.
“We really thought that he was going to live,” Lydia says. “My mom and I really didn’t know. We didn’t know anything about cancer. Everybody knew. Everyone around us knew. Maybe God blinded our eyes. Maybe we were too stubborn believing that he was going to live.”
Early in the morning on November 16, 2010, Lydia woke up to her mom calling her name loudly, over and over again.
calling her name loudly, over and over again. The screams of her name came from her father’s bedside. Running quickly into her father’s bedroom, Lydia moved her hand over his mouth. She needed to see if he was breathing. She felt nothing. His body was still warm but she felt him growing more and more stiff. She checked for breathing again. And again.
In traditional Korean funerals, when someone passes away, his or her funeral begins immediately and lasts for three days. Daniel flew in from the U.S. for the last day. Surprised at how many people came to remember the life of Pastor Kim, the whole Kim family felt love surrounding them, but the family was still in shock. The night before Pastor Kim died, he ate food. He walked around the apartment. He still had life. And now, he didn’t.
In the months after her father’s death, Lydia continued to pray constantly with her mother. They did it out of habit, partly because they did it every day but partly because they didn’t know what else to do. Even after it looked liked the most important prayer they ever prayed—her dad’s healing—wasn’t answered, they still prayed.
Lydia also looked to the person whose strength she admired the most: her mom. After her father’s death, Lydia saw her mom pick up right where her father left off. Eugenia enrolled in seminary, desiring to eventually go back to Bangladesh as a pastor herself. A classmate, who had heard about Pastor Kim’s death, stopped Eugenia in passing to share something she had seen while praying. This person saw God holding Eugenia very tightly, almost the same way Eugenia held Lydia when she went away to school in the Philippines. God held Eugenia so tightly that she couldn’t see her situation because her eyes were simply gazing into her Father’s. He was embracing her. Protecting her.
“[Right after the death], Lydia and I went shopping. We watched movies,” Eugenia says. “I prepared to send Daniel to school and then, we went to America to see my mom and sister. I went to Bangladesh to take care of all my things.”
Lydia knows there are times when it is still hard for her mom, but she appreciates her honesty about what she is going through. “But I trust God, He is still holding me. He embraces me,” Eugenia says.
At the end of the day, Lydia and Eugenia knew where to go to find comfort. Prayer. It had always been prayer. And in those times of prayer, God spoke to them. God consoled them. God loved them.
Lord, I miss my dad. It hurts. But I know that You are my comforter and healer, and You are always with me. Strengthen me and my family to get through this difficult time.
After months and months of prayer, Lydia knew one thing for sure: her dad lived in Heaven now. And even though the timing did not make sense, it didn’t have to. God’s timing remains outside of anyone’s context, and Lydia chose not to think about that stuff anymore. She decided to pray and keep it at that. That was easier for Lydia. Instead of posing unanswerable questions, she did what came naturally.
And in that process, it became apparent that all of the praying before her father’s death wasn’t wasted. Those times kept her close to God. So close, that after her father died, she didn’t go anywhere but back to Him. She just kept going back to that place of talking with God.
Two years after her father’s death, Lydia walked into a prayer room. She
immediately felt uncomfortable upon entering. So uncomfortable, that she couldn’t actually pray. She just started to weep. Then, memories of her dad flooded her mind. Unable to stand, she sat down and instantly felt God’s love surround her.
“As I was crying, God showed me a vision of that night at the guest house,” Lydia remembers. “My dad was sleeping in his room, my mom in the living room, and me in my room. God was showing me the scene of my dad sleeping. All of a sudden, I saw two angels come down and they tapped my dad’s shoulders, and his spirit lifted up. He was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I am finally going to Heaven.’ And he was so happy. But at the same time, he looked at the other rooms thinking, ‘But what about my family?’ And the angels were shaking their heads saying, ‘It’s not their time yet. It’s your time. But it’s not their time.’ And then, he came into my room, and he kissed me and hugged me and told me that he loved me. He did the same thing to my mom and then he went up.”
A hole she wasn’t aware existed had been filled with understanding. Two years of processing her father’s death through prayer came to a completion in a single moment. Lydia’s father was in Heaven, a place he spoke about more than anything else. God had revealed that her father lived a life on earth worth living. And now it was her turn.
Lydia continued blinking back the tears as the last lines of “It Is Well” faded from her computer. She got out of bed and hit “replay.”
It is well.
She laid back down, smiling. A prayer already on her lips.
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