Sung-Hun ChoiThe day following the Chusok festival (a traditional harvest-moon festival), a group of strange-looking people visited the Hadong Seventh-day Adventist Church, located in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Sung-Hun Choi, the church pastor of the Hadong congregation, was afraid to meet them because they looked severely disfigured. Fingers were in a fearful state of decomposition, eyebrows had fallen out, and serious skin lesions were visible. The visitors were from the leper colony nearby. In fact, the sight was so revolting that he couldn’t even look directly at them.
HANDS LIFTED HIGH: Church members, suffering the effects of leprosy, at Youngshinwon churchIn 1943 the Korean Adventist Church was officially dissolved by the Japanese authorities. It was the hardest experience for Korean Adventists. They couldn’t meet in their own churches. Church leaders were scattered in all directions. However, some pastors decided to stick it out and watched over their churches and church members. They formed secret churches that gathered together to worship and pray. At Jangmae-ri, near Pyongyang, Choi established a secret church and held regular meetings every Sabbath. One Sabbath morning policemen came to the village in search of the secret church. The Sabbath school lesson had just finished. Choi sent the church members back to their homes as soon as he heard of the police officers’ approach. He waited for the police with anxiety, after hiding all the Bibles and hymnals. But nobody came to the secret place. The police just retreated from the village. God had used a village leader who had persuaded them to give up searching for the Adventists in the village. Thanks to his persuasive intervention the policemen had gone back, and Choi passed through another crisis untouched.
OFFICIAL BUSINESS: Sung-Hun Choi (center) with his wife and M. V. Campbell, a former vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.In 1954 Sung-Hun Choi became a full-time pastor. After graduating from Korean Union College he went to Hadong as a church pastor and worked hard to preach the three angels’ messages in this area. Around that time he met the lepers from the leper village near Hadong. This encounter changed his life, and he served lepers from that moment until the end of his life. However, this was not an easy task. Because of ignorance and prejudice he could not be close to them at first. Even though he would shake hands with his leper congregation after worship he thought it was impossible to eat together in their houses. He was afraid of becoming infected. One day a leper couple invited him to eat with them in their humble home as a token of their appreciation. He knew that if he declined the invitation with some excuse, they would be disappointed and turn away from Christianity because they were new believers. Even though he was afraid, he knew he should show them God’s love as a pastor. He accepted the invitation and shared a special meal with them. From that time on he felt that he had become a real pastor to the lepers. He became a kernel of wheat to the lepers in Korea, providing not only much-needed resources to this forgotten community, but also sharing practically—through his ministry and personal involvement—their pains and joys.