“My wife and I and our three children moved from Korea to Central Asia in 1995. We wanted to get involved in dentistry and discipleship. Before that, I had spent ten years in the student ministry in Korea and had seen hundreds of students come unto Christ. It was very exciting! I loved it. I thought I would see the same results in Central Asia or even better.
When we arrived, dental needs were everywhere – women and children with so many cavities they couldn’t eat. We asked permission to do oral health work in the villages, and the health minister said we could. We visited every school nationwide and asked questions about oral health. Did they have toothbrushes?
We chose a particular village to work in. It was closed to the outside world for hundreds of years. Of the 400 adults in the town, only three had a fixed salary. All the rest were subsistence farmers. There were 150 children in the village school, and almost all had at least six cavities. Almost none of them had a toothbrush. We have set up an educational program and started teaching oral hygiene to the children, the parents, and the teachers.
The clock runs very slowly here. It would help if you had plans B, C, and D! Over time, the project grew into primary and oral health education. But it wasn’t easy. There was only one water pump for the village, supplying 50 families. Every morning the women stood in line at the pump for hours. It affected hygiene on every level. We wanted to help with the water supply, but we knew that the best way to do sustainable development was for the villagers to take ownership of the idea and the result. We talked to them about it for a long time, but they didn’t adopt it. Even now, years later, the water supply has not continued. Good development work is so complicated. But then we also started doing health work in other villages, forming a mobile clinic for dental treatment, and then I began training dentists in the capital.
It was all great, but I remember the day we celebrated our tenth year of dentistry. I got up at an event to speak. I thanked you, then looked over the past ten years and said, “These have been the hardest times.”
In 2000, I had a transient ischemic attack and was completely paralyzed on my left side. Before returning to Central Asia, I had to return to Korea for tests and treatment. In 2004 I was getting out of my car when I was attacked from behind and robbed in the parking lot. I lost consciousness for 40 minutes and then came to, in the mud, with bruises and swelling around my right eye. In 2005 I was involved in a car accident. Another vehicle came straight at me, and I had no choice but to drive into the ditch at high speed. I just survived. In 2006, we discovered that our nine-year-old daughter had Moya-Moya disease. We had to return to Korea immediately so she could have two brain surgeries. It’s been very hard, I said.
But when I look back, through all those ten years, I see something. My weakness, fears, and failures have shown me this is not my job. This is God’s work from the beginning. And somehow, my weaknesses have turned into friendship and discipleship with those around me beyond my expectations. I can’t explain it to you, except that the people around me have seen me in the hospital, paralyzed and in fear and failure. I haven’t been strong. And because they saw me weak, they listened to me. They have shared their weakness with me. I’ve seen God use flaws more than he uses strength. He even achieves great things through my fault. It is true that in our God repeatedly is immeasurable power.”