I Truly Believe

Martin Hwang | Germany

My name is Martin Hwang, and I am 37 years old. I was saved on the 5th of November 2011. Here is the story of my fourteen-year-long search.

I was born and raised in Dortmund, Germany but moved to Dusseldorf in 1994 when I started medical school. A friend of mine who I had known from childhood on already studied medicine in Dusseldorf. Her name is Chi-Won Park. About two years later when she moved into the dormitory where I lived, she introduced me to her roommate In-Ae Lee. She began to talk to me about the bible. She suggested that I attend the Bible conference. I had received some religious education during mid- and highschool time, but this seemed to me like any other subject I learned about. I also did not think that the bible was true. Still, I accepted an invitation to a bible conference which took place in Burg Bilstein, Germany in 1997.

The sermons were numerous and long and at the end of the conference I just thought: well, quite interesting concept, but I did not feel affected in anyway. However, I stayed in contact with In-Ae and with the time passing on, I also watched the BIT tapes and went to some bible conferences. Looking back from today, I think I was more attracted by the friendly and welcoming atmosphere; I also regarded this as an opportunity to make friends. I had no longing inside me to search for God or looking for truth. At that time I felt fine in my life, my studies were going along very well, so why look for something else?

Then there was a long time when I had no interest in the bible at all. I did not go to any conferences and neither I had contact to the moim. I was absorbed by my work life. But eventually, In-Ae resumed contact with me and I started going to the conferences again, even though it was more like an annual routine rather than a serious search for God. It was during that time that I realized that the bible was true. I could not find any contradictions and also the history of the Jews made sense to me.

But there was always a point I could not relate to: my sins. Although I understood what sins were, I did not think of myself as a sinner. When In-Ae asked me if I thought of her as a sinner, I told her yes right away, but it was a no for myself. How stubborn in retrospect.

 I had personal counseling, mainly because I was asked and not because I asked for it myself. After these counselings, I always thought I did not know enough to come to a solution. I wanted to read more in the bible, think more of myself and then maybe have a better foundation. Salvation had no actual meaning to me, the only thing I was aware of was that there was a thing within the moim I could not explain; something uniting so that everyone was aiming for the same goal.

Back home, I never managed to keep my resolutions. After a few weeks time, I would be lost again in daily life: work, meeting friends, the internet… All these things were a very strong distraction for me but I did not realize that they did not make me happy.

Then again, time passed by without me making any progress. Two years ago, we started a Monday meeting, which, in the beginning, mostly consisted of Ki-Ok Lee, Theres Herbrand and myself. We watched the BIT tapes again and when that was done, went over to watch nearly all conference sermons that were available in the KWS. In the end, I was not sure if these meetings were quite helpful and my motivation to attend the meetings degraded slowly and slowly.

In-Ae recommended me not only to go to the German bible conference but also to attend a bible conference abroad. So in 2010, I went to my first Korean bible conference. I had not been to Korea in a long time and I was not sure what to expect.

I think my attitude changed during that conference. I had tried to take part in moim activities but since I did not like to talk about myself, some people did not even know I was not saved yet, which, as a matter of fact, did not bother me too much. But In-Ae asked me to tell people right away I was not saved and I was surprised by the response I got: every single person I met had good advice for me and would tell me about his or her problems when trying to find salvation. There was always a deep concern for me. So maybe opening up to people could help me being honest to myself and to God.
I also tried to have more counseling, but after several tiring sessions I still could not admit that my sins were forgiven. I could understand that I had sins, but would only admit some minor sins. I did not think of myself as such a bad person after all. Every time I was asked if I believed my sins were gone, I just could not say anything or “maybe I know the bible tells me they are gone, but…’. I tried to be humble, even prayed for it, but nothing changed.

After the conference, I quickly got back to my old routine. Soon, the Europe bible conference came but I did not put too high hopes on it. I honestly did not expect to receive salvation, but simply thought: well, who knows what good it is for…. But I attended the Bible conference. Once again, I had many personal counselings, always with the same counselor, and he told me that I already knew everything I had to know. At one point, he even asked me to explain the bible to him. But still I felt stuck and I was not moving forwards.

I added Taekwondo to my activities, tried to get a clearer mind by doing sports, but by the end of the year, I just felt empty. In 2011, I only went to the Monday meetings, did not go to the Sunday sermons and had very little contact to the church. My interest in the bible and in salvation was very low.

Then in July, Chi-Won and In-Ae came to visit me at my place. Chi-Won had just been to Prague to see the exhibition and was so excited to tell me about it. In-Ae asked me to join her on a trip to Prague and I hesitated. But we went there. The artworks were somehow very simple but made a deep impression on me. Just shot out of one window but yet so diverse and full of life… This was just the weekend before the korea bible conference. I was having vacation but as I did not feel so connected to the moim, I had not made any plans to go to Korea. However, I booked a flight to Korea on short notice and two days later, I was in korea.

Once again, I tried to listen carefully to the sermons, and I also had some counseling but none of these gave me the feeling of making any progress. Every time we went through the bible, all the verses we read were already highlighted in my bible. I had the feeling I had read them a hundred times at least. Without further results, I had to leave right after the conference because my vacation was over.
I dove right into work and had to do a lot of overtime and on-call shifts. Physically and mentally, I nearly felt burned out (also had I lost some weight which did not put a healthy look on me). As I had already fixed my vacation plans the year before, I had time to go to the Europe bible conference in Sonthofen, South Germany.

Exhausted from my work, I spent the most part of the first two or three days in my room, sleeping. I tried to follow the evening sermons thoroughly and was amazed how the preacher Mr. Lee could talk about the history of Balak and Balaam(Numbers 22-24) on three evenings in a row. At one point, he mentioned Genesis 27. When Esau realized that Jacob had taken away his blessing, he just -cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry(Gen 27:34)-, knowing that his blessing was gone for good. Reading these verses, I just thought: this is not how I want to end.

On the last day of the conference, I had a quite short personal counseling before the evening sermon and wanted to have another one after, but all of the counselors were occupied. So I waited, but at 2 am I felt so tired that I went to bed. The next morning, I heard that Theresa had received salvation that very night. I felt happy for her but also questioned myself: what if I had not gone to bed but had looked for someone to talk to like Theresa had done? With the same feeling of emptiness I had known from so many conferences I went back home.

The next day, I was disappointed because none of the counselors were expected to come to Dusseldorf. But I had made the experience that a conference was not really over with departure day as there were always meetings the following days. So I went to the evening meeting at the KWS and met with Dong-Ha kim and In-Ah Lee at the EMG office. We started reading bible verses and it seemed like any other counseling to me. After a dinner break, In-Ae joined us and she drew me something on a sheet of paper she had found useful when translating during a counseling session (it was the same drawing she had shown to Theresa the night before).

The first drawing showed three concentric circles named Body, Soul and Spirit-from outside to inside. Adam, the first human being on earth, had a living spirit but it turned into a dead spirit when he believed the serpent. So as a descendant of Adam, I had a dead spirit, too. This was not my fault, it just happened to be that way. Like in school class, In-Ae asked me if this was true or false. As I could not deny it, I said true. Then In-Ae wrote God, Sin and Martin one underneath the other. I had seen this so many times and when In-Ae asked me if I believed that Jesus died for my sins, I just said no. Like so many times before.

There were many people giving me good advice in order to find salvation: -be humble, do think like a child, don’t think of yourself with your own standard but with God’s standard, don’t overthink it, just take it simple…. During all my counselings I think I tried to apply all of these but in the end I ended up confused. I did not really know what it meant to do think like a child or how to take things simple. I would have loved to have an operating manual and be able to follow it step by step. I know now that this is not how it works.

We went through that scheme a couple of times and the last time, I simply said that my sins were gone. How was that possible? I remember one counseling where I intentionally wanted to say that my sins were gone, but even then, nothing came out of my mouth. But this time, I just knew it was right. I was thinking to myself: This is weird. Maybe it is not salvation after all and there has to be more. But every time In-Ae asked me if I believed that Jesus died for my sins and if I believed they were gone, I said yes without hesitation. A simple and sober conclusion, nothing more, nothing less. There were no emotions involved, no laughter, no crying, no relief. It was more like a slight breeze that I almost had not noticed at all.

In-Ah and In-Ae went downstairs and left me reading John’s gospel. The words were the same as before but this time, I was included. And when I came to John 3:18 (He who believes in Him is not condemned) I was absolutely sure that I was not going to be judged. I could not read any further as Ce-line Lee, Chi-Hye Oh and Ki-Ok came to pick me up. So we went downstairs where there was still the meeting going on and I gave my testimony.

In the days after my salvation, I asked myself everyday if I was only convincing myself of my salvation and if I was just saying what other people expected me to say or if this was a true fact. It felt like two voices in my head, one saying: -You are being foolish. What you believe is nonsense, the other one saying: You are saved. But every time I asked myself: Do I or do I not believe that my sins are gone-, the answer was always I do believe, so my certainty about my salvation remained.