From a Buddhist to a Follower of Jesus

Hello, I am Hwanja Lee from Hanmaum Church in Chuncheon. I was a devout Buddhist but now I believe in the risen Jesus as the Lord of my heart and enjoy freedom. I’d like to share my testimony with you. I was raised in a Buddhist family as the second of 10 children. I had been sickly ever since I was little so I asked a shaman what I should do. She said that I would get better if I became a shaman too. I didn’t want to become a shaman so I refused her offer to help me receive a shaman spirit. Years passed and I got married and gave birth to my first daughter. My daughter had a lot of high fevers and convulsions and this scared her a lot. An elderly neighbor gave her acupuncture and introduced us to the neighborhood shaman. Then the shaman told me to make a puppet, pierce it with needles, dress it with my daughter’s clothes and throw it into the Han River. I was afraid that my daughter might die so I did everything the shaman told me to do. 

Later on my son was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. I was told that when a baby is born with his umbilical cord around his neck, he had to have a foster mother so I let a shaman lady be his foster mother. One day his foster mother came to me and told me that if I didn’t receive a shaman spirit, my six-year-old boy would die. So I decided to receive the spirit and become a shaman. I put on a shaman costume and a cone hat, held bells in both of my hands and stood with my arms raised high in the air. The shamans played drums and all kinds of different instruments to perform the spirit-receiving ritual. They did that for about 30 minutes but nothing happened to me. The lady shaman was covered in sweat, stopped playing, tilted her head and said “You’re strong” and told me to take off the shaman costume. I thought this must all be faked so I never went to a shaman again.

After that, I started to diligently attend a Buddhist temple in Yang-Gu. I spent one week out of each month praying all night long at the temple and coming back home early in the morning. I had a Christian friend who went to morning prayer service at that hour. When she saw me she clicked her tongue and said “You poor thing.” I was annoyed by that and we would argue a lot. I eagerly attended the temple but my eldest daughter took all of her siblings and went to church. When I found out about that, I got so angry that I yelled at her and beat her but my children hid their Bibles at my neighbor’s house and kept going to church. 

Later I found out that my children had prayed for me continuously and that my friend had also prayed for me every morning for three years. One day my friend said that she had one wish. I asked her what it was and she told me that it was for me to go to church with her just once. She promised that she would never ask me to go to church with her again so I gladly followed her to church. That Sunday we sat in the very first row. That meant I couldn’t sleep during the service so I sat there silently praying to the Buddha. Then the pastor said that there was a newcomer to the church and called my name. At that moment, I felt like a huge stone had been removed from my heart. The pastor told me to stand up and all the church members gave me a warm welcome but in my head I was thinking “Stop kidding yourself. I only have Buddha in my heart. I had eagerly gone to the Buddhist temple to escape my troubles but now I was a member of a church too?” I got worried that I was going to be torn in half. After the service, the pastor greeted me in person and I felt an indescribable love pouring into my heart. The thought that came to my mind was “There’s love at church.”

The next day at about three in the morning, my husband woke up and told me that he had an odd dream. It was about Jesus driving a flock of sheep into our household and they were breeding and feeding. The night before, my husband had followed my friend to church to an evening service after hearing that I had gone to church with her. It turned out that I had been dragged to church in the morning and my husband had been dragged to church in the evening. The next day at dawn, my friend came to my house to take me to the morning prayer service. I told her that I would never go to that but my friend said she wasn’t going unless I went too. Then she laid down in my living room so I asked my friend “You’re asian but why do you believe in a Western religion?” Then she replied “Does the sun rise only in the east and not in the west?” So I had no choice but to be dragged to church again. After five days of going to church, my husband suggested that we try converting to Christianity. He said that there were so many troubles in our household that he never felt peace so I told him we can’t dig two wells. Then he replied “If one well doesn’t provide us with water, we must dig another one.” Those words began to convince me. I was afraid that someone might die in our family if I changed my religion but I thought that if someone did die, the blame wouldn’t fall on me if I converted because I was listening to my husband. The next day, our whole family started to go to church together. 

Later on we moved to Chuncheon after my husband’s retirement and we started to attend Hanmaum Church. There I heard about the resurrection of Jesus from the pastor. Buddha hadn’t risen back to life but Jesus had. I learned of this amazing fact. Jesus was an actual historical figure written about in history books. When I read Romans 1, I learned that Jesus, who was raised from the dead according to the scriptures, was acknowledged as the Son of God by his resurrection. Hence I learned that Jesus was God. I had to receive Jesus as my Lord but I hadn’t believed in him as my Lord. Instead, I had lived in my own ways. That was called sin because I had been my own master. I had bowed down to idols and worried that something might happen to my family. That was why I had never had peace in my heart. When the Holy Spirit showed me how wicked my life had been in front of God, I repented the sin of living as my own Lord and received the risen Jesus in my heart as my Lord. After that, my life began to change little by little. 

One day God opened my eyes to the spiritual world through Jesus’ resurrection. God led me to believe that the Bible was reality. In 1 John 3, God said that hating your brethren was murder. It was so true, hatred was the same thing as murdering someone. One day, for no reason, I hated my third daughter, who was seven years old. How could I hate her when I believe in Jesus? I tried my hardest not to hate her but whenever I saw her, a hatred boiled inside of me. I thought “Have I gone crazy? My heart was very troubled.” A few days later I was praying when God asked me “Why do you hate my child? She is your sister in Christ.” and he told me that hating your brethren was murder. Then God showed me a scene of me stabbing my seven-year-old daughter with a big knife over and over again and I was so shocked. God led me to repent for three hours. I repented again and again as I writhed in remorse. God showed me how frightening it was to hate my daughter when Jesus my Lord was living in my heart watching everything. When I saw my daughter after that repentance, all the hatred was gone and she looked so lovable in my eyes. 

God allowed me to live the verse that says that whatever I did for the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, I did for him. My mom was suffering from diabetic complications and I was taking care of her while she and eight other members of our family lived together in a tiny apartment. We were financially broke and all four of my children were students. My mom had a bad cough and expelled a lot of phlegm and since she had poor blood circulation, her body was always swollen. I had to constantly massage her. We couldn’t afford to admit her into a hospital so she had to receive treatment as an outpatient. My siblings were also in financial hardship and unable to help and I felt so frustrated by the circumstances. Since we were a big family, I had to pack eight lunch boxes a day and wash a mountain load of dishes. It was hard to keep up with all the housework, nursing my mom and working but I always thought of the risen Jesus. One day I cried out to God “Father, why can’t my siblings help me out?”. Then suddenly I heard a loud voice say “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” That moment I realized that everything that I had done for my mother, I had done for Jesus. I surrender to these words immediately. “Father, I was wrong.” I repented and didn’t blame my brothers and sisters ever again. I also realized that it was a gift from God for me to take care of my mother. He had given me a chance to gain rewards in heaven. Later my mother went to the arms of the Lord in peace. 

Even though I was going to church diligently, I hadn’t been able to stop worshiping ancestors. Then one day, our pastor visited my home and told me to read Luke 16. I looked it up and it was the story about the rich man and Lazarus. I read “Between us and you a great chasm has been set in place so that those who want to go from here to you cannot nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Then I realized that once a person dies, they either go to heaven or hell and they cannot come back to this world at all. As the Holy Spirit gave me great assurance about this verse, my hands lifted on their own and I thought “I just caught a thief”. I thought that when people died, they became ghosts but that was not true. When I was having ancestor worship ceremonies, it wasn’t my family members who came back; it was evil spirits. I realized that the verse from 1 Corinthians 10 was true when it said the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons. The evil spirit was disguised in the image of humans to deceive people. I was fooled by these thieves thinking that they were my ancestors as I worshiped them. I clenched my teeth in rage at having been tricked. I told this to my family and we stopped having ancestor worship ceremonies.

God also had me realize how terrible it was to worry about anything. One day my husband suddenly had a heart attack and died. We no longer had a source of income and were faced with financial difficulties. That time my youngest child was about to finish his military service and was planning on going back to school. I was anxious about how I could support the whole family. Eight days after my husband passed away, I was in bed thinking about how I could support my family and all of a sudden I felt like somebody was scratching my leg. It hurts so I was trying to brush off the sensation but then I felt my leg being scratched even harder. Then all of a sudden, I saw thick white ropes woven into a net flying in the air. It covered me and I was caught in the net. My whole body was trapped in the net. It was such a terrible moment. The net was about to tighten when I screamed “Jesus” and abruptly got to my feet. Then the net disappeared without a trace. I had no idea how I managed to stand up. I felt like the Holy Spirit had helped me. That was when I realized why people died due to their anxieties and that I should never worry about things. Through this incident, I realized that what 1 Peter 5 says was the truth that when we are anxious, the devil devours us. Worrying in front of my Lord, even when the Almighty God had solved all my problems by coming to this earth then going back to heaven, was the sin of not believing Jesus as my true Lord. That was why the devil could try to wedge through that crack and devour us like a roaring lion. In Philippians 4, it says do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I gave all of my anxieties to Jesus. Then I was filled with peace. Now I’ve become a person who doesn’t worry about anything as God’s Word tells us. Now all of my children are grown up married and living well in Christ. I told my older sister and eight other younger siblings that they could also go to heaven when they repent and receive Jesus as their Lord. One by one they began to follow me to church. Recently I went on a mission trip for three days with a doctor to the southern part of Korea where my siblings lived. My remaining siblings, who still didn’t believe in Jesus as their Lord, finally heard the gospel and confessed that Jesus was their Lord. My nieces and nephews also came to believe in Jesus. One of my siblings who lives in Chang-Won comes to Chuncheon to attend the worship service every other week. When we went to huddle, we shared the gospel while we treated people with acupuncture and many people came to believe in Jesus as their Lord. They opened up their hearts since we were sharing the gospel while we were giving them acupuncture. I shared the gospel to my sister-in-law who lives in II-Sam and she received Jesus as her Lord in tears. I share the gospel wherever I go to the public bath or the swimming pool. Even though I’ve got a big body, I feel light as a feather and I feel great. I was a person who used to worship idols and if I hadn’t met Jesus, I would have lived my life worrying, hating and blaming other people but since I met the risen Jesus, I’ve given all my worries to my Lord and live in peace with the love that my Lord has given me. I give all the glory to my lord who is leading me to have a joyful, peaceful and abundant life.