Billy Kim: from 'lowly houseboy' to Baptist World Alliance president

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--If not for the kindness of an American soldier, Sgt. Carl L. Powers of Virginia, Billy Kim said that he would not be a Christian and the current leader of the Baptist World Alliance.

After Kim's school was bombed during the Korean War, he decided that "working for an American soldier would be the next best thing to getting an education." In exchange for Hershey bars, C-rations and cigarettes that his mother would sell on the black market, Kim cleaned soldiers' tents, gathered their firewood, and made certain that the fires in their stoves were not extinguished.

Kim spoke at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Jan. 30 and described how Powers took interest in a "lowly houseboy."

Kim said that he didn't speak English -- other than curse words he had learned from American GIs -- and he had no money, but Powers saw potential in him and promised to provide the funds necessary for him to study in the United States if he could get permission from his mother. At first she declined the offer because she feared that she would never see her son again. She accepted the offer only after Powers promised her that Kim would return.

"I had no choice of the country in which I was born. ... We were so poor. But I had a chance to come here and study," Kim said. "I wanted to study political science, go back to Korea and become a politician -- because in my country, if you become a politician, a lot of people give you money and you are not going to be poor anymore.

"But God had something else on his mind," Kim said. Shortly after Kim began his university studies, a Korean graduate student led him to Christ. He rushed home and told Powers that he had trusted Christ.

"Sgt. Powers said, 'You know, I have never trusted Christ as my Savior.' That afternoon, there on the back porch, he opened his heart to Christ," Kim said.

Powers paid for eight years of Kim's education as promised. "He paid for my tuition, my shoes, my clothing and my books," Kim said.

One afternoon while Kim was in college God called him to minister to his own people. "God said to me, 'You have so many politicians over there, they don't need you. I want you to go back to Korea carrying the gospel message to your people and your family," Kim recalled.

That day the course and destiny of his life were changed forever, Kim said.

Today Kim pastors the 12,000-plus-member Central Baptist Church in Suwon, South Korea. He also is president of the Asian Baptist Federation and director of Christian Service, Inc., in Seoul and the chaplain of the Korean National Police. He also founded Suwon Central Christian Academy and Capital Bible College and Seminary in South Korea.

In 1979 Kim's son contemplated his own call into the ministry. Kim said that if he wanted to study for the ministry the United States would be the place to accomplish the task. Kim brought his son and the rest of his family to the United States by way of the Holy Land.

When Kim phoned Powers and invited him to join the family on the trip, Powers said that he would go on one condition. "I've never been baptized," Powers told him. "If you will baptize me in the River Jordan, I will come."

"I was able to baptize the man who meant so much to me, a man who went beyond the call of duty of his country, who befriended a houseboy, brought him to this country, gave him an education, and sent him back to his own people," Kim said.

"I have seen literally hundreds of thousands of people come to Christ because of Sgt. Power's efforts. Don't underestimate the power of Jesus Christ," Kim added.

Kim's admonition to his chapel audience was that they, too, should view Christ in the same way: as the God who can use even a houseboy to share the gospel of love and redemption. God has done so, Kim said, because he is supremely concerned with reconciling the souls of men.

"How much are you willing to give to save a man's soul?" Kim asked.

He noted that Time magazine had estimated that in the 5,560 years of recorded human history 14,531 wars have been fought. "That's about 2.6 wars fought every year," he said.

"How much did it cost to fight those wars?" Kim asked.

"In 54 BC, in the time of Caesar, they estimated that it cost 75 cents to kill one enemy soldier. During the time of Napoleon they estimated it cost $3,000. During the time of the First World War, it cost $21,000. During the Second World War, it cost $200,000. If there were a World War III today, the cost would be $1 million for each enemy soldier killed," he said.

Christians should spend as much on the salvation of each man, Kim said.

"We are prepared to spend $1 million to kill one enemy soldier in order to protect our lives, protect our country and protect our wealth when Jesus said, 'What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul,'" he said.

"God put a premium on man's soul above everything else in the world," Kim added. "That's why you are studying in this institution, to go out and tell the world. How much are you willing to give in order to give a man eternal life?"


Mallory is a newswriter for Southwestern Seminary. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BILLY KIM.