FIRST-PERSON: My first day in America

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (BP) -- God wants us to redeem each and every precious day He has given to us, to build up a history of faith.

That's why the Lord commanded Joshua to gather stones, one for each tribe, to commemorate the crossing of the Jordan so that they had a testimony to give to the next generation when they ask: "What do these stones mean to you?"

For me, one of the days to mark with a stone of remembrance was when I immigrated to America from Korea.

It was a dream of mine to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Filled with youthful excitement even though I didn't know what the future may hold, I boarded the plane on Tuesday, May 30, 1967.

When the Pan American flight from Korea to Hawaii landed on the tarmac of Honolulu International Airport, I descended the steps of the plane and finally touched down on American soil. A tropical ocean breeze greeted me warmly in the spirit of Aloha! I followed the other international travelers through customs. By the time I picked up my belongings at the baggage claim, I had missed the connecting flight to Hilo, Hawaii. That was my first day in America.

Paul Kim, in 1967, was ready to depart from Korea to make a new life in America.
Submitted photo
A friendly airline agent helped me book a flight for the next day. I had to stay overnight at the Honolulu Holiday Inn near the airport. The next morning, I came down to the lobby to look around. Everything was new to me, even the vending machines. At first I couldn't figure out how they worked but was finally able to get a pack of chewing gum, which cost 5 cents.

When I arrived in Hilo, my mother and older sister were anxiously waiting for me. They had immigrated to Hawaii a year earlier. I was so happy to make a home in America. It was a childhood dream come true.

I came to know Christ as my personal Lord and Savior the following year, in the summer of 1968, while on a one-month furlough after entering the U.S. Army.

Whenever I read about Abraham, I wonder how he felt leaving Haran, the place of his birth. What was his first day in Canaan like? In Genesis 12:7 we read, "Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.'" There he built an altar to the Lord.

In the summer of 2001 I had the privilege of visiting the birthplace and church of John Bunyan in Bedford, England, during Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's summer study program at Oxford. In his classic, "Pilgrim's Progress," Bunyan allegorized the Christian life as a perilous journey to a new land.

We are all strangers and pilgrims in this world. And just as we have all experienced the hope and anticipation of the first day in a new place, we long for our final destination.

In Hebrews 11:40, it states that God had provided something better for us. By faith the people of God will enter the heavenly promised land to be with God who saved us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Maranatha!

Paul Kim is the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee and pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.
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