Testimonies of Grace: Sam Won

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I mentioned in a previous posts that I wanted to start posting different testimonies of grace from The Bridge. Today, I will be sharing Sam Won’s testimony of grace. If you have every visited The Bridge, then you will know Sam. He is the first to welcome you and the first one willing to serve in any and every capacity. He is a licensed pharmacist who is currently pursuing his Ph.D at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has been a blessing at The Bridge and below is some fun facts about him.

sam won

1. What is your dream car?

Either a mint 1984 Toyota Sprinter Trueno hatchback (known in the U.S. as the Corolla GT-S) or a 1986 Ford Mustang GT convertible.

2. What book has challenged you the most, besides the Bible?

This is a hard question. I really can’t reduce impactful books to just one, but Through Gates of Splendor (the story of Jim Elliot and the missionaries who were martyred in Ecuador reaching out to the Auca tribe) and the story of Jim Elliot definitely left a major impression on me as a young believer.

3. What was the worst job you ever had?

I once worked as a janitor at Brook Mays music store in Mesquite, TX. Though cleaning toilets wasn’t fun I did get an employee discount on musical gear so it did have some benefits.

4. How did you end up at The Bridge?

You can say I grew up at the Bridge. My dad was the pastor of Korean Bible Church which would eventually become part of Hanuri Korean Church. When I returned to Dallas in ’97 to attend Dallas Seminary I returned to Hanuri and served in the English Ministry. This EM would evolve into the Bridge.

5. What inspires you at The Bridge?

Being part of a community that loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him and making much of him is what really energizes me more than anything else. I see these things at the Bridge now and I see the potential for so much more. I love it.

Here is Sam’s testimony:

I was 12 years old and comfortable with my life. I considered myself a Christian having attended church as long as I could remember, but what happened on Halloween night in 1982 would shake me up and cause me to take serious stock of my spiritual standing. I was at church for a youth ministry event and the youth pastor thought it would be keeping with the “scary” motif of Halloween to show a well-known Christian B-movie called, A Thief in the Night. The movie was pretty bad by cinematic standards and attempted to depict an “end-of-the-world” scenario based on the rapture of Christians leaving the world in chaos and on the verge of the tribulation (think a bad 70s take on Left Behind). As bad as the film was, to a 12 year old who believed the Bible, it was frightening to contemplate the stark consequences of not being a Christian when the end of days finally came to pass.

That evening I asked my dad how I could be absolutely sure that I was a Christian. My father, understanding what I was wrestling with, carefully explained to me the good news of Jesus Christ. He led me through the reality of my sinfulness to the amazing grace of God who sacrificed his son, Jesus, on the cross so that my sins would be paid for and I could be made right with God. He explained in ways that I could understand how faith was the key to accepting God’s gift of salvation. I was ready to make sure of my salvation and so I prayed with my dad to trust Jesus as my Savior and to commit myself to him as Lord.

For years I thought of that Halloween as my spiritual birthday. I remember that evening as the first, concrete declaration and expression of my faith in Jesus Christ and so I considered that to be that moment I became a believer. However, my teen years were anything but an inspiring story of faith and a life lived well for Jesus. Coincidentally my father became a pastor right around the time I declared my faith in Jesus. Being a pastor’s kid during my teen years proved to be a rough season of my life. I was ill-prepared for the deep questions and challenges that would confront me in relation to my faith. I struggled to reconcile my status as a follower of Jesus with my teenage desires for identity, significance, acceptance, and success. I found that the popular culture’s ideas of what was “cool” and successful often clashed with the Christ-like life I aspired to. To complicate matters, I had a hard time adjusting to being a pastor’s kid. I did not grow up a PK so it was hard to suddenly live up to the expectations that people in the church placed upon me. The bottom line is that my high school years were a conflicted season where I often failed to live in a way that reflected well on Jesus.

If my high school years were characterized by growing pains, questions, and struggles, my college years could be considered the season of “re” – revival, renewal, recommitment, reaffirmation, and so on. Through a wonderful confluence of friendships, campus ministries, and church ministries, I came to embrace my relationship with Jesus and my identity as a child of God and a disciple of Jesus. I was blessed by fellow students of vibrant faith who encouraged and challenged me. I was presented with opportunities to exercise my faith in meaningful ways, whether by serving in church, being a small group leader, leading worship, or going on mission trips. This is the time when God gave me a pivotal, defining sense of calling to ministry. At a college retreat in my junior year I was listening to the speaker talk about our lives as unfinished stories. He challenged us to consider which author would make the most of our life stories. At that time I made a conscious decision to let God author the rest of my life. I handed him the pen, so to speak. I committed to let him define what I would be and what I would do. This is the time when the seeds of ministry were planted. This is also the time when Hanna entered my life. As I was experiencing a vibrant and exciting time in my walk with God I was blessed to meet my soon-to-be wife. I was drawn to her faith and her godly character. When she revealed that she saw her life’s calling as supporting a man fully-committed to serving God I was convinced that she was the person with whom I wanted to share my life journey. The sense that our faith was an essential facet of our relationship convinced me that being with Hanna was very much a part of my faith journey and the intervening years of serving together in ministry and missions have only confirmed this.

Allow me to close by returning to that Halloween night in 1982. For so long I had thought that the events of that evening defined my becoming a Christian. As I’ve reflected on my life and had the benefit of some years (ok, maybe a lot of years) I have come to view my testimony in a different light. I realize that I was likely a Christian before that night. When I look back on my early childhood and the wonderful ways in which God used believing parents and loving church communities to shape me, I realize I had developed a faith in Jesus Christ before that Halloween. I can’t pinpoint a moment or instant when I definitively became a Christian but I do know that I was gently and graciously led to know that God loved me and that Jesus had died for me. I understood that God loved me enough to provide a way to have a relationship with him in spite of all my failures and flaws. I believe that God used that Halloween night to confirm my belief in the Gospel, but the journey of faith had already begun. My high school struggles actually became the rough soil in which seeds for future maturity and growth would be planted. My college years were the season of harvesting when seeds planted in tears grew into a harvest of joy. Today my faith exhibits both signs of maturation, as well as life-long scars. My journey has been one of both stumbling and soaring. I believe that the brokenness and scars that are part of my faith story only serve to help me serve Jesus and his people more meaningfully. It becomes more apparent as I grow older that God never wasted a moment when I looked to him. In obvious and subtle ways God was responsive anytime I reached out to him. He responded in ways that a five year old could understand, as well as in ways that challenge every bit of my forty-five year old soul. To quote a favorite Steven Curtis Chapman song, “my Redeemer is faithful and true.”

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