This afternoon I went for a walk around the campus and ended up sitting in the sun and talking for nearly an hour with a student named Sasha. He is ethnically Korean but he was born and raised in Russia—(Sakhalinskaya) an area Northeast of China. Sasha’s grandparents were shipped out of Korea by the Japanese to go to a Japanese occupied portion of Russia and to work as hard laborers in coal mines, rock quarries and the like. When Japan’s efforts in WW 2 began to wane the Japanese pulled out of that area of Russia and they left all of the Korean “slaves” in Russia to fend for themselves. It is from this group of “displaced” Koreans that Sasha’s life and heritage come.
Sasha is an amazing young man—he does not speak Korean but is fluent in both Russian and English, he is incredibly intelligent and amazingly gifted in music (plays guitar and bass). One evening last week I showed up at his dormitory with my guitar in hand and we sat, played and talked of music, life, and God. I let him use my guitar. He is a great player yet his guitar is warped and barely holds its tune. My guitar is so nice it makes even me sound good. He loved playing my guitar.
Sasha is a senior this year and has been at TCIS for the past four years, living as a boarding student and only seeing his parents every summer break. Sasha’s family owns and runs a small store in their rural Russian town. Sasha ended up attending TCIS because his parents had heard from some of their friends about a good International School in South Korea and they wanted him to have an education that would challenge him both academically and creatively and expand his horizons beyond the rather limiting Russian environment.
Sasha and his family are not Christians. Sasha’s faith in Christ is coming slowly and painfully—like all new life does. Sasha is a seeker and he is being sought by God. The most recent days have found Sasha dealing with some rather serious waves of depression. Living without parents during the formative high school years has taken its toll on his young life. Sasha’s Korean ethnicity and Russian cultural background have left him in the awkward place of being a foreigner in a place that he should be calling home.
As we leaned against a fence and the spring sun warmed our backs, Sasha shared with me his concern of returning back to Russia. He said the Russian people are so angry—they have nothing to look forward to and nothing to live for. Sasha said that here in South Korea people have money and they have God and it seems to him that those are two things that help people to be happy. He said in Russia people are poor and they are Godless—full of hate and anger and hopelessness.
I asked Sasha about the church in Russia and he laughed. He stated that all they have in Russia is the Orthodox Church and people only feel angry and frustrated when they think about the church—much the same way they feel about the mention of democracy or capitalism.
No wonder Sasha’s faith in Christ is coming so slowly.
As we strolled along the sidewalk and walked up the stairs back into the main building I was feeling the weight of Sasha’s words. My mind went to John 1:14,
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.”
I shared this scripture with Sasha and told him that the Word was God’s son, Jesus Christ, sent to us in human flesh. I reminded him that Jesus Christ was the One who said “blessed are the poor”—He was the One who touched the lepers, healed the blind, and He is the One who forgives the sinner and brings joy to hearts of the broken hearted.
I explained that God and His joy are not found in the Orthodox Church or in Capitalism, or in money or in any other concept or ideology—God can only really be seen in Jesus Christ. I told Sasha that what I need and what he needs and what the people in Russia and in South Korea need is Jesus.
As the bell rang and I headed toward my office and Sasha headed down the hall to his next class I heard him say, “Yes, that is what we need—see ya later Mr. Roberts.”
Please pray for Sasha.