True Leaders

At the end of my last trip to Korea, the board members of House Church Ministries International took a trip together. The board was created according to the bylaws passed last January. 1/3 of the board members are elected every year, so it’s necessary to spend time together like this to get to know each other. We decided to have the very first meeting in Korea.

We met at Tongyeong, the birthplace of one of the board members. He had claimed that its scenery was as beautiful as the Mediterranean Sea, if not more so. We found that he wasn’t exaggerating.

Besides its picturesque scenery, Tongyeong is known for being the headquarters of the legendary admiral Yi Sun-Sin during the Japanese invasion in the 16th century. He destroyed many Japanese ships in a major battle near Tongyeong, forcing the Japanese to retreat from the peninsula.

We spent one afternoon visiting Admiral Yi’s battle sites. We visited a mock iron-clad turtle ship, which was invented by Yi. The tour was especially interesting to me because I’m a great admirer of Admiral Yi.

When I was in training before being commissioned as an Ensign in the Korean Navy, one of the history classes was devoted entirely to Admiral Yi. I was so fascinated by him that I got a perfect score on the final, although I didn’t do well in my other classes as I tended to sleep due to fatigue.

His life ended tragically because the king he served was not a true leader. He favored Admiral Yi at first, but became suspicious and jealous of him later. He relieved him of his commission and imprisoned him, even though he had won every battle against the invading Japanese navy. He was reinstated to his former office when the Japanese invaded again. But he knew that because of the king’s suspicion, he would be relieved once more when the war was over. At that time, when someone was found guilty of treason, three generations – his parents, his brothers and sisters, and his own sons and daughters – were customarily put to death. So he intentionally exposed himself to danger in his last sea battle against Japan. He was shot and died after leading the Navy to victory. This is what conspiracy theorists say about his death.

It’s sad that Yi, who many claim to be one of the 4 greatest admirals in human history, didn’t flourish because the king he served was not a true leader.

Suppose Admiral Yi had met with Jesus. What might his life have been like? He might have lived a long, prosperous life because unlike the king he served, Jesus is a great servant king, who helps others live great lives. Admiral Yi might have lived a life as great as the Apostle Paul’s. We are so fortunate to serve a king like Jesus, who enables us to become great, and is so unlike the king Admiral Yi served.

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