Sung Hye Choi is South Korean, but she has never lived in South Korea.
Sung Hye was born in the South American country of Paraguay. Her parents were among a wave of some 120,000 South Korean workers who immigrated to Paraguay from 1975 to 1990.
Even though Sung Hye didn’t live in South Korea, her life was surrounded by Koreans in Paraguay’s capital, Asunción. She studied at a Korean-speaking school, where her mother was the president of the parent-student association. On Sundays, Mother took her to a Korean-speaking church. At home, she ate Korean dishes like white rice and octopus.
One day when she was 8, Mother abruptly announced that the family would no longer attend church on Sundays.
“We’re not going to that church anymore, but we will believe in God,” Mother said.
Sung Hye didn’t mind. Not going to church meant that she would have more time to do her homework and even go shopping. She liked it when Mother gave her pocket money to go shopping for candy and small toys.
A year passed, and something unusual happened at home. Mother stopped cooking white rice and served brown rice instead. White bread was replaced with whole-wheat bread. Meat disappeared from the table at mealtime.
“Where’s the octopus?” Father asked.
Mother smiled and said she wanted her family to be healthy.
Then one day, Mother made another unexpected announcement.
“This week, we’re going back to church,” she said. “Do you remember going to church on Sundays? Well, now we’ll go on Saturdays.”
“Why on Saturday?” Sung Hye asked.
Father also was surprised.
“Why do you want to go to church again?” he said. “And why on Saturday?”
“Because someone from the Saturday church invited us,” Mother said.
She said the Bible teaches that Saturday is the Sabbath and that the Sabbath hours last from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
“You cannot buy or sell anything during that time,” she said.
Sung Hye wasn’t worried about selling anything. She was only 9 and had nothing to sell. But she liked to buy candy and small toys on Saturdays.
“Why Mom?” she said, pleadingly. “Why is everything changing like this?”
She learned that Mother had become good friends with a Seventh-day Adventist mother at the school. That Adventist mother had showed Mother what the Bible says about clean and unclean food, a healthy diet, and the Sabbath. She had invited Mother and the rest of the family to visit a Korean-speaking Adventist church on Sabbath.
On Sabbath, Mother grabbed Sung Hye and her 11-year-old brother and her 7-year-old brother by the hands and took them to church.
The Sabbath School teacher was happy to see the visitors.
“Look, our new children!” she said. “Welcome!”
She gave each of them a welcome gift. Sung Hye received a small teddy bear on a keychain.
Sung Hye loved the Sabbath School class. The teacher told interesting stories and gave a colorful sticker to each child who memorized a Bible verse. Sung Hye wanted a sticker!
Back at home, she began to wake up at 5 a.m., long before anyone else, to memorize the Bible verse for the week. It was hard work, but she wanted a sticker. Mother noticed that she was rising early but didn’t say anything.
Near the end of the first week, Sung Hye proudly announced, “Mom, I’ve memorized the verse!”
“Ahh, that’s why you’ve been getting up early,” Mother said. “You’ve been memorizing.”
On Sabbath, Sung Hye recited the memory verse perfectly in Sabbath School class and received a sticker. She was so happy! The teacher also was happy. Mother told her Adventist friend at school, and she also was happy. She gave Sung Hye a small sample bottle of shampoo.
“You are really intelligent,” she told the blushing girl.
After a while, Mother got baptized. Then Sung Hye and her older brother were baptized. Later her young brother was baptized. Finally, Father was baptized.
Sung Hye and her whole family became Seventh-day Adventists because one Adventist woman befriended Mother and invited her to church. There is great power in being a friend and inviting someone to church.
Today, Sung Hye and her parents live in Spain. Sung Hye loves reading the Bible and sharing what she reads about God with other people. She wants to know God even more, so she is studying about Him at Sagunto Adventist College.
“I am studying theology to understand God better,” she said.
She wants to be like the Adventist mother who brought Mother and the rest of her family to God.