Today we will talk with Jacob Park, a good friend and one the godliest man I know. He is the COO of CRAM. Their mission is to take the love of Jesus Christ to the people of Asia. By meeting their physical needs we gain the opportunity to meet their spiritual needs. Hunger is something people face daily. Many of them do not know when their next meal will be. Many people of Asia struggle with the fear of having no food to feed their family or themselves. In 1997, the Lord placed a burning desire within the hearts of C. Y. and Patricia Kim to evangelize and meet the physical needs of people living in the communist countries of Asia. Through God’s amazing grace and guidance, He has expanded those opportunities, and Christ Reaching Asia Mission (CRAM) Worldwide now shares benevolent works in China, North and South Korea, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Established in 1998, CRAM is an active accredited member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, ensuring our supporters that we follow the highest standards of accountability.
Let’s Go 360: letsgo360.org
Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032
Larrie: [00:00:56] Welcome to another episode of Let's Go 360. While the time is flying by, we are here in November getting ready to wrap up the year. This is episode 42. And so for our listeners, I'd encourage you to stay tuned. So sometime in mid-December, we're going to announce season two and we have some exciting podcast guests and interviews planned for 2023. But today we have a special guest. Jacob Park worked with us here at CCV for a number of years. He is now working in China for an organization called CRAM and CRAM and an organization that reaches out and helps those that are suffering some difficult times throughout Asia. He works through in China and North and South Korea, Cambodia and the Philippines. And so we're going to talk to him today about what God is doing through CRAM. And so just a little bit about Jacob before we get started. You know, Jacob was a part of our Missions program here at CCV as an intern. Now, he was born and raised in a Christian home in China, and he joined a mission organization called Christ Reaching Asia Mission. We call it CRAM, When he was 20 years old and he served as a volunteer coordinator for mission and humanitarian works in North Korea, China. Later, he studied at Johnson University and Arizona State University. And as I mentioned, he interned here at Christ’s Church of the Valley and after obtaining his bachelor's and master's degree, he returned to CRAM and serves currently as the COO.
Larrie: [00:02:39] Now he's working inside China due to pandemic and travel restrictions. Jacob, welcome to the show.
Jacob: Thank you, Larrie. Very glad to be here today.
Larrie: Yeah, well, it's. It's getting pretty late there. What time is it?
Jacob: 11:50 p.m., almost midnight.
Larrie: Oh, well, I'll try to keep you up, so don't fall asleep. And I know the weather is changing here, and I'm assuming it's getting colder there in China, right?
Jacob: Yes, we're in the low twenties and thirties around that.
Larrie: Well, now you're working in what city?
Jacob: Right now I'm in Qingdao. China. That's on the East Coast, on the northern side. We are about 45 minutes flight away from Seoul, Korea, and about a two-hour flight to the border where I used to work between China and North Korea.
Larrie: Why don't you tell us a little bit about your story, how you kind of grew up and got involved with CRAM?
Jacob: All right. Well, like I said, I was born and raised in a Christian family here in China. Throughout my career and my days of growing up, being Christian was not something being done. So I was being criticized because my beliefs. But when I turned 20, God has decided for me to dedicate my life for full time ministry and through some church connections, I started working with this couple, CY and Patricia Kim, missionaries from the United States and work in China at that time. And they have a special school, which is a designated school for Disabled Kids. And through working in China, the doors were open for them to work in North Korea. And that's how I got involved since since I am Korean/Chinese, I speak both Korean and Chinese languages, which I could provide some assistance for the missionary couple to work both in China and also in North Korea. And of course, North Korea is a country where religious freedom is forbidden. We were not able to go in there and plant churches and baptize people as we wish we can. However, through providing humanitarian aid, we were able to spread the gospel without a word. But by showing how much we love them and by being there when they needed us most. And somehow my family got involved with helping North Korean refugees who escape from North Korea. And they were hunted in China because they are called illegal immigrants. I think we're all very familiar with that term here in the States now. My mom was being arrested throughout one in one of the escapes, the North Korean refugees was running from China's border to Mongolian border. And my mom was leading them that way. She got arrested and been put in prison and sentenced for ten years of organizing illegal transgressing the borderlines. And that's when I was working with a missionary couple and I had to find a lawyer for my mom and appeal to the higher court. And trying to tell the government or the authorities she didn't do that for money. She was doing that out of her faith. And God was mighty and powerful even above the earthly authority. So she got released just less over a little bit over a year of being arrested. And we're really happy about her release. And because of that experience, I know God is in control no matter what kind of dangers we're facing and what kind of work that will do as long as we are serving him, he will protect us and he will grant us the freedom and the free passage when we need to. And that's basically how I got involved with mission work.
Larrie: Wow. That's. That's amazing. And you know what? What I know about CRAM, because I've obviously been associated with them for a number of years now and had the opportunity to travel to China and work with CY and Jacob in their ministry there and had the opportunity to actually go into North Korea with CY, where we took some rice to different orphanages in in North Korea and was allowed access because of humanitarian work that we were doing there at the time. And so this organization is how should I describe it? Brave. Has the courage of a lion and not afraid to go into places where they are not welcome and could be persecuted in order to spread the gospel. And so my experience in North Korea was eye opening as I saw how,what could have been a bad situation, God protected us and get us in and out of there at the time. So CRAM is known for that. What kinds of ministry and parts of the world are you working in now, Jacob?
Jacob: Well, North Korea shut its borders due to pandemic in the early 2020. That's been almost three years. However, we are still semi-active in North Korea. We couldn't send anyone in because the borders are closed, but there are connections still. We still support over 300 families inside North Korea that including husband, wives and children. Through some underground channels, we're able to send funds in and to purchase supplies and food and to help them throughout the most difficult times of their lives. Their lives were already difficult, but now it's just worse. And now we expand to countries like Cambodia and the Philippines. In Cambodia, we work with the local and international missionaries to operate a Christian school where there are 180 children who study Bible as well as earthly knowledges so they can be useful workers for their own country. Maybe in the future too, to study in Bible schools and seminaries. The Philippines, we start work there six years ago now we have 22 churches planted and over 3000 participants who goes to churches and other religious Christian related activities. We also started children’s sponsorship. We help 300 children every month, providing them food, medical care, as well as education opportunities. So they are from the slum areas. Most, most likely they would end up in what we call human trafficking or forced prostitution for girls and boys kind of gambling and stealing and fighting. So through Christian love and our efforts, we were able to help them to set their path straight through knowing God and studying Bible and memorizing God's words so they can have a brighter future.
Larrie: And so this is in the Philippines?
Jacob: This is in the Philippines, Yes.
Larrie: Oh, yeah. There's some amazing work going on there. And for those of you that are interested in finding out more about CRAM, you can go to their website at cramworldwide.org. I will include the links to their website in our show notes as usual. Now there is also work going on in Cambodia. And to my understanding, Jacob, I still think and I might be wrong here that you are still working with with people that actually have leprosy. Is that right? That is correct, yes. We build a colony or village for the people who have leprosy because it is a contagious disease and they are being outcast by their own communities where they originally belong. So we built this village for them. They can live in a self-contained way. They farm and they raise cattle and we provide medical care for them. So they are being treated. They are no longer contagious with the proper medication and some of them still able to work. Some of them cannot. But the food and supplies are being sent to their regularly. It is quite challenging due to the pandemic. Cities are locked down and food are very hard to get. But with this village, they are not facing as much as danger and as much of a discrimination as they used to be when they were living outside the city limits. We are trying to help more, but we are going to have to wait until the pandemic is over in this part of the world to be able to discover more people with leprosy.
Larrie: Wow. And you I know you also have a Christian school there, right? Some somewhere there in Cambodia.
Larrie: Where is that at?
Jacob: It’s in Stung Treng, sorry, my Cambodian is not that great. I don't speak the language. Stung Treng Christian school, started by a Canadian missionary. He built that school to help little kids anywhere from age five or six up to 18 to provide opportunity for them to receive education in that school. They can learn English language, which is a rare opportunities for even children who go to public schools. And they also learn about the Bible and taekwondo. I believe so. And they also learn about music, how to worship God with their beautiful voices and how to preach Bible on the weekends. And they also learn about work skills because in that part of Cambodia it's quite poor. It's about 7 hours drive from town, from Phnom Penh, the capital, to downtown, and it's a bumpy road with dirt, no pavement and that area is filled with a lot of poverty as well. We call them Kids Beyond the Woods. And with this school, they are going to be able to receive all the way up to high school level education. And if they wish to go into colleges, we have scholarships for them for that.
Larrie: Mm hmm. Now, for our listeners, CCV also has mission partners in Cambodia, Rapha International. You may recall on episode 21 where Stephanie Freed was interviewed. And so for those of you that are interested in Cambodia and in the sex trafficking work that we've partnered with, check out episode 21 as well. Now, I'd like to know about Sharon House. Can you tell us about that?
Jacob: Yes, sure. The house is a project to protect girls from sex trafficking in the Philippines. There's statistics shows that in the Philippines and there are over 300,000 girls who are being forced into sex trafficking. Half of them on the streets of capital city, Manila. And where we work, it's kind of a core city that's only 20 minutes drive on a good day from the capital city, Manila. And. The core city is also the largest slum in the Philippines, talking about over 300,000 people living inside a city so small, probably the size of three of the CCV main campus, something like that. And they are all bamboo shoots above the water because they don't have any money to purchase the land to do their own houses. And the Philippines is a Catholic country, so they don't allow birth control as well as abortion, which is illegal in the Philippines. Families can have up to ten or 12 kids. And girls are being valued very low in their in their culture. So a lot of girls, they are pretty much depend on themselves when they turn six or seven and their fathers are usually either drunk or gamble or still put in jail. So only mom is trying to take care of as many children as she could by working as a sewer or cleaning houses, making two or $3 a day tops. So a lot of these girls are being taken advantage of by the older men in the community or in the slum. Just by giving her a dollar or two, they can do whatever they want with her. So we decided to change the situation for the girls. We started this new project, the Sharon house, where we identify girls who goes through our churches and shows they are passionate to follow Christ and they're truly in danger. If they are not being protected, they may end up on the streets at night in Manila or being taken advantage by the men in their own communities. And now we have about 12 girls being protected by the Sharon House, and we're definitely in need of volunteers who can provide the counselling, who can provide training and education for the girls in the Sharon house because they all have dreams. They want to be teachers, nurses, flight attendants.They all have very bright dreams and they're very smart girls. We want to help more of these kind of girls in the Philippines, but our resources are very limited.
Larrie: Now, that brings me to the next topic, and that is how can we engage and participate with CRAM? At pre-COVID, we had mission trips that we would actually go there. Are mission trips now opening back up?
Jacob: Yes. Philippines just announced they're opening their borders earlier this year in 2022. If you know anything about the Philippines, it is a country's… Philippines economy heavily depends on tourism. Right now they are allowing foreigners to go into the Philippines within 48 hours of a COVID negative test. And so we're inviting all the churches and all the people who are wanting to be part of the Great Commission, which it follows CCV’s win, train, send model. They can go to the Philippines and worship with our churches and teach Bible and teach Sunday schools, as well as counseling our girls. Or if you're a man, you can help build the houses, repair those bamboo shoots, as well as play basketball and other sports with the boys who are at our Bible schools and there are just a whole lot of things to do. And it will be an eye opener for you when you go to the Philippines, because most people go there for pleasure because the casinos and go to the red light districts, you're going to see the true face of the Philippines where people are actually suffering.
Larrie: [00:19:46] Well, we'll follow up with you, Jacob, and I'll get Heidi and Anna, our mission trip coordinators here in touch with you so that we may get something on the books for next year. We are opening up big time for mission trips next year. We're back to pre-COVID numbers in terms of people attending on mission trips. We just announced a mobilization effort that will mobilize our medical sector here at CCV. And so we're excited about that. But we'll we'll get together and try to figure out how we can get trips planned. How about China, any any trips, opportunities there?
Jacob: Well, China is a different story. Right now, the government is very strict on how many people can come into the country. Everyone is hoping this will change in the coming year. However, we don't see any possible signals the government is sending out. Most of the cities in China are still shut down or partially shut down. Covid cases are surging in China due to the cold season. Flu season is coming up. Everyone's required to get a daily COVID test right now, and traveling between cities are forbidden or discouraged. I don't even know if any foreigners can come in just for a short visit as a tourist or even as businessmen. Let's keep our prayers up and we'll see if God can change the situation in the short, in the near future.
Larrie: Well, so did I understand you to say that people in China are required to get daily COVID tests?
Larrie: [00:21:36] Wow. So that means every day you have to…are these self-administered? Surely they have to be.
Jacob: So you go to street corners where there is a huge line of hundreds of people waiting in line to get COVID test. I don't know if that's really helping the case or not.
Larrie: Yeah. Well, that's probably another podcast in itself. Now, the other way I know you at one time could get involved with CRAM is through your residency program where you could actually go and take a midterm, a midterm trip where it's not short term, but and it's not long term, but it's a what was it, a couple of months or so? Is that is that available?
Jacob: Yes. Our plan is you can spend your whole summer vacation if you're a student or after three months with us with a residency program. And we will send you to two or three countries which include Cambodia, Philippines, South Korea right now, maybe future China. And so that you can be an English teacher in some wealthier Asian countries like South Korea and China that can make enough funds to support your entire trip so you don't have to worry about raising funds once you work there for a month or month and a half, you make enough money to buy your tickets to the Philippines and Cambodia and support your six weeks work there. And you can pay your own food, your own lodging, and you can work with our own missionaries and as well as our other volunteers, and also teach English, play sports, take care of the boys and girls and learn about these different cultures. I think that will be a life enriching experience for everyone.
Larrie: For sure, we're going to have to look into that more and make that available. What's the age limit? What's the age limit on that kind of a trip?
Jacob: Well, we didn't want to put a huge age limit on that. But we want you to be energetic. We want you to be passionate about teaching. So let's say if you're an experienced teacher, you can go there. Even you are 70 years old.
Larrie: But what about on the younger side? So is this is this this probably not a trip for a high schooler to go on during the summer?
Jacob: Probably not. We're encouraging at least college age girls to go there. Yes.
Larrie: Yeah. Well, Jacob, as we as we wrap up here, thank you so much for joining us. How can we pray for you?
Jacob: Thank you. Well, right now, the biggest need for me is to be able to travel internationally. I need to get my passport and get my visa and all of that. I have to wait in line until the government decides it is safe for the Chinese citizen to travel internationally and back. And second is for me to serve my purpose as a full time missionary here in China. Church gatherings are being forbidden and under the excuse of COVID. And a lot of church works are also being put on, I guess, hold. We don't know when that will be changed, but I was I was really adamant trying to get involved with a lot of local ministries going on mission trips to South China where there are tribal areas. But seems like this is really challenging. So let's pray about more opportunity for me to work in China as a full time missionary.
Larrie: I know one thing I'm going to pray for you about, and that is that heat comes to your apartment complex there. You know, Jacob was telling me earlier that the weather is getting cold, you know, 20 degrees. And the apartment complex has not turned on the heat yet. And so apparently they control when they turn on the heat and turn it off. And so let's pray that Jacob doesn't freeze and that they get that heat turned on for them. Well, Jacob, thank you for joining us again today. Give give my best to C.Y. and Patricia. I haven't seen them in such a long time. I just got back from ICOM last week and saw the CRAM display and I'm oh, I wonder if Jacob's here. And of course you're not. And so I miss you. So you need to get that password, get on a plane, get to Phoenix where it's warm and we'll catch up my friend.
Jacob: I always miss Phoenix in the wintertime, but thank you, Larrie. Very glad to be here. And God bless you all.