In mid-May 2007, a special testimony congregation of Dr. David Hee-Don Lee, Vice Chairman of the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA), took place at the Oriental Mission Church (OMC), Los Angeles.
At first, I was not interested in this meeting because I have heard little of him in Korea, and regarded his survival story from the scene of the 9.11 terror attack as "one of the so-so" stories.
However, I totally changed my mind when I listened to his testimony based upon his firm belief at the OMC Sunday service. He is a real successful example to be learned by the next generation. He shows how to enter the main stream of the United States. Further his faithful confession inspires challenging spirit to the Christian society. You can find plenty of news articles and moving pictures about his testimony.
Though he looks so young, Dr. Lee was born in 1959. He graduated from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), BA in Spanish, in 1982 and completed the master course in international relations at the HUFS.
When he intended to study abroad, his parents gave him only one-way ticket to Spain with no living expenses, encouraging him by a simple statement, "God of your ancestors will protect and guide you." So he couldn't help but ask the protection of God during his stay in Europe.
The educational achievements on his curriculum vitae looks very spectacular. He was awarded his Ph.D. in economics from Madrid National University of Spain. He also studied at Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, England. Later he finished the JD course at the Western State University School of Law, Fullerton, California. He studied further at the University California San Diego, La Jolla.
He worked as a senior fellow at the Center for US-Mexican Studies at the University California San Diego, and taught students as a visiting scholar at Kyoto University, Japan.
When I heard of his life story, I was amazed to know his life at critical moments was led by his QT (religious quiet time) student-turned wife. Because she left Dr. Lee with a short notice and went to America, he unconditionally left for the United States following her steps with his doctoral dissertation unfinished. At that time, he successfully persuaded a US consul without any financial requirement only by submitting a piece of paper, "Ten Reasons Why I Should Enter the United States" including the restoring of his lost love.
Later when he returned from Japan, he proclaimed, "Now hard times are over, we can enjoy good times." His wife disagreed and he had to quit the professorship and went on an evangelical mission to a remote country in Mexico.
Only God knows the consequences.
During his absence in the United States, his thesis on the regional development plan by enlarging the volume of world trade attracted the special attention of WTCA. So he was invited as a coordinator of WTC educational programmes and promoted to a vice president. In 1997, he was elected as the youngest director of WTCA, and in 2002, he was assigned as a promising Vice Chairman of the world trade body. At present, he serves as a re-elected Vice Chairman who is likely to become the Chairman in the near future.
Dr. Lee said that his boss, Chairman of WTCA, described him as a very competent person who devotes only a part of his ability to the organization. His boss knows that he fully commits himself to religious activities rather than devoting 100 percent of his time and energy to the management of WTCA.
Dr. Lee confessed frankly, "Yes, my capacity is 30 percent of my boss, or B-grade ability. But, he asks God, "Whom do You prefer of one guy who devotes to You 20 percent of his AAA-grade ability and another guy who is willing to devote 100 percent of B-grade ability?"
In Korea, only a former-Vice Prime Minister or a chairman of a big business group is entitled to be a chairman of WTC Korea. It means Dr. Lee's capacity has been well proved and qualified as a competent executive administering more than 320 World Trade Centers in 92 member states.
Then I'm very curious what leads Dr. Lee to this unparalleled success.
When he left Korea to study abroad, Dr. Lee had a grand vision, "World in His Arms." That's why he went throughout Europe for an evangelical mission. During the course, encountering people from all nations, he could master foreign languages - Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, Italian. (In the early hour morning prayer, he usually speaks all prayers in five languages in two hours every morning.) It is quite natural that he obtained the capability to associate with people and to negotiate and persuade them whatever the topic is.
Dr. Lee has an unforgettable episode during his flight to America. As he couldn't afford to buy a ticket, he managed to secure a space not a seat on an airplane called "Spondex" exclusive for ocean-going crew. Aboard the airplane, he met with a grim guy with tattoos on his whole body. Dr. Lee took courage to tell him the Gospel in his own language, and made friends with him.
The second secret is the strategy for "globalization." Dr. Lee worked his way through schools at both continents of the Atlantic. His dissertation at Madrid University focused on the regional development and the enhancement of peace by enlarging world trade. As he confessed, he couldn't imagine that his thesis would make a theoretical foundation of WTCA as well as NAFTA later on.
In the following year after he arrived at the United States, Dr. Lee obtained the U.S. citizenship. Since he was born in the Far East, Dr. Lee is generally recognized as an Asian American who understands the Western Europe, North and South America, and Asia. Accordingly, Dr. Lee seems to be well qualified as a member of global institutions like the Nobel Prize Committee, Fulbright Fellowship Committee, and the Board of Regents and Founder Fellow of Oxford University.
The final key to his success might be the courage and passion based on his faith and belief. Wherever he went, he took the courage to say what he believes. As he knows that he has a limited capability to succeed, Dr. Lee says that God be with him all the way. If he is a clever and able person, he would be proud of his own ability and resultant achievements. But it is not his case. All the achievements of his derives from God, he admits.
In this context, his view on finance and economic life is quite sure and simple. Dr. Lee and his wife have made it a rule to offer their tithes in advance expecting future incomes. He testifies that God is accurate and perfect even in the small amount in the long run, and it is wise to make God indebted to ourselves.
Actually he and his wife regularly offer a big amount up to one or two million dollars for the evangelical world mission. Even though he could not act as a missionary in the remote place of the Earth, he is very glad to support financially those missionaries in the name of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Lee was willing to testify that his wife has guided his road to success. At the final congregation at the OMC on May 20, Sunday, Dr. Lee emphasized that on the basis of the "World in Her Arms", her spouse could lead a successful life.
In my point of view, his wife is more superb than Dr. Lee himself. According to a series of his testimonies before the congregations in LA, London and Seoul, his wife, Mrs. Sun Song Yi, behaved herself beyond common sense, for example, her escape from his courtship to the United State, her unavoidable encouragement to an evangelical mission trip to Mexico, and the whole offering to the world mission of windfall gains from the sale of the LA town house equipped with a cascade pool.
To our surprise, the result was an unexplainable and magnificent blessing of God everytime, in particular, in the night of September 10, 2001 when Mr. and Mrs. Lee could not sleep because of her sporadic convulsions. She looks like a precog in the movie, "Minority Report." Next morning Dr. Lee had a sudden stomachache arising out of a cup of strawberry juice bought at the airport lounge instead of coffee, and had to spend a while at the WC. So he was late for the breakfast meeting at the top floor of the WTC tower building, and could see the terrorist-driven airplane hit the very building at its entrance gate.
He could narrowly escape the 9.11 disaster. The uninformed New York Times listed Dr. Lee's name in the casualty list because he must be there in that morning.
Dr. Lee told us that he sometimes regrets having married a wrong woman. It sounds like a candid confession of blessed marriage with his wife.
After the OMC Sunday service, I searched a number of audio and visual testimonies of Dr. Lee via the Internet, and concluded that he is delivering his own Gospel to other Christians and common people. It's because all the audience are witnessing the fact that he performs miraculous works by throwing an egg against a rock and successfully destroy it as if David fell down Goliath with a small stone.
In the Korean version