We discovered that we had the same birthday — July 25. He was a 17-year-old from Korea, and I was a 15-year-old from Georgia. Seated next to each other in our Christian high school chapel assigned seats, we easily became friends. The only difficulty was language differences. I helped him learn some English words which were different from those he had learned shining boots for American soldiers in Korea. One of those soldiers decided to send him to the United States for his high school education in a Christian environment. We began an instant friendship now lasting for more than 70 years.

Dr. Billy Kim is the Chairman of the Far East Broadcasting Co. now. He has been one of the most influential pastors in South Korea. He is perhaps best known for translating Dr. Billy Graham’s sermon at Yoido plaza outside Seoul. It remains the largest physical gathering of people to hear a sermon anywhere in the world. Billy was also invited to speak at Dr. Graham’s funeral service two years ago.

That became another relationship we shared when I was invited to be part of the Billy Graham Crusade in 1957 in the old Madison Square Garden in New York. Over the years as our careers have grown and expanded, Billy and I have had opportunities to visit in each other’s homes and to share our pulpits and platforms both in the United States and in South Korea. What has joined us as brothers is our shared faith in Jesus Christ. That is the most important foundation of our friendship.

Billy’s international acclaim has resulted in several honorary doctorates and recognitions of his ministry along the way. Even though my degrees came the old-fashioned way, we have shared a common desire to minister through multiple forms of print, radio, television and video. I have continued to work on my writing career through books, journals and newspapers.

Now that both of us have reached our 80s and have faced some personal health issues along the way, we don’t have as many face-to-face opportunities to be together. Early this year, Canton First United Methodist Church hosted one of the children’s choirs from Billy’s congregation. It was a moving experience needing no translation from the smiling faces of those young children. I pray that some of them will grow up to be world leaders who share their faith with many here in the United States.

Dr. Kim is a frequent visitor to the Blue House in Seoul, which is the equivalent of the White House in Washington. When we last spoke of those “houses,” we were reminded that the Lord we serve has a Father’s house, where there are many mansions. I will look forward to standing by to hear the special words of reward for my Korean friend, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of your Lord.”

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Dr. James E. Kilgore retired as President of the International Family Foundation and lives in Canton. His most recent book, “Living Without Limits,” was published in late 2019 and is available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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