Pastor Jim and Sharon Wood
A Miraculous Story of God’s Faithfulness
Born Li Yong Ho in 1954, James Wood spent his early life as a child of post-war Korea. At a time in life when most young boys are joining little league and learning to ride a bike, Jim would endure hardships and sorrow, and see horrors that most of us, thankfully, will never have to experience.
Starvation and sickness were rampant during this time. There was such an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and desperation among the people. Jim spent many days living with the street gangs, shining shoes, and doing whatever he could to find food. The memories of this time are vivid. Not only was Jim well acquainted with the suffering of poverty and hunger, but at the tender age of 4 he contracted a life-threatening respiratory illness. He was quarantined in a hospital with other kids who were terminally ill. The ward that he was placed in was a ward where children were not cared for, but kept until they expired. Jim was expected to die. While the situation was bleak, here is where Jim began to experience a supernatural presence that would prove to be with him for many years to come. Across the room there was a machine with a tube that would be inserted in a hole in the throat to remove congestion in the lungs and make breathing a little easier. There was no one there to administer this treatment. However, countless times, Jim felt something get him out of his bed, and lead him across the room where he himself- a mere 4 year old would pump his own lungs. Because of what could only be Divine intervention, he survived. Survivor is what best describes Jim Wood. As the years went on, he would experience many more close encounters with death. But one thing remained constant throughout- his life was always spared.
At the age of six Jim got caught in the middle of a mass riot and as people were throwing bricks, one hit him in his head. He survived. At the age of 8 he was playing near a river in a very deserted area. He somehow fell in, and not knowing how to swim, quickly became tangled in the weeds growing in the bottom of the river. There was no one anywhere to be found. Even if he cried out, there was no one to hear. He blacked out in the water and the next thing he knew- he was waking up on dry land- alone. Someone had rescued him, but there was still no person anywhere in sight. He survived.
As he grew older, Jim determined to fulfill the dream in his heart- to go to America. When people spoke of America, they made it seem like Heaven. Jim, being only 9 years old, went to a church and as they received the offering, he noticed that people were putting money in the baskets. He reached into his pockets and pulled out the only valuable things he had- two small metal washers that he would make into a toy much like a hackeysack. He took out the washers and as he put them in the basket, a prayer went up from his heart to a God he didn’t know. “Please take me to America.” His prayer would be answered. At the age of 10, he was adopted by an American family, the Woods. He tried to adjust to American life, but it wasn’t long before Jim discovered that America was not Heaven. His new family loved and accepted him, but to everyone else Jim was an outsider. He endured the ridicule and rejection of society well through his teen years and even as an adult. Trying to ease the pain, he turned to drugs and alcohol. But it only created more problems.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER?
Until then, Jim’s life was a series of battles that threatened to crush him, but still- he survived. At the age of 23, Jim married Sharon Mainiero. It was the spring of 1976, and Jim and Sharon were very happy newlyweds. But as time went on, his marriage began to fall apart. He knew that he loved his wife, but he didn’t know how to make her happy or make their relationship work. On Christmas Eve, they kept their tradition of drinking champagne and watching the pope’s midnight mass. He spoke of peace and the need for love. Jim couldn’t agree more. These were the very things he lacked in his life and in his marriage. He yearned to have what the pope spoke of, but didn’t know how to get it. This was something the pope never addressed. His situation seemed to have no remedy. Jim went back to work that new year with a heavy heart. His entire life had been a matter of survival, but this was different. He wanted more than survival, he wanted life. Up until now, he was just existing. One day, during his lunch break, he found himself sitting in the midst of a conversation about God. One of the men turned to him and asked him if he was saved. Jim replied that he was a Christian to which the man replied, “No you’re not, you are just religious.” The man then proceeded to show him what the Bible had to say about salvation. Jim had to admit that he never read the Bible before, so the man gave him one. Jim became so engrossed in its pages that he read the Bible through from cover to cover and reread the New Testament two more times. Now he could understand what the man meant when he asked “Are you saved?”- now he could answer “yes.”. Jim, along with his wife Sharon, gave his life to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior – the One who would accept him, heal him, and give him life. He went to church and started to notice changes in his life.
Although he still had problems to overcome, Jim was learning to praise God. He didn’t know much of the Bible yet, but he did know that there was a real devil and he made up his mind that he would never let the devil rob him of his relationship with God. He soon realized how difficult this could be. After a very stressful day at work, Jim came home tired and frustrated. This intense pressure, coupled with the marital tension at home eventually exploded into a serious argument between Jim and Sharon. They shouted harsh words and broke things- all in front of their 4 year old son. In the desperation of the moment, Jim left the room to get his gun. Before things got even more out of control, Jim decided to leave for good. It seemed to be his only option, the only way out. As he headed for the front door, his son clung to his leg. He looked down as his little boy cried out, “Daddy, don’t leave!”. Jim’s heart stopped. As he kneeled down and held his son, he broke down and wept. Jim never left that night. Instead, he went to bed weeping before God. Why were these things happening? Why did salvation suddenly feel like hell? Jim began to question God. And that night, God would answer him…
That night, Jim had a dream of Korea. Much more like a memory than a dream, he was a young boy again sitting on the sidewalk crying to go home. As he sat there, scared and weeping, a bright light appeared in front of him. A voice spoke to him and asked, “What is the matter? Who are you looking for?”. As he looked up into the light, he saw a figure dressed in a white robe. He couldn’t see His face, but the Person just kept comforting and talking to him. Jim cried, “I want to go home.” The Man told Jim that he would take him there. They began to walk together. As they walked, the man comforted Jim with these words: “Trust me, believe in me, I am the way.”. As they came around a street corner, a figure dressed in black and wearing a hood with a sack on his shoulder ran out and, just before he turned the corner, he looked directly at Jim. Jim saw that he had red eyes and the sack on his shoulder was moving. It looked as if something was kicking around inside of it. As the Lord looked in that direction, the dark figure disappeared. Jim and the Man entered a kitchen much like the one he knew in Korea. The great light from the Man filled the entire kitchen and Jim was hungry. The Man continued to say to Jim, “Believe in me, I am the way.” Jim searched through his pockets for something to eat and as he took the things out, the Man pushed them aside and said, “I have things for you to eat.” He looked up and saw that the Man had provided food for him. As he ate, the Man continued to comfort him saying, “I am the way, trust me. “The next morning Jim awoke and knew in his heart that what he dreamed was Christ Himself in His glory. God Himself had given him the comfort he needed and reassured Jim that He was the way and only He has the food for eternal life.
For over 30 years now, Pastor Jim Wood stands on this very Truth. Living as a Christian has brought him the comfort, belonging, and fulfillment that he longed for. His ministry has lead countless people to the Truth that saved his life. Now, Pastor Jim can finally say that he has found Heaven, it’s not in America or any other place- but in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. In September of 2002, God again showed his faithfulness to Pastor Jim and Sharon. His heart’s desire was to return to Korea one day. He finally took the long trip back, hoping to locate his uncle, whom he had lost contact with 40 years ago. Seoul is a city of 11 million people. In a time when residents of Seoul are unsuccessful at locating relatives within the city, Pastor Jim was told that it was very unlikely that he would find him. Although his uncle’s name Cho Wan Sung, a common name, the local police decided to start making phone calls. The first call they made revealed that his uncle was living within blocks of the hotel where he and his wife were staying. God had made a way for them to be reunited after all these years. Everyone was stunned- but not Pastor Jim and Sharon. They always knew that God would honor his Word.
Dare to believe God.