Street Peddler Becomes Millionaire, Discovers True Wealth

Self-made millionaire Jeanhee had finally done it.  She was living the American dream.

She explains, “I made enough money to do everything I wanted.  I traveled, I could buy anything that I wanted.  But ultimately, there is something missing.”

Growing up in a small South Korean village, Jeanhee longed to be more than a rice farmer like her parents.  Her father, a gambler and alcoholic, abused his wife and their five children.

She says, “My father was never around when we were growing up.  It was all on my mom.  And whenever he came home at night, he'll start beating us.  I was thinking we were the trouble for him.”  

Feeling as though she were a burden to her parents, she tried prove her worth by being a good worker.

Jeanhee says, “Ever since I could remember, I helped my mom, to lessen sadness, ‘cause my dad was never around to help her.  And I thought that would have been good enough for her, uh, to consider me as a good daughter.”

Often, Jeanhee prayed to God for a better life.  

She recalls, “I used to pray to Him to feel sorry for me and give me some more food, or help me run away one day.  That kept me going, ‘cause uh I knew that I didn't belong there, and I was getting out.”  

In school she studied hard, believing education was her ticket to a better future in America.  But when she was 16, her parents heard a false rumor that she’d kissed a boy.  Her father slapped her and called her a whore.  Her mother offered no defense.

Jeanhee says, “I didn't deserve it.  I was looking at my mom to help me here, and she just – she was with my dad's side.  Didn't bail me out.  Didn't believe me. And I felt betrayed.  It hurts me.   I couldn't – I couldn't let it go.”

To get back at them, she started rebelling.  A few months later, she got pregnant and had an abortion.  She was then expelled from school, and became a social outcast.

She says, “I could never go back to school.  I was nobody.  And I was a shame to my parents.  They don't want to see me. No one wants to see me.  And I said, ‘Even God is not here to help me.’  I was totally hopeless.”

So she ran away to the South Korean city of Osan.  She became a prostitute, with plans of finding a husband from a nearby U.S. military base.  Within a year, she was engaged and on her way to America.   

She remembers, “I see myself as finishing college and be somebody, have a good job, or living a good life.  When he asked me to marry him, of course, I said, ‘Yes!’  But I saw the ticket to America, my hope to go back to high school and be somebody.”

She eventually earned her G.E.D. and an Associate’s degree, but it wasn’t the path to happiness she’d hoped for.  Over the next 10 years, she would divorce 3 times, survive an abusive husband, and have 3 sons.  At 30 years old, she was a single mom with $2200 to her name.

She says, “I was still nowhere close to where I wanted to be.  But I always thought that ‘If I can just get from Point A to B, I can get out of this poor status.  I could do something.’”

It was then she got the idea to start a business, selling costume jewelry and accessories.

She says, “And there was the ticket to build my life.  And I was a street peddler, basically.  I would literally pull in next to grocery store in a grocery cart and selling stuff.  Sell, sell, sell.”

Just as she’d done as a young girl, she asked God for help.  She even went to church on occasion.  Meanwhile, her business grew, and within 10 years, she had gone from being a street peddler to a millionaire.  It even helped her reconcile with her parents.  

Jeanhee says, “As soon as I became wealthy, I took care of my parents. I bought them house. I would give them plenty of money.  And that was my way of forgiving my parents.”  

Then, tragedy shook her world.  Her 17-year-old son was killed in a car accident.    

She recalls, “When I lost my son I got angry at God.  ‘Look, all the things I've done to be their mother and struggle and you took my son away.  Why me?  Why mine?’  And one day at the church, during sermon, I walked out and I knew that I was never going back.”  

Over the next 18 years, she focused on her other sons, and making money.  But still, happiness eluded her.  

She says, “I should have been happy with all the things I was able to do, but I had something in me that was missing and I was searching.  What is it?”  

She would soon find out.  She became friends with a woman, a Christian, who had the one thing she didn’t – joy.  Eventually, Jeanhee agreed to go to church with her.  The sermon was about the prodigal son.

Jeanhee says, “And there's a big screen, and it says, uh, ‘Coming Home.’  And the theme was ‘Runaway.’  And I said, ‘Oh, I'm a runaway.’  That story represented me.  That I wanted to go home. I wanted to go home.  And where is home?  And it wasn't in Korea, it wasn't my mother, it wasn't my father.  It was God that I was missing.  I said, ‘I want to be – I want to be God's child.’”  

She realized happiness and a sense of self-worth didn’t come through riches or achievement, but through Christ’s love and forgiveness.

She says, “The love that He had for me that I cannot buy, it was only that God can give to me.  I was only able to see His goodness when I opened my heart to Him and accepted Him to my heart.  Every moment that I was facing, the darkest moment, the-the broken spirit, He was there.”

At age 57, Jeanhee earned her Bachelor’s degree, fulfilling a life-long dream.  She’s grateful and amazed at what Christ did for that little village girl praying for help.    

She says, “That God that I used to pray, it's the same God, right now, living in me.  And that's what's so special about knowing God.  He never gave up.  And he wanted me with Him.”  

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