Reflections from Korea

Josh Hanson, Gateway Church Findlay, OH, Jeff Ritchie, Outreach's Associate Director for Mission, and John Pflug, Windmere Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC

Josh Hanson, Gateway Church Findlay, OH, Jeff Ritchie, Outreach's Associate Director for Mission, and John Pflug, Windmere Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC

Prayer in the Korean Church: A Reflection

Prayer. If I were given one word to describe this trip, it would be "prayer." The people of Korea are a praying people. Take their early morning prayer meetings as an example. Every church we've visited has early morning prayer services, and many have multiple early morning prayer services.

What do I mean by early? One church has 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m., and 8:30 a.m. prayer meetings with thousands in attendance at each one. At the 6 a.m. service we attended, my guess is that 2,000-3,000 people were already present and praying silently to God before the service began. A women's choir led us in singing, couples led us in prayer, and the pastor led us in a sermon. Their prayers are saturated with the Word of God as are their songs and sermons.

Another church also has a 5 a.m. prayer service every day of the week (except Sunday). But not to be outdone, they also hold prayer evening services beginning at 11 p.m. , which go until 4 a.m., just in time to prepare for the 5 a.m. prayer service. Five hours of prayer every evening with thousands of Koreans participating. The people of Korea are a praying people.

This has challenged me personally. As I reflect on the "ordinariness" in Korea of what would be considered an unfathomable commitment to prayer in the U.S., I wonder what God would do in our country if we committed ourselves to prayer like our brothers and sisters have here. May this passion and commitment for prayer in Korea cross the Pacific and enter into our churches back home. 

Josh Hanson, Associate Pastor
Gateway Church
Findlay, OH

Laying Down Our Lives: A Missionary Legacy from Korea

As an American Presbyterian in South Korea for the first time, I was not sure what to expect. I knew that Christianity in South Korea (in particular Presbyterianism) had flourished in the last century, but why? Especially in light of the decline of Christianity (and particularly mainline Protestantism), what is different about Korea? What lessons can American Christians learn from our brothers and sisters on this little East Asian peninsula known as Korea? Apparently the answer lies not in some new secret Christian technique for church growth, but in something we collectively once knew and may have forgotten.

The grave of Rev. Horace Underwood in the Foreigner's Cemetery.

The grave of Rev. Horace Underwood in the Foreigner's Cemetery.

In a cemetery in Seoul I visited the grave of the Rev. Horace Underwood, a Presbyterian missionary from my own denomination. Rev. Underwood came from the United States to Korea in 1885 and dedicated the rest of his life to ensuring the Korean People knew God through education and health and above all through the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. What I have seen in Korea was the fruit of Rev. Underwood's work. A people who are as much or more healthy and educated than any other people in the world... But not only that... The Korean Christians are a people who are laying down their lives to bring that same gospel which Rev. Underwood brought to them to the rest of the world.

One of the many missionaries who spent their lives serving the Korean people.

One of the many missionaries who spent their lives serving the Korean people.

What in the world could make such a healthy and well-educated people give up their lives of health and prosperity? It is more than hospitals; it is more than schools; it is the same thing that caused Rev. Underwood to give up his American life, and Paul to give up his Jewish life. We do it because Jesus offered up his divine life as the first missionary from heaven and the only way home. Maybe we have forgotten that Jesus is the only way home. All the hospitals and schools in the world won't get us there, and so the value of hospitals and schools is limited. But Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice for our sin is so surpassingly great there is only one response worthy. We lay down our lives to share this Good News with others. The Korean Church is successful because it believes this. The Korean Church believes this because our forefather Rev. Underwood believed this. The American Church will find revival when it remembers that it believes this too.

The Rev. John Pflug
Windmere Presbyterian Church
Wilmington, NC