A tie that binds ~ Korea to the UK
In previous articles it has been written that the Korean church numbers in it's millions with some churches classed as mega-church! And with 100's of Korean pilgrim's visiting the UK on prayer pilgrimages one might wonder why?
Myungsung Presbyterian church in Seoul stands head-and-shoulders above the rest when it comes to Korean mega-churches. It is claimed to be the largest church in the world with membership of over 120,000 people. Since Revd. Samhwan Kim founded the church in the 1980's, Myungsung church has grown exponentially from a small neighbourhood community church to the city centre mega-church it is today! It has itself planted 24 other church congregations and supports more than 500 missionaries in over 60 countries across the world. The church also supports a children's home, a hospital, and other social ministries. Revd. Kim credits this successful growth to the church's commitment to prayer and solid teaching of historic Christian truths. The church gathers for prayer everyday at 5:00 am (and has been doing so for over 35 years) - and they come in their hundreds, if not thousands - children as well!
It is this commitment to prayer that is the key to why the Koreans come to the UK - but why the UK?
A Victorian Heritage:
During the mid 1880's Welshman, Robert Jermain Thomas, an Evangelical Christian serving with the London Missionary Society set sail for China with his new bride of 5 weeks to take the gospel to this mystical foreign field. The voyage took 4 months during which his wife was quite unwell. Yet when they arrived in Shanghai his wife's sickness did not abate and she died within 2 months. This caused Thomas untold anguish and he resigned from the London Missionary Society to became an English teacher in Beijing.
As the first year of grieving passed Thomas met 2 Korean traders who shared with him that there were many Catholic converts in Korea being taught secretly by a number of Catholic priests. Thomas was surprised to hear that they didn't have any bibles and so he decided that he would become an agent for the National Bible Society of Scotland and take some bibles out to Korea. During this time he began to develop a deep sense of calling the the Korean people whose borders were closed to foreigner because of a deep fear within the government towards foreign influence destabilising the country's heritage. In fact the country was known as the 'Hermit Kingdom'.
Thomas made two journey's to Korea, taking with him Chinese bibles. Both journeys were fraught with danger and although we won't look at those stories here they are interesting in themselves. On Thomas second journey at the age of just 27 years old, he was martyred. One account of his death in 1866 tells of him trying to pass his bibles to his executioners whilst crying out in Korean "Jesus, Jesus"
This became his greatest legacy and the foundation upon which God used to build His church in Korea.
The House with Strange Wallpaper?
In the early 1900’s, around forty years after Thomas death, a house in that region of Korea was found to have its walls decorated with the pages of a Chinese Bible and it was assumed that they came from one of bibles that were distributed by Thomas during his short time in Korea. During Thomas era paper was extremely expensive and a rarity for the common man. After Thomas's execution an edict had been issued by the government that any one found in possession of the bibles would be arrested. So many of the bibles had been simply thrown away. Yet some had used the precious pages as wallpaper for their houses. The majority of people couldn't read Chinese anyway.
When it was realised what the strange wallpaper was - the gospel in Chinese, people began to come from all over to read the words on the wallpaper and God began to melt hearts. Eventually, a church was established in the area. Wherever those pages came from the seeds of the Gospel had found fertile soil upon which the rain of heaven fell and the Christian church in Korea began to flourish.
The Korean’s have a saying: Strategically planted seeds of blessing bring forth a harvest of ‘blessing flowers’.
This Heritage is the Foundation:
It is this foundation - this heritage, upon which Revd. Samhwan Kim, Namjin Kim and the Myungsung Presbyterian church - in common with many churches across South Korea, feel such a deep sense of gratitude to the early missionaries. Who left the shores of the UK for Korea, many of whom laid down their lives, to sow the seeds of the Gospel among the Korean people.
This has created within many Korean's a strong desire to make a pilgrimage to the UK, especially Wales. Their desire is to see the UK church restored to a growing faith which produces a new generation of believers who are passionate to see God move in this nation.
Let it be so Lord!