Hello again from Pastor Mike in South Korea!
After a long day of travel, we settled in for a good night’s sleep. The church has about twenty hotel-type rooms for housing guests. The rooms are a little smaller than what Americans might expect in a typical hotel but since these rooms have the basic necessities (i.e. no television, no computer desk) the rooms are more than adequate for two people. The accommodations are quite nice and the church does a wonderful job of maintaining the space.
Instead of beginning the day at 5:00 a.m. with morning prayer, the staff at Bupyeong Church took mercy on us and let us sleep in since day 2 would be a long day and we would need all of energy while still adapting to the time change.
Breakfast was served at 8:00 a.m. and what a meal it was. Members of the church arrived at 6:30 a.m. to prepare it. It was a mix of American and Korean breakfast foods and plenty of coffee and hot tea for the group.
At 9:00 a.m. we boarded two tour buses which would serve as our base for the day. We headed south to visit Songtan Gipeun (Joyful) Church in Pyeongtaek, Gyunggi about an hour away. The church was established in 1985. The present Senior Pastor, Rev. Woong Seok Son, came to the church in 1988. The congregation was meeting in a rented basement with only a handful of members.
Rev. Son was 28 years old when he arrived and he wondered why God was send him to a church that seemed likely to fail. Then God told him to have patience. He spent the next five years working with a handful of families with young children who would become leaders in the church.
Today the church has 2,000 members and they are building a cultural center – perhaps something like a family life center – which the church plans to use to better connect with the community. The church runs a pre-school. There is also an excellent children’s library which is open to the community. The church reaches out to immigrant workers who are often mistreated.
After a lunch break and another hour’s drive south, we arrived at Mokwon University in Daejeon City. The school was founded in 1945 by Charles D. Stokes, an American Methodist missionary. The United Methodist Church provided much financial support in its beginning. Mokwon is one of three Methodist seminaries in Korea. Today the university has over 13,000 students in eight undergraduate and 5 graduate schools. The seminary has educated over 3,000 ministers. Currently, there are about 700 students enrolled in the seminary.
Our next stop in Daejeon City was the Church of Heaven’s Gate which was also established in 1945. The church has relocated three times because of church growth. The current sanctuary was dedicated this year and cost $40 million to build and seats 3,000 for worship. Bishop Gi Bok Lee is the Senior Pastor. Bishops and District Superintendents in the Korean Methodist Church continue to serve churches in addition to their other Episcopal duties.
Our final stop in Daejeon City was Doonsan First Methodist Church which was established in 1993 by the Rev. Sang Wook Moon. Today the church has over 5,000 members (2,000 young adults). The current church is a ten story building in the center of the city which cost $23 million to construct. The sanctuary seats about 3,000 for worship.
The center of its ministry is a program called “40 Day Discipleship Training.” For forty consecutive days the participants agree to come to church nightly at 8:00 p.m. for a 90 minute Bible study and prayer time. This ministry serves to help people discover God and the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This experience encourages the participants to invite others to the church. Cell groups meet weekly in private homes for Bible study and prayer.
After a dinner break we returned to Doonsan Church for the Friday Young Adults Service which began at 8:00 p.m. The service featured a rock and roll style four piece group for its praise band. The praise band along with a group of eight singers opened the service with about 30 minutes of praise songs. The young crowd was very energetic. There were at least 2,000 in attendance. The service showcased the talents of young people as evidence of God’s gifts working in their lives. We saw people show their skills at tae kwon do, painting, singing, and a personal testimony of one young lady told of how she accepted Jesus into her heart. The crowd’s enthusiasm continued to build throughout the service.
The preacher was about to come out and give the message but it was 9:15 p.m. and we a 2 hour drive back to Bupyeong Church so we left the service early. As we walked out, it was hard not to be touched by all the people moved by the service. It was a worship service that will be hard to forget.
We boarded the bus after a long day filled with many amazing sights and stories. We finally settled in for bed just before midnight.