The Soul Of Seoul, South Korea

Me at the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone)

We were three that were invited guests of Pastor Kim in Seoul, South Korea. I had never visited this country, so I was excited about this new missionary adventure. Our hosts, Pastor Kim and his wife, were most gracious in receiving us. This trip was grueling, with daily meetings that would last late into the evenings. We stayed in a hotel that was in an industrial area in Seoul. The trip was in 2005, but our Korean friends made sure we had all the modern amenities. Our rooms were equipped with Internet and a computer, which I used to keep in touch with family and friends back home.

From the schedule, I knew that the days were jam-packed with meetings and prayer sessions, so I would get up early to walk around the vicinity of our hotel. I’d carefully check the surroundings and mentally make notes of landmarks so that I could find my way back to the hotel. One problem was that I stuck out like sore thumb and got unusual stares. People would greet me with a bow and I’d follow suit. I really had no idea of the culture, nor had I done any studies of the religious demographics of Seoul. I did this walking for two days until the   head our of the ministry, Joanne, found out about this practice and gave me a stern warning about Americans getting kidnapped.

Our hosts brought us breakfast each morning, and it was enough to feed a large family. We had fruit and breads and our hosts would stick around to make sure we ate. Our communication consisted of nodding heads in agreement and being cordial. We felt obligated to eat more than enough so as to not offend our hosts. On days that we ministered late, pizza was delivered to our room, individual medium size accompanied with regular Coke. Even though I used the hotel stairs for exerscise I still packed on five pounds.

Other than Pastor Kim, and his assistant Sara, no one spoke enough English to communicate with us, and when they were not around, it was smiles and saying yes over and over again.

Our outreach was ecumenical to Christians who were eager to hear the Word of God. We were there to support our ministry leader, as she was the person the Koreans wanted as their special guest.

We would meet in odd buildings, climbing winding staircases. At the front door was a sea of shoes, and we were handed slippers to wear and piled our shoes with those of the rest of the congregants. These people were precious and wanted to learn more about the Lord, so  they lined up for prayer after every meeting. It was a powerful time because they were hungry for the Word. We would rise early, get ready, and go to a new location with new believers. This would be an arduous routine everyday, so it was only by the grace of God that we were refreshed for the the next assignment.

As we were introduced to other bigger churches there were more interpreters available, so we helped with praying. This was thirteen years ago, and Joanne was already in a wheelchair due to arthritis in both knees, so she really felt the fatigue.

Seoul Apartment housing

On our rides from one meeting to another I would look out the window from the back seat of  the car and see the massive high-rise apartment buildings, where most Koreans  live. We’d pass lush parks with rivers flowing through them; this is how I saw Seoul.

The message to the Koreans was always to encourage them to remain steadfast, as many of them were new converts. All new believer must learn to depend on God in all circumstances.

Once we drove for about an hour to minister to pastors, the room was filled with about 200 preachers with their wives. Joanne was on fire when she ministered to them, and many received prophetic words of encouragement. God used us in an supernatural way because we never understood a word of Korean and many of the people of Seoul did not speak English, but we were connected spiritually in the language of God.

Me and young South Korean soldiers at the DMZ
Pastor Kim with his team and our group on the bridge at the DMZ

We took a one day off to drive to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) to pray for the peace of North and South Korea. The drive was beautiful, with farms most of the way, and out of nowhere, lone  five story apartments for the farm workers. The higher altitude terrain was a dense forests of evergreens, and the stoic summer air gave a hint of sweet pine.

When we arrived, we headed toward the bridge, where you could stand and see both countries. We prayed on the bridge with our hands extended toward North Korea. The South Koreans are always in fear of war with their neighbors, and over the years this fear has only escalated.

I never  got acclimated to the food, because  it was way too spicy for my palate. On one special evening some of the pastors treated us to a fancy Korean restaurant. At the entrance were all the shoes of the patrons, including women’s designer shoes. The food was fine until the spices met my taste buds and the battle of putting on a gracious face while coughing and downing in a gallon of water to say “too hot! Too hot!” brought loud laughs from our hosts.

According to the Pew Research Center the percentage of Christians in South Korea has increased from 1% in 1990 to 29% currently. I praise God that we were used to bring the Word of God to our friends in South Korea.

We met up with Pastor Kim several years later in Istanbul, where he planted a new church and we ministered with him. We are still in contact with Pastor Kim, who was recently in the United States to finish a degree in Divinity.

Isaiah 55:10-11 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
    and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

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