Travel journal describes experiences in Seoul, Korea
Richard and Phyllis Mouw led a group from Fuller Seminary to visit seminaries, churches, and alumni/ae in Seoul, Korea; mainland China; and Hong Kong. Following is a brief summary of some of their key meetings, discussions, and explorations along the way.
In Seoul, delegation members included (from left): Bill Hoehn, Susan Hoehn, Timothy Park, Fred Messick , Barbara Carlsberg, Dean Given, C. Jeffrey Wright, Larry Langdon, Mary Given, David Vanderwel, Jody Vanderwel, Marie Tevelde, Phyllis Mouw, Fuller President Richard J. Mouw, and Henry Tevelde.
Seoul, Korea: First Stop on the Journey
The group’s first visit was to Seoul, Korea, where many Christians are very active in their faith. Eleven of the world’s largest 12 congregations are located in the city of Seoul.
Soon after arriving in Seoul, Korea’s capital city of more than 10 million, Fuller President Richard J. Mouw participated in a media interview with Mr. Justin Lee, a Fuller graduate as well as general manager and head reporter for the Seoul-based Kukmin Daily’s Mission Life section. Reaching a readership of more than 600,000, the newspaper and related website cover current news events, and—through its Mission Life section—offer a deep look at issues involving the faith community.
In an interview for both print and broadcast news, Lee asked Dr. Mouw to comment on some of the current challenges facing Christians in Korea, including the desire and need to build unity among churches. Additionally, Lee asked Dr. Mouw to share thoughts about Christian viewpoints on the meaning of life and the meaning of success, along with a wide range of other issues. The interview resulted in a major story the following day (missionlife.co.kr –March 15, 2010).
The next day…On the first Sunday in Seoul, Dr. Mouw preached in the morning services at Ju An Presbyterian Church, a congregation that began 65 years ago and currently has 7,000 members. The church is located in Incheon City, which is west of Seoul’s downtown area. Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Lee has served at the church for more than 35 years. “I’m always grateful to Fuller Seminary for developing leaders,” Dr. Lee said. “Many of our Korean pastors—including many at this church—have studied at Fuller.”
(At left, Dr. Lee welcomes Fuller Trustee Bill Hoehn during a meeting prior to the Sunday worship service.)
Dr. Lee, who has served as President of the Korean Council of Christian Churches, emphasizes his strong interest in encouraging unity among churches in Seoul. Starting with Dr. Billy Graham’s rallies in Seoul (1973 and 1984), Dr. Lee noted, churches in Seoul have gathered every Easter holiday for worship. “This Easter Sunday (2010), Korean churches from 60 denominations will gather to worship in unity,” Dr. Lee shared. As part of their Easter outreach, the group will also raise support to help needy persons internationally.
Most important to the ministry and vitality of Ju An Church, Dr. Lee said, is its commitment to prayer. Approximately 30 percent of the congregation awaken early each morning to attend daily prayer services at the church at 4:30 a.m., before they go to their workplaces. “We believe prayer is at the heart of our church life,” said Dr. Lee, who frequently counsels his church members to turn off the television at night. He also advises students to not study late at night. “We are doing our best to help our congregation members be effective members in the church and in society.”
Following the morning service at which Dr. Mouw preached, the pastoral team presented Dr. and Mrs. Mouw—and the entire Fuller delegation—with a special welcoming banner!
On Sunday afternoon…Dr. Mouw spoke at the 3:30 afternoon service at Wangsung Presbyterian Church.
Led by Fuller alum Dr. Ja-Yeon Kiel—former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Korea and current president of Calvin University and Seminary in Seoul—Wangsung Presbyterian Church ranks tenth in size among all churches in Seoul with a membership of more than 20,000 people, including over 2,600 intercessory prayers.
During Dr. Kiel’s nearly four decades as senior pastor of Wangsung Church, the church has always had at least five people meeting each morning to fast and pray. “Our ministry is prayer-centered,” said Dr. Kiel. “The power of the Korean church is in prayer,” he continued, “and we pray a lot!”
“Pastors in Korea have a strong love for their ministries and an enthusiasm for imparting strong biblical faith to their congregations,” Dr. Kiel said, noting also that the church is located in a rapidly growing area near the excellent Seoul National University.
(At right: Seated next to Dr. Kiel are Fuller’s Timothy Park and Mary Given, at a meeting prior to the afternoon service.)
(Below: Flanked by Dr. Kiel and a translator, Dr. Mouw is welcomed to preach.)
On Monday…the Fuller delegation visited Seoul Theological University, the city’s largest seminary. Seoul Theological Seminary has a total enrollment of approximately 4,600 people studying in a variety of undergraduate majors and six graduate-level schools including theology, psychology, and social work.
The university is part of the Korean Evangelical Holiness Church denomination, the third largest denomination in the country (after the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations) with more than 2,500 churches and one million church members.
In an afternoon lecture hall session at Seoul Theological Seminary, Dr. Mouw spoke about “A Biblical Worldview for the 21st Century” to more than 250 students and faculty. “With the plurality of worldviews around us, it is most important that we develop a worldview as Christians,” said Mouw in his address. “We need to be prepared to answer people about the reason for the hope that we have.” As Christians in the 21st century, Mouw continued, we need to be able to exegete the texts and also the culture—such as products from the Hollywood film community, or the world-renowned Korean soap operas.
An evening celebration in Seoul…One of the highlights of the visit to Seoul was an evening dinner and meeting with more than 125 Fuller alumni/ae and spouses in Korea. Dr. and Mrs. Mouw and the Fuller delegation were welcomed with great hospitality—with a banner, ice sculpture piece, and the inspiring singing of a 20-voice choir composed of spouses of Fuller alums!
“We are so delighted to be here for this wonderful celebration of each of you—and the ministries to which God has called you,” said Dr. Mouw. There are many new challenges and new realities that we now face, Dr. Mouw continued, noting especially issues such as changes in Christian worship and preaching, the growing needs of young people, and use of new technologies. “Fuller wants to help think through these issues that equip and prepare you for the kinds of decisions you need to make on the frontlines of ministry.”
Along with the visiting Fuller delegation and Korean alums is a Fuller trustee from Seoul, Rev. Dr. Sam Ji Chung—in the photo above, fourth from the right in the front row. Dr. Chung is founding and senior pastor of the Disciple Church of Seoul. He first joined the Fuller community as a consultant in the establishment of the Korean Doctor of Ministry program in 1995, and later became a student in the Korean DMin program, which he completed in 2002.
Next stop on the journey to Asia: Shanghai