One does not have to look far in South Korea to find energetic expressions of Christian faith. It is estimated that one in four is a believer, and the imposing church buildings attest to the significant place Christianity holds in a culture historically shaped by Confucianism and Buddhism.
The very first place I visited upon landing here was the Protestant missionary cemetery, which commemorates the good work done by English, Scottish, and American missionaries in the 19th century. It was clear that significant human needs were addressed as these ambassadors for Christ founded hospitals, orphanages, universities, and churches. Their legacy continues, and churches throb with vitality and purpose. Lighted crosses signal their presence across this vast city, and one does not have to travel far to find a Christian house of worship.
On Palm Sunday I preached at the SeoMoon Presbyterian Church and was blessed to participate in the three services of the morning. (There was another in the afternoon; however, I was given a special dispensation for that one!) A different choir participated in each service, and the 12:00 gathering had contemporary music added; it was the best attended. I was privileged to witness multiple baptisms and confirmations as persons entered Holy Week with intentional spiritual preparation. Elders and friends enacted the tradition of extending the “right hand of fellowship,” and there was a palpable sense of welcome. Beautiful flowers accompany such events, of course.
Sunday evening included a trip to a traditional Korean restaurant. Sitting on a cushion on the heated floor, we enjoyed course after course of wonderful food. I am enchanted by the artistry of presentation, and the “longing for beauty” (an echo of the divine) and creativity, whereby humans demonstrated God’s image, are abundant in this context.
No trip to Seoul is complete without a visit to the royal palace, last occupied by a king in 1910. Pride of nation is on display there, and it has been painstakingly rebuilt after the Japanese destroyed it. Close by is the Korean Folk Cultural Museum, which offers a window into Korean ways of life over the centuries. We closed the day by viewing the city from the Seoul Tower, which offers a wonderful panorama of the glittering urban landscape.
Dr. Rock Choi, Director of Central’s Korean Missional Church program and Associate Professor of Ministry Studies, and his wife Myoung Kim, who assists him in administration of this growing program, have helped me see their homeland through their eyes. Their vision to prepare Korean ministers is infectious, and the promise of this program is evident as we encounter interested persons.
Today I will begin the journey home. These two weeks have offered myriad opportunities to witness Christ’s presence in Myanmar and now in South Korea. I am thankful that the Word continues to be made flesh through faithful Christians in these lands.
Molly T. Marshall