A few years ago my wife and I boarded a plane at DFW and landed sixteen hours later in Seoul, South Korea. We found a prosperous modern city in a growing economy. We rode efficient subways in complete safety. It is the fourth largest economy in Asia and is referred to s the "Mirale on the Han" because of its remarkable economic progress. North Korea, by contrast is poverty stricken under a strict Stalinist regime that uses nuclear intimidation to secure world aid in order to prop up its tottering economy.
North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong last week once again catapulted the Korean peninsula to center stage and sent ripples around the world. The political, economic and religious contrasts between North and South Korea are obvious. The personal stories beneath the surface are not.
I first met Ben in the 1980s when we were starting Korean churches in Texas. I later learned his story. As a teenager he watched North Koreans kill his father because he would not renounce his faith in Christ. For years he harbored anger and resentment. Then he was able to make a mission trip to North Korea. The people to whom he ministered asked why he had come to help them. He responded, "Because Jesus told us to love our enemies." Unable to re-enter Noth Korea, he continues to help plant churches in China.
I met Robert a few years ago. As a child he survived on the streets of Seoul with his mother during the Korean conflict. After the cease fire, he was one of the children rescued by Pearl S. Buck. Her efforts brought him to the United States and provided an education. He became a sucessful businessman well on his way to personal wealth, but his marriage was failing and his life was empty until he found Christ. He quit his profession, went to seminary and became pastor of a Korean church. He later went to Cuba and helped start dozens of churches. Regarding his work in Cuba, he said he felt that working in a Communist country would help him prepare for the day when he would be able to minister in North Korea. He now works among North Korean refugees in China waiting and praying for the opportunity to share the gospel in North Korea.
When we visited Seoul, my wife and I attended a 6 a.m prayer meeting in one of the churches. Every morning members gather at 4, 5, 6 and 7 a.m. to pray. More than a thousand people were present. They prayed quietly in small groups with family and friends as they do every day. Some read their Bibles. Some knelt. Some prayed quietly whispering reverent prayers. We were inspired and humbled. Today, South Korean churches send out more than 12,000 missionaries to 160 countries. They are intentionally going to the hardest to evangelize corners of the earth, seeking to witness "in a low voice and with wisdom." The Sarang Community Church in Seoul has grown to more than 45,000 members. They are training people as "lay professional missionaries" to take secular jobs in other nations so they can share Christ with their co-workers and neighbors.
During these tense days on the Korean peninsula, I hope all of us will join our Korean brothers and sisters in Christ, praying for peace and for freedom so that multitudes who have never heard will hear the message of hope in Jesus Christ.