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Joel Beeke in Korea – Part 2

Category Articles
Date October 10, 2002


The Koreans love to sing. Some of their psalters and hymnbooks include English translations, so we could often sing along at the various lectures

Mary Beeke writes:

[Lois Mol, Myoung Jah, and I attended most of the KIRP conference, and did some sightseeing. We toured two palaces and went shopping at the Namdaemun Market, which has a mere 74 malls and 20,000 shops. Today Lois and I took a taxi to the Holt Children’s Services, Inc. Through Lois’s contact with Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, we had been asked if we would like to escort some babies to the America. We agreed to take two babies back. They also encouraged us to tour the Holt facilities. After making arrangements with a Mr. Lee for escorting two girls, we had a tour. The Seoul complex houses clinics for well and sick babies, secretarial and administrative headquarters, records storage, a small nursery (with only seven babies presently), and a residence hall for out of town guests. Soon we were riding in one of their vans to Holt Ilsan Town. This organization began with Harry Holt, an Oregon farmer and businessman, who had a heart attack and could not continue his normal work, but wanted to work for the Lord. In 1955, he went to Korea and adopted eight Korean War orphans, one for each of his six children, his wife, and himself to care for. He soon was facilitating the adoption of many other Korean children by American families. In 1961 construction was started in the village of Ilsan. At one time they housed 750 children in 40 buildings. Much has changed since that time. Harry Holt died in 1964 of a heart attack after carrying some children to the orphanage. Bertha, his wife died two years ago. Both are buried on a hillside at Holt Town.

[Holt Town has become a home for the disabled (healthy babies are placed in foster homes until their adoption is finalized). About 280 residents of various ages live, eat, work, exercise, and worship here, as well as receive therapy and go to school. There are several group homes where residents prepare for independent life. There have been a number of marriages between handicapped residents. These couples are happy, independent, and some have children of their own. Molly Holt, the 62 year-old daughter of Harry and Bertha, lives in a house in the middle of Holt Town with several severely handicapped girls. Lois and I visited her while she was making apple juice and applesauce. As we cut apples with her around her kitchen table, we commented, "Your parents must have been very special people." She answered, "No, they were just ordinary people that God used." Molly came to Korea in her early twenties at her father’s request, after finishing nursing school. She intended to stay three months, but with the exception of furthering her education, has been there ever since. On our way home Lois and I reflected on the level of dedication needed to work in a facility such as this. We were impressed by the tone of Molly’s conversation. Her attitude was "We are all just doing our job here; we’re nothing special." Our day spent observing part of the world’s largest adoption agency gave us much to contemplate, and inspired us to "Work while it is yet day."]

Joel Beeke continues:

September 12

We arose early and drove two hours south to lecture on assurance of faith at HapDong Theological Seminary, where we were greeted by Dr. Jae Sung Kim and Dr. Oh. It was good to see Dr. Oh, an old friend who studied with me at Westminster Theological Seminary, receiving his Ph.D. one year before I did. We were both called to full-time teaching positions at HapDong in 1986—he in church history and I in systematic theology—a call that he accepted but I, of course, accepted the call at that time to Grand Rapids. I had not seen or heard of him in all these years.

I thought I was going to lecture for only one class, but Dr. Kim had arranged for the entire student body to hear the lecture. It felt both humbling and a bit nostalgic to lecture, in God’s providence to 240 ministerial students in the place I was once called to serve. Dr. Kim, a graduate of Westminster Seminary and prolific author in Reformed theology, proved to be an extremely able translator. From there, we drove to Calvin University where I again met Dr. Hwan Kim, university president, who spent 20 years in the United States and is one of the best-known scholars on Calvin in Korea. In true Korean style, we talked together for a bit, then he asked professors in several classrooms to release the students to hear me lecture on Calvin. In Korea, a president has that kind of power—especially an older president! Koreans have such profound respect for age that younger ministers cannot be open or close friends with older ministers—even a year or two can make a difference. One may not argue with his senior!

I lectured to 150 ministerial students on "Calvin’s Concept of Piety." Dr. Kim proved to be a superlative translator. He has the gift of translating lengthy, complex sentences into Korean at a moment’s notice.

September 13

Early in the morning we drove to Chongshin Theological Seminary, where Rev. Shu lectures as associate professor in Puritan theology and other subjects. This semester he has 400 of the 1600 seminary students for at least one class! Again, several classes were dismissed, so that I ended up lecturing for 90 minutes on Reformed Experiential Preaching to 150 students, with Rev. Shu translating.

I then preached to 1400 seminary students on "The Essence of the Gospel" from 1 Timothy 1:15-17. I had more freedom at this chapel than anywhere else, and Rev. Shu received great help in translating as well. Truly, this was a humbling opportunity and experience.

At the end of chapel, the students united in praying aloud—1400 voices ascended to the living God at once! Later, we learned that Korean Presbyterians ordinarily conduct their prayer meetings in this manner. Most Reformed, Presbyterian churches have prayer meetings at 5:00 a.m. every morning, seven days a week. In addition, the first Friday of every month, many churches hold a four to six hour prayer meeting that often runs to 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. With God blessing such prayer habits, is it any wonder that Korea experienced more genuine revivals in the twentieth century than perhaps any other nation?

September 14

In the morning we took a long hike with Dr. Hwang up the first part of Sokni Mountain and saw a large Buddha (108′ tall) and his temples. We then fought our way through heavy traffic to visit Dr. S. K. Chung and his world-renown Institute for Calvinistic Studies. We returned to Seoul in time to rest for the Sabbath, though we got caught in a massive three-hour traffic jam. We used some of that time to share with each other how the Lord converted us. Dr. Hwang’s testimony was moving and powerful. He told us how he became a lost, weeping sinner before a holy God. On one occasion he was so broken by his sins that he could not stop crying nor arise from his seat after a sermon. He overheard one child of God say to another, "Shall we try to comfort that young man?" "No," replied the other, "leave him alone for now; the Holy Spirit will take care of him." Though that may not always be the best advice since the Holy Spirit normally works through means, shortly thereafter the Spirit of God used another sermon to lift Dr. Hwang up with the peace and joy of the gospel.

September 15

I preached twice for Dr. Young Min Pee in the morning at Kangnam Joong Baptist Church—the largest Baptist Church in Korea (membership: 3000). In God’s providence, he had come across an article I wrote years ago on William Cunningham, and, hearing that we were coming to Korea, had asked Rev. Shu to work this Sunday into our itinerary. The early morning service had 500 people, the later service, 1100. Dr. Pee proved to be an excellent translator as well. He too studied in America. He earned his doctorate from the New Orleans Baptist Seminary in Louisiana for studies in nonconformity, particularly focusing on Roger Williams. When he began his studies, he was a thoroughgoing Arminian, but in process of time, God used his doctoral studies for his conversion. "The turning point came one day," he said, "when, while reading John Gill, I came across the expression, ‘that Arminianism is damnable.’ The Lord would not let me shake off that statement until I was converted to Him and to Calvinism. Now," he went on to say, "if a book doesn’t exalt the doctrines of free grace, I call it a useless book."

Dr. Pee struck us as a humble, God-fearing man. He is newly ordained in this large congregation, in which many have no idea of what Calvinism, or for that matter, Arminianism, are. He truly has his work cut out for him and needs our prayers.

In the evening I preached on Genesis 3:20 for Rev. Kang Seomoon at the Joongshim Presbyterian Church—a small congregation of 150 members, most of whom are in their teens or twenties. Dr. Hwang translated.

Rev. Seomoon’s wife was used wonderfully by God for his conversion. He is now the translator of 70 books from English into Korean, including several Puritan volumes and many books by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Next year, he hopes to translate my Quest for Full Assurance of Faith. He spends two hours translating every morning—hours his congregation gladly gives him as they know that this work is influential throughout South Korea.

September 16

That evening we visited with Rev. Shu, his wife, and his two daughters. (Their son had recently left home to fulfil his 28-month obligation in the national service, required by all young Korean men.) The Shu family sang some beautiful hymns for us. Rev. Shu, a former conductor, has a particularly powerful and beautiful singing voice.

The Koreans love to sing. Some of their psalters and hymnbooks include English translations, so we could often sing along at the various lectures, etc.

September 17

Mary Beeke writes:

[Early on Tuesday morning we had to say our good-byes to our new friends. Lois had acquired an "adopted daughter" in Myoung Jah, whose own mother died shortly before her wedding, almost 25 years ago. There seemed to be an empty spot in her life that Lois very naturally filled. They became very close and hope to write and see each other again.

[At the Holt office we met the babies and their foster moms. Four month’s worth of bonding was about to be severed. The tears flowed. We felt so helpless because of the language barrier. We could only hug the foster mothers, and we couldn’t help but weep with them. After a few last minute arrangements and a prayer we left for the airport. Lois’s baby was named Jee Ae and mine was Joo Eun. We were equipped with a diaper bag, passport and visa, a front baby carrier, and instructions from Holt. Lois soon had her mothering skills put to the test as her baby was a bit fussy. We were not to do anything but take care of the babies, so my dear hubby was glad to be our backup, running errands or holding a baby while we did other necessary duties. I think that most people seeing our little group thought my husband and I were adopting Korean twins and my mother had come along to help! Many people, if they could speak English, stopped by to chat, inquire, or give advice. Some wanted to hold the girls. One Korean-American man expressed sadness that two more Korean children were leaving a country with the lowest birth rate in the world, 1.3 children per couple. A flight attendant held Joo Eun as she prayed that she would live in a Christian home. Whenever language failed, smiles filled in the gap. After some fussy times for both girls, they eventually fell asleep in their bassinettes. Overall it was a wonderful trip that went surprisingly well.

[The most exciting moment was when we handed the girls over to their parents. In Detroit Lois gave dear JeeAe, now Jacqueline, to a couple who had been married 14 years and had no children. Tears of joy flowed as they saw her and held her for the first time. Several relatives and "greeters" (other mothers who had adopted) gathered around as Joe thanked the Lord for his great goodness. In Grand Rapids, an excited couple with a three-year-old Korean son and other relatives greeted us and took sweet Joo Eun, now Mallory, from my arms. More tears, another prayer. With all the sadness in this world there are some very profound joys that God gives. It was amazing in both cases to just step back and watch a "birth" of a different sort transpire. The immediate bond between parent and child is beyond comprehension. The bond between God the Father and His child is an adoption that is more incomprehensible. Sinful parents adopt sinful children, but perfect God chooses wretched sinners to be His sons and daughters. What a wonder! May we all know this great joy.]

Joel Beeke’s Conclusion: Solus Christus

The Son of God is the one that Korea needs and that we need personally. He is the one to whom the entire alphabet of history points. As an old divine said, "Jesus Christ is the center of everything and the object of everything, and he who does not know Him knows nothing of the order of nature and nothing of himself." Rest not, dear friends, until you too can say, "He is mine and I am his; He is altogether lovely."

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