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A Window Into Korean Christianity

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Date September 24, 2004


[Changwon Shu studied at the Free Church College in Edinburgh in the 1980s]

I am delighted to be able to give you a brief account of the work of God in Korea, the land of my birth.


Missionary outreach to Korea may be said to have begun when two Scottish missionaries, John Ross and John Macintyre, who were working in Manchuria, met Korean people. The year was 1867. John Ross set about translating the New Testament into Korean. This was a great help when, later on, American missionaries arrived in Korea in 1884. In the wonderful providence of God, there was a great work of grace in my country early in the twentieth century. This may be said to have begun in 1907 in Pyongyang (now the capital of North Korea). The account may be read in The Korean Pentecost by William Blair and Bruce Hunt (Banner of Truth).


I look on Scotland as my second home, both because of the way Scottish missionaries brought the gospel to Korea and also because I lived there for five years. My family were all with me in Scotland while I studied for the Christian ministry from 1985-1989.1 love the principles of the Reformed Faith. We pray regularly for Christ’s church in Scotland.


The Presbyterian denomination to which I belong bears the name HapDong and has some 7,150 churches with 2.2 million members (about 11,000 ministers and 89 presbyteries). My first church was in a small town called Hanamshi. After three and half years there, I was called to my present church, Samyang Presbyterian Church, situated in the busy capital city of Seoul. There are, including children, over 900 persons in the congregation. Last year 71 new families started attending. We have nine Sunday School groups. These are groups for all ages after the American pattern. There are nine elders and sixteen ordained deacons. We have frequent Bible Study groups and dedicated evangelists who go out with gospel tracts twice a week. I am assisted by three full-time assistants and five theological students.


As in most Korean churches we have a daily Prayer Meeting at 5.00 am and a Friday Prayer Meeting at 9.00 pm. This latter usually lasts for two hours. There are two Sabbath services and a mid-week Meeting. I visit the congregation on a Thursday. The origin of the early Prayer Meeting at 5.00 am dates back almost 100 years to the "Korean Pentecost" of 1907. It became the regular practice in Korea at and after that date. About ten per cent of the congregation will be present at this early meeting. We encourage our people in Korean churches to go to bed early and to rise early so as to have early private devotions.


The practice of singing Psalms was unknown to me untill I went to Scotland. For some four years now this congregation has adopted the practice of singing Psalms along with hymns. Another Korean minister, who, like me, studied at the Free Church College in Edinburgh, is at present helping me to produce a Psalter in Korean for use in our churches.


Our denomination is theologically Reformed. We too, like your own Office-Bearers, have to subscribe to the Westminster Confession as our official standard. Our future ministers study at Chongshin University in Seoul where the denomination has 2,100 students in preparation for Gospel service. At Chongshin Theological Seminary there are some 2,300 students following Dip.Th. and M.Div. courses. There are, in addition, seven local theological seminaries. To add to the Reformed work in Korea I have started a Korea Institute of Reformed Preaching. Also, we translate the Banner of Truth magazine and good books.


For the past ten years or so, our congregation has had links with Myanmar (formerly called Burma). We found it difficult at first to find Reformed men in that country. But a fine leader there, named Mr ThangBwee, has given invaluable help and now we have a college named Yangon Reformed Bible Institute staffed by Burmese men. Our Church was able to build them a seminary in the year 2000. The first graduation of students is due to take place on October 4th this year.

Do please pray for these Burmese men as they go forward to the ministry in their own land – and perhaps overseas also. Our church here in Seoul supports them financially as the people of that country are very poor. I myself go to Myanmar twice a year to lecture to these students. They very much need good books for their library and good teaching in Christian doctrine.

May the Lord pour out His Spirit again upon the land of Scotland.

From the Free Church Witness September 2004, with permission.

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