|Home + About UBF + World Mission + Bible Study + Events + Links|
by Missionary Sarah Barry
Key verse: 1 Peter 2:9
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
God controls history; he prepares nations and people for his use. He calls and uses obedient men and women in every age. The living God answers prayer; he honors his word and blesses those who believe and obey it with an absolute attitude. The history of Christianity in Korea and the history of UBF teach these lessons about the Sovereign Creator God who longs for men and women everywhere to repent and return to him through the way which he himself has provided, the way of the gospel.
1. Korea before 1960--God prepares a people
The story of UBF world mission history must start with an introduction to Korea. American history is not even 300 years old, but Korean history is almost 5000 years old [This is the year 4324 by the Korean calendar], so we can only scratch the surface. Korea was known as the "land of the morning calm." Indeed, the mornings in the Korean countryside are beautiful and calm. The mountains are majestic as their peaks rise above the early morning haze--partly clouds and partly smoke rising from hundreds of chimneys as the hard-working mothers rise to cook breakfast for their families. God blessed Korea with natural beauty. Each of the 4 seasons has its own distinct beauty--blooming fruit trees, azaleas (chin dallai), forsythia (kaenare) and moo goong hwa--altheas--cover the hill-sides in the spring; lush green trees and golden barley and a special aroma from the rice fields fill the summer sky and air; high blue skies and leaves of gold and red and yellow, with persimmons, pears and a harvest of rice and cabbages [it is the time for kimchi making] make the autumn season the most beautiful; white snow covers the earth like a blanket in the winter; it is a time for quiet rest and deep study.
Traditionally, Korean culture is Buddhist and Confucian. [The ancient shamanistic religion of Korea adds a special Korean flavor to these. This ancient religion is unique among the religions of Asia in that it includes a purely Korean name for God. From time immemorial Korean people have believed in Hanunim, the Creator of earth and sky. They recognized him as a spirit, and never attempted to represent him with an idol or picture, and they did not profess to know anything about him.] The Buddhist temples still guard the natural beauty of the countryside, and provide a haven for people who want to escape from the world to live a simple life or to study or to hide from political enemies. The Confucian ethical and moral principles still influence human relations, although to an increasingly less extent. There are many positive elements in this influence--and also some negative ones. The Korean culture was a rich and creative one. For example, movable type was invented in Korea 200 years before Gutenberg invented it in Germany. The world's oldest astronomical observatory in Kyungju. A unique form of central heating has been used in Korea for 1000 years: Houses are heated by a flue from the kitchen which runs under the floor. Some of the finest china that has ever been made was produced in Korea. The old secret formula has been lost. Hangul, the Korean alphabet invented in the time of King Sejong is almost perfectly phonetic. With it, all the sounds of the Korean language can be expressed, so it is possible for almost anyone to learn to read.
The geographical location of Korea makes her a very special country. She is a peninsula, bounded on three sides by the sea. China and Russia occupy her northern border, and Japan lies just across the Korean straits. The Korean peninsula is a natural bridge between China and Japan, and it is also a gateway for Russia into Asia. Just as Israel was a bridge between Egypt and the Assyrian (later, the Babylonian) empires, Korea is in such a strategic location. Therefore, throughout her history, large or powerful neighbors have invaded her soil and used her land as a base for imperial expansion. China controlled Korea for long periods of history. The Chinese emperors exercised suzerainty over Korea, treating her as their vassal. This meant that Korea was a satellite country of China, and Korean envoys periodically visited the royal court of the emperor of China to pay tribute. China is called Choong Kook--or the "Center Country" because she considered herself to be the center of the world; the whole world revolved around her. Korean young people really wanted to go to China to study. In fact, Christianity was first introduce into Korea when a young student accompanied his father to China and met some Chinese priests who led him to Christ. He came back and taught about Jesus who regarded all men as equal and who proclaimed the kingdom of heaven. Korean men and women adopted many Chinese customs-- especially the dress of the Ming Dynasty. In 1592 Hidiyoshi of Japan attempted an invasion of Korea. He was repulsed by Admiral Yi Soon Shin, who used a "turtle boat", the first armored naval vessel--many years before the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac" were used in the American Civil War.
Perhaps as a reaction to this strong foreign influence and as an effort toward self-preservation, Korea closed its doors and resisted all foreigners. So Korea came to be known as the "Hermit nation." North Korea seems to cling to that tradition. There were several periods of Korean history in which she strongly resisted western influence. The "Eastern Learning Rebellion" was one such time. At that time, there were many Catholic Christian martyrs, including some French priests who had introduced Catholic Christianity into Korea. The first Protestant missionary to come to Korea came with Chinese Bibles. He was the Rev. Robert Thomas. He was also martyred and the ship on which he had arrived, the "General Sherman", burned. (1866) Just before he died, he gave a Bible to the man who killed him. This man read it and later became a Christian. After his death, the American government made a treaty with Korea (1882) which opened the door for missionaries to come in. Dr. Horace Allen, a self-supported lay missionary, was the first Protestant missionary of modern times to begin work in Korea (1884). He supported himself as a doctor, and he opened a wider door for others to come by serving as a doctor for the royal family. After him, Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries, Horace Underwood, Mr. Appenzeller, Samuel Moffatt, W.J. Reynolds and others followed. The first Protestant missionaries arrived in Korea in 1885. The life of the early church in Korea was characterized by Bible study, prayer (especially 4:00 a.m. prayer meetings) self-support, lay evangelism--every Christian a witness for Jesus. The first General Assembly was organized in 1912. Seven men were ordained as pastors, and one was sent as a missionary to China. Korea has been called a miracle of the modern mission movement, because over one fourth of the people have become Christian.
In 1905, the Japanese invaded Korea, and in 1910, made it a part of the Japanese empire. This began a 40 year period of oppression that taught Koreans the meaning of the cross. The Japan is an island nation, with a culture that comes originally from the South Sea Islands. They took the finest artisans and craftsmen from Korea to Japan. They sought to Japanize Korea by changing all the names into Japanese names, making the people speak Japanese in school and on all official occasions. They expected Korean young men to fight in their army. They denied the best educational opportunities to Korean young people. In return, they modernized the transportation system and provided an efficient and stable government. As their imperial appetite increased, they took from Korea raw materials for their factories and food, especially the excellent Korean rice for their own people. During those years, the Korean people made several efforts to call their plight to the attention of the world. On March 1, 1919, 33 Korean patriots, fifteen of whom were Christian, signed and proclaimed a declaration of independence. This sparked spontaneous peaceful demonstrations all over Korea. The Japanese arrested and imprisoned many people and persecution of Christians increased. The Japanese convinced their own people that their Emperor was a god. They required every family to have a Shinto shrine, and every school had to begin the day with a visit to the Shinto shrine. After the WWII began, the pressure to make everyone, especially the colonial people comply with this state religion. During the years of persecution and suffering, the Korean Church had grown. There were many faithful Korean Christians who refused to bow at the shrine. Many were tortured and/imprisoned for their faith. Many were killed--both pastors and laymen. Most of the Christian Schools closed their doors rather than capitulate to the Japanese in the matter of shrine worship. During these years the Bible was one of the few books published and read in the Korean language,
Japanese occupation ended August 15, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered at the end of WWII. The UN forces, mostly Americans, were welcomed as angels of light and deliverers of the people. But at the Yalta conference a few months before the end of the war, the super powers had collaborated to partition Korea, an act which would result in heartbreak and suffering far greater than anything experienced in her history. The 38th parallel divided a homogeneous people who speak the same language, separated families and set the stage for a bloody fratricidal war.
The provisional government in South Korea was replaced in 1948, by a democratically elected government, with Sygman Rhee as the first president. North Korea was supervised by Russia, and was given a Communist form of government, and Kim Il Sung became its Premier. No Korean was happy about the partition, but at the time, it was becoming increasing clear that communism and Christianity could not co-exist in Korea. Wherever and whenever the Communists took control, they tortured and killed Christians. In Yusoo, during a communist uprising, the two sons of Pastor Sohn Yang Won, pastor of the Wilson Leprosarium, had been killed for witnessing to their faith. Pastor Sohn forgave their murderer and led him to Christ. He became a pastor. Later, in another incident, Pastor Sohn himself was killed by the communists.
On June 25, 1950, the Communists from North Korea invaded South Korea. Their purpose was to unite Korea under a communist regime. The UN sent in an army to enforce the armistice and keep the 38th parallel. The South Korean government welcomed help, and Christians of Korea, many of whom were refugees from the north knew that a communist take-over would mean torture and death for them and their families.
Samuel Lee was a high school boy then. His class of 30 boys were handed rifles and sent out to fight a Chinese-North Korean army which was trying to cross the Imjin River. He saw the young communist soldiers, some women, some high school boys like himself, wading across the river. He couldn't shoot them. He couldn't understand why brothers must fight brothers. Then the guns of the enemy were trained on him and his classmates. His friends dropped like flies around him. He jumped out of the trench and danced in front of the guns, hoping to die with the others. But God spared him. All of his friends died in that battle, but God had a purpose for his life. He knew that. Later, he accepted Ephesians 2:10 as his life key verse: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
When the Korean Civil War ended in 1953, the country of Korea was devastated. It was like a raped woman. The cities were bombed, the mountains and hills were denuded of trees and foliage, the people were impoverished. Many were homeless; there were countless refugees from the north; there were innumerable orphans roaming the streets, and many women left as widows with no means of support. There were families divided by ideology and war. Farming land that had been used as battle fields had to be carefully restored in order to be arable. In the cities, buildings and streets were ruined, houses were destroyed.
When I came to Korea in 1955, much progress had been made to restore life to normalcy, but many evidences of the war were still there. Roads and buildings were restored for the most part, but there were still orphans and widows and broken homes and wounded people--and TB, the disease of malnutrition, was at epidemic proportions. I was in college when the war broke out. I met Jesus during my sophomore year, and for the first time, I had peace in my heart (Ro 5:1). It seemed to me that war was wrong; but I could not oppose a war which was seeking to prevent godless communism from taking over a country and people that did not want it. On the other hand, I knew that going to war could not ultimately bring peace; only Jesus gives peace (Jn 14:27). So, I promised the Lord that if he wanted me to become missionary and share his gospel of peace with the people of another land, I would obey. Later, I learned through Bible study that our Lord Jesus himself commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations. He makes his will for all Christians clear in his word (Mk 16:15,16; Mt 28:19).
I volunteered to go to Korea as a missionary to serve under the Korea Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Our Mission territory was in the North and South Chulla Provinces, in the southwest part of Korea. I was assigned to live and study the language and work as an evangelist in Kwangju. I remained a Southern Presbyterian Missionary with the Korea Mission until I left the mission in 1977 to come to the USA to help pioneer UBF in America.
2. 1961--UBF; God hears and answers prayer
In 1960, (April 19) while I was on furlough in the USA, the students overthrew the government of President Sygman Rhee, and a caretaker government tried to keep order. When I returned in 1960, there was much unrest. Communist activity in the south was rampant, and students were planning a march north to unite North and South Korea. The government in power had no power, and vandals and gangs thrived. In May 16,1960, there was a bloodless coup d'etat led by General Chung Hee Park. Immediately order was restored. Some of the methods of restoring order were funny. People had to walk on the right side of the street; they were arrested for jay-walking; boys with long hair and girls wearing mini-skirts were arrested; a curfew was imposed and those caught out after curfew had to spend the night in jail.
The Presbyterian Mission had given me permission to move from the mission compound to downtown Kwangju and open a student center in an effort to reach students. I prayed that God would use my life like a kernel of wheat (Jn 12:24). I began English Bible classes in order to fish students, and these classes were very popular, because everyone wanted to learn English. The First Presbyterian Church joined in the venture and called Samuel Lee to pastor a church in the Center and to work to evangelize students.
At that time, there were very few students in the churches and there was no student evangelistic work on the campuses. The people, and especially the students of Kwangju were very poor. They were infected with fatalism and a beggar mentality. They regarded Americans as super people and they wanted some material benefit from every American. Once we bought Bibles and hymnbooks and put them in the Center, only to find them all gone the next day. The next week, we found that we could buy them back from local used book stores.
Samuel Lee spoke English well and was constantly studying. But he was small and very quiet, and I wondered if he could work with students. The Mission and the Church paid him a below-poverty-level salary, which he supplemented by doing translation work for the Mission Press. He took the job because he had a broken heart for the students of Kwangju. He accepted Jesus' command, "Feed my sheep" (Jn 21:15). The students were truly like sheep without a shepherd. Even though they flocked to the Student Center to study English Bible, their dependent spirits and fatalism were unchanged. (In 1991, the Chon Buk National University, Samuel Lee's alma mater, conferred on him an honorary doctorate of letters for his pioneering work among Korean students to plant in them hope and vision after the devastation of the Korean war.)
He did personal work among the students who came, and followed them up on campus on a bicycle, then later, on a motorcycle. We called together a small nucleus of students who were to pray for the campus. This was in the fall of 1961. We learned that God hears and answers prayer, as he promised (Mk 11:24). This small prayer council became the beginning of UBF. It was hard for a student to have a Christian identity on campus. The students who were from Christian families or who went to church acted like Christians when they were in Church or with their parents, but on campus, they didn't want to be different, so they kept a low profile and tried to stay out of trouble and did not advertise their identity as Christians. John Jun was a pre-med student who came very faithfully to study the Bible. He accepted Jesus and was invited to be a member of the small prayer council. As we prayed for the campus, God moved his heart to start a small Bible study group on campus. Dr. Joseph Chung, one of his classmates, joined this Bible study group. John Jun was always ready to do something for Jesus that no one else wanted to do. He visited absentees, he put up chairs and kept the shoes in the back, he came to the 5 a.m. prayer meetings. He was never asked to deliver a message, but he always had a sheep with him. He had not been a Christian when he entered college, but he had read about Albert Schweitzer and he wanted to live a sacrificial, meaningful life like that of Dr. Schweitzer. After he accepted Jesus, and set his life direction in him through Bible study, he never veered from the course. He is still ready to do for Jesus anything that needs doing, and that no one else wants to do.
After John Jun started one group Bible study on campus, others followed. Students were so thirsty for God's word. By the end of the school year there were over 80 group Bible Studies meeting on the campuses of the 2 universities in Kwangju. I studied one to one with the leaders; Samuel Lee trained them and visited the campuses to sit in on the groups as a trouble shooter. We learned that God's word is living and active (Heb 4:12). Our prayer topic came from 2 Ti 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."
The small prayer council grew. It was composed of committed leaders. Each new member was chosen by unanimous decision of the council. Each meeting began with a pledge (sun suh) 1. "We are soldiers of the cross of Jesus Christ. We will do our best to correctly handle the word of truth and build a Christian view of life." 1. "We are soldiers of the cross of Jesus Christ. For the sake of `Bible Korea' and World Mission we will participate in the suffering of Christ." (Ro 8:17)We prayed for the campus, for leaders in training, for growing sheep, and for world missions. We accepted Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to "obey everything I have command you." (Mt 28:19,20)
The real turning point in UBF history came in 1964. We had been praying for world missions since the beginning, but no one believed that Koreans could be missionaries--they were too poor. Everyone thought that missionaries needed to have access to abundant dollars. But as we studied the Bible, we found that Jesus had commanded his disciples to be disciple-makers, and to go to all nations and preach the gospel to all people. So we prayed that he might use UBF as an instrument for world mission. In 1964, Samuel Lee suggested that we pioneer Cheju University. Cheju Island is overseas. It is in the direction of Southeast Asia. We were praying to become the "base rocks of Southeast Asia" (Tong nam ah choo choo tol). God called Han Ok Kim, a new graduate and a faithful woman pioneer of Chun Nam University English Department to go for one year to the Cheju Island. She worked sacrificially and planted gospel faith there. The big issue with the Kwangju students and Samuel Lee and me was how to support her. Sending her was a test of our faith. We prayed for her support. We sent her "with our bare hands" (main choo moguro). We studied in John 6 about how Andrew offered a little boy's 5 loaves and two fish, and Jesus fed a multitude. Kwangju students had no money. But they offered their loaves and fish and God answered their prayers. Students gave sacrificially. Joseph Chung sold his blood to the blood bank; others sold books; some sold peanuts or shined shoes in the train station. There was enough the first month to send for her rent and living expenses. There was more the second month. God began to pour out his blessing on UBF. We realized that God had been waiting for an opportunity to show us that no one had to be a fatalistic beggar. Everyone can depend on God and win a victory. We could not only pioneer Cheju, we could also pioneer Taegu and Chunju and Taejon and finally, Seoul.
I went to Seoul in late 1965, after spending 6 months in Taejon. Samuel Lee had been traveling back and fourth from Kwangju to Seoul each week for 2 years, seeking to contact Kwangju students who were studying in Seoul. After we secured the "yellow house", a large room located above a small shop near Seoul National University, Samuel Lee moved his family to Seoul, and the pioneering of Seoul began. We learned some principles of daily personal Bible study from Scripture Union, a British missionary organization. Then, Samuel Lee began the task of writing daily devotional messages on the whole Bible. He went through the whole Bible two times. In addition, he wrote study materials on Genesis, and we began to have Genesis Bible Schools. We encouraged the students to spend quiet time in Bible Study and prayer each morning, and to write "sogams" personal applications of their Bible study. As the work grew, we organized into campus fellowships and had fellowship meetings in the center. The fellowship leader delivered a Bible message, after the students shared their sogams. Seoul pioneering was done mostly by medical students. They were the busiest students, but they had campus Bible studies on their own and on other campuses. Maria Ahn was the hidden worker who laid the foundation of sacrificial life and prayer in Seoul. She was the daughter of a wealthy Buddhist lawyer who opposed her becoming a Christian, and many times she was beaten and punished by her parents. But suffering for her faith made her grow into a very clear gospel worker. She and her husband Joseph Ahn, a graduate of SNU Law school and a diplomat with the Korean government sacrificed their sweet home and lived on separate continents for long periods of time for the sake of God's work. God blessed their sacrifices and pioneered Spain, Mexico, Guatemala and the Graduate Fellowship of Chong No Chapter, which supported UBF work financially and laid a foundation for missionary work around the world.
In 1966, Samuel Lee traveled to Germany to attend a IFES conference to which he had been invited. While there, he met one Korean nurse and prayed with her for Germany and Europe and for the many Korean nurses and minors who were living as laborers in a foreign country there. In 1968, 3 Taejon UBF graduate nurses joined this work force and went to Germany on a 3-year work contract. He invited them to spend a week in Seoul for a crash training course and go as missionaries. Of the three, Mary Song of New York is still active on the mission field. When she returned to Korea from Germany, she gave a mission report about the need for Jesus and the need for workers in God's harvest field there. After this, 4 graduate nurses who had served as campus shepherdesses during their student days answered God's call to go to Germany. Ki Hyang Lee promised God to "bury her bones" serving God in Germany. (She is now the wife of Abraham K. Lee, UBF director in Germany.) They received 3 months training and were commissioned and sent. In 1975, there was a Summer Bible Conference in Frankfurt with 250 attendants. But only 80 of them were German nationals. Then a storm struck the work in Germany. The director appointed to take over after Esther Hur returned to Korea to marry proved to be too young spiritually for the job. The waves of the '76 rebellion made a tidal wave in Germany and the German UBF almost drowned. Samuel Lee went to Germany in 1976 and spent 3 months there. He was alone, for no one helped him, but he survived on minimal German, black bread and sausages and spirit and planted seeds of new faith and God's grace in the hearts of sorrowful missionaries. Through this, a new work of God began. Missionaries married and their husbands joined them in Germany and entered the campuses as students; the ministry changed from a ministry to sorrowful Korean nationals living lonely lives in a foreign culture to a cross-cultural mission to German students. There are UBF chapters and growing German leaders beginning with Volker Keller, and men like Walter Nett, Andreas Krahwinkle, Anton Stehmer, Jürgen Dudek, Christian Niedworok, and chapters in Bonn, Köln, Stuttgart, Bochum, Dortmont, Frankfurt, Berlin, Göttingen. They are praying to pioneer the 33 countries of Europe as well as Africa. Now, Eastern Europe has opened a wide door, and missionaries from Germany are preparing to go through it.
UBF, USA was pioneered with prayer. Paul had wanted to go to Rome because it was strategic to the pioneering of the Gentile world. So we prayed for America. The first missionaries went to New York in 1970. The next year, as we were praying for them on one hot summer day, Missionary Samuel Lee gave a prayer topic that we might have a summer Bible Conference with more than 200 American attendants at the cool Niagara Falls by 1981. Everyone liked this prayer topic, and although he tried to persuade the students to forget it, they kept on remembering to pray for the Niagara Falls Summer Bible Conference in 1981. The first Niagara Falls Summer Bible Conference was held in 1975--6 years early. M. Samuel Lee was invited as the main speaker. After this, we continued to have Niagara Falls Summer Bible conferences for 9 years--on the Canadian side, in Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario. The 1981 conference marked UBF's 20th anniversary and more than 300 Americans attended. God graciously answered prayer. He sent Missionary Samuel Lee to America in the spring of 1977; I came to Chicago in June.
Just before Samuel Lee came to the USA, a team of missionaries raised in Chong No student fellowship and trained in the Chong No graduate fellowship went to Chicago. They changed the direction of UBF mission work around the world. They were the calf team. (I'm not sure just why they acquired that name.) They were Sweety Rhee, Sarah B. Choi, Mary Park, Ruth Yoon and Pauline Park. They got a one bed-room apartment in Evanston near Northwestern U. and for the first time in UBF history began to go to the campus to fish students for one to one Bible study. 6 of them lived together (Faith Choi joined them.). They had no furniture, but slept on mattresses which could be stored in the closets, thus converting their apartment into a Center. They prayed together, struggled with each other, fished and fed with Korean food and the word of God hundreds of NU student sheep. When they ran out of food, they brought their sheep and emptied refrigerators of Chicago missionaries. Missionaries were greatly challenged and some even ran away. Their sacrificial lives laid the ground work and set the example for campus mission around the world. Geordan Griggs, Mark Vucekovich, John Bird, Alan Wolff, Yvonne Timlin, Mary Kim, Kevin Albright remain as direct fruit.
In Korea, we had continued to pray that God would use us in his world mission task. In 1970, we held a conference in Korea on the eastern coast of Korea. We passed out mimeographed lists of the names of 145 countries of the world--with their capitals and pertinent information--, got down on our knees every night and everyone prayed for these countries and their people. It seemed like useless repetition. We couldn't even pronounce some of the names. But we offered it to God as our prayer for the world for which Christ had died. In 1991, at the MSU International Summer Bible Conference, delegates from 31 countries--many of those whose names we had stumbled over--attended. In 1993 there were 44 nations represented. Last year (1994) Korean UBF sent missionaries to 8 African countries, 5 Eastern European Countries, 3 South American Countries, 2 Asian countries--a total of 18 countries. There are now (1995) over 1000 UBF missionaries serving in 82 countries of the world.
In 1985, Missionary Samuel Lee visited Korea with the American journey team. He gave a prayer topic to pray for the pioneering of Russia within 5 years. At that time, this was an impossible prayer topic. But God is faithful. He accepted our prayer journeys, our Russian dancing and eating Russian bread and opened the doors of Russia earlier than we had asked. In 1990, when I visited Russia with the prayer journey team, I visited as tourist. We didn't know anyone and had no missionaries there. In 1991, there were 32 UBF missionaries there and a Summer Bible Conference in St. Petersburg. Over 150 students registered. Our delegates from the USA arrived in Russia several days before the conference. After they arrived, there was an attempted coup d'etat that almost toppled the democratic, constitutional government. This attempt failed, but because of it, we prayed a lot. In spite of the turbulence, 78 students came to attend the conference. In addition, there are 32 missionaries 5 shepherds from Korea, a delegation from Germany and one from the USA. We thank God that they could be in Russia at this momentous and dangerous time of history, and we pray that the gospel may take root in the hearts of Russian students. God answers prayer, so let's pray for our missionaries and for the students of Russia. Pray that God may make America a kingdom of priests, a city on a hill (Mt 5:14), and raise up 10,000 Bible teachers for America, and send out American missionaries to the ends of the earth--to 187 countries of the world by the year 2,000.
Contact us via e-mail if you are interested in Bible study
or if you have any comments about our website.
© 2007 UBF of Shippensburg