From the Rising of the Sun

This blog post is written by Wales Evangelical School of Theology Chief Operating Office Joel Morris regarding his work at WEST and Valley Commandos:

” I had been living in Korea for a little over a year having gone there in the first place due to my wife being Korean and in order for me to have space to finish writing my engineering doctorate thesis.  After submitting, I was soon in a postdoctoral position at Seoul National University in the Nuclear Engineering department. I remember while working in Seoul attending a speech given by a British CEO all about the shifting of economic power from the West to the East. During my life in Seoul I could almost sense the ground shifting beneath my feet.  This shift in economic and military power might bring increasing tension, fear and distrust around the world.

The church cannot be isolated from such tectonic shifts but should not react like the world. Such a shift in economic power may also impact global missions —Korea and China now follow the US and India in third and fourth places for countries sending the most missionaries.   A good example of such a missionary reversal is the gospel partnership between Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) and SaRang Community Church, Seoul.  It was during my first few days in Korea that I met up with a contact from SaRang, a pastor who I’d been introduced to previously.  I promptly started to consult for him about Wales and WEST every Sunday as I attended his church.  I can honestly say that Pastor Sam Ko is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met.  His and SaRang’s approach has impressed me.  They recommending me, a Welshman, to work as Chief Operating Officer of WEST, typified this.

What is behind this link between Korea and Wales?  In 1866, Welshman Robert Jermain Thomas gave his life in order to bring the gospel to Korea.  He risked everything to accomplish what the Lord had set before him.  Then in 1907, the Korean Peninsula experienced a great revival that has been traced back to the Welsh revival of 1904. The result a hundred years later is a close family bond and spiritual repayment on behalf of the Korean Church.

Here are five areas in which my thinking has been moulded by my time in Korea:

1. Partnership

Being a ‘bridge person’ has shown me the importance of unity, and our union with Christ and his church is one of unity with one another in him.  The author of Psalm 133 compares unity with the anointing of Aaron.

‘It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!’ (Psalm 133:2)

True unity, like the oil, sanctifies all it touches and it has a gospel purpose.  As the high priest bears the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgement on his heart similarly our great High Priest bears the Church on his chest and shoulders, so that the Holy Spirit flows down onto the people of God.

Through our gospel partnership the Church demonstrates this unity and not mere empire building. Of course this isn’t new but Asia has traditionally been on the receiving end of such relationships. What we are experiencing at WEST is reciprocal and mutually beneficial to churches in both regions. Now, Welsh churches supported and encouraged by SaRang and WEST are planting in Wales, the first one in Neath by Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.  (Watch the video on www.valleycommandos.com).

2. Risk

When moving my family to Korea I risked everything I had to follow where I believed the Lord was leading. I had no job, no place to live, and my wife was pregnant.  As those gathered to Christ we risk all to follow where Jesus leads. Korean Church leaders tend to have big faith and expectation in God so their operations are inherently risky. In the same way Robert Jermain Thomas risked all, and a nation was blessed richly with the gospel.  What are we willing to risk today in our risk averse consumer society?

3. Patience

‘Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.’ (Psalm 25: 5)

David knew what it was to wait for God and didn’t make a move until he knew he was with him.  Psalm 25 was precious to me during my time in Korea.  I had an   important lesson to learn — how to wait for God and the need to earn the trust and confidence of the people there before I could be allowed in and given opportunities.  In Korea, there is a kind of parental relationship between old and young in work, church and all walks of life.  The younger show respect and submission, the older in return show trust and benevolence. This works to form humility and patience in the young. If you want to get anywhere in Korea you need to respect your elders, do your time and learn all you can!  Sounds quite Biblical!

4. Pride

It is always helpful and certainly biblical to learn from other Christians especially in a cross-cultural setting.  We in the West need to be mindful of prejudice against our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, ensuring our proud hearts are not too stubborn to learn.  The reverse of course is also true.  When Thomas died there wasn’t a soul won for Christ in Korea, in Wales there were churches on every corner.  Compare this to where the Korean and British Churches are today.  Going on the 2001 census, there are now between 90,000-100,000 churchgoers in Wales, whereas over 90,000 members belong to SaRang Community Church alone, and 162 missionary family units are supported.  This serves just to demonstrate the kind of gigantic reversal experienced between two nations in just 150 years!

5. Church

In Sarang, new believers are put into cell groups, where they are nurtured and grow – discipleship is in the DNA of the church!  John Oak the founding pastor firmly believed that ordinary church members are the best and greatest potential of the church in its mission. I think he achieved more than most in this area and at least one Welsh Church adapted its own discipleship course because of SaRang.  This was such a radical concept for Koreans who historically relied too heavily on pastors to do the work.  I think we’d all recognise similar challenges faced in our churches.  The whole church should be a projection of the life of Jesus through relationships and behaviour, when gatherings take place, in sharing the gospel and caring for the poor and needy.

Let’s examine ourselves and gain confidence in preparation for other such gospel collaborations between East and West!  Let’s take advantage of gospel opportunities afforded by the changing political landscape.

Dr. Joel Morris
Chief Operating Officer of WEST
Cooperative Missionary of SaRang Community Church, Seoul