Lessons Learned from My Trip to Korea
Alice Jung—El Monte, California, USA
On the plane home after four
extremely uplifting weeks in Korea, my heart stirs with all kinds of emotions.
Exhausted, I close my eyes in an attempt to get some rest, but my mind continues
to replay all of the memorable scenes from our time in this part of Asia.
Not only did this trip expand my
appreciation for another culture, but most importantly, as I slowly put all that
we encountered into perspective, it helped me gain new insights and gave me
moving reminders as a child of God.
Ever since we got married more
than fourteen years ago, my husband, TJ, and I talked about visiting Korea one
day. TJ, or Pastor Tae-Hoon Jung, often talked about
his homeland with much affection. Most of all, he missed the churches where he
The chance finally came when the
Korea General Assembly invited TJ and his father, Elder Jung, to help with the
2007 Spring spiritual convocations at four different churches in the cities of
Seoul and Busan. Some of TJ’s relatives in Korea
asked that he bring his entire family during the trip so that they could meet
We were thrilled, especially our
children Anna and Jesse, as we prepared for the long journey to the other side
of the globe. It would be our children’s and my first trip to Asia, and about
sixteen years since the last time TJ was in Korea.
[L]ove one another
with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom 12:10, RSV)
I doubt there was actually a
competition among the members in showing honor to us, but we could see how the
loving brothers and sisters did try to “outdo one another” in the way they
received us. Wherever we went, we knew right away that we were the special
guests and treated with the best that they had. Of course, it was overwhelming
to all of us.
At first, I thought that it was
kind of wasteful to pamper us with so much good food and gifts. I reasoned that
it was probably because of Elder Jung. Before relocating to the US, Elder Jung
had been the resident minister at one of the churches we visited and a
long-time servant in our churches in Korea.
But someone told me that the
churches treated all visiting guests with special honor. I soon learned from TJ
that it is an insult to refuse your host’s kindness. Slowly, our family learned
to receive everyone’s generosity with grace and thankfulness.
As I pondered upon the love we
received so bountifully from all the members, I came to this conclusion: The
extravagant treatment that our Korean brethren showered upon us reminded me of
the alabaster jar of oil that Mary so willingly poured upon the body of Jesus.
In a similar manner, wanting to
take their chance in showing their love to the body of Christ, our brothers and
sisters poured out their best. The fragrance of their sacrifice warms my heart
every time I remember them. They inspire and encourage me to also “outdo one
another in showing honor” the next time God gives me a chance.
SOAK IN THE JOY OF THE LORD
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! (Ps 98:4-6, RSV)
I have learned that Koreans are
much more musical than other Asians. Not only do they love to listen, sing, and
play instruments, most of them are very gifted at it, too. Just from my own
observation of the two cultures that I know best, Korean and Chinese, the
former are more free in expressing themselves while the latter are more
As a result, I witnessed and
experienced the uplifting effects of such joyful hymnal worship in all of the
Korean churches we visited. The members were so exuberant and uninhibited in
their praises of the Lord. Their bodies swayed to the slower rhythms and their
hands clapped to the faster beats. They sang as if there was no one else there,
and they were simply soaking in the joy of the Lord through the music.
Watching the joyful faces of these
Korean members as they sang, I saw how they all appeared to be like little
children. During that moment of praise and worship, they seemed to have no
worries, no troubles, no stress, and no concerns of the world. It was a pure
expression of enjoying the presence of our Lord.
I think that is exactly what Jesus
seeks in His children: to find the simple pleasure of being with the Lord in
songs that glorify His name, praise all of His wonderful deeds, and give thanks
for His saving grace. Music is such a powerful tool to open the window to the
soul so that we can connect with the Maker of music.
From now on, I told myself, I want
to use every hymnal worship time as the best way to give my Lord all of my
adoration, praise, honor, and thanksgiving. I know that Jesus does not care
when I sing out of tune. But I know that I can please Him when I sing to Him
with my most sincere heart.
RESPECT OUR ELDERS
Do not rebuke an older man but exhort him as you
would a father; treat younger men like brothers, older women
like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.(1 Tim 5:1, 2, RSV)
Having lived among Koreans for the
last fourteen years prepared me and my children for a very old and important
tradition that is still practiced in Korea: showing respect to those who are
older than oneself. The younger person shows respect by bowing when greeting
elders and by using honorifics.
Similar to Japanese, there are at
least three different ways to say the same thing in Korean. One way is used
when speaking to someone who is older, another when speaking to peers, and a
third way when speaking to someone younger. Obviously, it can be extremely
confusing to a foreigner who is not used to the culture. Needless to say, I
have made several mistakes over the years.
At first, I thought this old
tradition quite bothersome and unnecessary. Slowly, I found it quite nice to
have kids bow to me as they greeted me. When we were in Korea, I also observed
how young people would always yield to those who were senior to them. It was
quite a pleasant departure from the “me-generation” in western culture where
children and young people often think of no one but themselves.
I find that most children in the
US show little respect even to their own grandparents. I now realize that showing
respect and honor to your elders in this way is good training for Christians.
Korean culture teaches children from a young age to give regard to others, to
show respect, and, directly and indirectly, to learn humility.
The more I think about how Jesus would
view this age-old tradition, the more I come to appreciate the idea of showing
respect. If we don’t even know how to show respect to those close to us, how
are we to show respect to our Creator, our Lord, the King of kings who deserves
all our honor, praise, and respect?
I am quite pleased to say that
after four weeks of practice, my kids have grown to be rather comfortable in
showing the proper respect to all those who are older than them. I intend for
them to continue this good habit. Of course, this means I will need to set a
good example first and remind them constantly until it becomes automatic. May
the Lord help me.
REACH OUT TO THE COMMUNITY
Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of
season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.
(2 Tim 4:2)
One of the privileges of our visit
to many of the Korean True Jesus Church locations was to be able to learn about
some of their holy work. As most people know, Christianity is very saturated in
most parts of the country. It has been very challenging to spread the truth,
especially because True Jesus Church is listed as a cult in Korea.
Nevertheless, each local church
has to come up with creative ways to reach out to their community and to bring
people to church. Three of the churches we visited told us about their
community outreach programs:
Church there is a brother who is a chef at a large hotel restaurant. This
brother uses his talent and skills to teach anyone from the neighborhood who
comes to church how to make different pastries.
We happened to visit when the
class was in session, and we saw how easily the church members and the
neighbors made friends while kneading and shaping the dough together. At the
end, when everyone got to taste the delicious final product that they had put
so much effort into, it created a special bond that only good food and friends
The pastor of Teban
Church told us that this was their first time trying the pastry-making class.
They plan on having this class once a month so that they can get to know their
neighbors. After six months, the church will invite these friends to come for
an evangelical event where they will be taught more of the truth and encouraged
to pray for the Holy Spirit.
Free Drinks at the Park
There is a large and beautiful
park near Incheon Church where the resident pastor
likes to jog, often with some church members. They discovered during their runs
that the park is flooded with people on weekends, and they thought that it would
be a good opportunity for community outreach.
They decided to set up a small
table in the park where visitors could get free drinks. Each of the small paper
cups that they hand out has imprints of our church information. They hope that
this will increase people’s awareness of True Jesus Church in that area.
After School Homework Club
Pusan Church is right next to a
large elementary school. Two years ago, the pastor and his wife set up an
after-school homework club for students. They got to know the students and
their parents very quickly. The members helped in every way possible to make
these students and their families feel welcome during the club sessions.
Soon after the club started, some
of the students began to join Sabbath services and their parents slowly
followed. After one year, twenty-seven students and their parents received
baptism in that church. Praise and thank God.
I felt encouraged by the efforts
of our Korean brothers and sisters in reaching out to the souls in their
community, and I thank God that I was able to witness the fruit of their labor.
I pray that God will also work among the churches in America so that we may be
able to reach out to the lost souls around us.
I truly thank God for this
wonderful opportunity to visit Korea and, especially, our churches there. By
the end of the fourth week, I felt burdened with a heavy debt—a debt of love
from all the brothers and sisters in Korea.
Their generosity and hospitality
inspires me to be a good hostess the next time the Lord sends someone my way.
Their love of singing praises to the Lord encourages me to devote my totality
every time I come before my Lord during hymnal worship.
Their tradition of showing respect
teaches me the importance of training children while they are young so that
they may learn to be more humble. Their creative ways of reaching out to the
community shows me that God can work through us when we are willing to use what
He has given us and invest our time and effort in the people around us.
I cannot thank God enough for this
fruitful experience in Korea. I pray
that these important lessons will continue to stir in me and remind me to
practice what I have learned from this trip. If God is willing, I am sure that
He will bring us back to Korea.