American Korean Christians urged to build ministry bridges

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LOS ANGELES — For participants in the gathering of the Council of Korean Baptist Churches in America, a bridge in South Korea became an object lesson in the importance of a pastor's ministry.

Jong Po Kim, pastor of Beautiful Baptist Church in Seoul, South Korea, spoke three times in two days to the 432 registered participants of the Korean group's 27th annual meeting, which took place at Berendo Street Baptist Church in the part of Los Angeles known as Koreatown.

Each time he spoke, Kim referred to a bridge that now links his childhood home on Geoje-do Island, near Pusan, South Korea, to the mainland. The graceful concrete bridge provides an avenue of transportation that transformed the island from being a wartime POW camp to a shipyard that has placed Korea among the largest shipbuilding nations in the world.

Just as the bridge changed the island, so the pastor who allows his life to be a bridge between Jesus and humanity is an avenue of transformation as well, Kim said.

The meeting of 825 Korean Southern Baptist churches marked significant strides forward in ministry in four areas:

1) To date, nearly 300 Koreans have been assigned as career missionaries by the International Mission Board; the Korean Council's goal is 1,000 by the year 2010.

2) A new Korean/English missions education curriculum for preschoolers and children has been developed by Angela Seonghei Kim of Houston and released in early June by WMU SBC in partnership with, and printed by, the Texas WMU. Information about the MissionFriends and Children in Action materials is available at www.koreanwmu.org.

3) A major world missions conference for Korean Baptists will be held April 21-23, 2009, at New Song Baptist Church in Dallas. The event, which is an outgrowth of summit meetings between Korean leaders from South Korea and America that have taken place the last two years will feature presentations by at least 100 missionaries of Korean ancestry whose assignments span the globe. Jerry Rankin of the International Mission Board, Loren Cunningham of Youth With A Mission, and Daniel Lee, pastor of the largest Baptist church in Korea all are expected to participate.

4) After 16 years of development, Chang Ho Hwang, pastor of Korean Best Baptist Church in Washington D.C., has completed work on a version of American Sign Language for Korean-speakers and is working on a translation of the Bible into Korean sign language. His goal is to complete the translation of the entire Bible into Korean sign language during his lifetime; he's 48.

Reports from the Korean fellowship's overseas missions, domestic missions, Woman's Missionary Union, Brotherhood and Education departments added to the general sense of celebration at the annual meeting.

In addition to support of the Cooperative Program and seasonal missions offerings, Korean Baptist churches also support 15 Korean missionary families in Central America, South America, Africa, Central Asia and East Asia. Videotaped reports from them were presented during the first Tuesday evening session. The missionaries' work includes orphanages, theological education and discipleship, as well as evangelism and church planting.

The visual effect of Koreans on mission around the world was for some people the best part of the annual meeting.

"This is the most important thing to Koreans, fulfilling the Great Commission everywhere in the world," explained Daniel Song, pastor of Korean Baptist Church of Binghamton, N.Y.

Several pastors expressed their appreciation for salary supplements, some of which come directly from the Korean Council while others are provided by churches that partner with the new work.

"That helped us a lot," said Jae Lee, pastor of the Terre Haute (Ind.) Korean Baptist Church, told Baptist Press. "I'm so grateful. My church is a student ministry church; we can't support ourselves."

At least they couldn't when Lee started the church less than four years ago. The $300 a month he received for three years made it possible for the church to continue to grow and stabilize, and now he no longer needs the supplement, Lee said.

Han Chung Ho, pastor of Immanuel Korean Baptist Church of Anaheim, Calif., was elected president in a run-off election with Sin K. Baik, pastor of New Way Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. Baik became first vice president. Jong Keol Yoo, pastor of True Light Korean Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., was elected second vice president by acclamation.

"It was really fun," said 17-year-old Joseph Kang of Portland, Ore. "You meet so many people, and the worship services and messages are entertaining and touching." Asked what God had said to him during the week of June 16-19, Kang responded: "He told me to be more better to my parents, to love them and thank them."