September 23, 2014
It is a gorgeous fall day in South Korea…much warmer than our Indian summers. This is our first full day of touring after arriving at our host church in Bupyeong. The group of 30+ clergy and laity from New England arrived late yesterday afternoon for a 10-day spiritual pilgrimage, hosted completely by the Bupyeong Methodist Church. They are taking wonderful care of us!
This morning we visited the first Methodist Church in Korea, Chungdong, founded 130 years ago by American missionaries H.G. Appenzeler (Methodist) and H. G. Underwood (Presbyterian), who arrived on Easter Sunday morning together on a ship and jointly began a Christian mission in South Korea. In its 130 year history, the Christian movement has risen to include 30% of the population, with Methodists being the second largest denomination after the Presbyterians.
All day long, the pastors and other church leaders have expressed their deep gratitude for the American missionaries who transformed their country. The Korean Methodist Church continues to “pay it forward” by sending missionaries across the globe, with 25,000 Korean missionaries serving in 165 countries today.
This afternoon we had the opportunity to visit the Yangwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in Seoul. This beautiful space feels very sacred and is visited by thousands who pay their respects and offer thanksgiving for the hundreds of missionaries who spread Christianity across the Korean peninsula. The cemetery is a national treasure, and similar to our own national cemeteries honoring political and military heroes.
It is inspiring to hear of the men and women ministers, physicians, educators, and business partners, who sacrificed their lives, their careers, their family ties, to share to share the love of Christ with the Korean people. Their passion ran deep and wide, as one laid to rest there had on his tombstone: he wanted to be buried in Korea rather than in Westminster Abbey.
It makes me pause to consider the people who gave their lives to share their faith and to build churches, schools, hospitals, which cross the landscape of my home and from which I have benefitted. Do we tell those stories and honor our fathers and mothers in faith so that others may be so inspired by their stories and ours? How do we pass on their legacy and pay it forward for others to experience the love and peace of Christ?
You can follow the New England Spiritual Pilgrimage to South Korea on the NEUMC Facebook page, and the following blogs:
Erica Robinson-Johnson, Director of Communications
Rick McKinley, Director of Congregational Development
David Abbott, Dean of the Cabinet
Connected in Christ,