My team and I arrived in South Korea on January 15, 2019.
We are staying at The Joyful Church in Pohang City. This church has about 5,000 members, yet they still “adopted” our little team with open arms. Not only have they given us a place to stay, they have gone above and beyond to make sure that we feel like a part of the family. When we arrived, it was not Koreans welcoming Americans, nor was it hosts welcoming guests. Rather, it was family welcoming family; brothers and sisters in Christ.
This year I have been a part of two unique and beautiful church families, first with the Papakaio Community Church in New Zealand and now with The Joyful Church in South Korea. I have seen first hand that no matter how big or small the building is, or how many people sit in a service, the principle is still the same: We are the church.
I have an international family in Christ with people of every nation and tongue. I have seen language barriers be broken with simple smiles, broken English, poor attempts at Korean phrases, and (when all else fails) google translate. I have experienced cultural differences between the east and the west, but one thing remains. Despite the differences in language and culture, what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4 rings true:
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
I have learned a few Korean words and phrases here and there (don’t be too impressed, it’s only the basics: hello, thank you, Jesus, yes, no, etc.) However, I remember sitting in the first couple of services when we arrived and of course, I didn’t understand anything; so I observed. As I sat and watched the dynamic of my first Korean church experience, an extraordinary aspect was highlighted that I had not seen in any other church before. It was the way they prayed.
I watched these people earnestly cry out to God with passion and resilience, some even to the point of tears.
As I mentioned, we are staying inside of the church and right beside our room there are several prayer rooms that are open 24 hours of the day. Every time I walk past the rooms, I see people in them, no matter what time of day it is. They also have a 5 AM prayer service every morning where about 200 people gather to start their day.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Another translation says, “ Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
Pray about everything.
God has placed this verse on my heart over and over again the past several months and every time, it’s as if I am reading it for the first time. The believers of South Korea have modeled this verse to me in tremendous ways and they have inspired me to go even deeper in my own prayer.
As I mentioned, most of the services are spoken in Korean, but from the first day there were two words that I understood. When I heard it, I realized that Hallelujah has no translation, and neither does amen.
There is one body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father; We are one church.