South Korea Anniversary Celebration

October 10, 2018

South Korea Anniversary Celebration

This year’s South Korea camp meeting, which took place in Seoul on August 2-5, was an anniversary celebration of the beginning of the Apostolic Faith work in Korea, and included the installation of Jeong Min Kim as the new Korea District Superintendent.

50 years in the making

Fifty years ago, missionaries Harold and Sally Barrett held the first Apostolic Faith service in a small upper room of their rented home in Busan, South Korea. The “roots” of that first little gathering were in an outreach ministry to seafaring men by members of the headquarters church in Portland, Oregon. The Barretts were among the workers who visited ships that came into the Portland harbor to invite men to church services. Brother Barrett recounted, “Many times the Korean seamen would ask me if we had a church in their country. They would say, ‘Why don’t you come to Korea?’” In time, God opened doors for that to happen, and in 1966, the couple traveled to Korea as guests of the Korean government and spent seven months there. A few months after their return to Portland, they accepted the challenge to return to Korea as missionaries.

After more than a year of making contacts with families of the Korean crewmen they had entertained in their home, a retired crewman came to the Barrett’s house one day and said, “Brother Barrett, why don’t we begin to hold meetings?” There were only three present in that first gathering, but they held a church service. In time, others began to join them one by one.

We did not have beautiful pews. I did not even have a pulpit to preach from, but we started inviting the seamen who came to see us. Soon we had several dozen people attending, sitting on the floor around me as I preached a simple Gospel message.

The second floor room of their home where the growing group assembled was only about ten by fifteen feet in size. Brother Barrett related, “We called it the ‘Upper Room Church.’ We did not have beautiful pews. I did not even have a pulpit to preach from, but we started inviting the seamen who came to see us. Soon we had several dozen people attending, sitting on the floor around me as I preached a simple Gospel message. The Lord gave me such a love for the souls of these people, and tears would stream down my face as I preached. Before long, many of them truly gave their hearts to the Lord. We found an army chaplain who was trying to learn English and he was our interpreter. God talked to his heart through my simple messages and he was saved. He later became a minister.”

The missionary loved to tell the story of another early convert. “Our home had no running water, so we had to have water brought to our home. The lady who delivered it worked for many so-called Christians in the neighborhood, but most of them believed that some are predestined to perish and some are predestined to be saved, so they did not care about her soul. When she came to our home, we would offer her tea and show her kindness, and it was not long before that woman believed upon Christ, the Son of the living God.

“Her husband was a drunkard, and the little money he made by pushing a fruit cart around the streets, he would spend in wine shops. When he came home, he would beat his wife, and she told us that before Christ came into her heart, she hated him and wished he would die. After she became a Christian, though, that changed. One day she called me and said, ‘Brother Barrett, please come! My husband is dying!’ We went to her home, and there on his knees, that man prayed through to a real experience of salvation. He lived as a happy Christian for many years, until God took him Home. Years later, that woman wrote us a note and said, ‘Thank God that He ever sent you to Korea, just for our family!’”

Another who was saved in those early days was a young man who was active in church work, even holding the position of deacon in his denomination. However, he had no victory in his life. Brother Barrett visited his church and preached that when one is born again, he does not commit sin. The Spirit witnessed to the young man’s heart that this was the truth and later, he was saved and received his deeper experiences. He became one of the first ministers of the Korean work.

Many in the growing Busan congregation faced opposition for the stand they took for the Gospel, but their devotion to the Lord and desire to tell others about His love caused the numbers in the little upper room gathering to swell. In one letter home, the missionaries wrote of a group of girls who worked in the factories of Busan. “They work twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Then they lay down their tools and without any dinner, ride the bus for one hour to come to church. They make seven-and-a-half cents an hour, and those young girls pay tithes! They make those sacrifices willingly because they love God. Sometimes by the time they arrive, the sermon is almost over, but they fall on their knees at the altar. If only you could see the puddles of tears as they pray! God meets with them there, and though they are tired in body, they are refreshed in their spirits.”

Celebrating where we are now

Fifty years later, the Apostolic Faith organization now has six churches in South Korea: in Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejon, Okpo, and Akyang. Among the church workers are some of those same factory girls who attended services in the Barretts’ home. They have raised their children in the Gospel and now are watching their grandchildren being raised in this faith. The early convert who was a deacon in his former denomination pastored several of our churches and is now retired and attending the headquarters church in Seoul. Families of some of the seafaring men who once visited Portland are among the attendees; in fact, thirteen members of one of those families participated in the Christmas concert of our Seoul church last year. Today, there are third- and even fourth-generation Apostolic Faith members attending our churches in that country.

At the camp meeting this year, Reverend Bill McKibben, Director of Asia Work, and his wife, Lori, joined with the Korean saints at the anniversary celebration. Also present were Rich Barrett, youngest son of the missionaries who pioneered the work there, and his wife Karen, of Portland, Oregon.

Although it was very hot—over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit each day—the high temperatures did not dampen the sweet spirit felt by all in attendance. Music was featured in all of the meetings. In the first evening service, one of the Korean pastors and his wife sang a vocal duet. She was saved while just a middle-school student, becoming one of the first attendees in Busan; she also directed the choir in several of the services. In each meeting, a small orchestra provided an instrumental prelude, and there were musical specials from choirs, ensembles, youth groups, and soloists representing the various branch churches.

Reverend McKibben commented during the camp meeting that the Apostolic Faith in Korea is blessed to be a multi-generational church. The testimonies proved that, ranging from older saints reminiscing about Harold and Sally Barrett and the early days in the work, to young people sharing recent blessings and victories.

Rich Barrett was only sixteen when his parents made their first trip to Korea. He and Karen testified in the services about visiting Korea as a newly married couple in 1971. On that trip, Rich started the first orchestra in the Korean Apostolic Faith, and they attended services in the first church building rented by the missionaries for services after the congregation outgrew the upper room location. Over the years, the two of them have made a number of trips to Korea, and have learned to love the Korean saints as his parents did.

Each morning of the camp meeting began with prayer, followed by a Bible teaching service. In one teaching, the Busan pastor spoke about Lazarus being raised from the dead and Christ’s resurrection, bringing out the need for all to prepare for eternal life. Another teaching covered a survey of Psalms 1-3, reminding those present that there are two ways to live—God’s way and all others. Those in attendance also heard of the importance of looking to God as a shield and protector. In the evenings, sermon themes included the call of Moses, a challenge to have a broken and contrite heart before the Lord, and redemption through Christ.

In one of the services, Reverend McKibben preached from Colossians 1:1-5, and told of walking by many restaurants earlier that day when he had gone to the Seoul train station to meet two arriving pastors. He said he could smell the food and see what each eating establishment offered, but that did not satisfy his appetite—he had to partake of the food! He pointed out that a person could attend the camp meeting and observe that God was blessing, but each one needed to partake personally in order to benefit.

A Korea Board of Trustees meeting was held on Thursday afternoon, and a pastors’ meeting on Friday afternoon. Between services, the saints gathered for meals prepared by teams of church ladies in the fellowship room on the third floor of the Seoul church. Babies toddled past groups seated on the floor around communal tables, old friends visited with each other, and warmly attentive saints pressed Korean food on the guests from the United States. Eating together at each meal meant that great fellowship was shared not only in the church services, but throughout the entire camp meeting.

The Saturday evening service included the installation of Jeong Min Kim, pastor of the Seoul church, as the new Korea District Superintendent. 

Reverend McKibben recounted, “On Saturday afternoon, we were thrilled to gather with the saints to observe the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Foot Washing. The Saturday evening service included the installation of Jeong Min Kim, pastor of the Seoul church, as the new Korea District Superintendent. The Korean Board of Trustees had ratified his appointment earlier, and during the installation service, they laid hands on him and prayed along with the congregation in acknowledgment of God's call on Reverend Kim as the new leader of the work in South Korea. He preached on Saturday evening, and a very sweet prayer meeting followed.” Reverend Kim has a life-long heritage in the Apostolic Faith work, as his mother was one of those factory girls who attended the early services in Busan.

On Sunday morning, the church was full as attendees gathered for the final church service. Reverend McKibben preached about the Jewish Year of Jubilee, highlighting four principles of that bi-centennial celebration: rest, reflect, restore, and rejoice. He compared that ancient event to the fifty-year anniversary of the Apostolic Faith work in Korea, pointing out that the Jewish people used the year of Jubilee to rejoice in God’s goodness, freedom, and provision. They were not to live in the past but were to honor God in each new generation. He challenged the congregations in Korea to continue to proclaim liberty to all who are in spiritual captivity, and to encourage each successive generation to enjoy their spiritual inheritance.

On Sunday afternoon, following the morning worship service and a last meal together, the Korean saints and U.S. visitors gathered for the formal fiftieth anniversary celebration, which featured a media presentation of slides and video clips of early days in the Korean work. The audience clearly enjoyed glimpses of the missionaries in their home, Harold Barrett preaching and praying around the altar, children participating in special programs, and beloved faces of old-timers in the work. The audience provided a spontaneous and clearly heartfelt background of chuckles, appreciative comments, and murmured names as image after image appeared. Brother Kim concluded the anniversary gathering by having several Korean pastors and their wives present the U.S. visitors with flowers and gifts from the Korean saints. These gifts and words of appreciation on behalf of the entire group were not only to honor them for their visit and dedication to the work in that country but also to acknowledge the sacrifices made over generations by Harold and Sally Barrett and many others who have supported the Korean work over the past fifty years.

The anniversary weekend was a precious time of fellowship and spiritual growth. It was also a time to remember the past and pay tribute to the Gospel veterans who have labored in the Korean work over the years, while also looking forward to the future.

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