For a little over a year now, my family and I have been back in Seoul, South Korea, where we are trying to plant the country’s first Free Presbyterian church. While Korea suffered severely through the Japanese invasion in the early 1900s and through the communist war that divided Korea into North and South, because of the nation’s fast industrialization, Seoul has become one of the most economically developed cities in the world. It is South Korea’s political and cultural center and is home to ten million people.
Militarily, South Korea is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth. Seoul, the capital city, is situated only 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the North Korean border. Nonetheless, about half the population of South Korea lives in and around Seoul. Political agitation and threats from the North create tension and a degree of fear even for Christians in South Korea, but through long experience of war and their Christian faith many of God’s people have learned to rely on the Lord for protection.
Christianity was formally introduced to Korea in 1884 and in 1907 a revival started in Pyongyang. This revival, like the ones in Wales and Ireland, helped change the country. In 1910, the Japanese invaded Korea, and while Koreans were under oppression of cruel persecutions God helped them to think of Christianity as the nation’s only hope. During the Korean War many Christians moved toward the South. This helped Christianity become the main religion in South Korea.
Korean Christians endured many tribulations and were passionate in their faith, but they were deficient in their understanding of Bible doctrine and were therefore prey to divisions and secularism. While various religions are practiced today, the number of Christian believers in South Korea is now estimated at ten million. Visitors who come to Seoul see numerous neon-lit crosses shining brightly at night from the tops of churches. However, in spite of the fact that there are many church groups and some very large congregations, the church in Korea today is weak in its theology.
It was by God’s grace that I came to know about the Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. God gave me a chance to worship and work at Korean FPC under the ministry of Rev. David Lee before and after his death. While my wife and I were contemplating our return to Seoul, the sermon “Free Presbyterian—Why?” by Dr. Alan Cairns assured us that this was the right kind of church to plant in Seoul. After arriving back in Seoul in January of 2015 we rented a small place and named it Gwangmyeong Faith Free Presbyterian Church.
Our ministry takes on various forms. We regularly visit people with gospel tracts. In Korea, people don’t open doors to strangers, so we put the tracts on their doors. We invite our friends to our Bible studies. Every Saturday we read Christian books and talk about them. While doing this, we are sharing the true faith.
For over a year we have met for prayer each Wednesday to call on God to convert people to Christ and to send us people that agree with our church’s beliefs.
We trust God to use our church website (www.gmfpc.org). It explains in detail the faith we pursue. Even though our denomination is new to Korea, I believe there are believers who agree with our faith. We are determined to pray that God will fulfill His promises to call out a people for His Name. While we started as a very small meeting and have grown just a little, we are certain that God has called us to this ministry to establish a Free Presbyterian church with its biblical truths and standards here in Seoul.
In closing, I ask you to please pray for our teenagers, who need to be saved and one day baptized so they become true witnesses for Christ. Pray also for me as I feel very much alone in this stand for the Lord and I miss my fellow-helpers in America. I feel, however, that this time is precious to us as we wait on the Lord for His blessing on our labors. Until then, I hope that you will pray for our church and for Korea.
Rev. Seongkyu Lee is the minister of Gwangmyeong Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Seoul.