Witnessing radical servanthood in South Korea
August 14, 2017 / By Rev. Jeff McDowell, Finger Lakes District Superintendent
A worker fell over 40 feet from the new steeple roof and surely would have died. But he fell on a small tree, only breaking four ribs instead. He lived to tell about being saved at the Bupyeong Methodist church as a result of all the people’s prayers. This is the kind of faith story told to us by host Pastor Hong as he shared miracle after miracle in his life, the lives of others, and the life of this fast - growing Methodist church. He did not tell stories only with happy endings, but shared also some of the deep and painful struggles both his Father and he have had over their years of serving as Pastor of this church. Yet the call of God and the faithfulness of God toward all the people there is evident. The people we met are serious about their faith, showing it in everything they do. I will let others on the cabinet talk about the prayer services and perhaps the lavish treatment we received from this expression of the body of Christ. Suffice it to say we were treated like royalty. But faith is something that provides evidence for that which we cannot see, and substance for those things we can only hope for. (My loose transliteration of Hebrews 11:1)
I believe that when Korean Methodist Christians ask God for something, they actually think they are going to get it! I mean, the faith stories we heard point to a higher power, and they are not afraid to identify that power as God in Jesus Christ, the Savior. Now, I know people are people and that doubters live in every human faith community. But there is simplicity of faith I sensed by being around my brothers and sisters in Korea. It is a faith born, perhaps, out of extreme pain over the bloody history of this nation’s occupation and civil war: a faith that must to cry out to God for saving. People in the church we visited had trusted God for money that was impossible to collect, land that seemed impossible to acquire, and a ministry of receiving foreigners to share their faith with, from lands they had not visited. Their leaders have trusted God to help them plant churches and give to missions beyond their means. “Faith in action” seems too small a phrase; I was moved.
Servant - leadership was demonstrated in a new way to us. All around us for nine days there were people happily serving us food, driving our bus, counting us to make sure we did not leave someone behind, and even cleaning our hotel-style rooms, with no expectation of reward, except to please their Lord by serving strangers. As we arrived back at the church each evening after sightseeing, six or seven pastors and other lay servants met us to say welcome back and to wish us a good night. There is no overtime in the Lord’s service. I wonder what it would be like if we all held such a high standard of service as a demonstration of our faith. I wonder.
It is too early for me to formulate my plans of how to implement something I learned on this wonderful trip to Korea. I need to chew on it some more and pray for guidance. But this I know: the world is looking for a people whose faith is simple, who trust that God is enough, and who demonstrate radical servanthood for the sake of Christ every day. We can go a long way by following these three traits.