Hospitality in Korea demonstrated with thousands of thanks
August 29, 2017 / By Rev. Rich Weihing, Albany District Superintendent
On our recent trip to Korea, I received a ministry of hospitality beyond anything I’ve experienced. Pastors, staff, and members of Bupyeong Methodist Church were overwhelming in the best ways with grace that was truly amazing. Our hosts thanked us again and again for visiting, for staying at their church, for sharing in meals which they provided; for listening to the story of their history, faith, and ministry; for sharing in prayer and worship; for speaking a bit of Korean; for learning about Korean Christian and Methodist culture / tradition; and for sharing our reflections with them. I have never received such grace-full, thank-full hospitality. We were given meal after lavish meal at no cost. When we began to protest, our hosts very kindly asked us to please accept these gifts in joy as an expression of their ministry and their thanks.
“The People Called Methodist” are alive and well in Korea. Most congregations we visited are connected in very practical and spiritual ways to the earliest Christian missionaries, many of whom were Methodist. Early Methodist churches remain vital and active. Leaders of these congregations thanked us over and over for bringing them faith in Jesus Christ, bringing the Bible (and with it the written Korean language), and modern medicine. I was uneasy receiving thanks for ministry I did not myself do, but I grew to understand that this was one more experience of the overpowering nature of God’s grace which amazes.
We have much to learn from our Korean Methodist sisters and brothers. I hear God calling us to remember the faith stories of our foremothers and forefathers, to tell them again and again: about how God’s Good News was so powerful in their lives that they committed themselves; they taught and preached Jesus Christ; they gave sacrificially; they put themselves in danger to share what they had been given. Their lives were transformed so dramatically that they built churches as centers for experiencing faith, sharing together in prayer, study, and worship, and going forth to serve in ways that our neighbors experience as life-changing good news.
Being present at the Peace Observatory on Kangwha Island, overlooking the river between the South and North, I was struck by the brokenness of Korean people. The brokenness is not simply political, but relational and spiritual. Korean Christians experience God’s persistent call for healing, unity, freedom, for hearts and minds to bend toward God’s will, and for the saving love of Jesus Christ to be offered to all. We prayed for these things as we listened to recorded propaganda songs from across the river. We watched farmers (and maybe some soldiers) across the river. When the day comes that it is possible for South Koreans to share their faith with their sisters and brothers of the North, they will be ready.
I had fun in Korea. Every day was a chance to have some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. It was a pleasure to experience Korean culture with Korean friends. I learned that two phrases will get you a long way: Anyang Haseo (Hello, shortened to Anyang when addressing a child) and Gamsa Hamnida (Thank you). My friends of the Korean UMC of Albany helped me learn these a few years ago, and these simple phrases served me well.
While watching a young boy along the Han River chase pigeons and watching his grandfather follow along smiling, I was reminded that people are people wherever you go.