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What Korea taught me about the Gospel

What Korea taught me about the Gospel

In late August I had the privilege of traveling to South Korea for the purposes of studying the Korean Church as well as Christian prayer movements in Korean culture.  Prior to leaving I was reminded of a trusted mentor who shared with me an insight from his years traveling abroad.  He said, “When you travel to a new continent or culture you learn a tremendous amount about that particular region and people group, but you will learn even more about where you are from.”

My time in Korea was reflective of this insight.  I learned a great amount about Korean culture, the church and the people, but even more about my own set of beliefs and the cultural context in which I got them.  The following are two specific areas in which I was challenged deeply during my time in Korea, leading to a better understanding of my ministry here in the States and, in many ways, formation of my soul.



The idea of unification was not new to me, but it certainly was not a topic that I have taken much time to reflect upon.  But when I stood at the edge of the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) and read the statement, “END OF SEPERATION, BEGINNING OF UNIFICATION”, I was blown away.  To hear South Korean leaders within the church praying for the unification of the North and South humbled me.  To think that the South would be willing to love and pray for their enemy was simply foreign to me.  It was evident that these leaders understood the hardships which would come with unification.  Hardships which would include giving of themselves, fighting food shortages and famine, building the infrastructure of a new nation, caring for orphans and even wrestling with communist ideals.  Their passion for God and the unification/ restoration of His people was inspiring.

I found myself thinking about the Western church and our response to the idea of unification.  More often than not, our desire for, frankly, selfish interest simply gets in the way.  We not only avoid praying for restoration with our neighbors, we discard relationships like consumers who either having their needs met finish and move on, or being unsatisfied discard one option and look to find the next new and better product.

What I experienced prompted some questions in my own soul, and I share them with you only because it might be helpful in helping you reflect on the idea of unification in your own life:

  • Am I as committed to restoration with another even if it costs me deeply?
  • Do I understand the power of unification within the gospel?

I am still wrestling with each of these questions.


Have you ever heard the statement, “We are all products of those who have come before us.”?

More than likely, most of us have heard this concept or something like it before, and, perhaps, we’ve even embraced the idea at some level, but if you’re anything like me, giving mental ascent to the idea is far easier than living by its implications.

While I was in Korea, I continually heard a theme of gratitude emerging from its people.  A deep gratitude for the land, the church, the United States and most of all for the foreign missionaries who brought the gospel to the Korean peninsula was a message I heard again and again from the Korean church.

Though I experienced many forms of gratitude from the South Korean people, the one that most impacted me was the Yang-Hwa-Jin Missionary Cemetery.  I was struck by the Korean peoples’ deep gratitude for those who gave up their lives to bring the gospel to Korea.  In all my travels to foreign countries I have never once seen a cemetery and museum dedicated to foreign missionaries. It was a humbling expression of gratitude for their spiritual forebearers.

The commitment of missionaries like Homer B. Hulbert and his statement placed on his tombstone, “I would rather be buried in Korea than in Westminster Abbey” still had an impact on this generation of the Korean church.  While standing in front of a rubbing taken from his tombstone, I reflected on what felt to me like a lack of gratitude shown to earlier generations in my western context.  In the West, we’re so inclined to focus on what’s new and improved, what’s next, what God’s going to do, that we sometimes fail to see ourselves as a small part of the much bigger, longer, and broader work of God.

Subsequently as I stood there, reflecting on this missionary’s devoted life, it made me question my own gratitude for those who have gone before me paving the way and making possible all that I have been able to experience in life.

Two questions about being grateful for those who’ve come before:

  • Who has come before you – in your own personal life and in the life of the ministry you’re now serving?
  • What are some meaningful ways to honor and remember those who have served before?

I want to thank the Korean people for shaping my understanding of unification and gratitude.  What you have shown me is transforming my soul.

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.
  1. Joeybagofdonuts01-17-13

    Thanks so much for this post Rick. I have a lot of work to do in my life concerning restoration and gratitude. I need to be asking the questions in stead of formulating the answers. Lesson one from Socrates. Peace