“Kong Hang” means airport in English. This church is close to Gimpo Airport in the northern part of Seoul, just a few blocks from my house. It is a very unique church of Christ because of the members and the philosophies among the members. They are extremely lucky because they are young, alive, smart, and strong. Some of them had preachers for dads. Many are converts to Christianity. This church represents the future of the church of Christ in Korea.
The door that leads into the church building tells you about them. It reads in Korean “We speak Korean and English,” and under that, it says “The Kong Hang Church.” Many churches in Korea have huge pictures like this on the doors or windows of their building, but not many can boast to speak both Korean and English. Also before you go in, you can see two important signs. One has some basics about the church of Christ written in both Korean and English, and the other has a schedule of services.
When you open the front door to go into worship, you are asked to take your shoes off. No one wears their shoes here. It is the old way in Korea, and people who choose to do it are more comfortable and don’t have to clean their floors as often. As you go in, on the left, there is a nursery. This church has almost as many babies as adults, and the nursery is put to good use. You enter and sit on padded chairs with a desk on the back of the chair in front of you.
You spot something that you just can’t spot in most churches of Christ in other countries, there is a piano and a guitar sitting in one corner. However, they stay unused all the way through the church services. People wonder why they are there if they aren’t used. As I said, these people are young and smart. They think for themselves. Several of the prominent members are children of a Korean preacher and grew up in a church where musical instruments are played, but they still refuse to play these instruments in worship. Many in the church of Christ say we shouldn’t play musical instruments in worship because when you search the New Testament for things that we must do in worship, we are encouraged to sing, but no where are we told to play musical instruments in the New Testament. That is fine, but this church goes even further. There are several very talented members among them who can play these instruments. They understand that instruments can help your singing by helping people to stay on tune and get the right pitch and tempo, but they still refuse to use them in worship. They use the instruments at special times put aside for practice and learning new songs, but refuse to use them in worship because they say they have seen too many people just sit and listen to the musical instruments being playing during worship rather than actually worship. They want to encourage worship. They don’t want the people to come just to be entertained. However, they see that musical instruments have a place helping the people learn the music so worship can be better, so they set aside special times just to practice using musical instruments, but won’t use them during worship.
On the particular day that I am snapping pictures, you see the preacher, Mr. Kim, leading singing and preaching. The attendance is down on this day because it is summer and some of the members are away on vacation. He doesn’t always lead all the songs or preach every time. There are actually three men who are very capable preachers who take turns and several who are capable of leading singing, but on the day I bring my camera, both the singing and the preaching fall to Mr. Kim. Mr. Kim is very unique. He went to school to be a Methodist preacher, and after he became a preacher, converted to the church of Christ. He only speaks Korean, and he is an extremely good preacher. As a foreigner, he is the Korean preacher I prefer listening to. He expresses himself in such a way to be better understood than most Koreans, and so I understand more when he preaches. I have heard other foreigners say the same thing about him.
Just before worship services are finished, a friend of mine, Professor Song, a Chinese teacher from K. C. U. jumps up out of her seat and walks over to where I am and whispers halfway in Korean and halfway in English, “I am cooking today, and I want to be sure you are staying.” I nod and let her know I plan on staying, and she goes on to the kitchen. I met Professor Song the day she was baptized at the KCU church of Christ. She and her husband were both baptized that day. Her husband had been a preacher for the Presbyterian church, but the two of them are extremely serious about their Christianity, and what she said to me was the Presbyterian church and the church of Christ are very similar, but the church of Christ goes a step beyond the Presbyterian church that she thinks is very Biblical. The Presbyterian church baptizes babies, but the church of Christ baptizes adults.
When worship services are over, we all put our shoes back on and go in the next door upstairs where the church has an apartment. Again, we take our shoes off at the door. In this apartment, there are four classrooms, a kitchen, and a preacher’s office. The church eats here together every Sunday after worship. Today, Professor Song has made a wonderful looking chicken dish that is on the stove boiling, rice, and kimchee.
Three of the classrooms.
While the chicken was boiling, I decided to walk around and take pictures for you. I took a picture of Hohyeon. He is a very important member here. I met him first when he was one of my students at KCU. He came to me saying he wanted more opportunities to speak English. I asked him if he went to church anywhere, and he said he didn’t, so I invited him to an English Bible study and to the Han/Young church of Christ (the Korean/English church of Christ). He came, and was thrilled that I asked him! He told me that his parents weren’t Christians, but he had been looking for a church. When he was younger, his parents sent him to New Zealand to learn to speak English on some sort of exchange program, and it just so happened that he got into the home of a preacher. He really liked the preacher and went to church with him, but when he came back to Korea, he didn’t know anything about churches, so didn’t go. He came to KCU because it had a Christian name on it hoping to find a church, but until the point I invited him, no one had invited him to church. I saw Hohyeon baptized by Kim Oksan in a lake, and Kim Oksan studied some more with him. Right after he graduated from KCU, it was difficult for him because he got a job a a Social Worker, and the company happened to be Buddhist. The people were requiring him as part of his job to sit through Buddhist worship services, and it upset him, and he ended up quitting that job, studying to become a realtor, and now he is an English speaking Christian realtor. After he was baptized, Hohyeon brought his girlfriend to church with him who eventually became his wife and also became a Christian, and now they have a little girl. Hohyeon is known as the personal evangelist because he is always inviting people to come to church with him.
Another important member here is Hanul. She is my friend you have seen on my blog before. She was also a KCU student. She found out about the Bible class I was teaching in my office for the students, and she showed up at the Bible classes. She studied a lot! She helped me translate. She came to church with me, and she was also baptized over at the Yongsan church of Christ. She now attends the Kong Hang church and the Yongsan church. She brings her boyfriend and her dad to church with her. She is now attending art school. If you are looking for a really bright girl, she is! Many of the members of the church who speak English so well learned because they lived in an English speaking country, but she never did, and she speaks English like a native speaker of English.
Another important member is Jupil. I have known Jupil since I came to Korea. I met him the first year. His dad is a Korean preacher. Not long after I met him, I met Hyeongjeong, who he married soon after I met her, and they now have three kids. He has a B. A. degree in Theology from KCU, two masters degrees in Theology, one from Freed Hardeman University in America, but I am not sure where he got the other, and now, he is just finishing up a doctorate degree in Theology from Yonsei University (a Korean Ivy league university). He runs a private English school. All the studies in Theology he has done is because he is a very serious Christian, not to make money from it all, but to understand more.
Jupil’s oldest son is Hamin. Hamin helped me begin to speak Korean. When Hamin was a baby, he babbled on in very simple Korean to me, and I learned to understand on a very simple level because of him. The name Hamin means “God’s person.”
I ate lunch at the same table with Grace Choi and her husband. Many people in the church of Christ in American know Grace because she graduated from Harding University and then became a nurse in America. After that, she came back to Korea, got married, and had a baby. She is Joseph Choi’s younger sister. Joseph paid for all her schooling in America. I met Joseph before I ever came to Korea because he was my student at Ohio Valley University (a small Christian university in Wet Virginia). Joseph has a B. A. in Theology from OVU and part of a masters in Theology from Harding University. He quit part of the way through because he had to come home and do his Korean military service, and once he got out of the military, he got a job and began paying for Grace to study in America, and then got married, then had a baby. Joseph is another very important member of this church, but I don’t have a picture of him here today because he is lucky enough to be on vacation in Italy. He is running two private schools. Joseph and Jupil can both preach in both Korean and English.
I have another picture here of Joseph’s other sister, Unyong. She is a graduate of KCU. She is sitting in the floor eating with her husband. They also have a baby. Unyong is a Social Worker. Unyong, Joseph, and Grace were raised in a church of Christ with musical instruments. Joseph is extremely talented with music. Before all of these people began having so many babies that seem to have slowed them down a bit, we used to go to the Singing Room to sing a lot with Unyong, Joseph, and Maya (Joseph’s wife). Joseph has given me a lot of singing lessons. When he lived in America, Joseph used to bring his guitar and play it at my house while all the international students sang. He made a snow man in my yard. He is one of those people that you say if you have known someone well as long as Joseph and I have known one another, you become like family. He was my neighbor here for a while, and he used to drop in just to see what kind of left overs were in my fridge. His wife, Maya, lived at my house for two years before they got married. He met her through me. Joseph and Maya say their little boy, John (in Korean Ju-an), is my Korean grandson.
There is also a picture here of my son in law, Abraham. I met him because someone invited him to come to the Bible study in my office, and he came. That is also how my daughter met him. He had just gotten out of the military and was studying Psychology at Korea University (another Ivy league university in Korea). He is now almost finished with his masters in Cross Cultural Education at a university of international studies (I can never remember the exact name.) He grew up in the church of Christ. His dad is also a Korean preacher. Abraham studied at a university in New York.
This church is full of children of Korean preachers, strong new converts, and lots of kids. They are the future of the church of Christ in Korea. The church of Christ came to Korea in the 1950’s, but Christianity in general has been here since the 1700 or 1800’s, and knowledge of God has been here forever. There is a church building on almost every street corner. The Koreans are serious about their Christianity, and this church especially is serious. They have Bible classes for all the children you see. They continue their Theology studies in higher education as well as regular Bible classes at church. They apply the things they learn, and they keep studying. Just because someone says it, it doesn’t mean this group will do it. They are serious Bible students. They believe in the Restoration plea (trying to restore the church to what it was in the beginning during Bible times) found in the church of Christ “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” If it is in the Bible, they believe it, but they study for themselves and don’t take anyone’s word for it. They have gone beyond their parents. They have gone beyond the missionaries. They study in depth and have strong roots that can’t be chopped. Their faith is truly their own, and they don’t practice Christianity simply because perhaps their parents did.