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‘100 percent world-aware’: goal of Korean church

CARROLLTON, Texas (BP) — The world is the common denominator — and the focus of prayer — for an array of ministries of Semihan Church in Carrollton, Texas, site of the 2018 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist fellowship known informally as the “Korean Council.”

Even Semihan’s name reflects the link: “Se” is part of a Korean word for world; “mi” is part of a word for the United States, and “Han” is found in a word for Korea.

Semihan’s ministries include special needs, refugee, American Indian, Bangladeshi and Korean people groups. New this fall is an outreach to English-speaking Americans who are friends, neighbors and coworkers of the 1,600 adult Koreans who worship each week at the church.

Children also are a part of Semihan’s missions. Even kindergartners are taught to start ministering in age-appropriate ways.

“We would like to grow our kids to be global leaders, 100 percent world-aware, American and Korean,” executive pastor Jun S. Choi told SBC LIFE, the journal of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “When they have lessons about missions when they are young, more than likely they will continue doing that as they grow up.”

The Korean Council of about 850 Korean-language churches, officially the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America, meets each June in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting.

Semihan has five ministry pillars, Choi explained, that together are represented by the acronym WORLD: to be a Worshipping church, Oikos small-groups church, Reaching-out church, Life-giving church and Discipling church. Each year, the church rotates through one of the pillars.

“This year is ‘life-giving,’ so this year we focus on missions and evangelism,” Choi said. Over the course of nine weeks this fall, church members will invite people they know to a variety of Semihan-sponsored sports and fun activities including golf, bowling, soccer, ping pong and jokgu Korean foot game tournaments, and a fall festival.

“We share the Gospel every time,” Choi said. “We are trying to expose them to the Gospel as much as we can…. That’s our mission, our purpose.”

Worship services at Semihan are in Korean, with audio translation to English on a smartphone app.

Semihan Church started in 2000 and has grown to include five children’s departments, which start with expectant parents, and 71 community groups for adults, a half-dozen senior groups, and singles and college groups.

By the time Semihan youngsters are in the sixth grade, they’ve learned to share their faith through Sunday School, Team Kid and age-appropriate mission projects. Sixth-graders therefore participate in the church’s monthly ministry to the homeless in south Dallas, providing a meal and worship service for about 100 people.

Semihan hosts a “Destination Korea” weeklong camp each summer, introducing the Korean language and culture to Korean-born children of adoptive American families.

Ministry to refugees is another major initiative, now in its third year. Ministry members visit refugees, help them get settled in the United States and share the Gospel with them.

“At the beginning we have individual contacts, 56 the first year,” Choi said. “If they need, we help [them] go to the market and other things, and our team regularly visits their houses. We start helping them out and can naturally share the Gospel with them.

“We realized there are small refugee churches and now we are backing up their churches,” the executive pastor continued. “We are working closely with African, Myanmar, Iranian and Pakistani churches.” The Pakistani congregation is one of three current Semihan church plants.

Another local initiative is Beanyard Coffee, a coffee shop open six days a week in a corner of the expansive church’s facilities. Special needs Koreans are the baristas. Semihan donates the space to the Texas Milal Mission, a Christian nonprofit which runs Beanyard Coffee to employ graduates of its job-training programs.

“We are trying to balance all three fields” in the church’s ministries, Choi said, referring to local, national and international missions. “We know the sharing of the Gospel is our purpose.”

Semihan’s Church Planting Institute started within the last year. Choi, working with the North American Mission Board, translated NAMB materials into Korean to better aid Korean seminary students become NAMB-endorsed church planters.

“We like to train and equip them for two years, and send them to a Send City where NAMB is targeting,” Choi said. “What we are hoping for is we can pump out church planters on a regular basis…. Our senior pastor got the vision we can do this. I think we are the first Korean church trying to do this in a systematic way.”

Semihan gives students experience to expand on seminary training, including preaching in front of the senior pastor. “He will coach their sermons; he will talk about how to be a senior pastor,” Choi said.

For missions outside the local area, Semihan Church has focused on American Indians in Arizona and New Mexico. Six trips to reservations are planned for this summer, in the continuation of a 10-year commitment to minister among people who “need to be healed in Christ,” Choi said. “We kind of share the same feelings of abandonment and the hurts and wounds of previous generations.”

In Bangladesh, Semihan’s main international thrust, the church for the last five years has operated a school considered to adhere to the highest standards of education in the South Asian nation.

“It’s for the kids,” Choi said. “We want them to be the next leaders in Bangladesh who love Jesus Christ. We send one of our missionaries there as the principal and send books in English. This year we are sending a layman team to share the Gospel, help expand classrooms, and teach computer skills, Tae Kwon Do and Korean culture.”

Senior pastor Byeong Rack “Lloyd” Choi, who was out of the country on a missions trip when SBC LIFE researched this story, said upon his return to Texas that prayer is an essential component of Semihan’s outreach.

“Prayer is embedded in our church’s DNA and is a driving force of our church,” said Lloyd Choi, who has led the church since 2002 in his first pastorate. “Starting with Friday night prayer service, where the whole church prays together, it is also [a focus of] our early morning prayer service, small group gatherings, and our meetings even for kids. So we know it is not [for] us to make decisions and live our life, but we only do what God told us to do.”

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  • Karen Willoughby