SULPHER, La. (BP)–It had been 25 years since Olivet Baptist Church in Sulphur, La., had given an offering to help start a new church in South Korea. Few Olivet members remembered the offering and present pastor Mark Broussard knew nothing about it.
Imagine the pastor’s surprise when he received an invitation last spring to take part in the 25th anniversary celebration of Taechon Baptist Church. And not only were he and his wife invited, but the Korean church offered to pay all expenses for the trip.
Broussard said he quickly began asking around. “Some of the old-timers remembered,” he said, noting the church treasurer had a record of the gift.
“I wasn’t even aware that the church had done this,” he said. “But (the South Korean church’s pastor) never forgot us. He felt indebted to us.”
Olivet’s pastor in 1970, Charles Bennett, took part in a crusade in South Korea, organized by the Louisiana Baptist Convention as part of a partnership the state had with the Korean Baptist Convention.
He told his congregation about a young Baptist, Sung Jo Kim, who was starting a church in Taechon. The church sent Kim about $3,000 to help construct a building for his new church.
Across the state, Hiram Campbell, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New Orleans, had taken part in the 1970 crusade as well and had encouraged his church to support the Taechon work. And Campbell remained in contact with Kim through the years.
While Campbell still had a connection to the Taechon church, he still was surprised by their generosity in bringing representatives of the two churches back to South Korea. “They are just sacrificial, godly people, …” Campbell said. “When they offered to pay our way, it was humbling. We put out a few thousand dollars and here they turn around and pay our way to come back.”
Broussard said Kim and the 300-plus-member Taechon Baptist Church saw the October trip as an expression of gratitude to the two churches.
In addition to participating in the anniversary celebration — described by Campbell as “a gala event in the Lord” — the group took part in a 12-day evangelistic push by the Taechon church. As a result of the effort, 34 adults made professions of faith during the campaign.
Broussard said although his church had forgotten about the gift to Taechon, the congregation in Korea remembered the Louisiana churches fondly. “They told us, ‘We consider you our grandparents. We are spiritual kin.'”
Meanwhile, the spiritual family tree continues to grow. Taechon has started six new churches in the past 10 years. “We started them off, and now they start other churches off. That one church has over 35 separate ministries in the community,” Broussard said.
Campbell said the growth of the church “is all centered around God and the spirit of the pastor and the people.” The New Orleans pastor described the Taechon church as the “ideal in a mission project” because of its continued emphasis on missions.
Kim told the Louisiana pastors he uses the same pattern for starting churches they used 25 years ago.
“He told us, ‘You taught me how to do this,'” Broussard recounted. “‘Now I know, because of your commitment, how to do it.'”
“We can’t begin to take any credit for what he’s done over there,” Campbell said. “He’s a very spiritual man and his congregation has been very, very responsive to him. … All we did was give them a boost. They could have done it without us.”
However, a Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board missionary working in South Korea said the church’s missions spirit can be traced to its roots.
“The spirit of the Taechon church is a direct result of these two churches sowing the seeds of missions 26 years ago,” Clarke Skelton said. “I will be ever grateful to them for the part they played in helping establish a mission-minded, giving, growing church in Taechon.”
Broussard said the experience has renewed his congregation’s commitment to missions. “I told them, ‘All you did was invest (in) a man that you didn’t really know.’ And look at what it has become.”