EDITORS’ NOTE: The English-language renderings in this story are deliberate for authenticity, with Pastor Park’s approval.
HOUSTON (BP)–Logistical challenges related to the annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America have prompted the group to meet this year in Houston.
The gathering of about 600 Korean Southern Baptists usually takes place concurrently with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, with time planned in the Korean-language schedule to participate in some of the SBC English-language sessions.
This year, though, the Korean gathering has been scheduled for June 18-20 in Houston at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Bush Intercontinental Airport.
“I went to San Antonio and checked hotel; every hotel too expensive,” said Timothy Tae Hwan Park, executive director of the Korean council. “Also, San Antonio three Korean [Southern Baptist] churches. Too difficult for them to host such big gathering.”
Many of the pastors and lay leaders in the 760 or more Korean Southern Baptist churches across the United States speak Korean as their first language. They preach in Korean, pray in Korean, counsel, listen and lead in Korean. They also eat Korean -– things like kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), bulgogi (spicy barbequed beef) and naeng myun (cold buckwheat noodles, also spicy).
These items are not typically served in American restaurants or at banquets during the SBC annual meeting, and few Asian restaurants can handle an influx of 500 or more customers at one time.
Over the years, the Koreans found a solution to the need for Korean meals for those who attended the annual meetings of their fellowship: The Korean churches in the annual meeting’s host city would band together to prepare banquet buffets with various Korean foods, which would be set up in the church where the group’s sessions were being held.
The growth of the Korean fellowship, however, has stretched the solution. When the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America was organized in 1981, there were fewer than 250 churches. An additional 500-plus have come in since then, and each year the number of people attending the annual meeting has grown. This requires more food -– and more churches for more volunteers to do the cooking.
Last year the Korean annual meeting also took place at a city different from the SBC annual meeting site because Greenville, N.C., did not have enough Korean churches. They met in Chicago at a time different from the SBC so those who wanted could attend both meetings.
That also has happened this year — Houston instead of San Antonio; June 18-20 instead of the SBC’s June 12-13. Houston has more than 20 Korean churches.
Korean pastors and lay leaders sacrifice to be able to attend the annual meeting, Park explained. Not many of the churches are large enough to pay the pastor’s expenses, but pastors are so hungry for the fellowship and the learning that they find a way to attend.
“We have still a language barrier or culture different, and also many Korean Southern Baptist pastors came from another denomination, and also church member,” Park said of the goal for the Korean fellowship to meet when the SBC also is in session.
“We encourage annual meeting fellowship together so kind of encouragement to them. God will be helped too, and Korean pastor helped together to make for effective work for God’s Kingdom.
“We are still totally not understanding what going on SBC but our local pastors attend the SBC annual meeting or state convention annual meeting,” Park continued. “Still we have some limit of understanding. The pastors learn from Korean Southern Baptist Council meeting so they will be better participate in SBC. We learn together for understanding some program or seminary situation, even WMU, whatever. We just support each other.”
In other words, Korean pastors want to be an effective part of the Southern Baptist Convention and gather annually as the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America to hear in their own language and come to more completely understand what it is to be a Southern Baptist.
How is this done? Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, provides one answer. He spoke in English last year to the Korean gathering about the SBC’s Acts 1:8 Challenge. In an hour-long presentation, Adams showed how Jesus’ final command -– go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the world -– meshed with the organization of the SBC’s associations, state conventions, North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. Adams provided a Korean-language manuscript of his talk so his listeners -– probably all of whom knew some English –- could in their primary language ponder his words in the days and weeks that followed.
The Korean annual meeting this year will begin with a message from Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC’s International Mission Board. Acts 1:8 and WMU again will be main topics. So will disaster relief, preparing for retirement and changes to the council’s constitution and bylaws. Youth and children will have separate programs designed for them.
“This time main issue we talking about, how do we reach our global mission by Korean Baptist churches in the United States? That is one main issue,” Park said. “In United States we want 1,000 Korean churches by 2010. Also, we want to send 1,000 missionaries by IMB on 2010. This is our vision statement also. We want to pray for this. Of course we have some Korean churches sending to China and Korea too, but we don’t count them (among the 1,000 to be sent out by IMB).
“This is going to be a very good meeting,” Park said. “There will be much good discussion and fellowship, and we will be encouraged.”