BALTIMORE (BP) — Korean pastor Samuel Cho and his wife Young — known for starting the first Nepalese and Bhutanese Baptist churches in the United States — were honored in a retirement celebration March 18 at the Baltimore-area White Marsh Baptist Church.
The service was conducted in four languages — Korean, Nepalese, Bhutanese and English — and featured testimonies and greetings from various groups who have supported the couple’s efforts in Baltimore during the past decade.
At the conclusion of the service, Cho symbolically transferred his leadership as pastor to Manoj Shrestha of the Nepal Baptist Church of Baltimore and Razu Budhathoki of the Bhutan Baptist Church of Baltimore through the joint cutting of the celebratory cake.
Reflecting their shared leadership, Shrestha, who served under Cho at the Nepalese church, and Budhathoki, who served under Cho at the Bhutanese church, translated the messages into their respective languages.
In a sermon, Robert Kim, former church-planting missionary with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D), recounted that when he was with the North American Mission Board, he had heard about a church planter on the East Coast who was going to start a church in a language different from his own.
“It was a very rare and difficult project for a planter to start a church with people from a different cultural background than him,” Kim said. “But later, I heard that the church in the Baltimore area [Nepal Baptist Church] was said to be very successfully established.”
The Chos then started another church from a different cultural background, the Bhutanese congregation, Kim said.
“How beautiful the ministry he has done like this,” Kim said, pointing to 2 Timothy 4:7 and saying that Cho, like the apostle Paul, has been “keeping the faith and finishing the race and fighting the good fight with the ministry.”
Cho shared his testimony of coming to faith in Jesus and following Him in planting the two churches. Though he initially wanted to plant a Korean church, he met a Nepali couple in a restaurant in Baltimore in 2004 and invited them to learn about Jesus. Later, a weekly house fellowship was started in the couple’s house, and soon the fellowship took a form of a church, Nepal Baptist Church of Baltimore, in 2005.
In 2009, Cho started the Bhutan Baptist Church with a few Bhutanese refugee-resettled families he met in their apartments. That fellowship took form as a church in 2010.
In addition to songs and dances performed by members of the two churches, several leaders praised the Chos for their efforts to reach the Nepalese and Bhutanese in Baltimore and in those native lands.
Pabitra Magar and Arjun Hamal shared about the impact the Chos’ ministry has had on their lives.
After not finding work opportunities in Florida, Magar moved to Maryland, where she met Pastor Cho in 2009. “This was the grand design of God that we should fellowship this way. They helped us so much to lead us to the Lord,” she said, noting also how the “beautiful couple would go to each and every door of the Bhutanese peoples” and share the Good News of Jesus.
“Those who found the Lord through their ministry were literally brought up by Pastor Cho and Maam Cho,” Magar said, pointing to how they helped the Bhutanese find jobs and homes. “We didn’t know the language, we were helpless, and we felt like orphans at the time.”
Hamal, a Nepali, said Cho opened the Bible and shared the Gospel with him and his friend. “And from that day forward, he has continued to serve us until this day.”
“Many times we have difficulty, we have sadness, we are in need of job — so many things and circumstances! Pastor Cho and Maam Cho have helped us find jobs. They have helped us in so many ways,” Hamal said. “Even though I don’t have my parents, they feel like my parents.”
In addition to all the work they have done in Baltimore, Hamal noted how the Chos also took time to visit Nepal — twice.
Tally Wilgis, executive director of the Baltimore Baptist Association, recalled how he felt, as a younger church planter who thought he knew it all, when he met Cho. “I realized then that Samuel Cho was the one who knew it all,” Wilgis said, expressing gratitude for the pastor’s leadership and participation in the association.
Jaehak Kim, president of the Maryland/Delaware Korean Baptist Association (MDKBA), expressed appreciation for Cho’s “desire for reaching the people of Nepal and Bhutan with the love of the Lord” and for being ever-present at the MDKBA meetings. “I believe the Lord is saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,'” Kim said.
Dave Tierney, pastor of White Marsh Baptist Church, where the Nepal and Bhutan churches share space, said, “As I was thinking about Pastor Cho, I was thinking about the resoluteness of Jesus Christ.” Tierney pointed to John 4, where Jesus had to go through Samaria, and in Matthew 16, where He taught His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and must be killed on the third day.
“Sometimes in ministry, we talk about vocational ministry, but what you have demonstrated is that your vocation is Christ-follower,” Tierney told Cho. “And Mrs. Cho, not only have you been a companion in life, you have been his partner in ministry. Not only have you labored with him, you have prayed for him, you have encouraged him…. We honor both of you.”
Before presenting a plaque of recognition from the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) to Cho, Executive Director Kevin Smith praised Cho, saying, “When I think about your ministry, I see different generations. I see different skin colors. I see different languages. I see different clothing. I see difference, I see difference, and then I see everybody at the same time giving glory to Jesus Christ.”
Smith also praised God that Cho has been a true pastor who has deeply cared for his church members.
As the Nepalese and Bhutanese churches grew, they moved to different locations. At present, they meet on the campus of White Marsh Baptist Church in Perry Hall, Md. But the church’s influence has spread throughout Baltimore and Maryland, to the neighboring states and even in Nepal and Bhutan, where the Chos have recorded over 1,000 professions of faith in Christ.