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Korean missionary partners find Zambian culture familiar

Global Missionary Partner Minjae Kim (right) leads a Bible study with students at Zambia’s Copperbelt University.

KITWE, Zambia (BP) – At first glance, Korean and Zambian cultures don’t share many similarities.

But IMB missionaries Daniel and Grace Kim notice the commonalities. Originally from South Korea, Daniel spent 23 years and Grace spent 14 years in the United States before going to Zambia as missionaries in 2000. Now they are hosting other Koreans who are serving in Zambia. Shingi Kim, Minjae Kim and Hoieon Jeong are Hands On volunteer missionaries from the Korean Foreign Mission Board serving as Global Missionary Partners during 2021.

Daniel and Grace Kim, veteran missionaries to Zambia, are hosting Hands On Global Missionary Partners (back row left to right: Shingi Kim, Hoieon Jeong, Minjae Kim) for a year.

These students relate well to the Kims because their cultural background is the same. And like the Kims, they have assimilated into Zambian culture well because of the similarities between the African nation and their Asian homeland.

“[Koreans] don’t ask, ‘How are you?’ We ask, ‘Did you sleep well? Did you eat? Did you wake up well? How was last night?’” Daniel Kim said. Zambians exchange greetings in much the same way – warm and familiar. They ask specific questions, instead of the general “how are you.” This type of greeting expresses genuine care that is common in both cultures.

Additionally, the GMPs, though all in their 20s and early 30s, see parallels in the type of Christianity that characterizes Zambia and the Christianity that was dominant in Korea’s past.

“We are a young generation, but 20 or 30 years ago, in South Korea, our Christianity was weak, because there were many false doctrines and heresies [in the church],” Shingi said. The state of the Zambian church is similar, with many professing Christ but buying into false doctrine. Because these doctrines are familiar to the young missionaries, they focus on not just doing evangelism among college students, but really teaching the new Christians doctrine through discipleship.

The three Hands On students have been pouring into the students at Zambia’s Copperbelt University. They regularly evangelize on campus, but with stricter COVID-19 restrictions, they’re now focusing on discipleship and evangelism at the boarding house and among their neighbors.

Despite the weaknesses in the Zambian church – exacerbated by false doctrine – generally Zambians are hungry to learn about Jesus, Daniel said.

Daniel’s ministry focuses on strengthening the 63 churches in the Copperbelt Association by helping their leaders and pastors with training and theological education. Daniel helps local leaders “focus on how to evangelize effectively, intentionally and as a lifestyle,” he said.

The Hands On partners fit well into his vision, as they focus on university students.

“Zambian students are very open to anybody that would bring the Word of God,” Daniel said. “They are hungry. But not many people teach them. So they welcome them. They want to learn; they want to listen.”

“We didn’t have the chance or time to go into CBU, even though it’s right here where we live,” Grace said. “Those three people who came, they were there until the school was closed because of the COVID situation. We prayed for people to come and do that work. We are glad that these three [Hands On] missionaries are here to do the work.”

These young men have what Daniel describes as a 1:3:5 vision.

Each week, during their year in Zambia, they seek to:

  • Train one lifestyle disciple
  • Produce three effective lifestyle evangelists
  • Lead five people to Christ

The Hands On GMPs share the Gospel mainly in English, a common language in Zambia. They are also taking language classes in Cibemba, Zambia’s native language. Shingi, Minjae and Hoieon “evangelize anywhere, the street, when we go to the market,” Minjae said.

“We call it lifestyle evangelism. When we’re out, we just go out and evangelize and make disciples.”

Minjae explained that this vision for evangelism is exactly what they’re trying to instill in those they’re discipling, so when they return to Korea, the work at Copperbelt University can continue.

Currently, they are discipling 40 individuals.

“I’m very happy, because these people welcome missionaries,” Shingi said. “When I ask, ‘if it is OK with you, can I share about Jesus Christ?’ almost always, people agree about that.

“When I share about Jesus Christ, we invite them, ‘Would you like to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior in your heart?’ A few people refuse, but many people don’t. We pray, and after that, we ask some questions.”

He emphasized the need to instill proper doctrine in the minds and hearts of the new converts. Inevitably, they will encounter more false doctrine. For those who are interested in learning more about the Bible, they set up a time for discipleship.

The young missionaries are excited about the “lifestyle evangelist disciple” they’ve already made in Georgie, a Zambian friend they led to Christ.

“Every day he goes by himself and evangelizes and makes disciples. This story is very interesting to us. He is now teaching eight people Bible studies,” Shingi said.

Daniel added: “We are so happy to see this movement. The Holy Spirit has really opened doors for them and is working through them. I can see so many people come to the Lord.”

Grace said her young mission partners are “very hard working,” and added, “they bring a lot of positive influence to the Copperbelt University students. They are ready to do whatever it takes.”