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Koreans aim for 1,000 missionaries

HOUSTON (BP)–An intense focus on “Empowering the church to be on mission” marked the 26th annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America.

Korea-born missionaries serving in the Mideast, Ukraine, Brazil, Venezuela, Guatemala and Canada were on hand for the June 18-20 sessions in Houston, along with the presidents of the Korea Baptist Convention and the Korea Baptist Seminary and other guests from Korea.

Jerry Rankin, president of Southern Baptist International Mission Board, headlined the Tuesday and Wednesday evening services with sermons related to penetrating the darkness of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wanda Lee, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union, was the guest speaker at Monday evening’s opening service.

“I think the convention was very spiritual,” said David Gill, pastor of Concord Korean Baptist Church in Martinez, Calif., and a former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Jerry Rankin really took us one level up, expanding our mind to the need of the people. He brought us to the world, and the world to us.”

The missions focus was in keeping with the Korean Council’s emphasis during the past year: to have 1,000 Korean missionaries appointed by the SBC by the year 2010. Rankin reported that 280 have been appointed to date; another 200 are in the process.

At least 50 individuals responded to an altar call issued by Rankin at the closing session of the meeting; more knelt at their chairs. Gihwang Shin, an IMB liaison with Asian cultures, said before the service that three people had signed up at the IMB display just outside the conference hall at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, site of the gathering, to start the appointment process.

In his Tuesday evening message, Rankin described a map recently developed by the IMB research department. White areas on the map represented evangelized areas of the world; black areas, unevangelized areas; deepening shades of gray, successively unevangelized areas.

“It looked like a target,” Rankin said. “It was jet black at the very heart of the map, over central and southern Asia.” The most recent figures he’s seen show that 28 people groups in central Asia have been at least partially evangelized, but 300 more have not even heard the name of Jesus, Rankin said.

“Darkness is the absence of light,” Rankin preached. “People live in darkness when they do not know the light…. How can we illuminate a dark world if we remain in our cities?”

The Scriptures can be distributed through radio and other media, but people are essential, Rankin said.

“We are the light, because Jesus dwells in us,” he said. “Jesus said ‘Go,’ because people need to see that light lived out in our lives.”

WMU’s Wanda Lee noted in her Monday evening remarks, “To help people understand the mission of God, we believe our churches must intentionally plan for times to share information about what God is doing around the world.” Referencing the role of WMU in the local church, Lee said WMU “challenges Christian believers to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God.”

The Korean annual meeting included reports from Korean missionaries serving in Guatemala, Venezuela and the Ukraine and, stateside, from a church planter and a pastor to the deaf. A video clip from World Vision narrated by a well-known Korean actress also was shown.

The annual meeting opened with a welcome by Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The SBTC had given $5,000 to the Korean Council to help offset an unexpected $25,000 extra cost for meals. Ordinarily the Korean annual meeting’s meal requirements are met by local churches, but such arrangements were not permitted by hotel policy.

A financial report showed that of more than $134,000 received by the Korean Council for missions, about $108,000 was spent for missionaries’ salaries and the rest on missionary needs in several nations.

The domestic missions report noted 13 new churches and pastors of 37 smaller churches receiving supplemental stipends.

Those receiving support from the Korean Council were hosted on a trip in February to Sonora, Ariz., where they participated in a seminar on creation science. The trip was designed to help refresh and encourage the pastors, said Chang S. Moon, pastor of Tacoma (Wash.) First Baptist Church, as he delivered the domestic missions report.

A Korean disaster relief group is in place, attendees were told, but it was not called out last year.

According to the education department’s report, a church growth seminar was presented in Korean in February at Hallelujah Church in Los Angeles, the first such seminar in seven years.

Nearly 600 Korean students are studying at one of the six Southern Baptist seminaries: 350 at Southwestern, 115 at Southern, 60 at Golden Gate, 38 at New Orleans, 20 at Southeastern and 10 at Midwestern.

The missions education work of WMU continues to spread in Korean churches across the United States, with state-level leaders identified in 12 states, reported longtime Korean WMU President Angela Kim of Texas. A Korean track was provided during last fall’s WMU leadership training at Ridgecrest LifeWay Conference Center near Asheville, N.C.

Hour-long workshops were part of the annual meeting for the first time. One led by Kevin Chung of Korean Baptist Church of Sonoma County, Calif., garnered the most interest. He spoke on the problem of drug abuse in America and in Korean churches. Other workshops topics included planning for retirement, effective Sunday Schools and one-on-one evangelism.

Many of the Korean pastors in the United States do not have health insurance, so a physician member of Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, Md., performed wellness checks throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. In all, he examined 190 pastors. The most serious problem he found: one case of extremely high blood sugar, an indication of diabetes.

David S. Ro was elected president of the Korean Council. He’s been pastor of River Dell Korean Baptist Church in River Edge, N.J., since October 2003. He previously was pastor of First Korean Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., from 1995-2003. Ro for the last 20 years has translated the Explorers’ Sunday School material for LifeWay Christian Resources each quarter from English into Korean.

“We hope and seek more effective evangelism and missions, and especially I want our 830 churches to actively connect with LifeWay, IMB and NAMB, and help them use tremendous resources of the SBC,” Ro said in his first interview after assuming the president’s position. “We want to connect strongly Koreans with SBC … because we are all God’s children and God’s agents in the world.”

Bok H. Lew, pastor of Korean Memorial Baptist Church in Killeen, Texas, was elected first vice president and Byung Jik Kim, pastor of Dover (Del.) Korean Baptist Church, recording secretary.

After some carryover discussion from last year’s annual meeting, Chongoh Aum, pastor of Germantown Korean Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., was elected executive director for the next two years.

During the Korean annual meeting, separate sessions took place for children, youth and WMU.

The location and date of next year’s annual meeting have not been finalized.