Saturday, October 28, 2017

More Than Words

In the deep recesses of a mountain area of Korea, a little church stands out like a star. Three miles from the main road lined with wild pears and peach trees, you enter a small village of 30 houses. Fruit trees were planted by the community from which they make a drink they sell. The village leader is a 54-year-old Protestant minister. A daily newspaper recently had an article on the life of the minister which was recopied for a bulletin written for Catholic priests.

He dreamed of a missionary life in Africa and went to Australia for training where he stayed for 4 years. During this period instead of learning about mission life, he was exposed to conflict. Each was only interested in their own church and didn't care if the others existed or not. He wanted community and decided to return to Korea in 2002.

He went to this area to live and the community thought that he was going to be working with the handicapped and even tried to stop him from entering the village in his car. He asked for a village meeting. At the meeting the village leader made him promise not to visit the houses asking them to believe in Jesus. He promised and meant it. He would not speak about Jesus and  do only what Jesus wanted.

Since he was the youngest in the village he was the one they asked to solve their problems and he took care of the odd jobs of the community. He was addressed like everybody else, no titles.

Although he didn't build any church the thought didn't quickly disappear. The community was still abusing him and believed he would eventually show his true intentions.

He and his wife were busy living the Christian life in the village and one day one of the villagers asked: "Who is cleaning the road of the rocks? Another villager responded: "Who in the villager would be doing this kind of drudgery?" From that time the abuse stopped and instead praise. They made him the village leader unanimously. He was busy.

During the New Year's Celebrations, they put a pig's head, steamed rice-cakes, pollack, and fruits on the road and had a welcoming sacrifice for the New Year. They called the village head to be present. They asked him to represent them in prayer. In that desolate country place: "Sun, moon, stars all created things that God has made, we thank you"  these words resonated loud and clear. All the grandmothers and grandfathers answered with 'Amen'. It was hard to believe.

At the seventieth birthday of one of the grandfathers who had a little too much to drink suggested that since we work during the day it would be nice in the evening to get together to pray and sing hymns. He was the first to be baptized. The church began with him 8 years ago. Four years later the village leader who called him a Jesus freak was baptized and today of the 45 villagers half come out to the church and on the feasts of Easter and Thanksgiving all attend the church service.

The church has some peculiarities: no tithing, there is only one service on Sundays, in the afternoon work of service for others.  

He often hears a  fisher needs to go to a place where there are a lot of fish. He is happy to light a little spark in his part of the world. He feels people are not happy because they do not have intimate personal relationships in the society in which they live. He has found happiness with the villagers and together with nature in a close relationship doing God's work, how could he not be happy!

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