Saturday and Sunday were jammed packed days, as we spent time with pastors and church staff of two different Methodist churches in and around Seoul.
On Saturday, one pastor and his family took us to Insa-dong, one of the main shopping districts in Seoul, where we had our first Korean food. Afterward, we toured Gyeongbokgung Palace (see the previous post for images), the main palace during the Joseon Dynasty, the longest running dynasty in Korea.
Originally the palace was a complex of 330 buildings, but most were dismantled during the Japanese occupation. A few of the most important buildings remain. They are extraordinary in architecture and very colorful.
Today, we visited multiple services at The Holy Flames Methodist Church, a congregation of around 2000 people. We began by attending the staff worship service, followed by worship services for teens, children, young single adults, and part of the traditional worship service.
While at Holy Flames (from around 8:15 am – 3:00 pm), we also experienced the prayer times before two of the services. We had a Korean lunch in the church dining hall with the senior pastor, Rev. Jun, and because we were guests, they served us a plate of fresh fruit.
In speaking with the associate pastor we were reminded that the Christian church is young in Korea, perhaps around 100 years. He attributes the fast spread of Christianity to prayer and small groups.
Each service is preceded by an intense time of prayer, and every day an early morning prayer session begins 5:00 am with about 100 in attendance. Members belong to small groups which meet together during the week. In fact, we will attend a small group Tuesday night.
I’m impressed that Holy Flames designates one third of its budget for missions. They regularly send groups on mission trips abroad, as well as participating in local mission. They send their children on mission trips to other countries so that they can begin to be exposed to missionary evangelism.
We also visited Kwanglim Methodist Church, the largest Methodist Church in the world with a congregation of 70,000+ people. We had two excellent tour guides to tell us about the church and to take us to the young adult worship which was complete with a worship band, drama, and a soloist who wrote his own songs.
We briefly met with the senior pastor, who must be commended for taking the time to meet with us, especially on a Sunday. We were touched by sincere words of appreciation regarding our adoption of a Korean baby.
Following our time at Kwanglim our tour guides and driver took us to Bennigan’s where we enjoyed a meal together. They thought they would give us a break from Korean food, but I think they enjoyed the Western food at least as much as we did!
All in all, we have spent our days with people who have very quickly come to feel like old friends. Everyone has been so gracious. And I must comment on one Korean tradition: gift-giving. Both churches showered us with gifts expressing their appreciation of our visit. The Koreans are wonderful hosts … and the joy is really all ours!