story by isabela rzeznik • photos from olivia cochran
madison baptist youth’s journey to south korea
Even on the other side of the world, you can find common ground.
This discovery was made by a group from Madison Baptist Church, two adults, Doug Atkins and Katie Anderson and six high school students, Lydia Adkins, Daniel Cochran, Olivia Cochran, Kathryn Gailey, Reed Pagett and Samuel Smith, on a mission trip to Kwangju, South Korea. The trip lasted nine days, including travel time, from July 20-29.
The mission trip came about as a result of Sung Lim Baptist Church inviting a group of cooperative Baptist churches to pay a visit to their church in South Korea. Another church, Harlem Baptist from Harlem, also sent eight members, four others joined from Texas and one college student from Pennsylvania participated. The group was greeted with great joy by 80-100 of Sung Lim’s 2,000 members upon arrival, with clapping and gifts. After a 13-hour flight and four hours on a bus, they arrived in Kwangju. A retreat was scheduled for the first three days and two nights, where the group was able to witness the differences between Christianity in the United States and South Korea, but also the similarities and had the opportunity to worship together. Reed, a rising senior and one of the youth on the trip described it as “different, but the same Christianity.” One of the differences, he explained, was with prayer, since everyone prayed out loud and the South Koreans “pray with their entire bodies.” The South Koreans were particularly excited by being able to thank the group for the work done by the missionaries who first came to South Korea and introduced Christianity.
Although the predominate religion in South Korea remains Buddhism, the country has the largest Christian population in Asia, about 30 to 35 percent. “One of the first texts printed in the Korean language was the Bible,” said Atkins, minister of youth and activities at Madison Baptist Church, who taught secondary English and literature in South Korea from 1987-89. The largest church congregation in the world, Yoi Do Full Gospel Church located in Seoul, boasts about 830,000 members, which the group visited the day before they flew back to the U.S. For the group from the U.S., there was a sense of belonging that came from being among other Christians. As Cochran, a rising senior and one of the young people on the trip, described it as they, “clicked through Christ,” the young people in particular. “We were all just Christian kids,” said Cochran. As an example, Cochran was able to play soccer with some of the children, while Pagett was excited to see some of the congregation put on a musical, since he is involved in theatre at home. The U.S. group also participated in a day of service with their host church, fixing up and cleaning homes for people alongside the South Koreans.
Though many of the South Koreans could speak only few words in English, the language barrier did not hinder the connection that both groups felt. Many of the U.S. group learned how to say “I speak a little Korean,” which was slightly deceiving. The group stayed with different families, in pairs, except for Atkins and Cochran, who were by themselves with their families. Everyone felt that they were incredibly well taken care of and accommodated. The food was unusual, described as often spicy, with rice being a staple, plenty of seafood, kimchi, heaps of vegetables and beef.
The pastor of Sung Lim Baptist Church’s hopes to send members of the congregation to the United States explained Adkins, saying, “The pastor proposed that they will come here in two years.” Reed and Cochran, along with the rest of the group, were sad to leave their “Korean family” were tears and hugs before the group left for Seoul. Madison Baptist Church can look forward to a visit from Sun Lim and continue making connections with South Korean Christians.
Printed in the August 30, 2012 edition