News and Views

Postcards Home from Korea – Day 1

Posted by Melissa Lauber on

By Melissa Lauber*

After a 15-hour flight, there is nothing better than being greeted with a feast of chicken, fruit and kindness.

Yesterday, Bishop Marcus Matthews, responding to an invitation to preach at the Nambu (South) Annual Conference, landed in South Korea. The BWC has a covenant relationship with the Nambu Conference. Among the joys of these partnerships are that strangers recognize each other’s faces in far-away places, language barriers fall, and God’s love is shared in a thousand small gestures.

Bishop Matthews traveled with the Rev. J.W. Park, dean of the Cabinet and superintendent of the Central Maryland District; the Rev. HiRho Park, with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry; the Rev. Maidstone Mulenga, assistant to the bishop and the conference director of Connectional Ministries; and me, who gets to take photos and witness the incredible faith of the people of the Korean Methodist Church.

We were greeted at the airport – banner and all – by the Revs. Nak Hwan Kim and Yu Il Kang. Rev. Kang shepherded us to Daejeon, Korea’s fifth largest city, which is located in the center of South Korea. We are to attend their annual conference, which starts later this week.

The South Conference is made up of 23 districts, 581 churches, 987 clergy and 120,400 members. Its motto, I’m told, is “Saving Lives through Right Faith.” The partnership with the BWC focuses on building up young-adult clergy leaders through cultural exchanges (of which several have been hosted beginning in 2002) and nurturing global understanding of mission and ministry.

I know the faces of the Revs. Kim and Kang by heart. In recent years, they have been prominent participants in the covenant partnership. For me, they’re the face of the 1.2 million-member denomination, which was started 131 years ago by the Rev. John Goucher of Lovely Lane church in Baltimore, and two Methodist missionaries.

This time I got to talk with Rev. Kang a bit. He shared some of his history about being a mechanical engineer before responding to a call to ministry that followed a revival. He told me about his wife, whose name can be translated “pure gold,” and his two children. During the last 18 years, he said, “I am a pastor. It is my way.”

That’s another beauty of partnerships. You can say things like “It is my way,” and that carries complex and nuanced luggage. But it’s also a phrase that family understands immediately. We’re Methodists. For bad, better or best – “that’s our way.”

*Melissa Lauber is Director of Communications for the Baltimore-Washington Conference.