Lessons in Koinonia from South Korea

Post author: David Sisney, Vice President for Advancement

Korea TripRecently, I returned from a 10 day student recruiting and fundraising trip to South Korea. It was an amazing and life changing experience for many reasons.

We were led by Dr. Young Ho Chun, Saint Paul School of Theology Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Director of Asian Studies. Our trip was aimed at fostering the long-established relationships between Saint Paul and the many churches and universities that support our mission.

Another specific goal was to recruit pastors for the fourth Saint Paul Korean Doctor of Ministry cohort led by Dr. Chun. 

In the picture, from left to right, are Dr. Young Ho Chun, Bishop Sundo Kim, David Sisney, and Blake Sisney.

Koinonia is defined as Christian fellowship or communion, with God or, more commonly, with fellow Christians.

Along the way, we met the most gracious and hospitable people who truly understand how Koinonia should be shared amongst our fellow human beings. My 29 year old son Blake accompanied us on the journey. He pointed out several times that, “we could sure learn a lot from our hosts as it relates to how to treat people.”

We experienced true fellowship time and time again as we met new faces in each of the places we toured and visited. From how they greeted and hosted us, to the exchange of gifts, to inclusion in conversation (even though the language barrier sometimes made this difficult,) and to the final goodbye at each place; we were truly made to feel like royalty.

Probably the greatest expression of this came from Bishop Sundo Kim. Bishop Kim is retired now, but you would never know it. As the founder of the Kwanglim Church he continues to preach weekly and is very active in supporting his son Rev. Dr. Kim, Chung Suk who is the Senior Pastor of the Kwanglim Church – the largest Methodist church in the world.

The congregation is made up of approximately 120,000 members worldwide. Easter Sunday was a glorious experience and I got goosebumps as we sang traditional Wesley hymns. As Blake and I sang in English, all those around us sang in Korean. It was a surreal experience, but so moving as the realization that we were all experiencing the same amazing Easter worship experience with the full orchestra and 200+ voice choir – but doing so in our own languages.

The recruitment of Doctor of Ministry (DMin) students for the Korean DMin track was a success. We were also successful in fundraising. The Kwanglim Church donated a substantial gift toward establishing a named scholarship for Korean students attending Saint Paul School of Theology. Tradition holds that not only do you have to appear in person to receive the gift, but that it also is paid in cash. This made for an interesting experience at the airport getting through customs!

Upon returning to the United States, I have an even deeper respect for the Korean people and their culture. My son and I reflected with one another asking new questions as it pertains to our world view. The answers to those questions are what we will continue to explore as we work to offer our new sense of Koinonia to all those that we meet.

1 reply
  1. Tom Lankford
    Tom Lankford says:

    Wonderful David! So glad you and Blake were able to share this experience together. Also, very encouraging to hear about our truly awsome God at work on the other side of the globe. Thank you for sharing it.

    Reply

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