Overwhelmed

“I’m overwhelmed by your presence here tonight,” said pastor Samhwan Kim, moderator of the Korea Host Committee for the WCC Assembly and pastor of Myungsung Presbyterian Church. He was speaking to ecumenical guests from around the world who helped fill his sanctuary Saturday evening in Seoul.

Overwhelmed and overwhelming. Exactly right to describe the weekend. Hundreds of WCC participants went on a two-day “Pilgrimage of Peace” organized by the Korea Host Committee and hosted by Korean Christians and their congregations.

Overwhelmed…by the gifts we received from the Korean churches, starting off with a warm pullover emblazoned with the WCC logo to make the high speed train trip from Busan to Seoul more comfortable.

Overwhelmed…by the bus trip to the observatory on Mt. Dora on the edge of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) where we prayed for peace under the auspices and eyes of the South Korean military, while looking over into North Korea.

Overwhelmed…by the sumptuous banquet provided by Pastor Kim’s church that night, and subsequent delicious meals to which other Korean hosts treated us.

Overwhelmed…by the Korean cultural program in Myungsung’s beautiful cathedral. The fan dance and jindo drum dance performed by the National Dance Company of Korea. A performance of traditional Korean story set to music by master singer Sooksun Ahn. The overture to a Verdi opera played by the KBS Symphony Orchestra directed by Seunghan Choi. Opera singers tenor Yoonseok Hahn and soprano Youngmi Kim and an octet performing “A Longing for Mt. Kumgang” among other Korean favorites. A dramatic rendition of the history of Christianity in Korea. The Myungsung combined church choir of 800 voices singing a hymn written by Pastor Kim. The Hallelujah Chorus bursting out at the end of the evening.

Overwhelmed…by the warm welcome from another large Presbyterian church some 40 kilometers away, who put up a busload of us at a hotel for the night and then welcomed us into worship this morning.

Overwhelmed…by the love shared at the Ansan Jeil Church. Senior pastor, reverend Ko Hoon, has over his decades there grown the congregation from a small church to a congregation of about 20,000 members, with some 10,000 people worshiping in 7 services each Sunday.

Overwhelmed…by the gift of hand made soap from the Ansan Jeil Church’s ministry which employs people living with disabilities.

Overwhelmed…by the amount of work and resources put into the WCC Assembly by the Korea Christians. The ecumenical officer of the Presbyterian Church in Korea, who accompanied our bus group, and who has personally worked on this event for more than a year, shared these numbers: 24 people in the Korean Host Committee, 300 Korean Christian volunteers working to support the assembly, 30 denominational staff are attending the whole of the WCC Assembly from the three main denominations in the host committee and the Korean National Council of Churches, with several other denominational staff attending two or three days each in order to get a taste of the event.

Overwhelmed…by the requests for prayer. “We need your prayers for the peace of the Korean Peninsula,” said the PCK ecumenical officer. The weekend Pilgrimage of Peace made it clear that Korean Christians deal continually with the political and military division of the Korean peninsula.

Overwhelmed…by the stories other Christians are sharing from the many places around the world where persecution, violence, terrorism, war, and other dangers threaten.

God of life, lead us to justice and peace.
Amen.

–Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren

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