Tuesday, August 21, 2007

South Korean Missionaries in Afghanistan

When Taliban militia ambushed a bus taking the highway from Kabul to Kandahar July 19, it was not the first time the Muslim extremists kidnapped foreigners for ransom. This time, however, they took 23 Korean Christians on a medical missions trip.

The South Korea's church has blossomed in size and zeal over the last few decades, sending abroad the second-largest number of missionaries after the United States. The premise is that the gospel began in Jerusalem when Jesus gave the Great Commission, spread westward, and should circle back to its origin, leaving traditionally hard-to-reach nations ripe for missions.

"There's a real fever to try to evangelize the nations between Korea and Jerusalem," said Tim Peters of Helping Hands Korea, a Seoul group that aids North Koreans.

Paul Kim, a staff member of Fuller Theological Seminary's Korean Doctor of Ministry program, explained that Koreans see missions almost as a way to "repay debts" to Western countries that spread the gospel on their peninsula.

For Kim, the group's kidnapping is perplexing in another way. As in the United States, short-term missions trips are popular for college students and other young adults during the summer. But he says they are not always done right.

"When I heard the news, I was sad and kind of angry about why non-professional missionaries went to such a dangerous place," Kim said. At 34, Kim has done his own short stints in India and Japan. "The main thing for short-term missionaries is to help long-term missionaries. If you miss the point, then it could be really dangerous."

[Excerpt of an article “Zeal for the Lost” by Priya Abraham, WORLD magazine]

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