[Column] Lord, Send Me!

The first Protestant martyr in Korea was an English missionary named Robert Thomas. During his missionary work in China, he lost his newly-wedded wife. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to undertake his missionary work in Korea upon God’s calling. After hearing that the General Sherman, an American trading ship, would arrive in Pyongyang in August of 1866, he got on board as an interpreter. As the ship reached Yanggak Island in Pyongyang, it ran aground and soon got caught on fire by Korean soldiers, who knew that the people on board were there to spread Christianity. As the crews exited the blazing ship one by one, the Korean soldiers stabbed them with a sword. The last person to exit the ship was Robert Thomas. He knelt down before a machete-wielding executioner named Chun Kwon Park pleading to accept the Bible. Park momentarily stopped because of a high degree of decorum in conformity to Korean culture exhibited by a westerner.

Nevertheless, Park did not accept Thomas’s offer. While kneeling, Thomas placed his head on the sand and said his last prayer: “Lord, I sent my wife away to you early on. It must be time for me to depart for Heaven where she is. I wanted to save many souls in Korea and be united with you in Heaven. Nevertheless, it must be time to return to your bosom. Lord, this young servant came to this land to spread the gospel. Let me present this Bible to the people of this land and die. Knowing not what they are doing, they are trying to kill me. Let them accept the Bible and believe in you. Let the fire of salvation and revival arise like the blazing fire on the General Sherman.” After this prayer, the executioner Chun Kwon Park refused Thomas’s offer and decapitated him.

From the day of his martyrdom, ironically, the seed of church growth began sprouting. Park who killed the young missionary was still in dismay. “What was that little book that he tried earnestly to hand to me even in the face of death?” Park then started reading the Bible carefully and came to embrace faith in Christ. He converted his nephew Young Tae Lee, who translated over 2/3 of the Korean Bible. One of the Chinese Bibles Thomas distributed somehow made its way to Young Shik Park, head of the regional government in Pyongyang. Having used the Bible as wallpaper in his house, he was naturally exposed to the Word of God, read it, believed in Christ, and earned his salvation. His house became Neoldariggol Church, the first Church in Pyongyang. This was the historical site of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on January 14 of 1907 and the origin of Changdaehyun Church, the home of the great revival in Pyongyang. The great revival at Changdaehyun Church transformed Pyongyang into Jerusalem of the east and kindled the fire of revival all over Korea. How amazing this is. The martyrdom of one missionary resulted in the revival of the Korean Church. Although Thomas died young without taking part in Korean mission, his heart of dedication to the Gospel of Christ and evangelization lived on and spread the fire of Christianity in the land of Korea.

God’s primary interest is the salvation of souls. When God asks, “Whom shall I send?” Prophet Isaiah answers “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). We must keep in mind that we, not others, are called to be His servants. Age is no deterrent to God’s calling. Neither is position or profession. Moses was an 80 year old shepherd when he was called by God; David was a sheepherding little boy when he was chosen by God; Amos was a shepherd of Tekoa; Joseph was a slave; Daniel was a prisoner. When God calls us, two things are crucial. They are the conviction of God’s calling and a positive response. If we only respond to Him in faith, He will fulfill His purpose and save many souls through us. May “Here am I. Send me” be our confession. Remember. Each and every one of us is the minister of God’s salvation and evangelization.

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