Gospel seeds planted in Korean hearts are bearing new fruit in Wales
South Koreans are investing in Wales out of a deep sense of gratitude to the Welsh missionary Robert Jermain Thomas who shared the Gospel with them nearly 150 years ago and paid the price with his life.
I am no social media geek but I am willing to admit that I do enjoy my casual ramblings around Facebook. It's good to see what my friends are doing and if I'm honest the photographs can prove useful too: they help me recognise them on the occasions we are able to meet up!
And just every now and again I stumble across a comment that really leaps out at me. I came across one such aside the other day when an old friend wrote: "God's work done in God's way and in God's time will never fail to reap God's reward."
I guess I was particularly drawn to the latter half of his sentence because just prior to that I had just been thinking about the way the Lord is currently demonstrating His faithfulness to us here in Wales.
Wales was once known as the land of revival. Indeed the last national revival within the United Kingdom was the Welsh revival of 1904-5. Given this heritage, and the fact that Wales had in any event regularly experienced revival during the 18th and 19th centuries one might suppose that, despite general 20th century decline, Wales would be faring better than most. But nothing could be further from the truth. The latest census figures are far from encouraging. In fact the well-known atheist Richard Dawkins has congratulated the people of Wales for being "ahead of the rest of the UK" in showing a decline in religious belief.
But it's not all doom and gloom because once again the Lord is ensuring that "what goes round comes round". In fact the Christian scene in Wales is benefiting from the gratitude of believers in Asia to the extent that the churches in Wales will be benefiting from their generosity for decades to come.
And history holds the key to it all. In 2012, the 60,000 strong SaRang Community Church in Seoul, South Korea forged a partnership with the Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) in Bridgend. Until last year, SaRang had missionary bases all over the world, except in Europe. WEST is now its gateway and operations base for outreach into this continent. This investment will result in substantial scholarships to students and also a fund to develop church planting in the valleys of South Wales. This initiative, called Valleys Commandos, will create new expressions for the gospel in some of the most socially and spiritually deprived areas in Europe.
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The reason cited for this generous donation is rooted in the Korean conviction that they owe their Christian heritage to the courage and devotion of a young missionary from Monmouthshire named Robert Jermain Thomas. Decades later, in 1907, Korean Christians were profoundly influenced by the Welsh Revival of 1904/5 too.
Similarly, in yet another intriguing partnership the former Bible College of Wales has been purchased by Pastor Yanh Took Yoong, founder of the Cornerstone network of churches in South Asia. This Pentecostal leader believes the outpourings in Wales and then in Azusa Street are foundational to his spiritual journey.
During a visit to Wales in 2011 while visiting the site of the now redundant Bible college in Swansea he sensed God telling him to purchase it. The site has been bought for £3million and a further £2million will need to be spent on refurbishing the property which is expected to host a church plant, a training academy and a place of intercession.
Some time ago Professor Dawkins waxed lyrical on BBC Radio Wales telling his audience that the research commissioned by his foundation meant that the outlook for Christianity in the UK was "even more pessimistic" than the latest census data suggested. I have a feeling that he's the deluded one – as far as Wales is concerned at least.