The Southwestern Chamber Chorale and Brass Ensemble Concert, led by Tom Song, associate professor of church music at Southwestern Seminary, toured throughout South Korea singing and sharing the gospel May 10-23. The team ministered to 32 different groups and more than 35,000 people, according to Stephen Johnson, dean of the School of Church Music. Johnson and Thomas White, vice president for student services, participated with Song in two radio interviews broadcast throughout South Korea and surrounding areas.
The musicians were there at the invitation of Billy Kim, president of the Far East Broadcasting Company, who made arrangements for the group’s 13-day tour. Kim is pastor emeritus of the 15,000-member Suwon Baptist Church in Korea, which he founded more than 47 years ago. Song has been affiliated with Kim’s ministries since the mid-1970s, and was minister of music at Suwon Baptist Church for more than a decade before coming to teach music at Southwestern Seminary.
The Southwesterners began the Korea tour by ministering at Suwon Central Elder Care Home. Residents responded with applause and joined in singing in Korean “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” “Nearer My God to Thee” and “Spring of My Hometown,” a popular Korean song. The first Sunday in Suwon, the group ministered at five different churches: Antioch Baptist Church, Wonchon Baptist Church, Suwon Central Baptist Church, Global Mission Church, and Suwon Full Gospel Church. At each location the group reached out to the audiences by singing several songs in Korean. In addition, Song guided the attention of the listeners toward the gospel presented in the music itself as well as translating the messages delivered by White.
In Daejeon, the group performed at a chapel service at Korea Baptist University and Theological Seminary. After several other engagements, the group traveled to Seoul and participated in chapel at Chongshin University. Despite earlier cautions that Korean students might not be very responsive to the American musicians, school chaplains at Chongsin University later said they had never seen such an active response by their students in a chapel presentation.
Another trip highlight came when the group performed an outdoor concert at Yongsan Army Garrison, home of the 8th United States Army. “For each member of the group, it was a heartfelt honor to support the troops who are making tremendous sacrifices to protect our freedoms and the freedoms of others throughout the world,” White said. “We made our gratitude clear and endeavored to encourage them along the way.” That weekend, the group also led a service at Hallelujah Church, the pioneer church of the “Hallelujah Revival Movement” of the 1980s. Later that day the group ministered at Full Gospel Wondang Church and Somang Presbyterian Church.
At Somang Presbyterian Church in Seoul, Southwestern student John Cornish, whose grandfather fought for the United States in the Korean War, shared his testimony. “I am thrilled to come to Korea and see where my grandfather fought preparing the way for us to worship Jesus Christ freely tonight,” Cornish said. In addition to having a personal connection to the Korean War, Cornish’s family recently participated in hosting an exchange student from Korea. During this trip, he met the parents of the girl who had lived with his family.
While the Southwesterners shared the gospel at every location, White noted that a recurrent theme was, “As believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, we are all citizens of heaven … One day we will all worship Jesus together in heaven, without the need of translators, and we will celebrate God as brothers and sisters in Christ for all eternity,” White said. Through all of this, Southwestern students and faculty witnessed the strong bonds of unity that developed between brothers and sisters in Christ separated by the Pacific Ocean.
The tourist highlight of the trip came when the group visited the YangWhaJin Martyrs Memorial. This memorial contains more than 500 graves of missionaries who gave their lives spreading the gospel in Korea. The tour guide, known to the group as “Cookie”, told them that just three generations ago, her family had been Buddhists. Missionaries came and shared the gospel with her grandfather, and her family’s spiritual heritage changed. Cookie said, “I want to thank you and the others before you who came to Korea to share the gospel. Without such efforts my family would not know Jesus Christ and would spend eternity in hell.”
“The somber mood of the moment, with the visual realization that the person standing before us was the fruit of labor begun many years ago, moved the group to tears,” White said.
Group leaders estimated that more than 35,000 Koreans were ministered to by the Southwestern music groups. Tour organizers said experiencing the sights and sounds of Korea and seeing firsthand the life and culture of Korean people made an impression on the seminarians. These experiences helped the American students understand and appreciate more the more than 300 Southwestern students who are from Korea.
“The biggest impact came by looking into the eyes of the Korean people as God moved and touched hearts during times of ministry,” White said. “Partnering with the Far East Broadcasting Company, sharing with thousands, meeting fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and making new friendship that will last all eternity impacted the group While this earth is one big place, it grew smaller with every new friend who worshipped the same God we worship—Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
The Southwestern Chamber Chorale, directed by Tom Song, included the following Southwestern students: Natallya Bolgar, Erin Pitts, Rachel Roy, Kendra Kufeldt, Candice Looney, Jennifer Everwine, Michael Ware, John Cornish, Mark Burnett, and Ryan Johnston. Five chorale members — Dong Jae (Davida) Kim, Kyeong Seon (Sunny) Choi , Yoon Haeng Cho, Si Young Oh, and Eddie Choi — are current Southwestern students from South Korea. Accompanying the choir was the Southwestern Brass Ensemble made up of students John Spencer and Dennis Brian Roberts, and faculty members Garry Joe Hardin, associate professor of church music, William Mac Davis, associate dean for the performance division and James Sims, adjunct professor of trumpet. Don Wyrtzen, professor of music at The College of Southwestern, also participated in the trip.