|PHOTOS: Michael Chan
From Jan. 4-8, a team of 350 visited the legendary Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul.
By THERESA TAN
That week saw the heaviest snowfall Seoul had seen in 73 years, and the weather had dipped to -11 degrees Celsius on the morning that most of the Singaporean contingent arrived. But for the group, many of whom had never seen snow, this fairytale sight seemed a most fitting welcome.
They were part of a visiting group to Yoido Full Gospel Church, founded by Dr. David Yonggi Cho and his mother-in-law Ja-Shil Choi in 1958 and recognized as the world’s largest Protestant church with reportedly more than 830,000 members. This study tour took them through the church building, as well as its subsidiaries.
YFGC has built a powerful reputation in Christendom for its church growth, and many churches have visited to observe its inner workings and systems, as well as its properties, including the world-renowned Prayer Mountain.
The group, numbering over 350, was fronted by City Harvest Church’s senior pastor Kong Hee. It comprised pastors and leaders from CHC and its affiliate churches in countries spanning the US, Russia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond.
The first item on the tour was a 4:30 a.m. prayer meeting at YFGC, located on Yeiodo Island, in the heart of the city’s business district. The visitors had to catch their buses by 3:45 a.m. to make it to the church by 4:15 a.m. At 4:15 a.m., the 12,000-seater hall was already filled with Korean congregants in prayer. This prayer meeting was part of a two-week series called the 12 Baskets of Blessings. Each morning during the meeting, the church’s senior pastor Lee Young Hoon preached a message out of the book of Colossians, corresponding to each of the “baskets” (e.g., “The Sixth Basket: Life of Firm Faith [Col. 2:1-7]”). YFGC holds these two-week morning prayer meetings twice a year.
For the visitors, the sight of 12,000 Koreans gathered to pray at 4:30 a.m. in sub-zero weather was nothing short of a miracle. “I had read that Yoido was built on prayer, but I didn’t know just how true that was till I came here and saw for myself the passion with which their people pray! I hope to bring this spirit of prayer back with me to my own members,” said Kevin Ng, a civil servant who serves as a cell group leader in CHC.
The tour group spent the next three days visiting YFGC’s key sites, like the famed Prayer Mountain; the office of Kukmin Daily, a national newspaper started with church funding; Elim Welfare Town which holds a vocational institute, childcare center and an old folks home; Hansei University, and Christian Television System, a television station that broadcasts Christian programs globally.
YFGC’s staff took pains to ensure the visiting contingent was well looked after. A total of 10 buses shuttled the visitors from destination to destination, each with an English-speaking Korean guide on board. Dr. Kim Sunghae, wife of Dr. Cho, surprised the group with a Korean lunch buffet. The church gave materials and gifts to every visitor, from books to mugs to handcrafted wooden cross necklaces. The visitors expressed gratitude at the overwhelming generosity shown to them.
It was an eye-opener for many to see the various aspects of the church in action—prayer, an attitude of humility, a spirit of excellence and obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading. It appeared that everything one had read about in Dr. Cho’s books was true, and it is that kind of consecration to God that has caused the church to grow into the behemoth it is today, touching and changing lives day by day.
“The Korean Study Mission was the best way to start my year,” said Rick Quek, managing director of Corporate i, a corporate gifts and web company, who was in Seoul with his wife. “We witnessed the anointing of a church where prayer is the centrifugal force. I was richly blessed by the humility of the ministers—despite all their amazing achievements and wealth, they continue
to serve in humility, demonstrating total dependence on God.
“My jaws dropped when I heard their stories of how a church can serve and impact society not just in humanitarian works and the care of the needy in society, but in every aspect, from arts and culture, to education, to family and entertainment, to business and politics—and the list goes on! I learned about the importance of centering our lives and everything we do in prayer, knowing that God truly can accomplish great things beyond what we could ever imagine or think if we attain a level of consecration centered on prayer and walk in full dependence on God.”