Around Christmas time in 1902, 102 Korean laborers boarded the Gaelic, an American merchant ship, and headed to sugar cane farms in Hawaii. When they landed in Honolulu on January 13, 1903, they were the first documented Korean immigrants in the United States. In the early 20th century, a small number of Koreans arrived on the west coast of the USA. Most were exiled Korean resistance fighters against Japan. After WWII, immigration continued at a meager rate. Korean immigration began to surge in the 1960s; currently 2.5 million Koreans reside in the US.
@Korean Community in NYC
Most Koreans in New York City settled during the 60’s wave. Over the last 45 years, the Korean population in NYC and its vicinity has reached close to half a million. Most of these immigrants attend some Korean church. In this new land, many search for God in the initial difficult time of adjustment. Most newcomers, many who never attended church at home, begin attending church to seek diverse social benefits. For them, church is a place for socializing, getting information about their new world, and establishing potential business connections. NYC has approximately 500 Korean churches of various Protestant denominations. Hardly any, however, preach a clear gospel.
Burdens for the First Generation
Immigrating to a new country is challenging, and this is no exception for the Korean immigrants. Fatigue from long hours of work with strong ambitions and constant worries easily debilitate many. The language barrier between the generations also is a common problem. Many live with depression and their homes are often places where frustrated parents and family members explode with violent emotions. Sadly, the number of broken homes is increasing. These are some of the painful realities facing Korean immigrants. Yet we view these problems as an opportunity in which our mighty Lord can reach souls. Koreans in NYC have every reason to turn to the Lord! Some souls are ready to listen to the gospel, and others are being heated in the divine furnace until they are ready. Our hearts are often touched when we see Koreans finally meeting Christ and praising the Lord for their “defeat.” Our solemn responsibility is to present the gospel. Personal adversity and social calamity can be transformed into eternal blessing in the Master’s hand. In their “disappointment,” they might see “His appointment” in blessing them in Christ.
Satanic Wiles in Korean Society
The religious environment in the Korean community of NYC directly reflects that found in the homeland. Presbyterian influence has dominated Korea for the last 130 years and has taught many Koreans holiness by keeping the law. However, after the Korean War, evangelical groups flowed into Korea and introduced the gospel. The Korean Full Gospel Church, established in 1958, began to confuse many naive souls. Their message, a mixture of strong charismatic elements and temporal blessings, gained great popularity. Until that time many people under Presbyterian teaching had easily acknowledged their lost condition when they heard the gospel. Under Full Gospel influence, many regarded tongues, healing, and temporal blessings as signs of their “salvation.”
During the 60’s, many denominational churchgoers turned to Christ through the gospel and left their churches. The furious clergy united to stop the gospel, condemning evangelicals as the heretical “Salvation Sect.” This formed a tenacious barrier in the hearts of Koreans. Thus, many church-going Koreans in NYC view the assembly as heretics. In NYC, organized denominations marginalize the assembly and block efforts to reach the unsaved. Today, clergy insidiously urge their flock to avoid “those dangerous people” by saying that we steal good people who already attend church.
But we have resources that show that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Public gospel preaching, distribution of gospel tracts, individual contacts for witnessing, bringing souls to gospel meetings, and campus outreach are some of the activities that have given us access to the community. We cannot measure the value of publicly preaching the gospel in soul winning! We equally appreciate the daily united efforts of all the saints in the assembly working together to support the gospel meetings. The effective ammunition in this spiritual battle is the shining testimony of the saints in their lives, eliciting longings in the hearts of unbelievers. How often the beauties of practical living eloquently speak and effectively break through the prejudice and criticism held by many Koreans! Yet the saints witnessing Christ are ridiculed and reproached at both work and school. Each believer has a list of contacts for whom to pray and with whom to keep in touch. Showing constant interest, with kindness and timely gospel witnessing, certainly has an impact on those anxious souls. Many of these come to the gospel meetings and respond to the message.
Korean-Speaking Assembly in NYC
Korean saints in NYC still vividly remember the unspeakable joy when the Lord allowed His people to gather to His Name in New Testament simplicity four years ago. The Lord has preserved this testimony. Now, thirty enjoy this assembly fellowship, while ten children and three seekers attend assembly meetings regularly. The assembly finally found and rented a meeting place in the heart of Korea-town in Flushing, NYC.
We are glad to see some evidence that the Holy Spirit has raised up brethren to care for the sheep. We thank God for evidence of gifts being cultivated and exercised in the assembly. The brethren willingly take responsibility as priests and enjoy the privileges of serving in gospel meetings and Bible readings. The sisters silently carry out the women’s ministry in the assembly. May the Lord continue to bless this fledgling assembly which the Savior purchased by His precious blood for the glory of His Name and for the expansion of assembly testimony!