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Korean Anabaptists Few, But Anabaptist Center Draws Interest

   
 
Tim Froese meets with several graduates of the former Mennonite Vocational School run by Mennonite Central Committee in the post Korean war years. They are, (L-R) Rev. Park Jong-Hae, Tim Froese, Deacon Son Chang-Kwang and Deacon Kim Myong-Jung.

April 25, 2002
Abbotsford, BC./Seoul, Korea— What does a Mennonite presence in Korea mean in a country where Anabaptism is hardly known or understood, but where Anabaptist values of discipleship, peace and community are highly valued?

Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers Tim and Karen Froese in Seoul are working at finding the answers.

The Korea Anabaptist Center (KAC), where Tim Froese is co-director, serves as a presence for both the few Anabaptists in Korea and for those who wish to learn more. The seeds of Anabaptism in this country were planted by relief workers in the post-Korean war years beginning in the 1950s. Now, relationships and influences formed years ago are bearing fruit in the recent launch of the Korean Anabaptist Center, which opened in November 2001.

As co-director of the center, Tim Froese finds himself serving in many roles: counselor, librarian, educator, administrator. "The KAC has chosen three themes, those of discipleship, peace and community," he says, "and undertaken to do four types of activities in conjunction with these themes: make resources available, provide educational opportunities, experiential learning, and develop relationships/network."

Korea has traditionally been a society very concerned with orthodoxy. "Not only is Korean society old, it is quite homogeneous, thus making any change quite obvious and therefore difficult,"explains Tim. "This makes it very difficult to invite others to consider an alternative theology such as Anabaptism."

Yet somehow, people from all walks of life are drawn to the ministry of the center. One example is Geum-Chool, a 70-plus elder in the Holiness Church, a student of history who recently purchased a copy of C.J. Dyck’s "Introduction to Mennonite History." Another is Du-Shik, a law professor who recently released a book entitled "Swords into Ploughshares" arguing for the merits of Christian pacifism. Young-Mok, a Presbyterian seminary graduate, is helping with the KAC’s translation projects.

The KAC is carrying out its resource, education and networking mandates in a variety of ways. Individuals and groups may borrow from the 1,000-volume lending library at the center, while a small bookstore sells educational materials. The KAC staff counsels those who wish to study overseas, and later this year Korea will be sending its first delegate to the International Visitor Exchange Program operated by Mennonite Central Committee. In networking, the KAC continues to reach out through its contact list of 400 names, and many more people visit the KAC bi-lingual website.

The Froeses also lead a series of bi-weekly "Cross Walk" meetings which bring interested people together for study, prayer and sharing. As Tim explains, "the name ‘Cross Walk’ was given to these meetings to discern together what it means to ‘walk’ like Jesus in light of His death on the cross and to create a safe place for people who want to find a way to cross over to the other (Christian) side of the street of life." Participants come from a variety of church backgrounds including clergy and laypeople, Christian and non-Christian.

Between such stimulating theological discussions and the more hands-on work of operating an office, the Froeses continue to be an Anabaptist presence, and seek help to carry out the mission of a center still in its infancy. Despite the various challenges, they feel Anabaptist faith and life present a very attractive Biblical model of Christianity for Koreans. "We look for people to commit together with us by sharing homes for guests, time and skills for volunteering, and resources for our operating budget," says Tim. "Thankfully, God has provided in truly remarkable ways in each of these areas."

Photo cutline: Tim Froese meets with several graduates of the former Mennonite Vocational School run by Mennonite Central Committee in the post Korean war years.

Tim and Karen Froese, along with their children Michelle, Lucas and Stefan, serve in Seoul, South Korea with the Mennonite Church Canada Witness, Mennonite Mission Network, and Mennonite Central Committee. In Korea the family attends the Seoul Union Church. Tim Froese is originally from Winnipeg and Karen from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. They welcome your prayers and notes of encouragement. You can reach them at:

San 28-12 Yonhi-dong
Seodaemun-ku
Seoul 120-113
Republic of Korea
Phone: 011-822-333-0838
tkfroese@hanmir.com.

Sidebar: DID YOU KNOW?

  • Korea has a large Christian concentration, estimated between 25-35% of the population. Calvinist, or Presbyterian churches make up the most dominant group of Korea’s Christians. Most if not all of the Calvinist clergy have been taught that Anabaptist theology is a heresy.
  • While no Mennonite churches exist in Korea, at least 15 Korean Mennonite churches or congregations exist in Canada and the USA.
  • Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) operated a number of ministries in Korea following the Korean War. Among these were family and child welfare, agricultural instruction, and a vocational school for boys.
  • Believers’ Church influence has come through a variety of groups in Korea, among them Quakers, Church of the Brethren and Bruderhof. Both MCC and the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) have been active for some years in relief work in North Korea.
  • On April 4-5, the KAC had its first two-day retreat to launch the booklet "From Anabaptist Seed." Almost 30 people attended. Among the weekend’s activities was the viewing of the movie "The Radicals."