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Hallelujah! First Person: Will Loewen

   
 


Will Loewen and his wife Ana, are Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers in South Korea where they live, work – and worship with Jesus Village Church in Chuncheon.  Jesus Village Church was the first South Korean congregation to identify itself as Anabaptist. JVC became an Associate Member of Mennonite World Conference in 2003.

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November 30, 2007
- by Will Loewen

Chuncheon, South Korea — Amidst a conversation I do not understand, I hear a word I recognize.  “Hallelujah!” 

However, neither the man nor his mother are speaking dramatically.  The conversation continues, and again I hear the word, “Hallelujah.”  The man will tell me later that he was simply telling her that his family had attended that morning’s prayer service. 

Prayer is a fundamental part of the Korean church experience, but this woman believes that something special happens when people pray early in the morning, as though God were listening more closely or the Holy Spirit was more willing to deliver blessings while the sun is rising.

Our congregation (Jesus Village Church in Chuncheon, South Korea) has five morning prayer services per week, Tuesday through Saturday, at 5:30 am.  Once a month though, they move it to 6 to encourage people to bring their children.  I can barely haul myself out of bed for this prayer service, and I can vividly recall hearing North American parents tell me about the difficulties of getting their children to church for a 9am service.  I can’t imagine many would even try for a 6am prayer service.  This man has done that, and his mother couldn’t be prouder.

He goes on to tell me that despite Korea’s current prosperity, most of the people here can remember more difficult times.  The civil war has left an indelible stain on the psyche of the nation.  Poverty, separation of families, and tremendous loss of life brought great sorrow to these people.  I have been told this story before, and I will hear it again.  He also begins to tell me about han, a concept he tells me will take years to understand.  It roughly means sorrow and regret, but encapsulates so much more.  The Koreans bring this with them when they pray.  They pray for their han to be lifted.  They pray for estranged family members.  They praise God for bringing them out of poverty and strife and ask for blessings upon those less fortunate.

No matter what the time of day or week, Koreans pray passionately.  Prayers flow from their lips like the mountain streams that carve their way through the countryside; effortlessly, almost rhythmically and giving every indication that they have flowed that way for a long time.  Prayers here often happen with many people speaking aloud at once.  The words spoken are mostly indiscernible to me and I’m sure are often only discernable to God.  Koreans are a busy people, busier by far than our friends back home, and when the prayer meetings end, they return to their busy schedule.  Still, they make time to pray, even if it means meeting before the sun comes up.

There was a time when prayer was all that the Korean church had, and they will not allow their current prosperity to erase that from their memories.  This determination is a powerful reminder of how much I too have been blessed, and how much I also should draw close to God in prayer.