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Greeting from a student minister, Barnabas (June 2017)

Dear Friends,  

When you come to Trinity-Henleaze URC for Sunday service, you might notice an Asian man who is with black hair, wearing glasses, and normally standing at the church gate to greet you with a big smile. It is me, a student minister, called Barnabas Shin, who has been doing his placement in this church for the last eight months and will carry on until next academic year 2017/2018. Tracey offered me to say something in this newsletter, and I am so happy to share my greeting to you all who would read this whether you have seen me or not.

I would begin with my grateful heart to you, who supported me a lot to settle down well in this church, to British people, who have become good friends of our family for last 17 years in UK, and also particularly to your faithful ancestors, who came far over to an unknown oriental country to share a good news of Jesus Christ. As a Korean Christian, I always remember that without them I might have not known about Jesus, which I cannot imagine. 

Having said that, I might share a story of Welsh missionary, Robert Jermaine Thomas (1839 - 1866). He came to spread the gospel in Korea with Bible translated into Chinese (at that time Korean used both Korean and Chinese characters) in 1866. In his second visit on 4th September 1866, there was a big clash between an American trading ship, 'General Sherman', and Korean soldiers. As a result, the ship was burnt and crews were killed including Robert Thomas (a picture of this scene on the left).

Several decades later in 1907, there was a great revival in Korea from a city of Pyongyang (a capital city of North Korea now). As the celebration of 100th anniversary of the great revival in 2007, Korean scholars attempted to explore the root of Korean Christianity and discovered a wonderful story about the link between Robert Thomas and the great revival. 

Cutting the long story short, I share few highlights of it. Chun-Gwon Park, who actually killed Robert Thomas, later converted into Christianity after he read the Bible that Thomas brought. One of people, Young-sik Park, who took the scattered Bible on the beach where Thomas died, used the Bible as wallpaper of his house in Pyongyang, and he was inspired by the Bible and became Christians, and the house later on became a church. This church had rapidly grown and moved to bigger church and name it, Chang-dah-hyeun church. And the great revival triggered from this church in 1907.

The revival started from the inspiration of the Bible shook the villages and the whole city with the power of trans-formation of individual lives as well as lives of society: broken relationships were reconciled; addiction from drugs and alcohol stopped; women were seen as equal as children of God; and it was Christians who stood frontline to fight against the Japanese Empire for Korea's independence in the early 1900s and to fight against injustice of the whole society.

The former manse at Hanover Chapel in Llanover, near Abergavenny in Wales was home of Robert Thomas as his father was minister of the chapel, which was about to close. However, after this amazing story was discovered, this chapel became a special place of pilgrimage for Korean Christians. It is said that Korean Christians may not know well that Wales is a country with its own language and history, but they do know that Wales is where Thomas came to them from. And now a Korean minister works in Hanover church as a part of URC.

As I reflect on 500th anniversary of Reformation, I remember both reformers' radical passion to go back to the root of the message of Christianity and the amazing story that Western missionaries brought to Korea. We are aware that our Christian history does not always have wonderful stories and we need to be waken to do constructive criticism. However, we might also need sometimes to remember good things that our church did and do very well, and encourage each other saying, 'well done'. In this respect, please accept my grateful heart to you and your faithful ancestors.