Hey family and friends,
a brief update on our second day here, Monday March 12. Today was a big day– we woke up early to go on a road trip to the border area between North Korea and South Korea.
Our first stop was, actually, to pick up two Korean students, Sarang and Gyung-Ah, who volunteered to help us organize prayer & worship at the church we were about to visit. Sarang had a guitar slung over her shoulder, Gyung-ah was an amazing keyboardist. Upon chatting on the bus, we were excited to realize that we knew a lot of worship songs in common: “Here I am to Worship,” “All in All,” and many more.
We arrived at our first (real) stop, Dae-ma Church near Baek-ma-Goji (White Horse Rise). Situated in the extremely rural area of Chul-won, it’s the NORTHERNMOST CHURCH in South Korea. That means it’s the church that is closest to the North Korean border. The pastor (Pastor Shim) explained how the threat of war is physically palpable here. Whenever there is any suspicious movement in either side of the border, the whole region closes off, in emergency mode. The people who are living here, farming and etc, therefore are always on their toes.
Baek-ma-Goji is a place where over 13,000 soldiers died in the course of 10 days during the Korean War. In that period, the owner of the rise switched 24 times. It’s told that Kim Il-Sung, after losing this hill to the South Korean army, didn’t eat or drink for 3 days because he was so upset. With Sarang and Gyung-ah’s lead, we had a time of prayer for the two Koreas, for Jesus to reign king in the two Koreas, and for the youth in South Korea to rise up in prayer instead of apathy.
Dae-ma Church, the Northernmost Church in South Korea.
The Baek-Ma-Goji Memorial. We could see specks of North Korea from here.
Our second stop was definitely a rare opp: we got a chance to visit one of the military divisions that guarded the border. Called the “Yeol-Swae(Key) Division,” the 5th division was famous for “always winning,” historically being “the key to South Korean victory.”
A couple of uniformed soldiers greeted us, one of them a 3-star general (General Jeon). We were oriented with a video, which really showcased the squad’s determination to lay down their lives to protect the country. Then, the screen went up, revealing a window through which we could see the North Korean landscape facing us, reminding us that it’s not a movie that we’re seeing.
As recounted by Sam ’14 during tonight’s debriefing, the soldiers told us that the DMZ-border is strewn with speakers that could reach over 10 kilometers’ radius. That is enough to cover a lot of North Korean villages, some of them only 2 kilometers away. What do these speakers do? In the case of reunification, the speakers will blast the music of “ceremony,” to declare to the world that the war is over.
Standing outside, looking at the North Korean land only a couple kilometers away from us, we sang the song “Mission” as a tribute to those who are laying down their lives to protect a country, to call upon Jesus who made the ultimate sacrifice to save all mankind, and to express our determination to be followers of Christ with humility, gratitude, awareness, and courage regarding the North Korean / South Korean situation.
Entrance to the 5th Division. It says: "Stop. If you disobey orders, you will be shot." That's real military protocol!!
Before we headed back to Seoul, we dropped by Boot Camp (Uggi ’13 excitedly translated the term from the Korean equivalent — “신병교육대”), where we ate dinner with recently-drafted soldiers, most of them 21 years old (just like some of us). As we walked in, the clanking and scraping of silverware against the food tray reminded us of “real” the military was– the pulsating physical reality of soldiers who eat, sleep, dream, love, and fear the same way. We were reminded of the magnitude of what’s at stake when we talk about war. Beating hearts, warm blood, unique and irreplaceable lives.
5th Division Boot Camp. The soldiers were really fierce and shy at the same time-- as young new soldiers, a lot of them especially seemed to enjoy our female solos!
After we sang, before we left, we left behind a couple copies of the book that we wrote (a collection of our testimonies, published in Korean, called “My Pride is not in Harvard, but I am proud of my God” (나의 자랑은 하버드가 아니라 하나님입니다) for the soldiers to read in their free time. Jiyae ’12 remembers how she was honored that General Jeon himself mentioned how he read her testimony, and wanted to encourage her to be confident and pull through in her endeavors at Harvard.
Our last stop was the weekly candlelight vigil prayer meeting for North Korea in front of Seoul Station, the biggest train station in the Seoul area. It was so cold that we could see our breaths as we sang, but we were so encouraged that there were people who cared. People who were stepping up to take action in prayer, in faith, not just look on as “bystanders” as the tragic reality of the two countries’ division materialized with the political reality of governments sending back North Korean Refugees where they will face the threat of execution by the new dictator Kim Jung-Un.
Candlelight Vigil: A weekly Prayer meeting for North Korea, Seoul Station (every Monday at 8pm!)
Throughout the day, we were reminded of the story of Joshua, and how the voices of praise brought down the walls of the castle. How Christians in West Germany had prayed and prayed for reunification right before it actually happened. We were reminded of the fact that, just like how our hearts break in the face of people in pain and persecution, God’s heart must break so much, to see each and every one of His children suffer and die.
That’s it for now. (Going to sleep!) Praying that God will be with us for the next few days.