South Kore­ans have a town­ship mis­sion

South-east Asian coun­try has 20 000 evan­ge­lists in 175 coun­tries, twice as many as 10 years ago

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JAN CRONJE

EYES closed and head bowed, pas­tor Cheong In Taek raises his hands and asks the con­gre­ga­tion of the Church of Je­sus Christ in Green Park in­for­mal set­tle­ment to pray for him and his wife, Cheong Young Suk.

The Cheongs are South Korean mis­sion­ar­ies, and the pas­tor is ask­ing the 40 church­go­ers to bless their up­com­ing visit to the East­ern Cape.

“In the East­ern Cape, like here, there are lots of peo­ple in the church,” says the pas­tor.

“Please pray for us,” he says, as church­go­ers whis­per prayers in Xhosa and Afrikaans.

The Wed­nes­day evening church ser­vice is held in a small church built of cor­ru­gated steel sheets in the in­for­mal set­tle- ment on the edge of Drift­sands Na­ture Re­serve.

Bal­anc­ing his English Bi­ble on a Xhosa Bi­ble on his left hand, Cheong – a slight man in a plain blue jacket and black pants – warns the com­mu­nity against the al­lure of al­co­hol and earthly plea­sures.

“You must not see the lux­ury world, you must see the Lord Je­sus Christ,” he says, stand­ing in front of a wall hang­ing de­pict­ing Je­sus pray­ing. “Chris­tians are peo­ple who keep their trea­sure in the store­room of the king­dom of God.

“Be the kind of per­son that an evil spirit can­not at­tack,” he says, ges­tic­u­lat­ing to drive home the point. “Green Park com­mu­nity, you must take away your old life.”

Most of the con­gre­ga­tion are women, hold­ing Bibles in English, Afrikaans or Xhosa. They sit on plas­tic chairs lis­ten­ing at­ten­tively to the pas­tor’s ser­mon, de­liv­ered in heav­ily ac­cented English.

At the back of the church, moth­ers cra­dle and try to shush cry­ing ba­bies. Out­side, in a church­yard en­closed by a rick­ety fence, the sound of chil­dren play­ing can be heard.

Pas­tor Cheong, 52, who was or­dained as a Pres­by­te­rian min­is­ter in South Korea, has lived and spread the word of God in South Africa since Septem­ber 2003.

“Now I am not de­nom­i­na­tional, I be­long to Je­sus Christ,” he says.

The small church is one of the largest build­ings in Green Park, a com­mu­nity of 500 shacks be­tween Mfu­leni and Delft. The church’s neat win­dows, bright cur­tains and roof sup­ported by wooden cross­beams make it one of the com­mu­nity’s most com­fort­able build­ings.

Its raised wooden floor means it stays dry, in con­trast to shacks in the set­tle­ment’s low- ly­ing ar­eas which are nearly al­ways damp due to the wa­ter­logged ground.

When the ser­vice ends, Cheong Young Suk, 47, steps out­side and re­verses her small bakkie to the church door.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers help her carry plas­tic bags of fresh fruit, bread and sand­wiches to the church. As a parish­ioner marks off names in a ledger, mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion come for­ward to col­lect their share. Some start to tuck in while seated in the church.

When all the food has been handed out, the Cheongs’ busy them­selves for another ser­vice.

Pas­tor Cheong is speak­ing again in 15 min­utes in nearby Mfu­leni, where he and his wife will dis­trib­ute food parcels.

The ser­vice fin­ished, some mem­bers make their way to the shack of com­mu­nity leader Ray­mond Mtati, where a meet­ing is planned. Ear­lier this week Mtati, walked 30km on crutches in 18 hours from Green Park to the of­fice of Mayor Pa­tri­cia de Lille to hand over a re­quest for bet­ter hous­ing.

Dry­ing in the sun out­side his shack are painted card­board coffins Mtati plans to use for a sym­bolic “burial of coun­cil­lors” he says have for- got­ten about the needs of the com­mu­nity.

South Africa at­tracts more South Korean mis­sion­ar­ies than any other African coun­try, ac­cord­ing to re­search by Oh Kyung Hwan for a doctoral the­sis at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria.

In 2006, there were 79 South Korean mis­sion­ary fam­i­lies and 16 “sin­gle” mis­sion­ar­ies in the coun­try, most from Pres­by­te­rian and Methodist con­gre­ga­tions and ded­i­cated “mis­sion or­gan­i­sa­tions” in Korea. The first Korean mis­sion­ar­ies ar­rived in the mid-1980s.

The Korea Re­search In­sti­tute of Mis­sions said ear­lier this year there were 19 798 “of­fi­cial” South Korean mis­sion­ar­ies in 175 coun­tries. Ten years ago there were half as many.


‘THAT’S THE WAY’: Pas­tor Cheong In Taek preaches dur­ing a church ser­vice in Green Park in­for­mal set­tle­ment this week.

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