The year 1965 opened a new chapter in the history of Overseas Missionary Fellowship when work began to set up Asian Home Councils in East Asian countries where OMF had been working. In Korea, the Home Council was formally launched in June 1980. Byun Jae Chang and his wife Byun Cho Eran were the first missionaries sent in 1981 by OMF Korea to serve in Japan. After completing language learning in Sapporo, they were involved in church planting in Hokkaido and later in Fuchuu city, Tokyo up till 1993. The article below, written by Byun Jae Chang in 1982, shares how the Lord led him and his wife to serve Him in Japan.
Byun Jae Chang and Byun Cho Eran
A Korean Jonah
By Byun Jae Chang
East Asia Millions (April/May 1982):190–192
Running away from God’s call to missions
When I was young, I dedicated myself to the Lord, but didn’t know whether He wanted to use me or not. So I started to pray. For six months I prayed, every night for two hours. But still I did not know. At last I climbed up the mountain to seek the Lord. It was winter and bitterly cold. “What is Your plan, Lord,” I cried out in prayer. “Please, would You reveal it to me in some concrete way?”
If He did not speak, I had decided to return to the world. I had no great desire to live in poverty as a pastor, and secretly in my heart I harbored worldly ambitions.
But the Lord who said, “Call unto Me, and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33: 3), spoke to me through His Holy Spirit. He said to me, “Go to the great city Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give” (Jonah 3:2), and “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13: 2).
So I made up my mind to become a pastor. But two weeks later I heard a missionary named Griffiths* preach from Acts 13—my text! Then I understood that God had called me to be a missionary; and, furthermore, He seemed to be pointing to Japan.
“No, Lord, not Japan! You know I dislike the Japanese!”
So from that time on the conflict began. I didn’t want to be a missionary—to look a fool and sound like a baby in another language. I desired to become a great revival preacher, wonderful and respected like Billy Graham! As a result, I ran away from this “call,” avoiding my Lord’s face-for thirteen years!
I prayed for a compromise. “Oh, my God, instead of my going, I will plant a church which will send out many missionaries. I will be their honored leader.” And then I went to the New City and planted a church, and this church became the largest church in that area.
Jae Chang and his wife Cho Eran
Repentance and Obedience
But then came a day when the Lord’s hand was heavy upon me, day and night, until my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Eventually I was forced to flee up the mountain again. For three weeks I fasted and prayed, and I knew that I had to repent. The Lord showed me visions and spoke to my heart in strong language. Finally I gave in. “Yes, Lord,” I cried. “Here am I, Your slave. Take my silver and gold and men’s applause. I will go wherever You wish.”
Some time later my wife and I read two books—Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret and The Life of George Mueller. Greatly moved, we decided that if we were to be real missionaries, we must be spiritually qualified like these great men.
So we made up our minds to train ourselves in the life of faith. We took the financial deacon of our church into our confidence, but asked him to tell no one else. At our request he transferred our salary to the building fund, and we looked to the Lord directly to supply our needs. He had given us His promises: “Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.” (Psa. 81:10), and “You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there” (1 Kings 19:4).
Hallelujah! We did open our mouths wide, and He poured in everything we needed—even more than we had had before.
God’s leading to join OMF
One day we received an unexpected visit from Dr. Pattisson, OMF Superintendent in Korea. I knew of him, but we had never met. And yet we were able to talk and testify to each other very frankly. From that day on he became my teacher, friend, counselor, and, finally, guide into OMF. When he discovered that I had been called first to missionary service thirteen years before through Dr. Griffiths, he told me: “The guidance of the Lord is profound. Since the visit of Mr. Griffiths at that time OMF has been praying for a Korean missionary candidate. Also for thirteen years we have prayed for the establishment of an OMF home council in Korea. Now you and Mr. Doh, who will work as secretary of the Korean home council, have come together, the first fruits!”
As I meditated on all the Lord’s dealings with me, I couldn’t doubt His deep and marvelous guidance any more. With confidence I was able to sing, “I know the Lord has made a way for me.”
In May 1980 Dr. Griffiths, then OMF General Director, came back to Korea to interview the first OMF Korean missionary candidate and to recognize the first OMF home council of Korea. It was a great occasion. I was the fruit of his sowing thirteen years before, and like the prodigal Jonah, had just come back into step with the Lord’s perfect will.
After I repented the Lord did, in fact, make me a preacher in the true sense. I went on preaching tours to several big cities, appealing to Koreans everywhere to respond to God’s call to go into all the world with the Gospel. At a student conference of 2,500 I testified to the Lord’s call of me, the prodigal. My song was
Amazing grace—how sweet the sound
That called a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.
During those preaching days I experienced a little of the tremendous reality of that fundamental spiritual principle, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
God’s call to go to Japan
Dr. Pattisson voiced the next question to arise: “Where do you look forward to going?”
I replied: “I will go wherever God wishes except to Japan and Thailand. You know how we Koreans regard the Japanese. And I do not feel temperamentally suited to the Thai.”
Mrs. Pattisson answered my hasty words with, “You may have to go to Japan, Mr. Byun!”
However, it seemed quite impossible for a Korean to go as a missionary to Japan. Dr. John Kim** had not been able to, and the response from OMF’s director in Japan was also negative. So we put aside all thought of Japan and concentrated our preparation on Thailand. All outward signs indicated that we should go there.
Yet we lacked that inner peace and conviction that our “call” was to Thailand. In Singapore we shared our feelings frankly with the directors, who decided to postpone designation for a while.
I prayed earnestly for guidance, but the Lord was silent. Then one day I met Wang Ting, on furlough from Japan. As we talked, I was clearly reminded of my initial call to Japan. Should I not look towards Japan after all?
Oh, Lord, I thought, were You keeping silent because it is already fourteen years since You told me Your will? Is Japan to be my Nineveh? Is the regulation keeping us out of Japan really unchangeable?
Since our sovereign Lord says, “Knock and ask, and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7), I ran to tell my conviction to Mr. Lane [Overseas Director]. The outcome? OMF directors began knocking at the gates of Japan, and the miracle happened: Today we are studying at the Japan Language Center in Sapporo with other new OMF missionaries to Japan!
*Michael Griffiths, OMF missionary to Japan, on a visit to Korea.
**Korean who with his wife was accepted into OMF in the U.S., but were not able to go to Japan.
COUNCIL WITH A PURPOSE
By Dr. Linsu Kim, Chairman OMF home council in Korea
In 1975 a young Presbyterian minister started a Bible class with a few families at an apartment in a newly developing residential area in Seoul. A few months later the group rented a basement and became a small church. By 1978 over 250 adults attended Sunday morning services, and there were as many youngsters in Sunday school. Nowadays over 1,300 adults and as many children attend Sunday services held in a sanctuary costing half a million dollars, built and almost completely paid for by the congregation. During last year’s vacation Bible school twenty-three primary school children dedicated themselves to become foreign missionaries even if it meant asking their lives in remote jungles, and during a secondary school student conference seventeen youngsters indicated willingness to become foreign missionaries. And this seven-year-old church supports several Korean missionaries, including the Byuns of the OMF.
While this story of an exceptionally successful church in Seoul is not a typical case, it still reflects the growth of the church in Korea. From 1970 to 1980 the Christian population nearly doubled—to about seven million, almost twenty percent of the total population. Significant, too, is the penetration of the Gospel among educated young people, and it is among these young people that mission interest is rapidly increasing. Over a thousand, for example, signed up to become foreign missionaries during the 1980 World Evangelization Crusade in Seoul.
Who can provide adequate training programs for these people? Who can offer the mission network and the experience they need? Recognizing the fact that OMF has well-established mission fields and over a hundred years’ experience in Asia, four professors, two lay leaders, and an OMF missionary—with the encouragement of OMF’s General Director—organized the OMF home council in Korea two years ago in order to respond to the missionary training and recruitment needs of the Korean church. Having already sent its first missionary couple a year ago, the council is reviewing its second application and is working with twelve more potential missionaries. It is the vision and prayer of the members of council that the Korean church will play an important part in the evangelization of Asia.