KOREAN MISSION CHALLENGES IN THE PHILIPPINES and Opportunities for Korean-Filipino Mission Partnerships

The Korean missionaries started coming to the Philippines as early as late 70’s. They came with enthusiastic hearts to evangelize, plant churches and train pastors and missionaries. I give thanks to God for the sacrificial labors and generous investments that Korean churches, mission agencies and missionaries have made in advancing the Great Commission in the Philippines in more than thirty years. All through these years since 1980 until the three years (2011-2014) when I served as National Director of Phil. Missions Association (PMA), I’ve come to appreciate the hard work and sacrificial services of Korean missionaries in our country.

From my perspective, Korean missions and missionaries in the Philippines have majored in three areas: evangelism, church planting and theological education throughout the archipelago. Many Korean-planted churches, denominations and seminaries have been formed, and most of them have extended ministries, like schools, youth centers, etc. Other mission models are more creative and holistic, like the Canaan Farm, STUMP Mission, and iHelp, and the majority appreciated these mission models. I also appreciate the investments of Koreans in building private Christian schools in many parts of the country. These have been done in spite of many difficulties, especially in language and culture learning.
But frankly, many of these efforts have not been really appreciated by the Filipino people, who have been helped, evangelized and churched. I attribute this to the Korean missionaries’ lack of proper cross-cultural missionary training, since almost all of them got Master of Divinity degrees, mainly trained to be pastors rather than to be cross-cultural missionaries. Many Korean missionaries struggled with communication and understanding how Filipinos do missions and church ministries. Nonetheless, I believe “all things will work out for good” (Rom. 8:28). The flaws in these past church-planting activities can still be reformed and transformed through wise and humble relationships in the future.
In fact, there are several fruitful Korean ministry models that are truly welcomed by the people and communities ministered to. In 2009 I saw how the partnership of a Korean missionary with an independent Filipino church-planter/pastor in Marinduque empowered the latter to become the head of the Provincial Pastors Association, establish the best private Elementary School in Boac, form a community-based cooperative, and set up a model organic farm for the Bicol region. I’m sure there are many similar cases. So Korean missionaries can learn from their fellow successful Korean missionaries here!
Moreover, there have been more and more inter-change and fellowship with Filipino church and mission leaders, too. Some Filipinos have been invited to teach in Korean schools and speak in Korean-sponsored events and conferences. Admittedly, Filipino leaders would like to also invite Korean leaders to participate, teach and speak in our events, but language difficulties (and frankly, also some previous bad experiences) have been major barriers to act on this desire.
I hope both Korean and Filipino ministers can renew our commitment to serve our Lord together. Let the wrongs, hurts and resentment of the past and present be confessed, forgiven and overcome. Let us ask forgiveness from one another, for any misunderstanding and unforgiveness that may have negatively hindered the impact of our ministries, so that we can proceed to work together in true unity (cf. Jn.17:21-23), out of love for one another and work as partners in God’s kingdom work in the future.

Challenges in the mission field are plenty. And as missionaries and mission leaders, we face them on a daily basis. However, our God supplies us with wisdom, strength and power to address them daily as well. May I share on four ways by which Koreans and Filipinos can partner in cross-cultural missions to maximize our impact in winning the whole world to follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
First, on the inter-cultural level to reach the still unreached peoples in the Philippines, it would be good for all Philippine-based missions to affiliate with Philippine Missions Association (PMA) for cultural orientation, mission briefing, on which part of the country need missionaries or church planters, so that Korean missions can partner with Filipino missions agencies that have specialization in reaching the various unreached peoples: nominal Christians, ethnic Muslims, Chinese Buddhists, Indian Sikhs, tribal animists, urban poor, cults, etc. Most of PMA’s member bodies have formed working partnerships on the ground, as they have sought to collaborate to reach each of their target people-groups in our land. This is one of the main strengths of Filipino missions: we have generally remained united through these years, and have developed effective partnerships on the ground and at the national levels. A few Koreans have already served as PMA’s Board members, and their contributions have been deeply appreciated. Rev. Dong Baek Lee has served very well on the Board, and Rev. Kim Nak Keun had served on PMA’s administrative staff, too.
Second, we need to partner in educating and mobilizing the whole Filipino church to be involved in missions. Together we have to train and send Filipino missionaries locally and internationally. Let’s work together to help every Filipino church here and abroad, esp. those that are affiliated or influenced by Korean mission groups and their partner churches to become a global missionary-sending churches. Since the most effective Filipino missions have been done by tentmakers (self-supporting missionaries), we have been urging and helping every Filipino church to set up an Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Ministry Desk (OMD). Ministering to OFW families will not only bring stability and growth to the local church, it will also provide opportunities for the pastor and members to serve the psycho-social welfare and financial stewardship needs of these families, as well as mobilize and train the OFW to become a tentmaker-missionary in the country where he is working. I am very appreciative of several Korean missionaries, esp. Rev. Joseph Kim’s All Nations Training Center, who have focused on this type of mobilization ministry.
Third, we need to partner in providing more training programs for effective evangelization, especially for disciple multiplication movements (DMM) in the 10/40 Window. We all realize the extra risks involved in cross-cultural missions, so that the slightest mistakes can be very costly even in terms of lives maimed or lost. We do not want any premature martyrs nor unnecessary persecutions due to practical blunders by our missionaries. PMA and its member missions have developed effective models of missions that are too valuable not to be used by those who are called for world missions. We have developed a whole range of training programs, from one-day orientation seminars to two-day training programs to one-week modules to short-term training camps to six months certificate courses and even to three-year graduate level professional degree courses. So it is most important that we work together to see to it that each Filipino, Korean, Asian or any missionary gets the best equipment for reaching out effectively to the lost.
Fourth and last, we need to also work in partnership in reaching all the Unreached People Groups (UPGs) in the rest of Asia, which remains the most populated and the most un-evangelized continent in the world today. As fellow Asians who have been privileged to know Christ and to make Him known, we need to remind ourselves constantly that it is our main responsibility to reach our fellow Asians and to do this effectively, or else multitudes of Asians will continue to go to eternal hell that is already filled with Asians!
To facilitate this, I’m privileged to share leadership with Dr. John Kim (Insiders), Dr. Chong Kim (Mission Frontiers), Caleb Shin (Business as Mission-Korea), Dr. Kim Hwal Yung (Center for Asian Reach Out) and a few others in the Asian Society of Frontier Missions (ASFM). Since 2008, we have met once a year as a community of “reflective practitioners,” esp. to learn together on how to combine DMM with Community Transformation and Contextualized Spirituality approaches in a mission strategy now commonly called “Kingdom (or people or insider) movements.” As Asian missionaries, we need to help one another in learning from the best practices of cross-cultural missions based on actual field experiences here in Asia. Dr. Hwang Tae Yun and I have committed our school Asian School of Development and Cross-cultural Studies (ASDECS) to be part of this fellowship of mission leaders. May I invite you to join us in this Korean-Filipino partnership that is led by Asians to win Asians for Christ creatively, incarnationally, servantly, strategically and effectively.
As we look forward to fulfilling the Great Commission more closely together in the future, may the next few years see the unreached peoples turning to Christ by the multitudes, as Koreans and Filipinos join the global church as partners to finish the Great Commission effectively among the most challenging mission fields in the world and in our generation today!
*This paper was presented at a panel forum sponsored by the Korean Missionary Association of the Philippines (KMAP) to share the author’s views as a Filipino mission leader on “Korean-Filipino Mission Partnerships in the Philippines.”


David S. Lim

Dr. David S. Lim is the Executive Director of China Ministries International-Philippines, that recruits Filipino missionaries for China. He serves as a key member of the Facilitation Team that seeks to mobilize and train 200,000 Filipino missionaries to reach the unreached peoples of the world. He had previously served as Academic Dean at Asian Theological Seminary(Philippines) and Oxford Centre for Mission Studies(U.K.), and now serves as President of two schools: Asian School for Development and Cross-Cultural Studies (ASDECS) and Asian Center for English Studies(ACES). His Ph.D in the New Testaments was earned from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, U.S.A.


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