With a carefully crafted ceremony that combined state-of-the-art technology, stirring messages, and top-notch musical performances, Seventh-day Adventist leaders in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD) declared the 2018 International Mission Congress officially open in Goyang, Republic of Korea, on August 8, 2018. The region-wide event has drawn about 4,000 mission-minded church members of all ages to the massive Korea International Exhibition and Convention Center (KINTEX) for four days of training, outreach, and witnessing.
Most of the people attending live and serve in one of the NSD countries and territories, which includes North and South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Mongolia, and Taiwan. Some representatives came from other church fields, as well as from the world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
“We feel it a privilege to participate in this Mission Congress,” said Adventist Church executive secretary G. T. Ng on behalf of world church leaders. “The world church appreciates that the NSD is very mission minded.”
Adventist Church president Ted Wilson, who arrives in the Republic of Korea on August 10, sent a prerecorded video message with greetings. “[The Mission Congress] is an opportunity to learn new skills, new ways of proclaiming the three angels’ messages,” he said. “What an opportunity we have in reaching out to others for His kingdom!”
History with a Twist
The 120-minute opening ceremony began with a choreographed review of the mission beginnings across the region. The display, which included oratorio-style recitatives, traditional instrumental music, and special effects, told the story of Seventh-day Adventist pioneers in that part of Asia.
Precisely 130 years ago, in 1888, the first self-supporting missionary, Abram La Rue, arrived in China. He is credited with being the first to bring the Advent message to that nation. Some of the people La Rue trained would later go as missionaries to other Asian nations, including Japan and Korea.
Mission is difficult and a long-term commitment, it was emphasized in an accompanying five-language script displayed on the main screen. “The number of souls won [by La Rue] after eight years in ministry: zero,” said an off-screen narrator. “But he kept persevering, and finally, he was successful.”
Missionaries Marching On
A parade through the hall to the main stage featured representatives from the various fields, including world church and NSD leaders. Marching leaders and representatives wore traditional outfits, including several different costumes from within the same region. Taiwan Conference (TWC) president Noah Lai explained, “Our outfits are different because we have different tribes, different cultures. We have many challenges to share the gospel.” The TWC territory was officially organized five years ago after being part of a larger church region.
Leading the Hong Kong delegation was China Union Mission president Robert Folkenberg Jr. “As a representative of the Chinese Union, I’d like to offer a warm welcome to every participant,” he said in fluent Chinese. “After this Mission Congress, I hope that whatever you share from this event will help us be together, united as one.”
Japan Union Conference (JUC) president Matsumi Shimada greeted the audience on behalf of the 311-strong Japanese delegation. “Seven years ago, there was a huge tsunami in Japan,” he said. “In the next four days, we are going to experience a tsunami here — the blessings of the Holy Spirit to go back home and share the message powerfully.”
Greetings and Highlights
The 101-member Mongolia Mission delegation provided one of the highlights of the introductory parade. The Mission’s president, Yo Han Kim, shared that exactly 25 years ago, the first Seventh-day Adventist convert was baptized in Mongolia by the then world church president Robert Folkenberg Sr.
To the surprise of the audience, Kim announced, “The first two Adventists and missionaries to the land of Mongolia are here with us tonight.” A second later, two women stepped forward. They were greeted with strong applause.
Hwang Chung Kwang, president of the Korean Union Conference (KUC), which is hosting the congress, also welcomed the audience, as he called on participants to be aware of the importance of the event. “This Mission Congress has to be a stepping stone to share, with God’s blessing, the gospel.”
After the reading of an Official Opening Declaration and a Special Pledge of commitment to mission, NSD president Si Young Kim reminded participants the reason for the event. “This is a festival to remember how God has led us up to this point, and how He has worked miraculously in the mission field.”
Kwang seconded this statement. “We will be listening to testimonies,” he said. “It is my hope the grace of God may overwhelm us.”
Turning more serious, Kwang then made a special request. “We are just 25 kilometers away from the border with North Korea,” he informed the audience. “Let us keep praying in earnest so that that nation opens to the gospel.”
Ng closed the opening-night ceremony with an impassioned call for missionaries to go out and find those in need of knowing Jesus. Reflecting on Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15), Ng said God is always trying to woo people back to Himself and that we should do the same.
“Part of the nature of God is to go and look for sinners,” he said. “Likewise, the mission of the church is to go to seek the lost.”
The International Mission Congress continues until August 11.