January 12 2003 marks the centennial anniversary honoring the arrival of the first Korean Christians in Hawaii. Celebrations in the United Methodist Church will conclude in an April 24-27 festivity in Hawaii.
Bishop Hae-Jong Kim, chairman of the planning committee encourages local churches to observe the Jan 12 anniversary as an ecumenical celebration.
"It is our wish that it should not be just a 'Korean' celebration but a churchwide one, for it is the Mission Board of the Methodist Church that began the mission first, before any other denomination was involved," Kim said.
The National Association of Korean American United Methodist Churches and the Methodist Board of Global Ministries work hand in hand with local pastors in coordinating the event. The theme of the celebration has been announced by the Rev. Jong Sung Kim, executive director of the Centennial Planning Council as “To Remember the Past, Celebrate the Present and Envision the Future,"
"This celebration will be the most significant event in the life of Korean-American ministries through which the contribution and partnership of Korean American United Methodist churches can be recognized in the U.S.," he said.
To commemorate the event, the Korean United Methodist Community, in partnership with the Board of Global Ministries set a $60,000 missions goal for a center in Mongolia. The last Mongolian mission trip, taken in April of 2001, landed Korean American United Methodist clergy and lay leaders in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, where they participated in programs discussing the advancement of the gospel in the country.
Regional centennial celebrations will be held in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Detroit and San Francisco between May and October.
The first group of Korean Christians in Hawaii came from the Inchon Naeri Methodist Church after a 17 day journey across the Pacific. A sculpture commemorating the event was commissioned for the church by the denomination.
The first Korean Christians worked as laborers in sugar cane fields, and soon gathered in small groups to continue on the Christian culture they had built overseas. The small groups became a church under the leadership of Soon Hwa Hong, a missionary pastor. The first Korean-speaking church in Honolulu was then established in November, 1903; it became the center for the Korean community, where the Korean population was able to gather and develop spiritually and educationally.
Since its beginning in 1903, the Korean-American United Methodist church community has grown to more than 420 congregations with 100,000 members. More than 540 Korean-American clergy - including more than 100 women - serve in Korean-speaking and cross-racial appointments, as well as the church's boards and agencies.
By Paulina C.