It was a remarkable experience staring across the Han River into North Korea today. Looks are deceiving, for it appears so tranquil. One looks through the magnified lens and sees scattered homes and rolling farmland. But a closer look and you realize the apparent people are not moving, the houses are actually a facade, and out of sight are a number of military personnel trained to shoot anyone seeking to climb the barbed wire and attempt a river crossing. It's all part of the propaganda along the 38th parallel. What you also sense is evil. You realize it is not the way it is supposed to be.
Even more remarkable is the attitude of many Koreans I have met who genuinely hope for reconciliation. Last night I spent some time in a worship service dedicated to meeting every Thursday night for this one purpose—to pray for reconciliation with the north. What began with a small core of believers some ten years ago has grown into 400-500 who meet every week, the majority in their 20's, who petition God to restore peace, and do it for His glory. Pretty amazing!
I'm impressed with believers over here, devoted to reaching a lost world. What many do not realize is that, outside of one other nation, Korea sends the most missionaries abroad. I sat down for an interview with a publisher yesterday, and it was astounding to hear what they are doing in these days. Major books from the States are translated within days after release. Across the street we met with a Christian broadcasting group, led by a former NBC correspondent, who are bringing the gospel in almost every major city in the world. Christianity seems to have made a profound affect on culture here, but the emerging prosperity is leading a growing number to find less need for God. There is a sense the growth of the church has peaked, but hopefully God will bring a fresh wind.
A lot of what I have experienced so far was incorporated in the life of an 80 year old woman I was privilged to meet and have lunch with today. Dining on the 57th floor of Seoul's tallest building (eating an assortment of raw squid, eel, shark, and abalone), she shared her story of survival, from the intimidation of being a young girl during the Japanese occupation, to living in hiding when North Korea occupied Seoul in 1950, to becoming a successful business woman. Through it all, and coming out of a Buddhist background, she met Christ, and she too joins the hope that one day this nation will be one.
A pretty cool start of the trip–not to mention the War Museum, the Missionary Cemetary, the flea market, a late night hike down from the Seoul Tower, and visiting the shops in the famous Insadong. It's a pretty amazing peninsula.