Full-time Korean Ministers
A DISTINGUISHED-LOOKING gentleman approaches the main gate of a Korean residence. He looks for the bell. Pushing the button, he glances at the nameplate and notices that the householder’s name is Kim. As the housemaid calls from inside the gate, he asks if Mr. Kim is at home. The housemaid cautiously opens the small door set inside the big gate. Since the visitor looks to her like a schoolteacher or someone equally distinguished, she lets him in. He stoops low to enter the tiny gate. The visitor greets the householder, introduces himself as a minister and presents his Bible message. The visitor is one of more than a thousand full-time ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses in South Korea.
In Korea a high percentage of Witnesses take up the full-time ministry. Some devote between 75 and 100 hours to public teaching of the Bible during a month that they set aside for that purpose; others, as regular pioneer ministers, spend 100 or more hours in this activity regularly each month; and yet others, as special pioneer ministers, put in 150 hours. In 1969 an average of 1,304 were in these services each month. In January of 1970 a new peak of 2,326 full-time ministers was achieved among the 11,380 Witnesses active in preaching during that month.
What motivates these men and women to offer themselves willingly in the service of their Creator? It is their desire to obey the commission that Jesus Christ gave to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Matt. 28:19.
These full-time ministers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some belonged to a sect of Christendom, but most come from pagan backgrounds and so were ancestor worshipers. After having come to a knowledge of God’s truth, they wanted to help others enjoy the kind of freedom that Bible truth brings.
One family, like many others, fled to South Korea from North Korea. They had been Buddhists and ancestor worshipers. Shortly after the Korean War, the mother studied the Bible with the Witnesses. And in time all four family members became full-time preachers of God’s Word.
A young woman who preaches God’s Word full time came from a home where her mother is a sorceress. Her father also dabbles in the occult. When their daughter became a Christian witness of Jehovah, they persecuted her. After she became a full-time preacher of God’s Word, they cast her out of the house. Now she uses her time in helping others to break free from superstition and false religion.
A young man on the island of Cheju, off Korea’s south coast, is the only Christian in his family. As the eldest son he had the traditional responsibility to take the family lead in ancestor worship. He was also the one designated to receive the major inheritance. This young man decided to become a full-time minister of Jehovah God. For this and his refusal to worship his ancestors, he was severely beaten, cast out of his home and disinherited. His family thought that he would give up his faith. But he did not; he still faithfully works full time in Jehovah’s service. And there are signs that the attitude of his family is softening toward him.
Before learning God’s truth, one of these full-time ministers was a fighter against the Japanese occupation of Korea. He had also once been a champion in the sport of judo. His acquaintances now ask why he works so hard in the ministry. He replies that he worked hard in his previous endeavors that brought him no real satisfaction. Now he has true hope for the future, and his work brings real benefit to himself and those to whom he ministers.
REQUIRED CHANGES IN THEIR LIVES
These full-time ministers are not spending their full time in God’s service because they have nothing else to do. Many of them had careers or other highly regarded occupations. Yet they made changes in their lives to do God’s work full time. For example, a young minister on the island of Cheju had a coveted job as a clerk in the local government office. Wanting to be in the full-time ministry, he was willing to make a change, yes, give up his secular career. He tried to resign. Twice his letter of resignation was refused. His fellow workers influenced his unbelieving mother to put pressure on him not to give up a career that most young men would be eager to have. But his decision was made. He sent in his third resignation and did not wait for it to be accepted but went around to fellow workers to bid them good-bye. He is now happy as a special full-time minister.
To make the needed changes in order to have such a full share in preaching God’s Word takes a great deal of faith, effort and perseverance. Consider the example of the wife of a medical doctor (he is an atheist) and mother of four children. She made changes in her life so she could spend one hundred hours in the preaching work each month. She is a graduate nurse but now applies herself to spiritual healing by using the “healthful words” of the Bible. (2 Tim. 1:13) Initial opposition from her husband did not overwhelm her; and she has been able to balance all the demands on her time, taking good care of her four children, husband and home duties, as well as her full schedule of preaching work.
To become full-time ministers, some have had to make big changes in their lives to conform to the Bible’s high moral standards. For instance, there is a full-time minister who serves in one of Korea’s small villages. He had been considered the strongest farmer in the community, able to do more than his neighbors physically, to get extra income. He had also been a heavy drinker. After he learned the truth from the Bible, he began to change. His whole way of life changed so that he gave up his drinking bouts. He took up the full-time ministry and helped to organize a Christian congregation with his own family as the nucleus.
HOW THEY SUPPORT THEMSELVES
Supporting themselves in the full-time ministry can be a real problem. This is because of a high rate of unemployment, which makes part-time jobs difficult to find. How do they solve the problem? A few examples follow:
A minister of Jehovah’s witnesses in a small village farms his land to care for the material needs of his family. By wise use of the remaining time he is able to spend at least a hundred hours in the ministry. Of course, the entire family cooperates. For example, they buy calves six months before a large assembly of the Witnesses. They fatten them and then sell them just before the assembly, the proceeds paying for their travel expense.
One minister supports his family with his work as a schoolteacher. Of the time available in late afternoons, evenings and weekends, he sets aside one hundred hours each month to preach God’s kingdom.
Another Witness supports himself and his wife as an artist, while giving priority to the ministry. He engages in the ministry in the mornings, sells his paintings to art shops in the afternoons and does his painting in the evenings. It is a tight schedule, but he is well organized.
The presiding minister of a congregation near the Demilitarized Zone dividing South Korea from the North would like to be a regular full-time minister. But, instead, he and his wife settle for serving as temporary full-time ministers, he one month and she the next, alternating the entire year. While one is in the ministry, the other cares for the children and small store that they operate.
MINISTERS OF ALL AGES AID GROWTH
These full-time preachers of God’s Word are people of all ages; some of them are grandmothers. A fifty-eight-year-old grandmother, before learning God’s truth, had no hope except, as she puts it, to take care of the grandchildren and wait to die. She had been a Presbyterian for thirty years but had no true hope for the future. What a change in her life when she became a Witness! She entered the full-time preaching work. Now she is seventy-one years of age and has helped scores of people to learn the Bible’s truth. She had polio in her younger years, and walking is a problem for her. Yet she averaged 130 hours in the ministry each month last year, conducting home Bible studies with twelve groups each week and placing well over 100 Bible magazines in the homes of the people each month. At a recent assembly thirteen of her students were baptized. She is all smiles and alert and encouraging to those around her.
Another of Korea’s full-time preachers of God’s Word is a grandmother in her seventieth year. She has been in the full-time service for almost twenty years. When she was asked how many she has helped to become dedicated Christians, she said the number is over a hundred. Everywhere she goes, it seems that there are those who could be counted as fruitage of her labors; they invariably refer to her in affectionate terms as they would their own fleshly grandmothers.
Why are there many full-time ministers among Jehovah’s witnesses in South Korea? One reason is that so many Christian parents inculcate the desire for this service in their children. Consider the example of an overseer in one of Seoul’s fifty-two congregations. He and his wife had been famous singing artists for decades. The family had been Buddhists and ancestor worshipers. They encouraged their children to advance in the ministry. Now they have the joy of seeing two of their eldest daughters in special full-time service and a son in the regular full-time ministry.
These full-time ministers of all ages have contributed in no small measure to the remarkable growth evident among Jehovah’s witnesses in Korea in recent years. For example, five years ago there were 5,936 active ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses in South Korea. Now that number has almost doubled to 11,744!
From many backgrounds and of all ages, these Korean full-time ministers have genuine sincerity and feeling for those whom they teach the Bible. And this generates such a fine response as they help others serve their Creator as disciples of Jesus Christ.