I Am Going: An Unexpected Mission

By: Ya Min Park

Ya Min Park is a recent SEBTS graduate who has earned both an M.Div, and a Th.M in Old Testament. He is planning to move to New York City soon to plant a church. Read below to learn how he is going to use his training from Southeastern while serving in NYC, as well as the story of how he came to study at SEBTS.

My church planting in NYC will start this year. I have three target groups: International Students, second Generation Asian Students, and Jewish Students in Columbia University and NYU. I know that third group is much different from the first two. (If you know about the first two groups, you would say that they are totally different too.) Anyways, the first two groups would make sense to you, if you knew that I’m an International Student from South Korea. However you might ask, “Why is my interest in reaching Jewish Students?”

Jewish Missions has been a keyword for my life from my freshman year of college. I was praying hard that God would give me a mission that I could live and die for. Jewish Missions was given to me as the answer to my prayer. My twenties was wholly focused on Jewish Missions. Since we don’t have a Jewish Community in Korea, I had to make several overseas trips to reach out to people from a Jewish descent. I have been to Israel two times, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Russia.

After the last mission trip to Russia, I decided two important things. My first decision was to study Theology before jumping into the full time ministry, because I saw various complicated theological confusions. While I was joining the missions, I met many missionaries, ministers, and leaders of Messianic Jews. Each of them has their own idea and theology on who are Jews; what the Jewish Mission is; and what we need to do for Jewish people and God’s kingdom. Thus, depending on whom I work with, the ministry swings from one extreme to the other. It gave me doubts about ministry work that I have done and left me with questions about the God’s mission and ministry to people from a Jewish background.

The second decision I made was to come to the US to reach out to the Jewish people in the US. When I went on my last mission trip to Novosibirsk, Russia, I had just graduated from college. During the whole time I stayed in Russia, I was praying that God would show me the next step. By the End of the mission trip, I found that my heart was pretty much ready to do anything God would give me. When I got back to Korea, the one who picked me up at the airport suggested that I go to the US, since the largest Jewish population outside of Israel is in the US. And I accepted this advice with my heart full of God’s calling.

I applied to three seminaries in the US. I picked to come to the one that gave me an admission first which was SEBTS. From the beginning of my seminary life, my concern was to equip myself to share the gospel with the Jewish people. Thus, my main focus was on Old Testament Studies since I wanted to talk to Jewish people about the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible. Then I realized that is what the authors of the New Testament tried to do. Throughout the book of the New Testament, they wanted to prove that Jesus is the Messiah according to the Hebrew Bible. So my study is expanded to the whole Bible and Biblical Theology.

As I finished my M.Div., I was not sure that I had built my own theology for Jewish Mission. I learned various Theological understandings on the issues but it was still difficult for me to choose my theology. So I started working the Th.M. with a focus in the Old Testament. I wanted to make sure whether there are unfulfilled prophecies concerning Israel or all has been or will be fulfilled in the church. The question led me to write my Th.M. paper, “Examination and Evaluation of Progressive Dispensational Understanding of the Day of the LORD in Zechariah 12-14.” After all the years of study at Southeastern, I do not claim that I have a perfect answer for my questions, but I am pretty confident to say that now I know what I need to study and how I study it.

I love the “Go” campaign of SEBTS. And I believe that it is time for me to “Go”. I am going to reach out to three target student groups on campuses in Manhattan, NYC. I am so thankful for the season of study and the faithful teachers at Southeastern. Finally I am going forward boldly for the calling from my heavenly Father.

 

Why All Good Christians Should Celebrate Halloween

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in 2009. Since we are once again approaching Halloween, George Robinson’s (Hedrick Chair of World Missions and Professor of Missions and Evangelism) thoughts on Christian participation (or not) in the holiday remain pertinent and helpful. 

October 31st. For most Americans this date means one thing: **Halloween.** Costumes, candy and trick-or-treaters spending to the tune of $2.5 billion making this holiday second only to Christmas in marketing revenue. But good Christians don’t celebrate Halloween. Or do they? Some Protestants may prefer to call it Reformation Day, for after all, that is the date that Martin Luther nailed his Theses to the door at Castle Church in Wittenberg back in 1517. That does pre-date the first usage of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” (commonly known now as Halloween) which didn’t emerge until some 40 years later in 1556.[1]

Ironically, most good Christians that I know won’t be celebrating either Reformation Day or Halloween. Instead, they will be showing support for their local church by attending a “safe and sanitary” alternative called a Fall Festival. This alternative allows good Christians to invite their neighbors and friends to come to the church and get candy, play games and have some good, clean Christian fun. No pagan witches and goblins allowed. But they can dress up as David or Moses or some other biblical character. All the fun without the pagan revelry, right?

I would like to propose another alternative – that good Christians should indeed celebrate Halloween. I think that they should stay home from their church’s alternative Fall Festival and celebrate with their pagan neighbors. Most of them wouldn’t have come to your Fall Festival anyway. And those who did would’ve stopped by briefly on their way to “real” trick-or-treating. I’m sure that some of you reading this blog might be more than a little unhappy with my proposal at this point, but stick with me for a moment.: The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the “Christian alternatives” is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.

Living with missional intentionality means that you approach life as a missionary in your context. I lived with my family in South Asia and we had to be creative and intentional in engaging our Muslim neighbors. We now live in the USA and we still need to be creative and intentional. That’s why for the past 2 years we have chosen to stay at home and celebrate the fact that Halloween gives us a unique opportunity to engage our neighbors. In fact, last year we had over 300 children and 200 adults come to our doorstep on that one night. And we were ready for them!

We had a tent set up in the driveway and gave away free coffee and water to the adults who were walking with their children. Our small group members manned the tent and engaged them in conversation and gave each one of them a gospel booklet (“The Story” gospel booklets are available with a Halloween distribution rate here: http://story4.us/offer). The children ran up to our door while the parents were waiting and got their candy, along with gospel booklets (even if they were dressed as witches or goblins!). In all we gave away more than 500 pieces of literature that night, each with our name, e-mail address, and a website where they could get more info.

I sure wish more good Christians would celebrate Halloween this year by staying home and meeting their pagan neighbors – an option which I believe surely beats the “good Christian” alternative.

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[1] John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford English Dictionary 2d. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1989).