Eugene Cho

“costly commitment”

Here’s a new article in Christianity Today, entitled Costly Commitment, about the Korean Christian hostages in Afghanistan.  The tagline reads: “In wake of abductions, Korean Christians take heavy criticism.” The author through a connection and this blog called to interview me for over 3o minutes.  It’s always frustrating when you feel like you’ve conveyed a much bigger picture and when you read the article, you feel reduced to a sentence or two.  It’s possible for a reader to come away thinking that I’m critical of this group when the opposite is the case.  I have sought to provide support and context behind their cause.  I admire them very much.

So, let me take this opportunity to expound on my thoughts for those who are interested.  First, here’s a snippet of the article:

South Korea’s missions movement received a growing amount of criticism after a group of 23 church volunteers were abducted in July while traveling in Afghanistan on a medical-aid trip. 

Shortly after the group was taken hostage, several Korean newspapers published editorials questioning the Christians’ decision to travel to a dangerous country. One of South Korea’s widely circulated newspapers, The Chosun Ilbo, chastised Christians, saying they were taking unnecessary risks abroad. 

“It is simply futile for Koreans to engage in missionary or other religious activities in a country like Afghanistan,” the July 23 editorial stated. “Religious groups should realize once and for all that dangerous missionary and volunteer activities in Islamic countries including Afghanistan not only harm Korea’s national objectives, but also put other Koreans under a tremendous amount of duress.” 

Similarly, some non-Christian Koreans are expressing critical sentiments, said Eugene Cho, a Korean who previously served on the staff of the 25,000-member Onnuri Presbyterian Church in Seoul. [read full article]

1.  The more I learn about this group of people, the more I am amazed by them.  They are ordinary people – like you and me – but they are also heroes.  These are young men and women – most in their 20s and 3os, who didn’t have to go to Afghanistan.  They chose to sacrifice their time and money; they chose to share their talents and resources; and they chose to go because of their faith in Christ.  As one of the family members of the hostages stated:

“Some say going to Afghanistan is reckless, but she went there because no one goes there to help.”

2. Christians are called to teach and preach the gospel – locally and globally.  The past [and current] mistakes of the Church – lack of sensitivity, cultural imperialism, lack of contextual and incarnational understanding, and others – have been documented.  For this group [to our knowledge], I very much appreciate that their sole agenda was NOT to coerce, manipulate, or force their belief system unto the people of Afghanistan.  While it is VERY clear that they were Christians, it’s also very clear that their “mission” was to demonstrate the Gospel through care and compassion. 

People are making the mistake of assuming that this hostage situation took place BECAUSE of these Korean Christians.  They have suddenly become culprits and ceased to be the victims of a human rights violation. 

3. Contrary to what critics initially stated or speculated, this group was prepared.  Clearly, not perfectly prepared but they were prepared.  They were traveling to Afghanistan because Saemmul Church had built a hospital in Afghanistan to provide care for the people of Afghanistan.  This was not a shallow short term vacation.  This group was going to continue to support the substantive investment this church had made through the hospital and through long term missionaries.  In addition, the senior pastor of the church stated that the group – like other groups that the church sends out – had undergone training for six months in preparation for this trip.

Koreans have criticized this group.  Others around the world have criticized this group.  Even other Christians have criticized this group.  While there might be aspects about this relief aid trip that can be criticized, people are missing the bigger picture.  Here’s a group of people that through prayer, faith in Christ, and conviction have chosen to give of their lives to be a blessing to others – in the name of Christ.

That – for me – is a beautiful portrait of the gospel. 

Filed under: christianity, religion

7 Responses

  1. suppose says:

    These people live their faith completely, as Christ asks us to do.

  2. […] eugene cho’s following the south korean hostage crisis read eugene cho’s post on costly commitment read the christianity today article: costly […]

  3. Blake says:

    Thanks for sharing this article and your commentary, Pastor Eugene. Praise God for the release of the two hostages and for some of the news coverage (I swear I saw a hint of this situation on FoxNews the other day). These brothers and sisters have done what we are called to do. God be with them.

  4. daniel so says:

    Eugene — Thank you for sharing your deep insights into this situation. You have been a truly valuable resource to many individuals and communities — not only as a source of news (which has been crucial given the near-silence in the Western media) but as a guide in helping us process and think on this tragedy.

    I am really disappointed in CT’s (lack of) coverage of these events, and at their misrepresentation of your words & intent. I left a comment over at the CT site saying as much.

    The strange syntax of the sentence introducing you almost makes you sound like a “non-Christian Korean.” I’m sure to the writer it was just an oversight, but by identifying you first as a Korean who served at Onnuri it can easily leave the impression that you just dropped out of the sky from Korean and now just happen to be pastoring Quest. I know to some people it might sound like splitting hairs, but it is irresponsible for the writer to leave the impression that you are not an intimate part of your greater community or that you only speak about this hostage situation because you are Korean.

    I don’t mean to waste too much time venting — I wholeheartedly agree with you that, in the midst of controversy, finger-pointing and blame, we should not miss the big picture.

    Christ have mercy.

  5. I salute for the plot of that abduction.Though they have committed a crime they give us an inspiration how mean our life is today.Go dark the world when we read our newspaper tells
    us any incident.But we are looking for the truth all has to be true.Wrath of Afghan is a nightmare for all artists to make songs.Where the start we will tell about the hostages ? We still affectionate them even though they are getting afflicted by an ordeal.The crises emerged from Afghan shaking our love but our love still flame eternally.To escape the Human beings from the fearsome.

  6. Michelle says:

    I have to question people who call themselves Christians and criticize missionaries. Christ gave us the great commandment to GO. “Going” should be considered by the body of Christ as a normal thing to do and we should be supporting these Christians not criticizing for doing what Christ asked us to do in the first place……

  7. Aurora says:

    I’m an English teacher in Sydney Australia. A couple of weeks ago, one of my students, a South Korean guy gave me some background of these young missionaries. He told me the history of Korean Christianity and how it was founded on the martyrs (European) who tried to bring Christianity to Korea centuries ago and, springing from their blood, a harvest of Christians in that country who believe that they must be willing to sacrifice their lives if necessary to obey the command of Christ to ‘go’. They are standing on that verse “Every place on which your foot shall tread, I have given it to you.” And based on that, they went to set their feet on the most dangerous place (arguably) in the world, a region of Afghanistan which very few people enter. I believe that their faith and their willingness to risk their lives will be rewarded in some way. I salute their amazing courage and faith.
    Thanks for this further background and for the extra details you’ve filled in.

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