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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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Boom. Final fishing trip. Grateful. A nice way to end my 3 month sabbatical. #catchandrelease twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 1 day ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 1 day ago
  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 4 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 4 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 4 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 6 days ago