Eugene Cho

in memory of pastor ha yong jo

On August 2, 2011 (Korean time), Pastor Ha Yong Jo – founder and senior pastor of Onnuri Church in Seoul, Korea, passed away at the age of 65.

A life well lived…

While 99% of my readers will never have heard of this man. Pastor Ha was not only one of the most influential Christian leaders in Korea and Asia but perhaps (in a quiet and humble way), the entire world.

While many have influenced me, I have always seen and looked to him as my pastor and one of my mentors. It pains me not to be able to go to Korea directly to pay my respects…

하목사님과 대화했던 순간 순간을 떠올리게 된다. 늘 꿈을 꾸시고, 사랑하시고, 열정을 나누셨던 하나님 닮는 삶을 사신 목사님, 사랑합니다.

After my wife informed me of his passing, I just sat there in silence – mourning his passing and yet mindful and amazed by his legacy.  Minhee and I have deep respect for Pastor Ha for many reasons and one of them is simply because he was the pastor that officiated our wedding in 1997. Pastor Ha was also Minhee’s boss through a Christian company he founded called Tyrannus Ministry (Duranno in Korean).

In recent years, Pastor Ha had battled numerous health issues including an ongoing bout with liver cancer. But even despite his illnesses and what has been reported to have been 7 major surgeries in the past couple years, he continued to serve the Lord faithfully.

My Mentor

I first met Pastor Ha in 1994 when I joined his staff – first as an intern and then as one of the 35 full-time pastors (at that time). Pastor Ha – to be blunt – spoke firmly and directly into my life on several occasions. But he also always spoke lovingly.

Oh the stories I have…

Some of our conversations, truthfully, were painful at the time but as I looked back, I have grown to appreciate all of our conversations as I later understood how he was willing to invest and speak into my life.

When I joined the church in 1994, the church was then about 20,000 people. It has since reportedly grown to over 75,000 people.

But beyond numbers, I was always convicted by his passion for the one – both near and far.

Beyond Numbers: Faithfulness

While many would certainly be drawn to the impressive “numbers”, my admiration for Pastor Ha derives not out of his success but rather his faithfulness to God, his family, the Scriptures, and to Missions.

He planted Onnuri Church (Onnuri means All Nations) in 1985 with 12 families with a vision of stirring a vision similar to the Book of Acts. It’s for this reason that when I planted Quest Church in Seattle in 2001, I also began with the study of Acts.

Vision

It was in Korea and through his preaching that I grew passionate – once more – about the Scriptures. Not as a source of our ultimate worship but rather as a profound and deep means for us to encounter the Living God and Holy Spirit.

I admired his willingness to pursue vision and conviction and make mistakes along the way. Amongst his many visions, he hoped to stir the entire church and his members to see themselves as missionaries. When I was on staff there, he shared his vision for the church to raise up 1,000 full-time missionaries and 10,000 missions workers. I thought he was crazy.

And he was crazy.

Crazy enough to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.

He taught me to believe in vision that was so crazy that there was no possible way it could be accomplished apart from God’s provision.

And by the way: Onnuri Church (thus far) has commissioned 1,220 missionaries throughout the world.

Through his leadership, they planted and aided the planting of hundreds of churches around the world, helped found Handong University, started Tyrannus Ministry, started the largest Christian publishing company in Korea, created an important Christian television ministries (please don’t equate this to TBN), and the list goes on and on.

He was faithful, smart, creative, courageous, and entrepreneurial.

Commitment to Prayer

But what I remember the most about Pastor Ha Yong Jo was his commitment to prayer.

He often shared with the church that his “favorite” ministry was to teach at the early morning prayer meetings at 5am.

That is not a typo. I did indeed write: 5 AM.

As a pastor, I was “encouraged” to attend😉 and what a sight and experience to be there and be joined by about 1000+ other worshippers. And that was just at the 5am morning prayer time. There was also a 6am prayer gathering.

While Pastor Ha has compiled an incomparable resume which included four honorary doctorates, I will remember him most for his faithfulness to God and all that God placed upon his heart.

I do not believe it to be a stretch to say that millions of people – past, present, and future – has and will be impacted by his life, leadership, and legacy.

Dear Moksanim: Thank you for mentoring me and so many others. Thank you for your leadership, ministry, and faithfulness.

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22 Responses

  1. Jane Kim says:

    I’m so glad I had a chance to know Pastor Hah in several occassions. He will be greatly missed!!!

  2. SelenityLuz says:

    I always adores to listen to his preaches!
    May he rest in peace!

  3. clara says:

    Although I have never met Pastor Ha in person, I cannot deny the impact he has had on my life. I know many leaders who were discipled and influenced by Pastor Ha and those leaders have in turn influenced not only me, but so many churches in the Korean-American communities here. I pray that God will continue to see the seeds that Pastor Ha has so faithfully planted and help them bear much fruit for the generations to come.

  4. Eugene, thank you for honoring Pastor Ha. While I didn’t know him as well as you he did come to Community and invited me to Onnuri on a couple occasions to speak at leadership conferences. He was an amazing and inspiring leader. He helped expand my vision and to dream even greater dreams for the mission of Jesus. He will be missed. Dave Ferguson

  5. Thank you for this post and for telling his story. I was also a pastor at Onnuri at Seobinggo in the English Ministry, so it was such a pleasure to work under Pastor Ha. I too just sat in silence and shock when I heard of his passing. My prayers go out to the Onnuri family. Pastor Ha’s influence on me was significant.

  6. Wendy Chang says:

    I just turned on the TV and was flipping through the channels at 12:30 a.m. Los Angeles time. I stoppped at CGNTV because it’s one of my favorite channels. There was a funeral but because I’m not Korean, I couldn’t tell whose it was. Then a few minutes later, I saw Pastor Ha’s picture at the gravesite. I started to weep uncontrollably. I’ve never met Pastor Ha in person, but I feel like he’s one of my most important mentors. I am a Chinese American homeschooling mom who reads the Living Life devotional magazine in Chinese everyday. My kids read SENA in English. Our entire church has been using this devotion for the past two years and it has changed our church in a very profound way. Every month, I look forward to reading the article by Pastor Ha. These articles have spoken deeply to my soul. I’ve also watched him preach on CGNTV with English subtitles. Even on TV, one can feel how much he loved Jesus and the Church. Pastor Ha, thank you. One day when I see you in Heaven, I will hug you and thank you in person.

  7. My Dear Beloved Pastor Ha Young jo Your work for the kingdom of God is always memorable specially for the sake of Gospel you dedicated yourself and loved the people of Nepali. Yor rewards from God is special. please be in rest and peace with Lord the All the master of Universe.

  8. Syd says:

    Your posting is coming up as one of the top hits now on Pastor Ha, and you have done a wonderful job of summing up his great contributions for the Gospel. I had the great privilege of interpreting for him for two years during the third service, and the clarity with which he spoke was a tribute to the very doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. With the passing of John Stott, we have lost two giants who have impacted overlapping worlds, but who both have contributed greatly to reflecting the glory of God in this world.

  9. Irene says:

    Irene says:
    Monday, August 8, 2011 at 3:53pm

    When we switched to digital in the U.S., I got a converter box which opened the door to so many TV ministries. When I discovered Pastor Ha Yong Jo – founder and senior pastor of Onnuri Church in Seoul, Korea, I would watch him preach thru English subtitles. I looked forward to his wonderful teachings, and watch when he could be serious, and when he could add humor. His teachings were always powerful! When I saw his funeral on TV, I cried, to lose such a humble, and Godly servant that the Lord called home.

  10. I just came upon your blog and saw this post. I was with YWAM in Kona, HI when we took an outreach to Korea and worked with Onnuri church. We also woke at 5am to pray (something us ‘kids’ were NOT use to doing). I was very impressed with the commitment to prayer (especially for N. Korea) and I saw how influential this church was on a missional scale. Thanks for posting and honoring such a leader.

    Tracie Bonjour
    Tacoma, WA

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Tracie,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes. I was so moved by their daily prayers for North Korea and for reunification – not just for the sake of reunification but so that the gospel could once more flourish in that country and people.

  11. I know Pastor Ha,

    But I dont know that he had passed away.

    I had attended his worship service.

  12. Miriam says:

    Thank you Eugene for writing the story of Rev. Yong Jo Hah. We are not Korean but old friends from Australia, having visited Rev. Hah’s church once 17 years ago, we were so moved to see his commitment to prayer meeting at 5am each morning at church, a wonderful lesson that we never forget. We are devastated to hear the loss, though we don’t understand why but we know that Rev. Hah is now living with Jesus, with no more pain. One day many of God’s people will see Rev. Hah again in heaven.

  13. Sandra says:

    Thank you for the story about Pastor Ha. I am an old Black Lady who has seen them come and go.(I am stating this for a reason) Some you feel the warmth and true concern for people, some you do not. When I turned him on I was in mental anguish because of something that had happened, I still am going through trying times, but he at the time made me feel, don’t give up, these are trying times, etc. It was not what he said, it was how he said it and the warmth that was coming through. I was mesmerized looking at him and taking in his words of wisdom that we do tend to forget in our lives. I had to, to read the subtitles. Being a Black Lady that has lived with adversity from different cultures, you just automatically know who is real and who is fake. But it is a great honor to feel that warmth coming through a cold television.set. Actually, I was looking for the rerun of the Japanese Detective Drama Partners on 18.2, which I missed the day before. Whenever that year, I was mentally down, when I turned the channels, there he was. Then one day when I turned and he was on, he looked so sick and just barely holding on. I said, he looks sick, he probably has the flu. After that I could not find him anymore. I was upset because I did not even know his name to look for him. Today I thought to go on your site and see if I could find a picture of him and see what happened to him. I had a feeling he had passed away, but I wanted to find out for sure. I missed him. Every culture has their great ones and he was definitely one of them. Thank you Jesus for sending him to the world and leaving us words of wisdom.

  14. I am sad to here of his pasting, i listen to him on cgntv, he left us much too young.

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It appears I brought a little Seattle to the NYC. Drizzle fest. 24 hour gathering with a small group of leaders from around the country. Learning. Listening. Asking hard questions. Head exploding. Heart trying to have hope. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
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Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
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She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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