Thursday, November 3, 2011

Arise and Shine - Engage Magazine Article

-- This article originally appeared at:   --

 Baptism speaks of a new life, and on September 4 we witnessed this glorious sacrament in abundance as nine people rose up from the waters at KNU International English Church (at Korea Nazarene University). In golden letters on a wall overlooking the plaza, 'Arise, shine' (Isaiah 60:1) formed a fitting backdrop for Christians arising from the water aglow with sunlight.

The baptism testimonies were as different as you would expect in a group hailing from four countries and spread over three generations.

Undoubtedly, one of the most uplifting stories shared was from Mrs. Lee, a mother of two teenage sons who were also baptized. As one of her sons translated, she spoke of her life without God for 27 years and how she had slowly started experiencing the Lord in her life again. Even though she doesn't speak English well, with help from the pastors and the Holy Spirit, she has overcome the language barrier. One night she dreamed she met God in a room with a white wall and high ceiling. Later in the week she joined her sons in the church's 24/7 prayer room, and she was shocked to see the same room where she had met the Lord in her dream. She immediately broke down in tears, and soon after she gave her life to Christ.

Testimonies of addictions and lives nearly destroyed told of a long road that seemed devoid of any redemption. Many spoke of disappointments, regrets and doubts as an unavoidable load in their lives. Things that happened years ago may still cause terrible pain, and this torment clings like an indefinable shadow covering the heart. The world has told us that some things are too bad to be forgiven and that our failures and wounds will define us forever.
Then God came and gave us assurance that He has the last word. He has redeemed our broken pasts. He is healing the places in us we are afraid even to look at. The opinions we fear, He covers with His love. When we struggle to find our feet on this new road and still step into potholes, we find comfort and assurance in Him. For the first time for many of us, we feel his abiding care no matter what. It's a first-hand experience of what Jesus meant when He said that those who are forgiven much also love much.

One of the most noticeable themes of the testimonies was the continued thread of second chances and long-ways-around to that place God wants all of us to reach - where we have come to the end of ourselves and have started to see that we really need Him. As I looked closer at these testimonies, including my own, I sensed a true pursuit by a loving Presence even when we didn't yet know what it was, and it turned out to be only a matter of time before we could stay away no longer. These testimonies spoke of looking back and realizing that God had always been active behind the scenes, like a guiding movement breathing of better things to come.

Two of the new Christians were university students (one at KNU and one at another university across town), and two were KNU employees. It was encouraging to hear their stories of being inspired by colleagues or teachers to attend KNU International English Church. KNU is the largest Nazarene university in the world. Together with KNU International English Church and other area churches, they are committed to the greatest cause - welcoming new members into the family of God. As one of the KNU employees testified, “Jesus in this place.”

It is a great thing when people come to this place of faith, but it is also here that the more difficult part of the journey gets started. In this new position, we have many questions, doubts, fears and a sense that this whole thing might be too good to be true. We still can't reason ourselves into acceptance of this revelation. We have caught a glimpse of an unknown majesty and sometimes have no idea what to do with it. The pastors and church leaders have played a central role in supporting us seekers by patient counsel, regular emails, help with support groups, bible study partners, and other practical tools to empower us while we are still finding our feet.
KNU International English Church welcomes you and from the first time you set foot in the hall invites you to join a group that actively reaches out to church members and the community. There are many ways to get involved, and one of the things that I have come to love of this church is the tinge of fun and good humor with which even serious things are approached.
Even the baptism service was seized as an opportunity to have a barbecue. It was not only fun and in keeping with the open community spirit in the church, but also a celebration of the hearts that were dedicated to the Lord that day. Members of the congregation watched and took photos and clapped and cheered loudly as each newly baptized person came up gasping, out of the chilly water.
We all felt loved this day, and as the sun slowly warmed us through our soaking white robes, we felt something new. Isaiah's challenge - “Arise, shine!” - became the summary calling of our lives.

Claire Rive is from South Africa but now teaches English in Cheonan South Korea.
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