I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
“How did you get connected with the Joyful Church?” We are often ask this question by people in Pohang City. We smile, because our story is rather unique…On March of 2018, founding director Brian Schlottmann (my husband) and myself came to South Korea on a holiday trip. At the time, we did not have contacts in South Korea, but we knew a Korean missionary friend from the Czech Republic. He introduced us to his contacts in Pohang City and Daejeon. Long story-short, it was through him that we were connected with Pastor Jinseok Park and the Joyful church. In God’s unique way of doing things, he has brought us back but this time with Abante International colleagues. On January of 2019, our team was welcomed by Pastor Park and members of his staff. A seemingly random encounter the previous year has opened doors to several Holy Spirit encounters with loving Joyful church members, as well as other churches and communities around Pohang City.
During our time at the Joyful church, we have taught English to young learners, among other courses. We have also painted murals, served the disabled, served North Korean refugees, as well as under-privileged students, and tutor adult community members who are learning English as a second (or third) language. We have ministered through preaching, music, testimonies, and we have drank excessive amounts of coffee at the church’s café -A favorite hangout! We have been honored to visit several homes of congregants who have now become like family to us. Koreans call this kind of relationship “Jeong”. It is a special bond you form with people that categorizes them as more than just friends -they are now your family, making you an integral part of their clan. What an honor! Our team has experienced what we read about the early church in the scriptures on Acts 2:46-47 (MSG)
46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.
Besides the work we have done with the Joyful church, we have been impressed by their great influence with the community. They run one of the most impressive benevolence operations in town, with an entire massive building dedicated to house widows and widowers, less privileged families, the homeless, and North Korean refugees. The building is multi-purpose with classrooms to educate the children, and to prepare the adults with work and life skills to re-integrate them into society. Our team has been impressed with the amount of ministry that goes on in the church property, whose doors are never closed. There are sports facilities, classrooms for a variety of workshops, as well as seminary and Theology courses being offered on a regular bases. There is a thrift store to support ministries of the church, a library, a publishing company, a recording studio, a wedding suite, an entire hall with rooms dedicated specifically to prayer, beautiful nature Trails for praying or hiking, music rooms, children's rooms, youth rooms, a large cafeteria, and a Cafe that is always full of groups fellowshipping, studying, or having meetings. There is always something going on at the Joyful church!
We have found a new level of comfort in bows and smiles from people of all walks of life, regardless of their status, gender, or title. Our church family has helped us laugh at ourselves when struggling with the language, especially during our Korean class -our kind teacher, Mrs. Soyoung (Michele) is very patient with us! This is a culture rich in history and a people who at every opportunity let us know we are loved and appreciated -whether by providing us with mattresses to sleep on, buying us coffee, preparing meals for us, or by taking us to restaurants for a special meal. We have been showered with gifts, plenty of help with our projects and plenty of grace translating and interpreting for us. Many congregants and several staff members have shared their story during our morning team’ devotions, and we are humbled by the amount of people who constantly pray for us. What a joy!
As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin would say; “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” We truly feel His presence in every room, hallway, and corner of the Joyful church. But we understand that this joy is not about the building, or the titles. It is simply people who understand God’s mandate to love Him above all things, and then their neighbors as themselves.