January 2, 2013
“To Serve the Mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:7)
We thank God for granting and blessing the first time to have two simultaneous UBF leaders’ conferences. There are two couples who serve Spain UBF: Joshua and Esther Kang (with daughter Esther of 20 months), and Ambassador Pablo Star and Paula Oh. One reason for having this joint conference was that Ambassador Oh’s family has served students in UBF in several Latin American countries over the years and has left a spiritual legacy there. At the same time, Latin American Christians, including UBF, pray to bring the living faith in Jesus back to Europe.
The missionaries in Spain picked up all 120 participants (including guests from Korea and USA) at the airport and drove them to the conference hotel. It was a neat place within half an hour of Madrid airport. Most of the participants arrived on 26 December. While the Latin Americans (45 people) started that same day, the European conference followed the next morning. I want to give a short account on the European conference, including the joint program.
The opening message was delivered by Joshua Kang of Spain UBF, translated by Moses Yoon from Korea. His passage was from Romans 1:5. He spoke about feelings of defeat he had had. But God’s word reminded him and us that the mission work among the Gentiles is God’s blessing. Apostleship is the greatest blessing God has for us on earth. Before the mission reports, M. Studd Caleb Kim (Finland) shared his life testimony on John 4:13. He was suffering under the power of sin until he found the living water in Jesus. He even received the calling to be a missionary. In the course of his Ph.D. research he came to work in the North Polar Region. In August he and his wife Esther have moved to Finland, praying to reach out to the students there. One foremost prayer topic is learning the language and coworking with other UBF chapters across Scandinavia. Afterwards we heard short mission reports from 21 nations across Europe, including Israel. We could see that the new generation (mostly missionary children) have a good influence on the work of God. All chapters serve one-to-one ministry diligently, and some have raised student leaders. At the same time, many struggle hard with the general economic situation in Europe, often in danger of losing their jobs. Still, they all expressed their thankfulness and joy in having the privilege of serving God’s eternal salvation work.
In the late afternoon, Shp. Nehemiah Kim (Kwangju, Korea) gave a special lecture. With the title “The Forest of the Bible,” he summarized the 66 books of the Bible through a spiritual telescope. He showed many parallels between Old and New Testament, e.g. Genesis and Revelation. The topic of the whole Bible is the kingdom of God. It was a very interesting presentation, underlined with many helpful and sometimes humorous illustrations.
After dinner, Ambassador Pablo Star Oh gave an introduction to Spanish history. Columbus embarked on his “western route to India,” thus discovering America, right after the Spanish armies had repelled the Muslim forces from Europe for good. Latin America was conquered by the Spanish forces. And they planted their language and their Christian faith in this continent – the influence is still felt today.
Then, joined by the Latin American conference, we heard M. Sarah Barry’s message on John 17. Her title and topic was Jesus’ prayer “That all of them may be one.” In her message, she noted explicitly that Jesus had given only two commands: one is to make disciples, and the other to love one another. Her rich experience and motherly heart made her message very impressive.
On the second day, we studied Ephesians 3 in seven groups. Afterwards, we listened to P. Abraham Kim’s message on this passage. He explained the background of this letter of Paul and asked us to read the key verse (Eph 3:7) by inserting our own names for “I” and “me.” He also emphasized that because of the immeasurable riches of the spiritual blessings in Christ, we are richer than the richest man in the world (the Mexican Carlos Slim has about 45 bn. USD). Working on the frontline of world mission, we shouldn’t be sorrowful, not even when students leave our ministry. We helped them believe in Christ, and they may work in God’s church in a different place. P. Abraham also encouraged us to love one another because Jesus has forgiven us in his unconditional love.
The afternoon was spent with testimony writing and fellowship. In the evening, we shared our testimonies, again in groups. It was heart-moving to hear about the good spiritual fight of our coworkers in different European nations. They were all contrite and cherish serving other people over a selfish way of life. May God richly bless Europe and raise many Bible-believing shepherds and shepherdesses through our sacrificial coworkers.
It was already late in the evening when P. Abraham Lee started a panel on the history of European campuses. His meaningful overview was then supplemented with input from Caleb Lee (Denmark), Elijah Park (Poland), and Ales Maca (Czech Republic) on the development of their respective national universities. Originally, universities were an initiative of the church. But in the course of time, they became secularized. The panel also showed the deep impact of universities on society, esp. in Europe. Therefore, our UBF mission work on campuses is an absolute necessity. We must pray that our one-to-one Bible study will help students to return to God and restore the spiritual foundation of Europe. The meeting closed with Dr. Joseph Ahn’s invitation to pray for and attend the 2013 International Summer Bible Conference at Indiana University, Pennsylvania. It will be held on 1-4 August under the title “So Loved” that invites us to see that our God so loved us – so let us love!
The final day of the conference started with a prayer meeting of the national coordinators where they exchanged more personal prayer topics and had a common outlook on the program of 2013. The closing message was given by Walter Nett on Luke 11:1-4. He emphasized the influence of Jesus’ exemplary prayer life so that his disciples finally felt an urge to ask Jesus that he might teach them to pray. Likewise, we should live an authentic life of faith so that our children/Bible students will eventually ask us: “Teach us to pray.”
We joined the Latin American conference for a common picture and then prayed kneeling down according to the prayer topics that P. Abraham Kim had given. Foremost, we shall live an exemplary life of mission like Apostle Paul, praying for a spiritual awakening in our respective mission field and all across Europe. To reach this goal, we must hold on to it unconditionally among each other. We will also keep praying for religious freedom, esp. in certain nations, like S., presently. We pray for 20 nations in Europe that so far have no UBF ministry. We pray for our new generation to continue growing as a power source within our church, that they may take an active role and set the example among their peers.
We thanked God for this conference. And we thanked our coworkers from Spain UBF that they worked so hard to make this conference a gracious experience for all of us. We are looking forward to having the next conference in Poland, next year, with Elijah Park as host (probably 27-29 December).
By Eberhard Gross in Spain