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Christianity today
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승인 2010.04.19  16:46:05
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▲ Photo by Kim Yun Ae

It is not a simple task to write about the present state of Christianity on Jeju. There are Presbyterians, Mormons, Catholics and Methodists, Southern Baptists, Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses, all coming under the one umbrella term of faith. Some are autonomous while others are established. Some are open, others are secretive, but all are here spreading their own variation of Christianity.

Phillip Hamline, a Southern Baptist missionary, has ventured into the coastal village of Hado where he has taken it upon himself to convert the woman divers. “We [him and his partner] have found the haenyeo to be the center stone of spiritual lostness,” he said, referring to the haenyeo’s long standing connections to Shamanism and their stronghold within the community. He spoke of addressing groups of haenyeo and being cursed at and verbally abused. “That is how strong the spiritual warfare has been,” Hamline said.

The missionary has been on the island for five years, traveling through the outskirts of Jeju preaching his form of Christianity from remote village to remote village, “going to the very edge of lostness,” he said. His mission is to convert the “blue collar workers of Jeju,” which include the haenyeo. “Of course, they are not open to the Christian message,” he said, though after many attempts he does now have an open dialogue with them and claims to have converted one of the haenyo elders, now retired from the profession.

His denomination, though small with only 10 churches he said, is autonomous and Hamline’s concern is not with establishing buildings of worship. Rather he aims to convert the future and existing members of his congregation to them-selves “be a church,” so they can disseminate the word of Christianity throughout their communities. (Jesus Christ, as quoted by Matthew, said, “where two or three gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.”)

Hamline’s church’s name comes from its form of baptism, which calls for complete emersion into water. He performs this ritual in the ocean. “Where there is water deep enough to baptize, we baptize,” he said.

The Southern Baptist church is one of the lesser-known Christian organizations on the island. Hamline’s version is rather independent, not relying upon any other authority than his interpretation of Christ. Other groups have established roots, such as the Mormons.

“The members [of the Mormon Church] are really, really nice to the newcomers and the atmosphere here is like a family,” said Shin Yun Gi, a member of the Mormon Church on Jeju. “We call each other brother and sister here like a big family.”

According to Davis Hanson, a Mormon missionary from the United States who has lived on Jeju for seven months, the structure of the religion is a pyramid; a prophet at the top dispersing religious alterations or mission statements through a hierarchy. The two Jeju churches (one in Jeju City and the other in Seogwipo City) are run by the Busan mission, which in turn is run by the Korean mission, which is under the guidance of Utah.

A third, relatively obscure Christian group on Jeju is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The organization declined to comment for this article, but who were kind enough to provide the author with literature and pamphlets about their tenets and beliefs.

For Catholics on the island, participation and fellowship have rarely waivered. In 2009, following the death of Nathan Furey, his friend Dan Nabben approached the Catholic Church in Nohyeong seeking support for a charity volleyball game to benefit Furey’s family.

“The first thing they did,” Nabben said, “was they sponsored us with a million won, then they announced the event on the bulletin board and on the masses in May they announced what the cause was. Because of the bulletin and the announcement at mass, we got five sponsorships.”

Nabben said that Father Nam Seung Taek, “could see that this was a situation that a regular support network wouldn’t be there. Half the family is in Canada the other half is in Korea.”

One weekend prior to the tournament, the church volunteered to help Nabben sell T-shirts to support the cause. “They sold more than I did,” Nabben said. In total, 99 shirts were sold.

With English becoming more important as Jeju seeks to become an “international city,” Christian churches have attempted to adapt in the hope of attracting new members while also retaining those who were already believers before they arrived. Pastor Yang Du Shin, also known as Andy, instituted an English-language worship service five years ago at his church, the Presbyterian Disciple Church near Sarabong. Steve Mercier, a native of New York who has been on the island for eight months, first heard of the service on the Web site Rhymes with Jeju. The worship service “is entirely in English except for here or there with a few [Korean] words of greetings at the end,” Mercier said. Yang said his service was the first to provide any form of Presbyterian English assistance.

The English service was started for foreigners, Yang said, but also for Koreans who were interested in North American culture and improving their language skills. He said that more than two-thirds of those who attend the English services are Korean.

“I think it’s been a good source of fellowship for me,” Mercier said. “Interacting with other Christians ... that is important for me.”




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