1) An Englishman’s Sincere Prayer for Korea
“God, please have pity on Korea! Please save the Christians in Korea with Your true gospel! Please send one of Your truly born again servants!” (Norman Grubb)
One late summer day in 1954, on a plane returning to England from Korea, an Englishman shed tears as he sincerely prayed.
It was an earnest prayer for the Korean church, the Korean Christians, as well as the Korean people.
The man who was praying so sincerely for Korea, even though he was not Korean, was the chairman of an international gospel mission, the Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade (now WEC International), Norman P. Grubb.
Why did a man who sent thousands of missionaries around the world have to pray so sincerely for Korea?
His prayer contains a very deep and important meaning.
Through that prayer, we can see Korea’s spiritual state at that time.
But before we look into why Norman Grubb had to pray for Korea so earnestly, we will first look into the organization that he was chairman of, WEC International.
Cambridge University, located one hour outside of London, England.
At a university where notables such as Newton, Byron, Wordsworth and others once studied, there was a young man renowned as England’s greatest cricketer.
The name of this popular figure was Charles Thomas Studd.
Born in 1862 to a rich family, while attending Eton College, a school for the aristocracy, and living in affluence, his father received salvation through Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody, who was lighting England on fire with the gospel. He too would come into contact with the gospel.
And during his third year in college inspired by Moody’s sermon, his heart would turn away from the world and decide to live for the gospel.
Afterwards, he donated the immense inheritance he received from his father to the Moody Bible Institute, George Muller’s orphanage and Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission. He then offered himself and worked with Hudson Taylor as a missionary in China.
After 10 years in China, he would return and preach the gospel to university students in England and, through Moody’s invitation, university students in America. He guided countless university students to becoming missionaries, becoming known as the leader of the “Student Volunteer Movement.”
Afterwards, he continued his missionary work in China (18 years), India (6 years) and Africa (18 years), preaching the gospel until he passed away at 71. In 1918, he started WEC, setting the foundation for countless missionaries to go around the world.
He was so passionate about preaching the gospel that his son-in-law Normal Grubb called Studd, “a servant of God who gave himself completely to preaching the gospel without rest, recreation, or holiday.”
After Studd passed away, Grubb lead WEC in his stead, traveling around the world preaching the gospel and sending out missionaries.
While under the leadership of Charles Studd and Norman Grubb, WEC was one of the key God used WEC powerfully as a tool to bring the gospel to the world.
(Currently the headquarters of WEC International is located on Oxford Road in London, England.
At the time, Norman Grubb made sending missionaries to countries without the gospel his priority, but Korea was excluded from the list.
Korea was already an established mission field with missionaries from America having already been sent and news of a great Christian revival coming in. It all began in 1884, when Dr. Horace N. Allen (American Presbyterian Northern branch) established Kwanghyewon (Korea’s first hospital using Western medicine), which was named by Gojong (the twenty-sixth king of the Korean Joseon Dynasty and the first emperor of the Korean Empire).
But there would come a moment that would shock Norman Grubb. When he would actually see the true state of the Korean church.
3) The True State of the Korean Church Not Born Again
“Why do you send so many missionaries all over the world, but none to Korea?” (Jay Charlbis)
In August 1954, after Norman Grubb had finished some important missionary work in Japan, he was waiting at the Tokyo Airport for his flight back to England.
At that moment, he met Professor Jay Charlbis(American Baptist, Youth Ministry), who had been invited to speak at Mount Joo-am Retreat Center in Daegu Korea, as well as various other churches in Korea.
They had only heard of each other, but while they were talking, when they recognized each other, they were very pleased.
“Norman Grubb, have you ever been to Korea?”
“No. I’ve never been there.”
“Why do you send so many missionaries all over the world, but none to Korea?”
“In Korea, they hold early morning service everyday and the works of revivals arise, is it really necessary to send a missionary there?”
“You’ve only heard about Korea from others, but you’ve never gone there yourself, right?”
“That is true…”
“Then let’s use this opportunity to go together. Korea is different from what you’ve heard.”
In the end, following Prof. Charlbis encouragement, Norman Grubb reported his change of plans to England and came to Korea.
And for the first time, he witnessed the scene of a Korean mountain-top revival attended by about a thousand people. He was shocked when he saw countless numbers of people go up a mountain, calling on God and praying.
Thinking, the “Korean people are truly a zealous people,” he preached about the life of faith of born again Christians as the special speaker during the evening service.
What was even more surprising was that as they listened to his words, most of them were sleeping!
As he traveled around the whole world and preached to countless numbers of people, because this was the first time he had experienced this, he wondered if there was something wrong with the translation. But there was nothing wrong with the translation.
He was confused when he saw how the people were unable to immerse themselves in the word for the past two days. So when he got up behind the altar on the fourth day, he began with a question.
“Dearest Korean saints, I would like to ask all of you a question.”
“If there is anyone amongst you who has had all their sins washed away and has truly been born again into a righteous person, please raise your hand.”
And almost as if they had been splashed with cold water, the crowd grew quiet. Among almost a thousand people, a few people would look around them and start to raise their hands, only to bring them down immediately. When Norman Grubb saw this, he was completely shocked.
“How can this be… Does this mean that all of these Christians have not been born again and have only been zealous! Is this really how things are?”
Zealous superficial Christians who have nothing to do with the gospel!
This was the true spiritual state of the Korean church as seen by Norman Grubb, the head of one of the world’s greatest missionary organization, WEC.