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Online Prayer Meeting for Religious Liberty
July 03, 2020

 Since the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 has become one of the most prolonged world-wide news topics in human history. The virus has changed the whole world drastically and every detail of our individual lives fundamentally. In Korea, children have been staying at home since last Christmas without going to school. Most Adventist churches in Korea didn’t have face-to-face services for almost two months and have resumed in simplified ways of services. Though worship services could be provided online, other church activities, such as evangelistic meetings, Pathfinder activities, pastoral home visitations, and various fellowship meetings among church members, have not been possible for a long time. Who could have imagined this would happen to us? I am not still accustomed to this change, and I doubt if I will be used to it someday. 

What makes us more worried is the high possibility, as many specialists are foretelling, that we may not go back to our past normal lives. That means it may not be a good choice to just wait helplessly for the end of this disaster. We need to find alternatives that we can do instead. Yes! We need other ways to carry out our ministries because the urgency of God’s mission entrusted us has not diminished or disappeared. Rather, the importance of our mission has become greater in this critical situation than in times of peace. What can we start with in my departmental ministry? This was my sincere question.

It has been more than four months since all division directors’ domestic and international business trips were banned by the Executive Committee of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD) due to COVID-19, since the beginning of February. The NSD started a series of Thursday evening Zoom prayer campaign for NSD-dispatching missionaries. Then Pastor Kwon JohngHaeng, who was coordinating this prayer series, came to me and suggested that we have a prayer meeting for religious liberty. When I heard his suggestion, it came to my mind that this prayer meeting could be the starting point of alternative ministry activities for my department, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL), during this time of physical isolation.   

I invited the PARL directors of the Korean Union Conference (KUC), the Japan Union Conference (JUC), the Taiwan Conference (TWC), and the Mongolia Mission (MM). They were each given five to seven minutes to give a presentation on a religious freedom issue in their country and to share their prayer requests. I also asked all directors of the entities to invite one co-worker in their PARL ministries, either from pastors or laypeople so that all the issues that would be discussed at the meeting could be shared with at least with one person involved. I also invited the directors of the five local conferences under the KUC, asking them to pray for the prayer requests given by the presenters. Dr. Kang KiHoon, representative of the “Society of Religious Freedom and Equal Opportunity,” had taken a lead in the legal process for Brother Han JiMan’s Sabbath accommodation case during the last two years. In the same vein, Shin MyungCheol, attorney who fought for Brother Han, was invited for a short testimony. Some of the NSD officers and directors as well as a staff member participated in the prayer meeting. Most importantly, four translators were involved for efficient communication among attendees. 

NSD President Kim SiYoung opened the prayer meeting with an encouraging welcoming remark and an ardent opening prayer. Then, we had time to introduce the participants so that they got to know each other first in order to make the prayer meeting atmosphere more relaxed and familiar. 

Pastor Toshio Shibata, JUC PARL director, reported on religious statistics in Japan to show the status of the Adventist Church in Japanese society. He shared some pending religious liberty issues, such as having university entrance exams and medical qualification exams on Sabbaths and having school make-up classes on Sabbaths because of the corona situation. Taiwan has similar issues on Sabbath exams. Since the Adventist Church in Taiwan is small in the country, our appeals were not significantly heard compared to other Christian churches. Pastor Mark Tseng, TWC PARL director, also asked for prayers for Taiwan Adventist Academy. Pastor Nyamdavaa from the MM asked for special prayers for Adventist churches to get government certificates. Recently, Mongolian government has placed severe restrictions on Christian churches. There was also a prayer request for Mongolian Adventist youth who are in military service to be able to keep the Sabbath. 

The KUC shared several recent issues, such as various kinds of Sabbath exams and the Alternative Service Bill for military services. Middle school and high school graduation qualification national tests are scheduled on Sabbath two times this year. Pastor Lee JiChoon asked for a special prayer for our appeal to be granted by the government. Dr. Kang appealed for corporate prayers for religious accommodation for Sabbath observers to be systematically recognized and protected by the legislators, judiciary, and government administrators. He also requested prayers that all those involved will experience God’s grace and grow in faith through this process. I understand that this is the reason why God allows His people to go through difficulties. He permits trials for His people to stand firm in faith advocating their freedom of conscience. Furthermore, this is also the reason why we need to continue to pray for our church members in tribulation. 

The Online Prayer Meeting for Religious Liberty was a wonderful time where we were able to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. We just took the first step of Religious Liberty ministries in times of a pandemic. I believe that God will lead us in every step when we go forward as agents for His freedom until Jesus comes. Please remember our church members who need our prayers. Thank you.

You can watch this prayer meeting through YouTube:

News article by Kim SunHwan, NSD PARL Director