The Day that Changed the World On the Day of History’s Largest Prayer Meeting
As a boy I used to love to read the the Adventures of Superman comics. The phrase repeated over and over again that has lodged in my memory ever since was the words that people would say as they saw a swish through the sky: "Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Superman!" As a Christian for the past 25 years I was about to experience one of the spiritual highlights of my Christian life. It was to happen in Seoul on the day that had been called: The Day to Change the World. When it was all over I asked myself the question: What was that? Here are my observations:
I. A demonstration of supernatural intervention
It's remarkable to think that it was in the wee hours of a rainy Sunday on June 25, 1950, that the advance guard of Kim Il Sung's Inmungun, or People's Army, slipped across the 38th parallel (just within the Northeast corner of the 10/40 Window) and launched a war that lasted three years, involved 20 nations and killed or wounded some 4 million people, most of them civilians. Both halves of the Korean peninsula were devastated, and reconstruction, always with one eye over the shoulder, took the industrious South Koreans the better part of three decades.
These tensions were running high in the days leading up to June 25, 1994, forty four years later. There was so much at stake here. David Kim, one of the chairmen of the Korean AD 2000 Movement, initiated a call to peace by producing a document together with a coalition of respected Christians. Then came the decision to have a meeting of the presidents of North and South Korea for the first time since that fateful day 44 years ago. Then came the news on July 8 of the passing away of Kim Il Sung. These are momentous events surrounding the Day to Change the World on the Korean peninsula--a day when the Koreans were calling for the largest prayer gathering, in one place, in the history of the church. What happened?
There were so many human obstacles that had to be overcome to gathering people at the Plaza. Building had cramped the Yoido Plaza since the last major gathering there in 1980. The streets of Seoul were congested with one million cars. A nationwide Railway strike brought service to a virtual standstill starting June 23rd, two days prior to the event. Subway workers in Seoul decided to follow suit in a sympathy action on June 24th, one day before the event. When masses of more people took to the streets in their vehicles the streets slowed up commercial traffic so much that the government appealed to reduce private vehicles on these streets to allow for commercial trucking to get through in a more timely manner.
I had spent the afternoon quietly with David Kim inside. Outside the rain had started and at times fell heavily in the afternoon. On arriving at Yoido Plaza minutes before the event was to start, Dr. Kim Joon Gon looked and with a peaceful smile said: "It is raining." However, suddenly, just as the singing started, the rain amazingly stopped completely. The people began to come from all over. Soon a sea of faces was visible. It became a world of faces eager to take part in a Day to Change the World which formed the backdrop to the VIP platform on huge banners in English and in Korean. Church leaders, businessmen, professionals came. The Korean Prime Minister arrived with cabinet ministers and congressmen. But above all, there were the people of God from all over Seoul making a presence at this historic event. Preparation Committee Chairman Dr. Kim Joon Gon, Korean AD 2000 General Secretary Dr. Bong Rin Ro and one the AD 2000 Chairmen, Dr. David Kim, reported that there were about 700,000 people at Yoido Plaza and 300,000 in 70 other cities around Korea.
At the Plaza in Seoul, on both sides in the distance you could literally see the rain. But on Yoido Plaza it did not rain. The wind blew, pregnant with rain, but it did not rain. The rumblings of thunder could be heard in the background but it did not rain. Peels of lightning in front could be seen but it did not rain. For four hours of prayer meeting it did not rain. At one moment, one unforgettable moment, the only moment when everyone connected physically by holding hands in a visible sign of unity of the body of Christ calling out in prayer to their Lord, the heavy wind stopped. It became calm. A break in the thick cloud cover overhead revealed a small patch of blue sky through which sun rays touched each of the hundreds of thousands of participants. God was there.
God was present in the midst of the praise of His people. Then, in a flash, it was over. Hands were released. The clouds moved in and covered the patch of blue. But the rain held off until it was over. The prayers ... the tears ...the praise ... the offering ...the pledging ...the call to repent by Pastor Sundo Kim ...the call to prayer by David (Paul) Yonggi Cho ...the call to be filled with the Spirit by Bill Bright ...suddenly, these were events of the past. God had intervened.
II. Unmatched fervent focused prayer
My first impressions from the first hours of June 25th at Yoido Full Gospel Church left me with the conviction that here was a people of prayer.
The church was totally packed, even to the very last row of the balcony. I was listening as Dr. Bong Ro, General secretary of the Korean AD 2000 Movement, interpreted for me the words of the Methodist Evangelist who said: "A man went to Europe and asked: 'Where is Jesus?' The answer came back: 'Jesus has left Europe and gone to America.' So the man went to America and asked the same question: 'Where is Jesus?' The answer came back: 'He has left and gone to Korea.'" I joined the laughter of the others as the preacher continued: "The Japanese are exporting products, the Chinese are exporting people, the U.S. is exporting dollars, the French are exporting fashions and the Koreans are exporting the gospel." I leaned over and asked Bong Ro how many Korean missionaries there were in Russia. Over 350 couples, was his answer. Afterwards I met with the director of the ministry that has 100 of those missionaries in Russia.
The preacher went on: "Korea is like the nation of Israel. It has suffered persecution. It has a divine purpose. God is going to use Korea to evangelize the world."
In summary the message of the Methodist evangelist was a powerful call to repentance and to pray. There were songs... prayers ... greetings ...explanations about the Yoido gathering... solos... much prayer... prayer all together... prayer in silence... prayer led by various church leaders ... a prayer for the unreached peoples... a prayer for the 10/40 Window... a prayer for 100,000 young people to go to the unreached peoples... a prayer for the unification of Korea... another prayer for the unification of Korea--a prayer for the church leaders in Korea.
I observed during the service the incredibly alert and involved group of people in that building at different moments ... arms outstretched... upper bodies moving forward back... forward... back...everyone engaged ...tears...claps...hands flapping the air ... an infant clings to her mother whose hand is raised toward heaven while she moves side to side...a bell rings... total silence. I opened my eyes during the all-together prayer time... they were pleading with God... asking God ...claiming from God...expecting from God ...asking again and again and again and again.
This was an evening of contrasts... a contrast of moods--from laughter to crying... a contrast of tempo--fast words and fast music to slow words and slow music...a change of volume--from loudness so loud it felt like the sound itself would lift the gigantic, circular spot-light-studded roof, to a silence in which you could probably hear a pin drop.
Then came the offering and the ushers... the men dressed in spotless white dinner jackets, white-shirted with red ties, black pants and a bright red scarf in their jacket pocket... the women ushers in typical full blue/white dress. The people spontaneously joined in with the soloist who was singing "The Old Rugged Cross," until it concluded with a crescendo of praise and thanksgiving. Then came the rallying cry from the front: Why do we gather? Answer: "To glorify God." Why do we pray? "To glorify God." Why do we witness? "To glorify God." Over and over the theme and the call back to the place of prayer. The service concluded at 1:00 a.m. People were invited to resume and go through to 4:00 a.m. Indeed here was a people committed to pray.
III. A call for the mobilization of the largest national mission force in a single day
Over the past several months the Koreans have been planning a parallel conference for some 100,000 youth for the last three days of GCOWE 95. This will be held at the Olympic Stadium. They will be specifically challenged to reach the remaining unreached peoples and the 10/40 Window. The official call for prayer for the raising up of the 100,000 future missionaries was made at the prayer rallies in Korea on June 25.
The closing all-night dedication ceremony of the Global Consultation on World Evangelization 1995 (GCOWE '95) at the Olympic Stadium should be an amazing event. With 4,500 GCOWE participants from 200 countries, 10,000 Korean pastors who will have held a parallel conference to GCOWE, 500 international Korean missionaries from around the world who will meet in a fourth parallel conference to GCOWE for a total of close to 200,000. The plan is for each country delegation to carry their flag and walk around the track, dedicating themselves to the goals they set to the year 2000 with the prayers of the rest of the people in the stadium. When the Koreans do it they will have the 100,000 youth stand in public dedication to reach the unreached peoples of the world.
IV. The remarkable faith of a visionary, godly, dedicated man
"We are looking forward to seeing historic, unprecedented, monumental, supernatural and global revival to fulfill the Great Commission taking place in this generation...the Korean church has the potential, willingness and sense of urgency... Koreans want to be unified... the AD 2000 Movement will be beneficial not only for Korean evangelization, but also for world evangelization." These words of Dr. Kim Joon Gon, Korean Preparation Committee Chairman for GCOWE '95, express the heart of this man of remarkable faith and vision.
Here was the man who had watched as his father and then his wife brutally killed. This was the man who had been put into a sack to be thrown into the sea from the top of a cliff, who at the very last moment was spared. Through it all he discovered a deeper fellowship with his Savior.
I asked his assistant of many years what he had learned most from Dr. Kim. His answer was his wish at all times, whether conscious or unconscious, to be praising God.
On June 22 I spent an hour and a half alone with Dr. Kim Joon Gon at the site of the prayer rally in Yoido Plaza. We prayed over the upcoming events of June 25, including the weather. With quiet conviction he shared his vision to seed a global evangelization initiative by contributing three resources through the Korean church; first, the resource of prayer: second, personnel; and third, finances. On June 25th I saw the beginnings of the fulfillment of this dream. A reported one million praying for the world throughout the country on that day, a call for the 100,000 new missionaries, and a pledge at the Yoido Plaza gathering of $420,000 to host the expected 4,500 key Christian leaders from 200 countries for GCOWE '95 in May '95 in Seoul.
V. The most amazing Pre-GCOWE Conference
Around the world more than 100 Pre-GCOWE '95 or GCOWE preparation conferences are being held by national delegations preparing for the event to be held in May of next year in Seoul. Country after country are meeting to pray, evaluate the realities and trends of their country, developing a provisional mission statement to the year 2000 that expresses their dream of what God would have them to be by the year 2000, and to deal with the logistical issues of financing international travel and making preparations. The events in Korea of June 25, 1994 were, in fact, a massive Pre-GCOWE meeting, involving a reported one million Koreans throughout the country--700,000 at Yoido Plaza.
A great amount of preparation went into getting ready for this week which is seen as preparatory to GCOWE '95. The majority of the more than 12,000 local churches here have been contacted and materials distributed for the prayer rally on the 25th in Yoido Plaza at which some 300,000 were expected. A choir of 10,000 prepared for the event. They invested a lot of money. Just the platform alone cost $250,000.
Each of the participants anticipated would be given a unique set of tags with three names on it--the first would be the name of one of 200 countries; the second, the name of one of the 4,300 districts of North Korea; and the third, the name of one of the Korean missionaries on the field. The event was sponsored by the Korean AD 2000 Movement. It was planned to be an important preparatory step for GCOWE '95. They were planning on raising up 100,000 praying women called Lydias, 100,000 students and 4,500 local churches to pray for each of the participants to GCOWE '95 by name.
VI. The Sacrificial Offering of a Lifetime
One businessman gave $250,000 to have the platform built at Yoido Plaza. But hundreds of thousands gave pledges of commitment for food and housing needs at GCOWE '95. These were God's people from Seoul. These were the average Christians. And what was so amazing to me as I counted in amazement the four hundred or so ushers collecting the offering in bags and then lining up and walking by twos through the entire crowd, was that this was a day of human insecurity in Seoul. In an article written for the U.S. News & World Report dated June 20, 1994, Steve Bradener, political adviser to the American Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command is quoted as saying: "The Korean peninsula today 'is as alarming and dangerous' as it has been anytime in the past 30 years." Despite this, God's people gave sacrificially.
There were two options on the pledge card that each of the hundreds of thousands who participated held in their hands. Give toward the situation of North Korea or give to the food and housing needs of a few thousand Christians coming from Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and West Asia. What would it be? Certainly the felt need was the first option. Yet, when it was counted, there were $420,000 dollars that had been pledged to cover the expenses at GCOWE. I said: "If only the other participants coming to GCOWE could see this moment of sacrificial offering and commitment!"
VII. Linking Up with the World's Largest Prayer and Praise Meeting
Not far from Seoul, Graham Kendrick, singer, songwriter and one of the pioneers of the March for Jesus was participating in one of the first activities of a twenty-four hour period of unprecedented praise and prayer for Christians throughout the world. The March for Jesus was the centerpiece of this global event that Peter Wagner, coordinator of the AD 2000 Mobilization of United Prayer Network which sponsored it, called "A Day to Change the World."
Activities took place across 177 countries. Globally, around 12 million people from a range of churches took to the streets to proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ and to pray.
The day began with the first march in Tonga, where the King rededicated the country to Christ in front of some 20,000 people. On the streets of Sao Paulo, 850,000 danced and sang in the pouring rain of their coldest 25th of June on record. Two-and-one-half million took part in more than 300 cities and towns. In Latin America, an unexpected more than four million marched for Jesus. In Costa Rica there were 200,000. In Argentina it was the largest march ever with over 185,000. For Chile it was their first march. More than 120,000 participated and churches were reported to be much fuller than usual the following Sunday. In Peru 60,000 participated in the most important march in the history of the evangelical church in that country. In the tiny country of El Salvador more than 70 took to the streets.
The Korean Christians were well aware that they were a part of a much bigger thing that God was doing on that day. And they wanted to do their part. Each of the participants had a distinct country of the world that they prayed for.
At least from where I stood in Seoul, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a day to change the world. Multiply this experience by 177 countries in which various activities took place... and there is a story in each... June 25, 1994 will undoubtedly be recorded as a Day That Changed the World. Thank you, Lord!
(Luis Bush is the International Director of the AD2000 Movement which has its headquarters in Colorado Springs. If you would like to support this movement you may do so by writing to them at: AD 2000 & Beyond Movement 2860 South Circle Dr., Suite 2112, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 or phone 719-576-2000)