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Worship service focuses on Demilitarized Zone

July 24, 2006

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Matthew Freeman

World Methodist leaders carry a banner for peace and reconciliation following a worship service at the Demilitarized Zone.

By Joan G. LaBarr*

SEOUL, South Korea (UMNS) — Sunday, July 23, became a new Day of Pentecost as some 300 delegates from the World Methodist Conference participated in a worship service on peace and reunification at Imjingak (the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea).

The clouds that had been omnipresent all week broke, and sun streamed down on the outdoor service.

Bishop Shin Kyoung Ha, president of the Council of Bishops of the Korean Methodist Church, led the efforts to hold the service at one of the most volatile places in the world. Earlier in the week, members of the World Methodist Council approved a sweeping resolution for reconciliation and peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

"Even though two rivers meet together here, people from the North and South cannot meet. It is our reality and our pain," Shin explained. "This place is meaningful as people from the South come here and call the names of loved ones in North Korea with a tear."

Bishop Sunday Mbang, prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria and chairperson of the World Methodist Council, declared “a new Pentecost in Korea” at the service.

"Open the door of heaven and pour your Spirit on your children," he preached. "Do what you did at Pentecost so that none of us will be the same again. We will become your agents of reconciliation and love."

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Matthew Freeman

Refugees from North Korea, these dancers participate in the worship service.
Acknowledging the risk of coming to Korea during a time of high tension, MBang observed that, “With God, nothing is impossible. The God I worship is a God of victory. God will do the unexpected. Are you ready? God is going to use you to do the unexpected.

"By the power God has given me, and I extend that power to you, I proclaim this Demilitarized Zone as God’s temple of love and reconciliation. Angels have taken over, and this place will become God’s temple."

Three young women refugees from North Korea offered one of the most moving moments of the service with their sacred dance. They were described as converts to Christianity and very sincere in their faith.

As participants released hundreds of colored balloons into the sky during the closing of the service, conference leaders began a march to the site where a placard will be placed, commemorating the time Methodists from all over the world came to pray for peace.

Following the service, delegates were bused to the observation post overlooking North Korea. In a briefing conducted by a representative of the South Korean military, they learned that the mountains in the north have been stripped of trees by people searching for firewood as the famine in the country intensifies.

*LaBarr is director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s North Texas Annual Conference. She managed the World Methodist Conference newsroom in Seoul, South Korea.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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