Her name was Yu Gwan-sun. Born in 1902 to parents who were Christians in Korea, she was a 16-year-old girl in a school established by American missionaries as the first educational institution for women in Korea. The New York Times recently reported how she became “the face of a nation’s collective yearning for freedom.” The Japanese occupied Korea from 1905 to 1945, but long before Korea’s liberation, Yu Gwan-sun ignited a movement. She and four other students led a protest on March 1, 1919 that sparked multiple marches for freedom over the following few weeks, ultimately involving more than 10 percent of the population. Her protests eventually led to her torture and death in an underground cell at the age of 17.
I learned Yu Gwan-sun’s story after a recent trip to Seoul, South Korea with Tim Keller, where he spoke to several thousand Koreans on the topic of walking through pain and suffering, a topic relevant to us all. After wondering what would cause Yu Gwan-sun to be so courageous, I read that she was influenced by her Christian father and was an intelligent child who attended church and “memorized Bible verses easily.” Oh, the infinite value of the Word of God.
I’m grateful for how my travels introduce me to the stories of people, both past and present, like Yu Gwan-sun and reveal the influence of churches in global cities.
Our trip to Asia was a powerful reminder that the work you are praying for and supporting is advancing the kingdom. Time after time I was pulled aside by local leaders asking me to thank you for supporting City to City enabling us to develop content, broaden our training, coach pastors and resource church plants around the globe. It makes me wonder how many courageous young men and women like Yu Gwan-sun will emerge in the next 100 years from the thousands of churches you are helping to start all over the world.
Whether it is a new church plant in New York City or in Seoul, I get the privilege of hearing network leaders and church planters share their experiences, and I get a fuller glimpse of the unique role the Holy Spirit has enabled City to City to assume in this kingdom work.
Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, awarded Yu Gwan-sun with an honorary doctorate in 2015 and said, “I want to speak about a great young Korean woman who lost her own freedom so that others could be free.” As great as her sacrifice for national freedom, we worship a God that delivered us from a greater bondage to an eternal freedom. Colossians 1:13-14 reads, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
This freedom that we have attained through Christ motivates us to see global cities renewed by the gospel — to bring shalom, hope and glimpses of our heavenly city to earthly cities.
Thank you for partnering with us, both in prayer and with financial support, as we help leaders and pastors around the world start churches and share the gospel of Jesus Christ – the only true freedom that will change the world.
Chief Executive Officer, Redeemer City to City