Month: October 2013

Midland church honors veterans of “Forgotten War”

MIDLAND—Death and fighting. That is what Hyeon-koo Shim remembers most of the Korean War. His wife, Sung-shil Shim, recalls being crammed onto an already overcrowded train bound for the relative safety beyond the embattled capitol city Pyongyang. Infantryman Jim Shaw still wonders what became of five orphan boys he helped rescue and secretly care for on the outskirts of his company’s base. Lives inextricably linked by what is often called “The Forgotten War” were brought together by a pastor who remembered to say “thank you.”

Hongkak Koo, pastor of Midland Korean Baptist Church, was born almost two decades after the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953. But the 42-year-old understands his native South Korea came perilously close to communist rule and only avoided the fate of modern day North Korean because of the willingness of America to join the fight. For that he is grateful.

“Koreans owe a lot to Americans. Without the sacrifices of American soldiers South Korea could not be what it is today,” Koo said.

From the rubble of war, South Korea has risen to be the world’s 12th-largest economy in the world with a democratically elected president. By contrast, North Koreans suffer under the political, religious and economic rule of a communist dictatorship.

Koo said a look at a nighttime satellite image of the divided Korea illustrates the stark contrast between the two nations. With the exception of a glimmer of light representing the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, the northern country is shrouded in darkness. Within its borders South Korea shines bright.

In 1997 Koo came to the United States to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. While working on his dissertation in 2005 he was called as interim pastor of the Midland church. Each weekend he flew the 600 miles round trip to serve the congregation that would eventually call him to full-time ministry.

Emigration to the U.S. from South Korea has steadily increased since the mid-1970s. In Texas most newcomers settle in larger cities like Houston and Dallas that have established Korean communities. Midland, more readily associated with the oil industry, ranches and the hardscrabble roughnecks such enterprises produce, is home to about 100 Koreans, according to Koo. Many of them attend Midland Korean Baptist Church.

On behalf of his church and the local Korean immigrants, Koo wanted to find and thank the Korean War veterans in his community. The church is a mix of English and Korean-speaking members. Some, like the Shims, are old enough to remember the war. Others have never visited the country to which they owe their heritage. Services at the church are in English and Korean.

In 2011 the church hosted the first celebration service honoring the veterans. Again this year, the church treated veterans to food and entertainment unique to the Korean culture.

“I thought it was pretty neat,” Shaw said. “It was sure something they didn’t have to do.”

The 90-year-old veteran was 32 years old when he served in Korea. He downplayed the role he had in defeating the threat of totalitarianism. As a member of the First Marine Division, Shaw said he was just doing his job.

“I’m proud we did it,” Shaw said.

Koo said he took time to meet each veteran and listen to their stories of a time and place he never knew.

“As I listened I had an affection for them,” Koo said.

He was especially moved by Shaw’s tale.

During patrol by a river, Shaw said his unit noticed “five of the dirtiest little boys” he had ever seen. Orders dictated soldiers not associate with civilians—a command easily observed since few remained in the region that would later become the 38th Parallel. But Shaw could not leave boys behind.

“I just picked them up and hid them on the outskirts of the company area,” he said.

Shaw doesn’t know if his commanders never found out about the children, ages 12, 8, 8, 7, and 6, or just turned a blind eye, but he and the soldiers fed and clothed the boys and gave them a tent and stove for the winter. They even gave them chores—washing clothes—to keep them occupied during the day.

After six months Shaw was reassigned to Busan. He never knew what became of his five orphan boys.

Sung-shil Shim, 73, was familiar with their plight.

“I recall many orphans lost and abandoned on the streets,” she said, answering questions provided by the TEXAN and translated by Koo.

She was 10 years old when her family tried to flee Pyongyang.

“So many people crammed into the train that many were left behind, including our parents. I never thought that would be the last moment to see them.”

Sung-shil Shim and her sisters were raised by an uncle.

Also speaking through Koo, Hyeon-Koo Shim, 75, said his village was occupied alternately by North and South Korean soldiers. Air raids “bombarded” his home, killing his uncle and injuring his brothers and sisters.

“I still remember things clearly as it was yesterday. My memory of war is horrible. I saw soldiers fighting each other and killing people,” he recalled.

The Shims’ separate experiences during the Korean War left them with different views of soldiers. As a 12-year-old-boy Hyeon-koo Shim could not understand why people killed each other. He didn’t like war or the soldiers who participated. But Sung-shil Shim and other children were befriended by the American troops who gave then treats like candy and gum.

“It was so delicious. And, in fact, I never had a chance to eat chocolate before,” she said.

The celebrations at Midland Korean Baptist Church gave Americans and Koreans who endured the war an opportunity to revisit and reevaluate their experiences. Koo said the celebrations in 2011 and this past June gave war generation Americans and Koreans the opportunity to share their stories with younger generations.

“They need to know what we Koreans owe America so they can appreciate it and contribute to this country,” he said.

Sung-shil Shim was unable to attend the June celebration but her husband did.

“Through the event by our church, I came to appreciate more about the sacrifices of many American soldiers. Looking back, I was too young during the war to appreciate their sacrifices. But now I realize how much I am indebted to them and sincerely want to express my gratitude,” said Hyeon-koo Shim.

He now makes regular donations to two Veterans of Foreign Wars offices.

Shaw, member of a Christ Church Midland, said he was glad to reconnect with the Koreans whom he called “the workingest people in the world.”

“They’re nice people. I love the Korean people,” he said.

Koo would like to see other Korean churches duplicate the efforts of Midland Korean Baptist Church—while there is time. There is a dwindling opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of the Korean War from veterans and civilians of that era.

Koo reflected on the war and his gratitude.

“Living in the States and having the opportunities to meet Korean War veterans has been such a blessing and privilege to me. While preparing this ceremony I have come to appreciate Korean War veterans more than before. As I meet and listen to the stories of each and every individual veteran, I was often overwhelmed emotionally.”

Rural churches still ripe for fulfilling Great Commission

O’BRIEN—Located at the junction of Farm Road 2229 and State Highway 6, the rural West Texas town of O’Brien would likely be missed by passersby if they blinked. The population sign reads 106, and the closest city, Abilene, is 70 miles away.

Lance Rogers, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Brien, grew up in Dallas and jokes that he initially considered the town “40 miles on the other side of the Great Commission.” But after a year and a half at the church, Rogers said the Lord is doing amazing things in this farming community.

Prior to Rogers’ arrival in 2012, the church had not baptized anyone in three years and had withered away to around 20 people. In less than 18 months, they have witnessed an incredible movement of God, baptizing more than 40 and seeing more than 100 in attendance on a weekly basis.

“It’s completely out of my comfort zone because it’s not what I’m used to,” Rogers said, “but I’ve never experienced what God is doing out here ever before in my life, anywhere. There are times when we have more in church than the city population. The baptistry is constantly being used.”

This spiritual outpouring, however, has not come without challenges, the least of which is the adjustment Rogers has made from city life to a rural atmosphere.

“Everything I’ve learned all my life in the metroplex has been a different way of thinking,” Rogers said. “Then I moved out here, and it’s a completely different world.”

“If you come out to a small community with the mentality of ministering in the metroplex, it’s going to be a rough start. Even though I’ve been here over a year, we are still not part of the community.”

Rogers noted that the majority of the families in O’Brien have lived there for generations. Soon after his family arrived, a 90-year-old, lifelong resident joked with Rogers at the local coffee shop that he was happy their family had moved to O’Brien so he would “no longer be the new guy in town.”

Some in the church expressed concern that Rogers, like other rural church pastors, would only be at the church a few months before leaving for something bigger.

“I’m here as long as God keeps me here,” Rogers told them.

Reaching People Through Relationships
The longer Rogers has stayed the more he has fallen in love with the people and the community. When he arrived, he fully immersed himself in every possible activity, event and meeting in the community, including attending pep rallies and football games as well as serving on the school’s PTA and frequenting local restaurants.

“I would just go out and build friendships with people,” Rogers said.

“I started developing relationships without cramming church and the Bible down their throats. They know who I am and where I stand, and we talk about it, but we also developed a connection on a personal level. When God started allowing us to do that, we started seeing people coming to the church.”

“I’ve learned more about people out here in a year and a half than I ever experienced in 40 years of my life.”

Fields Ripe for Harvest
First Baptist O’Brien is but one of many churches in rural communities and county seat towns that dot the American landscape. Despite population shifts over the past century from rural settings to large cities, great potential still exists for these churches to spread the gospel in their communities.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to reach people because there’s not many out there doing it,” T.C. Melton said, who grew up in a farming community and has more than 60 years of ministry under his belt.

Melton served in pastorates across Texas, including 30 years at Elmcrest Baptist Church in Abilene. He has spent the past decade serving in various capacities with the SBTC, primarily as an area ministry coordinator for churches in West Texas. Additionally, he has served as interim pastor of more than 15 churches, many of them in rural communities.

Although Melton said much has changed in the world since he began in ministry, much is the same.

“A guy’s got to love the pastorate wherever he’s at,” Melton said. “People are about the same wherever you go.”

Whether in rural or urban settings, Melton said, “If a guy will go to a (church) and plant his life there, the people will love you and support you. Wherever a guy is at, if the Lord put him there, he ought to enjoy it.”

However, Melton acknowledges that unique challenges as well as blessings exist for pastors in rural communities and small towns. Echoing Rogers’ experience in O’Brien, Melton encourages and coaches these pastors to “adapt to a rural mentality,” including a strong work ethic and a commitment to developing relationships over time.

“You’re the preacher for about the first four or five years, and then you become their pastor. But you can speed that up a little bit if they trust you,” Melton said.

“In rural areas, you’ve got to build relationships. You can’t do much in a rural community if all you have is a pew-to-pulpit relationship. You’ve got to enjoy riding in a tractor and going out and getting manure on your shoes and going to basketball games and senior citizen centers.”

“I don’t care what kind of electronic communication you have, you still have to go where people are. This is especially true in rural areas.”

Melton said one of the challenges in smaller towns is declining and changing populations. Many rural churches experienced booming growth in the 1950s and 1960s and built facilities to accommodate this growth. But with dwindling populations, these buildings can become financial burdens, making it more difficult to support pastors and their families. Thus, he sees a growing need and opportunity for bi-vocational pastors in many of these areas.

In addition to financial challenges, Rogers admits that ministry in a rural setting can feel lonely at times. Isolation leads to discouragement.

For this reason, Rogers recommends pastors maintain connections with godly friends and mentors whom they can call to receive encouragement on difficult days. Rogers said his professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth have been a tremendous source of encouragement during his time in O’Brien.

In spite of the difficulties, Rogers and Melton agree that the blessings of pastoring churches in rural communities and county seat towns far outweigh the challenges. Both see rural churches as fertile ground for the Great Commission.

Melton said this often-overlooked mission field needs men and churches willing to trust the Lord and meet these challenges head on.

“I can’t think of anything more exciting,” Melton said, “than going to a rural church and spending the rest of your life there.”

Rogers, too, sees the fields ripe for harvest. He has witnessed a spiritual hunger in his community and appreciates the seriousness with which people treat their commitment to the church. 

“When they join the church, they don’t join to warm a pew,” Rogers said. “They join, and they get involved.”

Having served in churches in the Dallas area all his life, Rogers said First Baptist O’Brien is the best church in which he has ever ministered.

“I’m out of place and out of my comfort zone, but as long as I’m here, I’m going to make the most of it. I’ve met people out here and built relationships that will last a lifetime.”

“It gets tough, but first and foremost, God is moving. God has been doing some incredible things. I think every pastor should pastor a church like mine.”

Criswell College trustees pursue relocation, name Richards to chair presidential search

In the midst of receiving the resignation of the school’s president, Criswell College trustees remained focused on expanding the curriculum to a university model that trains biblical leaders in strategic disciplines such as business, law, communication and education.

Furthermore, they empowered the board’s executive committee to purchase land to build a residential campus to accommodate such growth.

“It would serve us well as we continue to communicate to reaffirm the vision of the college becoming a full university along with its relocation,” trustee John Mann of Springtown told the board. “The Lord brought Dr. Jerry Johnson here to lead us at the stage where we are, but it’s a vision that belongs to Criswell College and ought to belong to this trustee board.”

Board members voiced gratitude to Johnson for more than seven years of service and made clear their determination to run with the vision he introduced by a vote of reaffirmation. The chairman of a newly named presidential search committee agreed that the stage is set for the next leader to carry out that priority.

Jim Richards, an ex-officio board member as executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, will chair the search committee. Other search committee members from the trustee board include David Galvan, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Dallas; Mann, who pastors La Junta Baptist Church in Springtown; Jack Pogue, a layman at First Baptist Church of Dallas; and Keet Lewis, a layman at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. Also named to the committee are two Criswell College alumni, Andrew Hebert, pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, N.M., and Joshua Crutchfield, pastor of First Baptist Church of Trenton.

“We’re going to find the man God would have to lead us into the new direction of the Criswell College,” Richards told the TEXAN.

Meeting with faculty and staff after the board adjourned, Richards said he told them it would be an open process.

“There is no person who has been pre-selected.”

Nominations will be received immediately and should be sent to Evie Cozart at Criswell College. Additional information will be posted online at

“We are going to involve the student body, faculty and administration for input as a potential profile is developed for the next president,” he added, “as well as receiving any other information that they would like to give.”

Richards said he would give periodic updates to all of those groups, as well as trustees, to keep them apprised of the process.

“The search committee will move expeditiously and judiciously toward finding the next president,” he stated, asking for prayer “from all who would join us in seeking God’s face that we might know his man.”


On the task of relocating, a site acquisition study by the campus planning firm of Dober Lidsky Mathey provided trustees with information on the characteristics of a campus that would initially serve 600 students with the potential of growing to 1,800. Space and project costs were outlined for the board before consideration was given to five sites just outside of Dallas.

“I move that we empower the executive committee to act if they can cut a deal they are comfortable with,” proposed trustee Richard Land of Charlotte, N.C. Trustees unanimously affirmed his appeal, eager to take advantage of available property without a delay until the next board meeting in the spring.


The board also authorized the sale of 200 acres owned by the school in Royce City and a rehabilitation center near the current campus on Gaston Avenue in Dallas. That action is also subject to the executive committee’s approval. Promotions were granted to four faculty members, including Christopher Allen Graham as assistant professor of theology, Jason Scott Bridger as assistant professor of world Christianity and Islamic studies, Aaron Meraz as assistant professor of church planting and revitalization, and Joseph Woodell as professor of philosophy.

Trustees elected Mann to serve as chairman; Calvin Wittman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colo., as vice-chairman; and re-elected Pogue to another term as secretary of the board. The board’s executive committee will name an interim president to assume responsibilities after Johnson completes his tenure at the end of October.

Trustees stood to applaud Johnson after Wittman praised him for leaving the school “in great hands and with a great future.”

All politics is local

OK folks, I know you hear numerous calls for churches to mobilize their people to vote but sometimes we need to be ashamed that we are so uninvolved. Of course I know that our churches have a primary task that cannot be subverted by political action. We’ve seen some church traditions become so worldly minded that they are no heavenly good. And I am sensitive to the fact that some political operatives would love to have our pastors become local activists for one political party or another. Having given those disclaimers I need to say the other thing. We are disobeying Jesus when we are too lazy or spiritual-ish to use the God-given influence we still have.

A story in our Oct. 1 digital TEXAN refers to the despicable action by San Antonio’s city council to discriminate against those who believe in traditional marriage or in a two-sex human race. The leader of this coup was Mayor Julian Castro, who was elected by 29,000 voters. Now Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, re-elected by 59,000 out of 920,000 registered Houstonian voters, is considering a similar initiative for her city. San Antonio residents knew who Castro was before he was elected, or they could have easily learned. Houston voters (non-voters actually) knew who Parker was before she was re-elected as mayor in 2011. But those who will bear the burden of ordinances that hinder religious liberty, those who will complain most loudly about the toxic fruit of such initiatives, didn’t take the simple action of voting in any significant numbers—in Houston, one surveys claims that one-third of church members voted in the mayoral election, though I suspect the portion is smaller. They, we, generally don’t invest a couple of hours to research and another hour to practice informed voting each year. Houston, by the way, likely has more eligible voters in three or four churches than the number of people who elected Annise Parker as mayor.

Pastors, I agree with your decision to ignore most of the shrill calls to action that come across your desk. That doesn’t mean that there is no mandate for citizen Christians to do anything with the rights we hold. Sometimes, a thing is not considered an important part of discipleship unless the pastor gives it some emphasis. It is not a diversion to help your members register to vote. It is not a waste of ministry time to remind the congregation of election days. It is not difficult to obtain and make available non-partisan guides that tell something of the candidates and the issues. Once in a while, when you come across Matthew 5:13-16 or Romans 1:32 or Romans 13:1-7 in your teaching through the Bible, preach on a Christian’s obligation to stand for truth in the public square. Don’t do that every week or even as often as you are urged to, but it is part of the whole counsel of God. The results of our inaction are seen in a great number of cultural trends that we regularly decry. When we stand by while key political leaders with strange agendas are elected, we shouldn’t be surprised when they consider their elections a mandate for their agendas. Usually, our influence on a leader once he’s in office is too little and too late. Elections have consequences. I guess that means that staying home on election day has consequences too. 

Criswell”s Johnson to lead National Religious Broadcasters

DALLAS—Criswell College President Jerry Johnson is leaving the Dallas school to become CEO and president of the National Religious Broadcasters. Set to begin Nov. 1, Johnson told the TEXAN he would promote the threefold mission of the NRB to advance biblical truth, promote media excellence and defend free speech.

The Washington, D.C.-based NRB is an international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of viewers, listeners and readers worldwide via radio, television and the Internet. Johnson’s election to the post came on Tuesday (Oct. 1) during an NRB board meeting. He succeeds Frank Wright, a Presbyterian who will step down Oct. 4 after a decade of leading the NRB.

Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land, who serves on the boards of both the NRB and Criswell College, described Johnson as having “the leadership skills, strength of character, range of experience, and vision” for the job. “America has never needed the NRB as much as it does right now to defend freedom of religion and freedom of speech, which are under unprecedented assault.”

Johnson said he has devoted his life to advancing the gospel, affirming NRB’s desire “to make sure people who are broadcasting in the name of Christ do it in a way that is faithful to the authority and infallibility of Scripture. That’s what Criswell College trained me to do,” he added, having received a B.A. in biblical studies from the school.

He said he recognizes the importance of Christians using the media “in a winsome, excellent way,” having hosted a program on KCBI-FM in Dallas addressing current issues from a Christian perspective. “I’m very concerned for Christians who are preaching and broadcasting today as we are entering a hostile environment,” he added, praising NRB’s commitment to keeping the airwaves and Internet open for Christians who have biblical convictions on issues such as the sanctity of life and marriage.

After earning a master of arts from Denver Seminary, Johnson received a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he majored in ethics. “I’ve given a good bit of study to religious liberty and as a Baptist I have a particular commitment to the principles of religious liberty and free speech.”

Johnson first served as president of Criswell College from 2004 to 2008, resigning over philosophical differences with the board and chancellor related to the school’s governance. After the school negotiated a separation from its founding body, First Baptist Church of Dallas, Johnson returned in 2010 with the unanimous support of the board.

Since that time, Criswell College has added a concentration in church planting and revitalization and a fully online master of arts in Christian studies. The school also embraced an unengaged, unreached people group in partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.

A three-year affiliation agreement with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was signed in 2011 that provided 3.25 percent funding from the entity’s Cooperative Program budget.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told the TEXAN, “Dr. Johnson was the right man for the right time at Criswell College. He was the catalyst for positive change and will do the same at NRB.”

A year ago, trustees adopted a vision Johnson outlined to expand beyond the school’s core Bible curriculum to “train biblical leaders in strategic disciplines” of business, law, communication and education. The board also approved a long-range planning committee’s recommendation to work toward developing a residential campus at a new location to accommodate expected growth and to better meet the needs of the 323-member student body.

“I’ve struggled a little with why God would allow me to see that vision and yet not be there to realize it,” Johnson told the TEXAN. “In God’s timing he has someone else for the next level. I want to be a part of that as an alumnus, donor and friend of the college.”

Richards stated, “As Criswell College continues forward with the expansion of curriculum and relocation to a residential campus, God will bring the leader who can move the school forward.”