I met Dr. Timothy Kiho Park in the 1990’s when I returned to the Philippines after my missions in Seoul, South Korea. He was a faculty of Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which he co-founded with Dr. Hwal Young Kim. That first encounter, left me with a good impression of him.
The second encounter with Dr. Park was when he became the Chairman of Asia Missions Association. I was asked to work with him for AMA. I worked with AMA under Dr. David J. Cho earlier, and when I heard Dr. Park is now the Chairman, I gladly accepted the challenge to work under his leadership. I believed his mission and vision are remarkable, his love and service for the Lord are genuine and his leadership is charismatic and God-centered.
This interview is written because of Dr. Park’s retirement from Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Intercultural Studies. Being one of the best mission leaders in Korea, we are curious to know what will be the next steps in his missionary career. We believe that his retirement does not mean he would stop doing missionary service, but it will be a new chapter in his missionary life. The following are Dr. Park’s answers to this interview.
Beginning of Mission
I was commissioned by the Global Mission Society (GMS) in Korea to serve as missionary to the Philippines in 1981. I started my missionary work on April 28, 1981 and got involved in church planting ministry and seminary education in the Luzon Island, including Metro Manila, Bulacan Province, and Los Banos, Laguna. In 1996, I left the Philippines to join the faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary School of Intercultural Studies and continue my missionary service in the US.
My desire while I was a missionary to the Philippines was to help evangelize the Philippines through my ministry. My prayer and desire today are to see the coming of the kingdom of God on earth in every aspect of society and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Calling and Inspiration
The Lord called me to the missionary work in two ways: the Word and human instruments. When I became a Christian, I devoted myself to the reading of the Bible. While reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit spoke to me through Ephesians Chapter 3 Verses 8 and 9 and Acts Chapter 26 Verses 16-19, that I must preach the gospel not only to my fellow Koreans, but also to other people.
God also spoke to me through mission leaders when I attended mission conferences as a young man. When I was a freshman in college, I attended a mission conference held at the Choonhyun Presbyterian Church in Seoul in 1968, where the Lord first called me to be a missionary through the speakers such as the late Dr. John E. Kim, the late Harvey Conn, and the late Rev. Sung Hwan Kim.
The second call happened when the late Dr. Stanley Saltau spoke at a mission conference held at the Hoo-Am Presbyterian Church in Seoul. Dr. David J. Cho, who was the Senior Pastor of the church organized the conference. Another call was made by the late Dr. Joon Gon Kim, then President of the Korea Campus Crusade for Christ, who spoke at the World Evangelization Conference held at Yoido Plaza in 1980. The person who invited me to serve in the Philippines was Dr. Hwal Young Kim who was my seminary classmate.
Accomplishments in the Ministry
I acknowledged who I am and what I am today are totally by the grace of God who created me, called me and sent me. All what I have done also are totally by the grace of God.
Jesus, my God and my King called me to the Philippines and enabled me to establish and grow the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the Philippines to become one of the major theological seminaries in the Philippines by serving as a faculty and President of the seminary.
God called me to California to serve as faculty of the Fuller Theological Seminary School of Intercultural Studies from 1996 to 2018. I served as Professor of Asian Mission, Director of Korean Studies, and Director of Global Connections. I helped Korean missionaries, missionary candidates, and pastors to receive the excellent Fuller education in their mother tongue. The Korean Studies program became one of the strongest programs in Fuller Theological Seminary.
The Lord also gave me opportunity to serve as the Founding President of Asian Society of Missiology (ASM) from 2003 to 2009, as Head Chairman of Asia Missions Association (AMA), and as President of East-West Center for Missions Research and Development (EWCmrd) from 2004 to the present. I am fortunate and am proud to say that I am the immediate successor of Dr. David J. Cho at East-West Center for Missions Research & Development (EWCmrd) and continue working in partnership with the global mission leaders through this organization.
Challenges in the Ministry
Over the years, there have been many challenges. Challenge to undertake ministries I thought too big for me to carry in the different parts of the world, but I accepted the challenges by faith. The Lord has always been with me and enabled me to carry the ministries He assigned to me. I can boldly confess as the King David confessed:
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name`s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Korean Missions: its Accomplishments and Acts of Services
I believe that the great accomplishment of the Korean mission is that it has challenged and served as a model to the global south churches to get involved in cross-cultural missions and became a model for their missionary work. While the Western churches have traditionally carried on missionary responsibilities from a position of strength (e.g. from strong political, military, economic, and ecclesiastical power), the Korean Church have launched missionary work from a position of weakness during the Japanese colonial rule and after the Korean War. When the Korean Church was just organized in 1907, the young church launched a missionary movement by sending one of the first seven ordained ministers to Jeju Island as cross-cultural missionaries. Korea then lost her sovereignty to Japan and became one of the poorest countries in the world but still continued its missionary movement. The example of the Korean missionary movement has demonstrated that missionary work can and should be carried on by all the churches in the world no matter what development stages they are in.
Unfortunately, I believe, that the Korean Church today has followed in the footsteps of Western churches by attempting to carry on missionary responsibilities from a position of strength as opposed to purely by the Holy Spirit, as Korea has became a rich country.
Experiences in Asia and the US as Missionfields
The USA has become a mission field. Dr. Richard Mouw, the former President of Fuller Theological Seminary, challenged the Korean students at Fuller by saying ” Do not consider yoursleves just as students. You are also missionaries to the USA.” The USA has become a secularized country and needs to be re-evangelized. The immigrants in the USA are the most receptive targets for missionary work and could be missionaries to Americans. All parts of the world are mission fields. Mission today is ‘from everywhere to everywhere.’
Ministry After Retirement
Even though I retire from full-time professor status at Fuller Theological Seminary, my passion and desire to serve the Lord are not diminished. I will continue to pray and work for the coming of the kingdom of God in every nation and all people to acknowledge the sovereign God and praise Him.
I am moving to Seoul in early 2019 to better serve the Korean and Asian churches. I will visit the churches in the global south, particularly churches in Asian countries to help educate them for more effective ministry through EWCmrd ministry.
I praise and thank God for using me in the Philippines and in the USA and globally. I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to use me in the future for the coming of His kingdom and the fulfillment of His will after my retirement. This is the time to ‘Re-Tire’ to continue to run.
“… all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3)
Interviewd by Damples Dulcero-Baclagon