Sent By God


James Scarth Gale arrived in Korea in 1888; he was born in Alma, Ont., in 1863. After graduating from the University of Toronto, he was so inspired and challenged by D.L. Moody’s preaching at a conference held by the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions that he committed his life to become a missionary to Korea.

Local Koreans at that time did not embrace Western people or thought. But this did not stop him. Gale was known for his command of the Korean language, speaking it better than the locals. He is credited with translating the Bible into Korean, producing the first English – Korean dictionary and translating literary works including John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress into Korean. Gale was instrumental in helping Westerners understand the Korean culture by writing books based on what he had observed and learned in his travels throughout Korea. He also founded the YMCA in Korea.

Robert Hardie was 25 years old when he was moved by a letter written by Gale to the University of Toronto’s YMCA about the urgent need for medical doctors in Korea. He dedicated himself right then to be a missionary and upon graduating from medical school, he immediately left home and went to Korea. Later, he became the main figure of the Wonsan Revival Movement, which I will explain in detail in a short while.

One of the well – known Canadian missionaries is Oliver Avison. He was a professor at the University of Toronto medical school, where Hardie was a student. He was, at that time, the doctor for the mayor of the city of Toronto. When Horace Underwood, an American missionary, came to Toronto to recruit doctors to serve at the Royal Hospital in Seoul, Avison kept thinking, “Why only young doctors, why not me?”

Avison became the director of Jejungwon Hospital (formerly the Royal Hospital) in 1893. By 1899, a new facility was needed to accommodate the growing hospital. Avison went to the Ecumenical Missionary Conference in New York in 1900 and presented his proposal. Louis H. Severance, an American philanthropist, was in attendance, and became excited when he heard Avison’s speech. It was exactly what Severance had dreamed of: he had been planning for years to build a hospital and decided that it would be in Seoul. The hospital was completed in 1904 and was named Severance Memorial Hospital. Today, Severance Hospital is part of Yonsei University Health System, which is the most reputable hospital in Korea.

Gale, Hardie and Avison were independent missionaries who personally committed their lives to bring the gospel to Korea. But it was the death of William MacKenzie that sparked the movement of young missionaries who would follow in his footsteps. MacKenzie, born in Cape Breton, was an independent missionary who arrived in Korea in 1893 and ministered at Sorae in the province of Hwanghe. He was a very tall man, almost two metres tall. He immersed himself in the Korean culture even to the point of isolating himself from other foreigners so as to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s a well – known story of the time when Mrs. Underwood brought bread, cheese and ham in a small package from the United States. But MacKenzie refused to untie the package saying that if he did, it may make him long for his home in Canada. Sadly, after only a year of ministry in Sorae, MacKenzie died from exhaustion and endemic disease. To the Presbyterians in the Maritimes, MacKenzie had died a martyr’s death.

A Korean, Seo Kyung Jo, who assisted MacKenzie at Sorae village, wrote a sympathetic letter to the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The letter spoke of MacKenzie’s dedicated work and his death. It further asked the church to send them a Christian leader. The letter was translated into English by Underwood and published in the magazine of Pine Hill Divinity Hall (now Atlantic School of Theology). Three people who read the letter were moved by it: Robert Grierson, William Foote and Duncan MacRae. These three men committed themselves to the mission in Korea and they were the first missionaries officially sent by the PCC.

Up to this point, Koreans understood Christianity as a form of charity work. But through a series of God – appointed events, revival among missionaries and Koreans spread rapidly throughout the peninsula. It began with MacKenzie’s fiancée, Louise H. McCully. After MacKenzie’s death, McCully committed herself to interceed for the people of Korea. She was a missionary to China but came to Korea to pursue her dream of evangelizing the Korean people and to continue the mission work of her late fiancé. She was gifted in intercessory prayer and began to pray for the revival of Korea with a prayer partner, Mary Culler White. Soon the prayer meeting grew to 12 members.

FocusThey decided to invite the medical missionary Robert A. Hardie to speak. While Hardie was preparing his message and seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God powerfully convicted him of his own sin. In his journal, he wrote that when the Spirit came upon him, the first thing he did was to confess his sin. There was not much fruit in his 10 years of mission work and he realized that it was due to his arrogance, his pride in being a doctor and seeking respect from people and his attitude of racial superiority. God convicted Hardie to confess his sin to fellow missionaries at the gathering and to repent his failures in front of the Korean Christians at Wonsan Methodist Church while delivering the message the following Sunday. When he did, the Holy Spirit moved the hearts of the people. Missionaries repented their sins. Congregation members confessed their sins. And the power of God swept through the church. Repentance was the spark that started this great revival. Historians will say that Koreans understood Christianity as Western people’s charity, but this God – anointed event was the first time they understood the power of the gospel. This was the beginning of the Wonsan Revival Movement of 1903 and it ignited many revival meetings around the country for the next five years.

As Japan colonized Korea by force, the Korean people rose against it through non – violent protest and sought indepedence. This was known as the March 1st Independence Movement in 1911. Whereas other missionaries were inclined to stay passive, Canadian missionaries actively supported Korea’s independence. Our beloved Presbyterian ministers, Robert Grierson, Stanley Martin, Archibald Barker and Dr. Frank Schofield worked alongside the Koreans for the freedom of the country from Japanese occupation.

Dr. Schofield supported many students who could not afford to pay their tuition for school. Thanks to his support, they were able to finish their educations. Many of them became prominent leaders in present day Korea. Dr. Woo – Chan Chung, the former prime minister of Korea, who served as the president of Seoul National University, was one of the recipients of Dr. Schofield’s scholarship.

A veterinarian, Dr. Schofield’s statue is now erected at the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo and at the University of Guelph.

The Hall family (father, mother, son and daughter – in – law) was instrumental in shaping the medical missions in Korea. Rosetta Hall arrived in Chosun in 1890 and her husband, William Hall arrived a year later. Their wedding ceremony was the first Western wedding in Korea. Rosetta ministered in Seoul while William was in Pyongyang. When he entered Pyongyang, he prayed, “O, God. If someone’s sacrifice is indispensible to open Pyongyang’s gate, I will be the one.” When the China – Japan War broke out, Pyongyang became the centre of the battlefield. William stayed there, helping the wounded. While caring for them, he contracted typhoid fever and died. He was martyred, just as he’d prayed.

FocusRosetta was a pioneer in the field of special education. She created Korean braille and educated the blind. She also established the first medical school for women and named it Kyungsung Women’s Medical School. It was later renamed Korea University Medical School. She served at Dongdaemoon Lillian Harris Hospital, which later became the Hospital of Ewha Women’s University.

Rosetta’s son, Sherwood originially dreamed of becoming a businessman. But when he was 12 years old, he was deeply moved by Hardie’s preaching. Upon hearing Hardie’s sermon, he made a vow to return to Korea as a medical doctor in the future. After graduating from the University of Toronto medical school, he served at Haeju Kuse Hospital. Sherwood trained and mentored Korea’s first woman doctor, Esther Park. But she would soon die of tuberculosis. Sherwood made it his lifelong goal to eradicate TB in Korea. He built the first centre for TB patients and introduced the Christmas Seal to the World, a campaign to eradicate TB in Korea.

Between 1888 and 1940, 185 Canadian missionaries risked their lives and came to Korea to deliver the Good News of Jesus Christ. Tutullian once said: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Korean churches were built on the precious blood of these young Canadian missionaries who knew what it meant to die as a kernel of seed for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

More than legacy, more than nice stories of the past, more than accounts of how we have made a difference, we are still called by the same incredible, powerful, loving God, who is able and so willing to send us to bring revival and renewal to our communities here in Canada. Our own backyard is now the mission field.
For me, these missionaries tell powerful truths of what God can do with those He sends, with those who go. Like the missionaries who went to Korea, rather than being intimidated by the vast distance between where we are and where we need to be, or the difficulty of learning new ways of speaking and living, we need to remember that we are sent by God.


About Peter Han

Rev. Peter Han is minister at Vaughan Community Church, Ont. This is taken from a sermon he delivered at last year’s General Assembly.