Fishing for Souls
Sahmyook University strategizes for mission.
By Sanglae Kim
Sahmyook University in Seoul, Korea, had much to celebrate when it reached its centennial milestone in 2006. Named Euimyung College when it was first established more than 100 years ago, what was once considered a small school now boasts some 5,500 students studying in 33 academic tracks in six colleges and four graduate schools. Sahmyook has provided theological education for 60 years of its 103-year history; other departments gradually have been added since 1967. It moved to its present site on 200 acres situated 12 miles (20 kilometers) from downtown Seoul in 1949.
Deluged With Students
Each January more than 10,000 anxious youth applying for acceptance to Sahmyook University pack its campus. Only about 10 percent, or 1,242, of them—mostly non-Adventists—are accepted as new students. The ratio of successful applications from Adventist students is much higher than that of non-Adventists, yet the actual number of Adventist students annually accepted hovers near 200, or about 1 in 6.
Sahmyook University faculty and staff view this situation positively as an opportunity for mission, observing that every year 1,000 new seekers of truth are “storming” the school. The exuberant youth walking around campus are reminiscent of the fish that crowded around Peter’s fishing net in response to Jesus’ command: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets” (Luke 5:4, NIV). The question now is how to handle the situation.
The Triple-S Principle
Sahmyook University operates a multidirectional campus ministry to win these young adults to the Lord. Campus Ministry functions with the financial and administrative support of the school and fully mobilizes pastors, professors, and Christian student peers. The chaplain’s office calls this mission approach the “Triple-S Principle,” an acronym for Spirituality, System, and Strategy.
Using the spirituality principle, the chaplain’s office has established the following model for the campus mission: (1) It views the campus not as a job site but a battlefield for winning souls for Christ. (2) The students are the souls to be saved, members to be cared for, and gospel colleagues to be trained. (3) Teaching, counseling, and sharing fellowship are the methods of approach.
An Organized Approach
Sahmyook has established an organized system for faith education and mission. The faith education program is part of the curriculum. Requirements include (1) achieving 12 credits of Bible classes within six to seven semesters, (2) attending chapel once a week, (3) going to the Week of Prayer every semester, and (4) attending Sabbath worship during the students’ first year. The chaplain’s office is striving to deliver faith-based education effectively to the students by mobilizing and arranging human resources and forming strategies.
The strength of this system is in its human resources. Many pastors are part of the faculty at Sahmyook University—theology professors, full-time Bible teachers, and pastor-professors who are teaching in the departments of their areas of specialization. Also, the local conference assigns young and capable pastors to serve in campus ministry for a term of two to four years. All the pastors assist students by guiding and giving them direction.
Faith-based education emanates from the professors in each department, because they are the most influential mentors to the students. They support mission work through counseling and endeavor to be good examples to the youth.
But this is not all. Forty sophomore theology students are also fully engaged in campus ministry. They serve as youth pastors in each department. Adventist student volunteers devote themselves to this mission. They are called SAY, an acronym for Sahmyook Adventist Youth. They approach the other students as peers and accomplish many things that pastors and professors cannot. The three sources of human cooperation participating in campus ministry are known as the Three Ps: Pastors, Professors, and Peers.
Back to Its Roots
Bible classes and chapels are the root of faith education at Sahmyook University. The pastors counsel students personally in connection with these classes.
Senior nursing student Boyung Lee came to know Jesus through her freshman Bible class. She was influenced by her professor, who patiently answered her many questions. Now part of SAY, she is serving as a Sabbath school superintendent.
Other approaches besides Bible classes are also needed:
1. Sabbath Worship—Sahmyook University maintains a Sabbath attendance system for freshmen. All the faith leaders attempt to make Sabbath the most attractive day of the week. From their first Sabbath on campus, students encounter what they cannot experience at any other university. They receive a hearty welcome to Sabbath schools prepared by their peer Sabbath school leaders. The professors then meet with the students in small groups and have conversations with them.
When Sabbath school is over, the students gather in the main auditorium and participate in an evangelistic-oriented worship service. A fellowship lunch is then provided, with every department taking turns each week to prepare and serve the meal.
The school organizes and offers four types of on-campus Sabbath worship services: the “formal” style of worship for regular members, an “open” worship for freshmen, a “youth” worship for training Adventist students to evangelize, and an “English” worship for those interested in listening and communicating in English.
2. Week of Prayer—The Week of Prayer is the most important faith event of the semester. During this week of spiritual emphasis many students encounter the essence of the Christian faith. The Word of God, prayer, and praise fill the campus.
Among recently held Weeks of Prayer, the students’ positive response has been particularly evident, especially during a segment of the program school officials call “Sharing the Story of My Life and My Faith With Youth.” This is when notable Adventists in political and academic fields are interviewed in front of the students by the university’s head chaplain.
Yena Park, a junior majoring in social welfare, had never encountered Christianity before entering the university. In the fall of 2006 she had such a strong experience that she shed tears while listening to the preacher during the Week of Prayer. The Holy Spirit worked in her heart and changed her life. Yena is now in charge of SAY’s worship service.
3. Festivals to Nurture and Encourage Student Leaders—About 200 SAY members (excluding theology students) devote themselves to campus ministry at Sahmyook University. They nurture new believers and help them to adapt to the church. The student leaders, however, also need spiritual food, so programs are organized to enhance their spiritual growth. The Festival of JS (Festival of Jesus’ Second Coming) is a three-day event held near the end of each semester. Its purpose is to spiritually strengthen and encourage faith leaders. Another event, the Small-Group Festival, is held off-campus during summer and winter breaks. The student leaders build strong spiritual fellowship bonds through this festival.
4. Mission Trips Abroad—Another important faith program that unfolds during school breaks is mission trips to other countries, during which many students discover authentic faith. Even nonbelievers who simply want to serve others join these mission adventures, and as a result often accept Christ as their Savior. Nothing is better for developing faith than practical service in connection with mission programs. Eleven teams in 2007 and 12 in 2008 from Sahmyook went on mission trips to Russia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Taiwan, China, and other world regions.
A Personal Approach
Jongsook Song, a graduate English major, came to know and accept Christ while a student at the school, and then made spreading the gospel to her peers a priority. Even as a graduate student, she is continuing to serve in campus ministry.
Senior pharmacy major Sungwon Yoo had a negative view of Christianity; however, he accepted the Adventist beliefs because of the influence of another student, a sophomore theology major. Sungwon is now focusing on evangelizing other students in his department’s mission group.
This report is too brief to tell the stories of all the lives changed at Sahmyook University, but hundreds of students accept Christ each year and are baptized. In 2008 more than 460 students were baptized by the beginning of December. Helping these new believers to both grow in their faith and learn how to share their faith are key goals of the overall spiritual program of the university.
Sahmyook is putting forth its best effort to lead youth to Christ. School faculty and student leaders know well, however, that all the work accomplished is by the power of the Holy Spirit. “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Because leaders recognize this truth, the chaplain’s office formulated the PQR guidelines for its ministry—(1) Prayer versus Program, (2) Quality versus Quantity, and (3) Relationship versus Record. This is the code they live by, because they know that even though the fishing net of Sahmyook University is narrow and dense, it can also be torn at any time. But they strive to do their best to mend the net frequently.
Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). At Sahmyook University that call is being clearly heard—and clearly answered.
Sanglae Kim, Ph.D., is professor of theology and head chaplain at Sahmyook University.