It's a privilege to host the joint conference of the Korean Society of Pentecostal Studies and Asian Pentecostal Society at Gospel Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Korea. I, as a President of this Seminary welcome all the guests from foreign countries and the attendants in this conference.
The theme of this conference is "The Role of Pentecostal Education." Under this general theme, the author chose "Pentecostalism and Public Education" as a topic. In this paper, the author plans to reflect the public school ministry of Rev. Dr. Seen Ok Ahn, the founder of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Korea, the Daesung Christian School and the Gospel Theological Seminary. In this paper, the life of Rev. Dr. Seen Ok Ahn would be summarized, her public school ministry will be analyzed from a Pentecostal Perspective. Also suggestions for further development of Pentecostal public school education will be made.
Two months ago, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado in the U.S.A. opened fire at their school, killing twelve students and one teacher. After that accident many imitation crimes occurred throughout the America. While I was at Tulsa, Oklahoma, one student at Jenks High School was arrested for keeping a list of the students whom he planned to kill at his school. Amongst the list was the daughter of the Dean of the Doctoral Studies at ORU School of Theology and Missions.
The violence, crimes, and disobedience of the young people are not limited in U.S.A. only, but spread all over the world. These young people are the hope for the future, but now they have many problems. How can we solve these problems? Many people, educators, politicians, administrators, ministers, psychologists, professors, and many other people have tried to solve these young people's agonies, complaints and difficulties. But nobody has found the right answers yet.
I. The life of Rev. Dr. Seen Ok Ahn
Early Sunday morning of June 25, 1950, the Korean War broke out. It was one of the most terrible and miserable wars in history. The Korean people who had the same ancestors, the same blood, and the same origin fought against each other due to the difference in ideology. The Ahns escaped from North Korea. They faced several dangerous moments, but miraculously God saved them each time. Many people lost their lives, their parents, children, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends. After they moved to the South, they pioneered the In-Dong Presbyterian Church in the city of Taejon.
In 1953 Mr. and Mrs. Ahn gathered the refugee students and began to teach them in a half-destroyed small hall made of wood near Taejon. This was the beginning of the Daesung Christian School. With the blessings of the Lord, this small school eventually grew to be six schools (1), consisting of over 8,000 students and 400 teachers, becoming one of the major private high schools in Korea.
The difficult times they had during those days could not be expressed in words. Sometimes school buildings under construction would be destroyed by typhoons. Or other times, there were fires in the school buildings. Sometimes she could not pay the salaries of the teachers at the right time. It was too hard for her to undertake. Several times, she fell sick due to the stress and difficulties. But she could not go to the hospital. Instead she went to the church and knelt down before the Lord and cried and cried. The Lord was so good to her. He not only healed her sick body but also answered all the requests. God supplied all of her needs at His right time. With the blessings of the Lord, the schools grew and more students were enrolled. Finally the school was settled down. At that time she thought that she could finally have time to relax. She planned to spend her life in educating only the young people.
But God's plan for her was different from hers. The Lord knocked her heart's door over and over again. She hoped to serve the Lord as a laywoman educating the young people. But God's calling never stopped. At last she decided to give up her own will and follow the calling from the Lord. In April 1966, at the age of 42, she went to the United States to be trained as a full time minister leaving her husband, her five children and the school in Korea.
She spent three years learning the Bible and theology in Portland. She also went to Los Angeles. One day in 1968, one of the Korean pastors introduced her to Dr. Rolf K. McPherson, the President of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. When she met him, she was surprised. This was because he was the very person that she had seen in a dream of hers a year ago. In that dream she was led into a large building and was introduced to a gentleman. Then he gave a certain certificate to her. The gentleman in the dream was Dr. McPherson, who she was meeting in Los Angeles. She requested Dr. McPherson to send a missionary to Korea. He gladly accepted her request.
In 1970 she returned to Korea as an ordained minister of the Foursquare Church. She hoped to be an educator as before, but God trained her in the U.S.A. and brought her back to Korea as a new person - "a full time minister." She began the Foursquare work out of nothing, while helping her husband run the large school. She started a Foursquare work from the Student Church with the help of American missionaries.
The Foursquare church was new to the leaders of Korean churches as well as to the people. The Pentecostal Gospel was especially strange to the Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist ministers who were the dominant groups in Korean churches. She was criticized and persecuted as one of the heresies. Especially since a woman minister was not accepted in the male dominant Confucius culture. But whenever she was persecuted and despised, she remembered what the Lord had done to her when she and her husband had difficulties at the beginning stages of their school. She trusted the Lord. She had confidence that the Lord would help her ministry abundantly. She could see thousands of ministers working with her in the future through her spiritual eyes. She knelt down and prayed to the Lord day and night. The Lord then began to bless her ministry. As the Gospel was preached, many people were healed, demons were cast out, and the problems of the people were solved. As the news spread into the city, people began to come to the church. The Foursquare church, which began with a handful of students grew to hundreds of students. Many adults, especially school teachers were converted. At last she changed the name of the church from "Student Foursquare Gospel Church" to Taejon Foursquare Gospel Church."
As she took the pastorship at Taejon Foursquare Gospel Church, she began the training school to produce Foursquare ministers. As more ministers came out of the training school, she planted more daughter churches. She felt the necessity of training leaders for further growth in the future. She began to send the potential leaders abroad for study. She sent 25 leaders up till 1996. As they returned to Korea after receiving their degrees, she established the Gospel Theological Seminary with them in 1996.
As she obeyed the Lord, the Lord has expanded her ministry. She worked the prison ministry for more than 20 years. She worked for the YWCA for all her life. As God opened the foreign doors to her, she established an agricultural training school in Sakhalin Island in Russia in 1995. She sent missionary couples to the Philippines. She helped the underground church leaders in China.
II. Characteristic of Rev. Dr. Seen Ok Ahn's Ministry
1. Strong Call from the Lord
The calling to a ministry is a gift from the Lord. The stronger one accepts the calling, the more he/she can commit and sacrifice his/her life for the poor and for the sheep. That is why Thomas Oden emphasizes the calling very much in his book Pastoral Theology (2).
Rev. Dr. Ahn's calling to her ministry is peculiar. She was called into the full time ministry when she was 42 years old. God called her when her school had almost settled down. As Abraham left his country, kindred, and his father's house, she too had to leave her husband, five children and schools to obey the calling of the Lord. She had to be separated from them for six years. She paid the price. After she returned from the States with theological training, she accepted the public school ministry as a God-given calling. That is why she started the Student Foursquare Church before she began the adult ministry. Her mind was focused on students in the public schools. Her prayer was focused on the soul saving of the students. She believed that God called her for the students in her school.
2. Prayer Warrior
The Korean War was one of the most miserable wars in history because Koreans stemming from the same race fought against with each other due to differences in ideologies. More than 5 million people died and more than 10 million people were separated from their families. After the Korean War, Korea was totally devastated. Everything was completely destroyed. Without praying and trusting the Lord in that situation, it was almost impossible to establish the private schools on the ashes. However, Dr. and Rev. Ahn established six schools overcoming the difficulties through only prayer and faith. Once, a school building that was being constructed was destroyed by a typhoon. Another time, Rev. Ahn had to hide because she had no money to give as salaries to the school teachers. She was even misunderstood by the people as a fraud because she could not pay the bills. However, Dr. and Rev. Ahn overcame those difficulties through prayer and faith in only God.
When she had difficulties, she began to fast and pray to the Lord. That fasting which she had done while she had moments of crisis became one of her habits. Even after being ordained as a minister, she often fasted when she was faced with difficulties. Since her day of ordination in 1970, she has not eaten a single dinner. She decided to give up her dinner to the Lord for her entire life (4).
Besides that she fasted for forty days when she became sixty years old. A sixtieth birthday is a day of great festival in Korea. All of the children prepare a big table for their parents on this special birthday. However, she refused to be entertained well. Instead, she planned to fast in prayer at the prayer mountain far from her home. Fasting forty days at the age of sixty is very dangerous. Family members, principals at the schools, elders, staff personnel and nearby believers asked her not to do the forty day fasting prayer. However, no one could persuade her from her strong decision which she made with the Lord. She completed the forty-day fasting prayer successfully. Even though she paid the price by losing her senses on her ten toes as a result of that fasting prayer, she kept the promise that she made with the Lord (5).
At times, she mentioned her fasting publicly to the students at the school chapels. She spoke of why she fasts, how she fasts and how the Lord answers her prayer. Students learn naturally that they should fast when they face moments of crisis. Even in school days, many students come to church after class to spend time in prayer to the Lord. One of the school teachers in the Girls' High School said that he found that many students fasted in school (6). It is supposed that the students are learning prayer from Rev. Dr. Ahn's prayer life.
It was six years ago. One day I asked Rev. Dr. Ahn to go for lunch together. However, she said that she could not because she was fasting. In my judgment there was no reason to fast. So I asked her why she was fasting. She answered with the following: She had five biological children and five spiritual children. While she was praying for them, she realized that she had nothing to give them. Instead the Lord reminded her that you could give something to them. She asked the Lord, "What is it?" The Lord told her that she could fast for them. So she began to fast three days a week for each person. Therefore, she fasted for three days a week for ten weeks for her ten biological and spiritual children (7).
She is a warrior of prayer. She not only does the fasting prayer but also the overnight prayer and mountain prayer. However, she still comes to the church every night for the nine o'clock and 11 o'clock prayer meeting. She also prepared the prayer mountain near Taejon Foursquare Gospel Church. Still she proclaims strongly that prayer is the only way to overcome the adversaries and power of the darkness.
III. Teaching the Pentecostal Messages in Daesung Christian School
1. Philosophy and School Education
During the Koryo Dynasty, (918-1392) the national religion was Buddhism. During that Dynasty everything was influenced by the Buddhist philosophy and culture. All the pictures, paintings and even the potteries, which were found recently, were influenced by the Buddhist philosophy. All the books written during that period were Buddhist oriented.
During the five hundred years of the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910), Confucianism was the national religion. Unlike the Koryo Dynasty, everything was influenced by Confucian culture. Not only these two dynasties in Korean history, but all the education and cultural heritages are supposed to be influenced by the contemporary religion and philosophical thought. The Public school system is not an exception. Even though the public school is under the government's control it has been influenced by contemporary philosophy. For example, even though Charles Darwin died 117 years ago, his theory of evolution is still being taught at the public school. Although many scientists and ministers who believe in the creation of the universe have lifted up their voices against such an educational policy, it has not yet been changed. Evolutionism is still the only theory taught at the public school.
In such an environment, Rev. Dr. Ahn is challenging the students with the Pentecostal message. Since she accepts her school ministry as the calling from the Lord, she bravely teaches the majesty of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit. In this scientific world. She teaches the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. She is inserting Bible based and Spirit filled new curriculum to the public educational world.
2. Teaching Pentecostal Messages to the Young Students
1) They are ready to accept anything.
The students at Daesung Christian Schools are junior and senior high school students. Therefore, they range from age 13 through 18. Since they are adolescents, they experience many changes physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually (9). During this stage, the individual begins the physiologically generated process of moving from a sexual individual to a sexual person. This process signals physical and psychological changes that profoundly affect the teen's behavior, self-concept, and social relationships. Their height and weight change. Their voice and appearance change. Emotionally, they shift from elation to sadness rapidly. For no apparent reason they sometimes burst into tears, then in a short time may be elated (10). They do not know how to control their emotions and feelings. Their emotions are unstable. They are also highly idealistic, rebellious, and have many questions regarding traditional values. At the same time they are highly open to conversion (11).
Since they are not yet mature, they are ready to accept anything. If communism is taught to them, they can become communists without any questions. If Buddhism is taught, they could be Buddhists. But thank God because they have been taught with the Pentecostal message and worship from the regular class in school.
Dr. Seen Ok Ahn worked for the prison ministry for more than twenty years. Since she majored in economics in college, she was asked to preach the Gospel to communist spies in the prison who were arrested. She preached and many communist spies were converted. Mr. Jin-sup Kim is one of them. When he was fifteen years old, World War II ended. As a result, Korea became independent from Japan. Then he was taught communism at a school in North Korea. He became a communist, and was trained as a spy. He was then sent to the South at the age of 29. He was arrested two days after he arrived in Seoul. He had been at the prison for 29 years until he was released after accepting Jesus Christ as his savior (12). His life is the evidence that these young people can accept any ideologies, philosophies or religions. Therefore, these young students are like the good soil in Jesus' parable (13). On this good soil the Gospel of Jesus Christ was sown. Especially the Pentecostal message and spirit filled worship are being taught.
2) Teaching Bible in the Class
Also, through the Bible class, they learn systematically about the contents of the Bible. Usually the students study the Bible for more than 35 hours a year. It is like a Sunday school. The Bible teacher (usually the chaplain) teaches the Bible with the mind of soul-saving. Through the Bible class, many students accept Christ as their personal savior. When the students enter the Daesung School as freshman, less than 15% are Christians. However, by the time they graduate from the Daesung School, it reaches up to 80-85% (14).
3) Pentecostal message and worship styles are not new to them.
4) Pentecostal Worldview would be formed in this period.
The traditional churches had their own worldviews, which had been formed during the years of its history. Worldview is not formed in one or two years. It takes time. Worldview is not studied, but formed unconsciously during our lifetime (16). These young people would learn the Pentecostal Worldview unconsciously during their study at Daesung School. This would be a great help in their theologizing the Pentecostal theology in the future. Dr. Wan-Suk Do, the Chairman of the Chaplains at Daesung Christian School, mentioned that more than 500 graduates from Daesung High School became ministers. Not all of them became Pentecostal ministers. Even though they may be ministers in Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and non-Pentecostal denominations, they would be very positive to the Pentecostal teachings and worship style. Three years experience at the Pentecostal atmosphere in this high school campus might have influenced a lot in their lives (17).
Rev. Dr. Seen Ok Ahn began to send the potential leaders abroad to train them as the future leaders in the Korean Foursquare Church. She chose 25 people from 1980 till 1996 and sent them to U.S.A., England, Philippines and South Africa for higher education. Of the twenty-five, fifteen were graduates from Daesung School. They are studying the Pentecostal Theology for doctoral program in their seminaries. This would be interpreted that these people had a Pentecostal worldview which had been formed naturally during their school days. They had no difficulties in accepting Pentecostal theologies and worship styles, so they can spend more energy and time in developing it.
5) Woman Preacher in the Public School.
In 1970, she appeared in front of the people as a woman preacher. She preached in the pulpit in front of the congregation, which consisted of both males and females. With God given authority, she preached the Word of God, administered the Lord's table, blessed the benediction, and laid hands upon the male believers for healing and blessings. Before, all of these ministries were done only by the male preachers.
Her being in the Public School as a woman preacher itself had great influence upon the girls in the schools. Around 4,000 students, which is half of the total students at Daesung School, are girls. The worldview of the girls in these schools began to change. Up until that time, the worldview of the girls in Korea was formed under the teachings of Confucius and Buddha. But by watching Rev. Dr. Ahn in her preaching itself, their thinking and attitude began to change from female ministers in the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Korea. The girls in the middle schools and high schools were encouraged to go to Bible College and do the ministry just like Rev. Dr. Seen Ok Ahn.
6) Balancing the Cognitive Knowledge and Power of the Spirit
Rev. Dr. Seen Ok Ahn received her theological education in U.S.A. However, she was brought up in the oriental culture. Western civilization emphasizes the cognitive and scientific knowledge, while the oriental civilization emphasizes the emotional, supernatural, and wholistic realm. She wisely balanced the two different cultures. By establishing the Daesung Christian Schools, she provided the students with the opportunity to receive the scientific knowledge and objective judgement. This was provided through the classes taught by the qualified teachers following the curriculum designed by the Ministry of Education. Also, by establishing the Pentecostal church and teaching the Pentecostal message and worship, she provided the students with the opportunity to face the supernatural realm of Christianity. In the church, many signs and miracles are happening. Many people have been healed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Many people offered the fervent prayers. The students have watched the demons being cast out by the power of the Holy Spirit. The students witnessed the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in their neighbors. They also participated in the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit by praying together with other believers, by singing the gospel songs, by going to prayer mountains to pray or even by fasting prayer. They learn the scientific knowledge in the classroom, watch the supernatural miracles of the Lord in the church and participate in this supernatural work in the Holy Spirit by being in the church and praying together with other congregations. They are balanced in their learning and experience. When these students are grown up in the coming millennium, they will become great warriors of Christ. Therefore, this type of Rev. Dr. Ahn's ministry of balancing the scientific knowledge and power ministry of the Pentecostal belief through the public school system should be recommended not only in Western societies but also in non-western societies.
7) Youth Mission Training Center.
After she got the vision in 1970, she prayed to the Lord how to implement that vision. She did her best in educating them with the Biblical knowledge and worship services through the chaplains and Bible teachers at the schools. Also she did her best to help them grow in faith by providing worship services and special meetings for the students such as summer camps, special mountain prayers, and Saturday evening meetings for developing the spiritual gifts. But her spirit was not satisfied with those strategies. Finally she decided to do the forty days fasting prayer at the age of sixty to get the wisdom of the Lord in educating the young people with the Christian spirituality.
In 1984, she did the forty days fasting prayer successfully with the grace of the Lord. After this, she got much assurance from the Lord. The Lord gave her a great vision for the global missionary work. While she was praying to the Lord, the Lord told her to send the students as missionaries to South East Asia. More than 2/3 of the world population lives in Asia. Also the world's major religions were born in this continent.
At that moment she realized why the Lord allowed her and her husband to establish the Daesung Christian Schools forty years ago. She made up her mind to train the students with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and send them as missionaries.
To use the graduates of these schools as warriors of mission in South East Asia, they should be trained spiritually while they attend the schools. She made a plan of training all of them in one year. It is a four-day intensive spiritual training. The training emphasizes "conversion" to the first year students, "baptism with the Holy Spirit" to the second year students, and "the responsibility as a man and a woman of God in the society" to the third year students (20). She named it Youth Mission Training (YMT).
This training begins from Friday afternoon and ends on Sunday afternoon. Around 90 fully trained adult staff members would serve them with love. They never force them to do things. Instead, all the staff members serve them with Christian love. All the students are served with good meals, messages, and the love of Christ. They experience the love that they could not experience at any other place. Almost all of them accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior by the time they are dismissed from the training. Also, their parents are invited at the end of the training. Many of them also accept Jesus Christ. Up till May of 1999, more than 16,000 people were trained since 1989. Many of them decided to dedicate their lives as missionaries in the future.
IV. Using the Administration System in Preaching the Gospel
Second would be inserting the Bible into the curriculum. As mentioned above, both the Christian students and the non-Christian students would know that the Bible is one of the other courses in school. Since the Word of God is taught in regular classes by the Spirit filled chaplains or by the Bible teachers during their school lives, it is easy for them to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
Second, the hierarchy of the school system would be repeated in the church. In God's eyes, everybody is equal. There is no distinction in rank, job, income, or color in the church. But since the school and the church are headed by the same person, the hierarchy in the school system would be the same in the church. This would result in bringing another federalism in modern church.
V. Limitation in Pentecostal education in Public School
First, there would be limited freedom in the curriculum designs. In Korea, the Ministry of Education designs the school curriculums. Even though Rev. Dr. Ahn is the Director of the School, she has no freedom to add or remove the curriculum. She may want to have more chapels or counseling time to help the students, but she cannot do this.
Second, there is a lack of Spirit-filled teachers. When the teacher is Spirit-filled, it is much easier to help students with the Pentecostal messages. But to find a Spirit-filled teacher is very hard. Even though it is a private school, the school should hire a teacher who has a teaching license. Also, appointing a chaplain is not easy. To be a chaplain, he/she should meet certain requirements set by the government.
Third, there are shortages of textbooks in teaching the Pentecostal message. In teaching the Bible at the school, teachers should have textbooks. But there are no textbooks written from the Pentecostal perspective. Most of the textbooks that are being used now were written from the point of view of the non-Pentecostal scholars. In the future, this area should be more developed.
Fourth, the entrance examination of the high school and college is one of the hindrances. Koreans are highly education-oriented. Parents as well as the students themselves hope to go to the best school. Therefore, to go to the best school, the student must pass an entrance examination that is very competitive. Junior and Senior high schools are considered to be a place of preparation for the test. Emphasizing the Christian education in the Christian private schools sometimes face opposition from the parents, students and even the teachers.
It has been successful till now. It would be successful as long as Rev. Dr. Ahn lives. But now she is in her late 70s. She should prepare the school for when she will be gone with the Lord. Pentecostal messages and worship would not be taught well by the school administrative system like some of its other classes. This is because it requires strong, Spirit-filled leaders. We are at the gate of the next millennium. We should ask the Lord to give us the wisdom in doing this.
1. Three Junior High Schools and three Senior High Schools. They are: Daesung Junior High School (Only Boys), Daesung Girls' Junior High School, Daesung High School, Daesung Commercial Girls' High School, Sungnam Junior High School, and Sungnam Junior School (Boys and Girls).
2. Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology (Cambridge: Harper & Row, 1983), pp. 18-24.
3. Seen Ok Ahn. Overcoming the Difficulties. Preaching tapes, September 15, 1990.
4. Seen Ok Ahn. Fasting Prayer, Cassette tapes, January 15, 1988.
6. Tae-Sae Lee, Student dean, Taesung Girls' Commercial High School. Personal interview with the author, May 1993.
7. Seen Ok Ahn, Personal Interview, May, 1993.
8. Department of Planning, The Statistics of the School in 1999. (Taejon: Daesung Christian School, 1999), n.p.
9. F. Franklyn Wise, "Christian Education of Youth," Exploring Christian Education. ed. A. Elwood Sanner, (Kansas: Beacon Hill, 1978), p. 262.
10. Ibid., p. 268
11. Ibid, p. 270.
12. Personal Interview with the author, April, 1999.
13. Mark 4:1-20.
14. Yeol Soo Eim, The Life Story of Rev. Seen Ok Ahn (Taejon: Foursquare Bible College, 1984) unpublished paper. p. 4.
15. Yeol Soo Eim, "The Worldwide Expansion of Foursquare Church," unpublished Doctor of Missiology Dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, June, 1986, pp. 91-96.
16. Palul G. Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976), pp. 355-369.
17. Wan-Suk Do, Personal Interview, October, 1997.
18. Janice Morgan Strength "Lessons From Russia Regarding Spirituality," Theology, News and Notes (March, 1999), pp. 19-21.
19. Ibid., p. 19.
20. Wan-Suk Do, "It Is My People," Unpublished scenario, pp. 6-7.