From Korea to London

Why Seung Ho Yang is a missionary in England

By Tricia Allen
from-korea-to-london-tm-465x280.jpg Photo by Tom Mills

Although the South Korean knew how to read and write English, he rarely spoke it.  

So when Seung Ho Yang and his family moved to England 10 years ago, verbal communication was quite difficult.

As if that wasn't enough, the family learned they'd been schooled in American English, rather than British English. They had also been taught incorrect English vowel pronunciation for 8 years.

Initial communication was grueling, but the Yangs were compelled to stay and persevere in order to tell others about Jesus.

Despite language barriers, it is Seung Ho's commitment to serve God and make Him known to others that first brought him to London, England's capital city, and it's that same commitment that makes him stay.

Staff members with Agapé (Campus Crusade for Christ in Western Europe) in London, the Yangs originally moved to England so Seung Ho could study biblical theology (Old Testament). Then, while attending Trinity College in Bristol, mild-mannered Seung Ho attended a meeting in London between British and Korean Campus Crusade leaders.

Seung Ho learned that, although the United Kingdom is a nation rich in Christian history with well-known leaders such as John Wesley, Hudson Taylor and C.S. Lewis, its zeal for Christ has now all but been extinguished.

At the meeting, Andy Atkins, who currently directs Agapé in the United Kingdom, listed statistics indicating the culture's general indifference to the gospel.

 "I thought Europe and the United Kingdom had a strong Christendom and had no need from the rest of the worldwide church," says Seung Ho. "But when Andy gave the statistics, I could feel their desperate need for more international workers." 

So for 3 months, Seung Ho and his wife In Soo prayed, asking God if He wanted them to move from Bristol to London. Months later, the family packed their belongings and moved there.

Located on the Thames River, London is a city of great cultural diversity. More than 7 million people live in greater London and more than a quarter come from various ethnic backgrounds representing 200 countries. 

Because so many university students also come from all corners of the globe, Seung Ho envisions London having a great spiritual influence on the rest of the world.

"If we can communicate the gospel with them and train them in their faith, the hope is that they will become disciples of Jesus Christ," says Seung Ho. "When they return to their own families and countries they can be [inspirations] for their own people." 

Part of a diverse Agapé Campus staff team made up of 26 people from 5 different countries, Seung Ho now spends most of his time on 3 campuses meeting with staff members, leading Bible studies and conducting spiritual interest surveys with students. Each survey consists of 12 questions to determine where an individual is on his or her spiritual journey and provides a great opportunity to communicate the gospel.

Seung Ho's courage is evident as he continually tests the growing capacity of his spoken English.

"I am faced with people who are not patient with my poor spoken English," he says. But he continues to persevere and has seen many students become Christians because of his efforts.

Student James Rogers became a Christian after taking a faith survey with some Agapé staff members. He then began meeting with a staff member to further discuss his faith decisions and later prayed and received Christ. Soon after, he and his wife Georgia (who was then his girlfriend) volunteered to help Seung Ho and his wife In Soo with their English.

Now every Sunday the 4 meet at the Yangs' two-bedroom flat located in Muswell Hill, a suburb in northern London.

As the Rogers aid the Yangs in learning English, Seung Ho and In Soo are helping them grow closer to God. The 4 have been reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life.
 
"We spend time working on material that is helpful to us spiritually and helpful to them for language improvement," says James.

Seung Ho is granted some reprieve in his English speaking when he meets with Korean graduate student Jungmin Yoon, who placed his faith in Christ during his second year at a local university. Every Friday in the university cafeteria Jungmin and Seung Ho talk about subjects such as chang jo (creation) and goo won (salvation).

The London School of Economics student values Seung Ho's consistent commitment in their mentoring relationship and sees how dedicated he is to making the gospel known to others.

"He sometimes waits for students who fail to meet him on time when they break appointments," says Jungmin, "but he keeps contacting them to deliver the gospel."

The tests Seung Ho and In Soo have faced haven't deterred them from continually giving the same commitment to each other and their two daughters.

"My parents are very committed," says Ji-Hye, 24, the couple's older daughter who recently started her first job working for a fashion designer in London. "They spend lots of time on campus and the evenings with church meeting groups."

Ji-Hye and her younger sister, Hye-One,23, moved to England from Korea when they were 14 and 12. Neither could speak English, making communication and meeting new friends difficult. Seung Ho would often help his daughters with their homework by translating the material.

Although the initial move to England was challenging for the girls, years later they are glad to live in London.

"I have met lots of wonderful people and have gotten to experience different opportunities," says Hye-One, who graduated in June with a degree in civil and environmental engineering. Living in London allowed her to be in university classrooms with friends from Malaysia, India and Hong Kong.

Seung Ho's commitment to God carries into the way he leads his family. The Yangs gather together most Saturday nights at their flat for family devotion and prayer time, something they have been doing since the girls were young.

The couple's genuine fervor for both their family and ministry is a reflection of the passion embodied by many Korean Christians.

People from around the world have noted that many Koreans have a distinct passion for God, prayer and evangelism, and when they pray, they make Acts 1:8 applicable to their world: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (New International Version). Koreans compare Jerusalem to Seoul, their capital city, while Judea is comparable to all of South Korea. Samaria is likened to North Korea, and the ends of the earth represent other parts of the world.

Ultimately, the Yangs' decision to move to London and serve in unfamiliar territory was a big decision for Seung Ho and his family. But they have not regretted it.

"We strongly felt God's call to reach the world in London for Christ and reverse the spiritual climate of Great Britain so it may become a great [influencing] nation again," says Seung Ho.

They know that the "ends of the earth" is literally at their fingertips in London.

Action point: Seung Ho is committed to tell others about Jesus despite his difficulty in speaking English fluently. What types of adversity could you persevere through in order to tell others about God?