A plastic cup drops off a table and spills, forming a puddle of barley tea. On the other side of the desk are an elderly couple and a student in his 20s.
Listening carefully to their conversation is Na Myung Hwa. Petite and soft-voiced, she nods as they continue to read to each other.
None of them acknowledge the spill, even as the teabag continues to seep out across the floor. Concentrating, the students are learning how to do evangelism and Na Myung Hwa is an instructor.
She coaches her students as they role-play discussions with each other using a curriculum developed by Cru called New Life Training Centers.
NLTC lessons train students of all ages to be sure of their faith, explain it well to others, and then -- a critical part -- to continue meeting and talking with people with whom they have had a spiritual conversation.
In South Korea, NLTC is becoming a recognized program within churches.
Na Myung Hwa, 50, was a member of the first NLTC class at KwangChun Church in Seoul, Korea, 11 years ago.
Since beginning the NLTC classes, the church has seen membership more than quadruple from 500 to 2,200.
“I wanted to change the church system,” says Pastor Lee Moon Hee. With the encouragement of his wife, who had been involved with Cru as a student, they began incorporating NLTC into the church’s structure.
“NLTC training is effective to church members because it cares for their faith,” says Pastor Lee, who is referred to as “CCC Pastor” by his peers.
He leads a board of more than 10 pastors from different churches in Seoul who use the program.
Although not required for church membership, completion of the curriculum is mandatory to become a leader in KwangChun Church. More than 800 members have finished the first of 3 stages of NLTC.
“NLTC is foundational. When I first began, it took my faith from preschool to middle school,” says Na Myung Hwa. She is now a deaconess at KwangChun.
The murmurs of paired students echo around the large room, where children’s colorings of Jesus and Noah’s ark are taped to the walls. Walking between the tables of the class, she sees one woman reading the evangelistic booklet Four Spiritual Laws to herself; she has no partner.
Na Myung Hwa steps softly across the hardwood floor, and seeing no available chairs, slides in and shares the single seat. She kindly begins coaching the woman to recite the first principle: God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
Na Myung Hwa has not always been so gentle. Before accepting Christ in college, her nickname was “Bee” for her sharp, stinging personality.
She mocked the phrase “heavenly Father,” challenging Christians to ask God to hug her if He was so real.
At 21 years old, she passed by a church and was drawn in by the beautiful singing she heard. She started visiting a church with an aunt, and slowly began to understand Jesus’ death and sacrifice. But she grimaces when speaking about that time.
“Even I don’t want to think about my past. I treated people so different. I was unfair. But I experienced a change in my character: God has changed me. Now I think that other people are beautiful.”
After she became a Christian, her father fell deathly ill in 2003. His passing became a starting block for her role as an NLTC instructor.
“I regret that I didn’t share the Four Spiritual Laws booklet with my father. I could not share it with him, but now God makes me serve others through NLTC.”
Besides the training at KwangChun Church, she is often asked to lead at other South Korean churches. Each of the 3 NLTC stages can last for 12 weeks.
All of these attendees have voluntarily come to the church for 8 hours per week; they believe the program is that important and effective. This particular day will be a rubber-meets-the road day: For the first time, the students will go out and engage other people in spiritual conversation.
After a lunch of bulgogi, which is marinated barbeque beef, served with rice and pickled vegetables, Na Myung Hwa addresses the class of 15.
“We cannot escape our responsibility to tell the gospel,” she says.
Splitting the class into small groups, Na Myung Hwa leads a group of 4 into the neighborhood outside the church. It is an unseasonably cold day, and 4 individuals brush by, tightening their coats when the group asks to speak with them.
Readily clutched in Na Myung Hwa’s fingers is the Four Spiritual Laws booklet. They walk up a hill to the Seongbuk Digital Public Library and enter the still atmosphere of readers.
The 4, a young man and 3 middle-aged women, all wearing jackets and uncertain smiles, make their way downstairs, situating themselves on orange sofas in front of 2 vending machines.
Much different from upstairs, this area seems less like a library and more like a café: college students walk by to get soda, toddlers run past doorways. In one hallway, several women wait for children in a classroom.
Although ideal for conversation, many people refuse to speak, quickly stepping outside to the smoking area. Businessmen in suits lounge nearby, shaking their heads when the students approach.
But several people stop and then engage in discussion, reading through the Four Spiritual Laws booklet with one of Na Myung Hwa’s students.
In the midst of people shuffling through the hallway and children shouting to each other, the couches seat several concentrated conversations.
At one point, all 3 of the women in Na Myung Hwa’s group are speaking with one man. Na Myung Hwa pokes one, encouraging her to begin a conversation with a different student waiting for coffee.
Across from the soda machine are 2 men immersed in discussion, a stranger in a puffy blue jacket talking to one of Na Myung Hwa’s students. In his hand is the orange booklet, and he softly and slowly reads the first principle in Korean: hananim-eun dangsin-eul salanghasimyeo. God loves you…
Stepping away from the couches, Na Myung Hwa smiles as she listens carefully to her students.
“The first time they evangelize, they are always near me, like today,” she says. “The second time they are beyond my sight, and by the third time, they go visit specific people.”
The young man in the puffy jacket walks by, and he is smiling. Later, Na Myung Hwa’s student tells her that the man had prayed and received Christ. At the moment, he’s caught up in another conversation.
When the area clears, and no one new approaches the vending machines, the 3 female students in her group have various reactions after their first evangelism outing.
“I hated this kind of group,” says one, “but now I love it. My team members encouraged me, and I thought to myself, I can do many things because God helped me.”
But another student is silent and hangs back. Na Myung Hwa explains that she is still scared of speaking to strangers, even though she wants to. She smiles reassuringly at her student.
“This is the first week [of evangelism],” she says. “I am so proud of them.”
She begins thinking about Matthew 4:19, when Jesus calls the first disciples, Peter and Andrew, 2 fishermen: “Follow Me,” Jesus says, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
This is God’s command for Na Myung Hwa. Since her father’s death, she has seen her mother, 2 sisters, 2 brothers, and their families pray and receive Christ.
“All of our siblings became Christians and are influenced by her,” says her younger sister, Na Young Hwa, 46.
“She is a mentor for all of our family members.”
This sister has also become an NLTC trainer, after seeing the training change lives.
“I’d been Christian for a long time but didn’t know how to share the gospel, and I was not as brave. [Through] NLTC, [God] changed my character,” says Na Young Hwa.
The woman once called “Bee” is now the spiritual pillar of her entire extended family, as well as hundreds of others in Seoul.
In one hour, Na Myung Hwa’s 4 students have read through the Four Spiritual Laws booklet with 10 people. Eight have prayed and received Christ.
Her students move down the hallway toward a new group of women, and she follows them with her eyes.
“Catching fish,” she whispers, and quickly walks to join the conversation.
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