Sarah Barry’s secret mission reports prior to UBF’s split from the church– part 1
Updated: May 9
With an ocean of new experiences crammed into the last four months, it is certainly hard to pick and choose among them for the contents of one’s first MCD [Missionary Correspondence Department] letter. This country is so exactly opposite from America, that I wonder if the time will ever come when there will cease to be new sights at which to marvel. These folk sorta cooperate with nature – they live close to the soil and blend their houses into the landscape (no tall sky-scrapers). They sit on the floor; and mothers carry babies on their backs and everything else on their heads.
I could ramble a long time like this, but let me illustrate by telling you what I did this morning. At 9:20 I bundled into a jeep with Miss Root and we bumped our way out to a country village. It was my first “close-up” of a village and I was along just to look. The village children and I both did lots of looking – them at us, and I at everything. The sunlight was warm and bright, so the village folk decided to have the church service in the courtyard of one of the homes. While they were bringing out the rice-straw mats to spread on the ground for everyone to sit on, we talked to the people, mostly women and children, who were beginning to gather. The first person who said anything to me was an old grandmother, bent double from years of sitting on the floor or squatting at the stream doing the family laundry. She asked me how old I was – a standard Korean custom. I told her, and she responded with the next standard question, “Are you married?” I answered that, and then fortunately, my Korean ran out and Miss Root came to my rescue. Most Korean girls have been married off by their families by the time they are my age. I talked next to a junior high school boy, who was especially interested in my English-Korean New Testament.
The students, unanimously, are interested in learning English – and, needless to say, I was glad to read the Bible with junior high boy. The time to begin Sunday School arrived, and as Miss Root played her accordion, the crowd collected. The children sat cross-legged on the rice straw mats. They were crowded together close to the front so they could learn the songs and hear the story which Miss Root told. The boys sat on one side and the girls on the other – and the adults filled up the space behind. After Sunday School, the evangelist from a neighboring village preached his monthly sermon. In this particular village, there are only a handful of baptized Christians, so most of the people at church were seekers. The man who owned the home in whose courtyard we met is not a Christian, and apparently only came because we were meeting in his yard. A Korean Bible woman has been living there in the village doing evangelistic work for a year or so.
As we came to the court-yard, I noticed a strange fishing-pole like thing with a bunch of straw tied to the top of it extending up over the roof of the house to which the court-yard belonged. At my first opportunity, I tried out the first sentence of Korean which I learned, “What is that?” A little learning is certainly a dangerous thing, because I had no idea what the flood of Korean which came back as an answer was. I later discovered that the “thing” was a prayer pole, put on New Year’s Day as a prayer for success during the coming year. But the prayer is directed to no one. What a strange feeling to sit there in the shadow of heathen darkness and hear the Gospel preached and see the light of the transforming power of God shining out of the faces of Christians who have heard and believed. For the God who redeemed us and who would have all people everywhere come to be his own is not an “Unknown god”, but the God who made the world and everything in it, who sent His Son to die on a Cross and raised Him up from the dead that we might know Him as our Saviour and King. Perhaps the greatest difference in this country and America is the unmistakable contrast out there between – Christendom and heathendom.
This was a one Sunday activity. My daily routine is quite different. It can almost be summed up in two words – “language study”. It could be quite boring but, with the Lord’s help, it has been interesting.
Thank you for your prayers – I count on them. I’ve also been helping a little every day with the occupational therapy in the Graham T.D. Hospital here in Kwangju. But that’s another letter.
This mission report is totally different than the mission reports Barry would write later on. In fact I would go as far as to say that it reads like a memoir.
Notice how this is the report Barry made before she met Chang-Woo “Samuel” Lee.