It is the 25th of November 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1935.
While we might refer to this year as part of the "interwar period," we would be remiss if we didn't note some of the world's critical tensions, some that would lead to the 2nd World War. This year, Adolph Hitler officially repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and re-formed the Luftwaffe (the German Air Force) with Herman Göring. What could possibly go wrong?
It was one of the most devastating years of the Great Depression in the USA. Unemployment hit 20%, and on "Black Sunday," the most enormous dust storm in American history ravaged the Midwest and sent farmers fleeing to the coasts looking for work.
News from around the world was transmitted to the masses via a newsreel that debuted this year. "The March of Time" would become a staple at theaters as they played before movies. And perhaps telling stories and reading scripts is in this author's blood. The program's longtime host was Westbrook Van Voorhis, a relative and one namesake for my youngest son.
One of the international news stories that concerned Americans this year was the unfolding situation in the Far East. Concerns about militant Japan and a growing Chinese empire colored many people's views of that part of the world. And the place of Korea was especially fraught as it had long been a pawn between the two greater Asian powers.
It had only recently been a blend of nationalism and missionary work that made Korea an emerging Far Eastern country with ties to the West. Korea had recently signed its Declaration of Independence, and the engine behind this was the newly formed Korean Presbyterian church. And it was a hero to Korean Christians and Nationalists alike that we remember today. Sun Chu Kil was preaching to thousands of Christians on this day in 1935 when he collapsed at the pulpit. The most famous of the Korean Christians was pronounced dead within hours.
Sun Chu Kil was born near Pyongyang in 1869. Kil was especially keen on a Korean form of Taoism but became disillusioned with it after he believed it to be no help in curbing his carnal desires. He eventually met with the missionary Samuel Moffat who encouraged him to read the Pilgrim Progress. Kil eventually was converted and would, within a few years, play a leadership role in the church. Moffat planned to insist that Koreans, not outsiders run the Korean church. The translation of the Bible in Hangul, a revival in 1909, and the creation of churches and seminaries fueled the church's growth. However, Japanese authorities cracked down on the Korean church and imprisoned tens of thousands of Korean Christians, including Sun Chu Kil.
Without the appearance of being a "western" movement introduced by Colonizers, Sun Chu Kil and others' local leadership was paramount to the growing popularity of the church. In Kil's later years, he traveled across the country, preaching and teaching both the gospel and the need for national autonomy.
While he was famous as a signer of the Korean Declaration of Independence, he believed the Korean church's growth to be his greatest accomplishment. A Korean church for the Koreans would be the legacy of Sun Chu Kil, who was born in 1869 and died on this, the 25th of November in 1935.
The reading for today is a poem from a Korean Christian. This is the poem "This Year" by Ku Sang, translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé.
As this country rocked like a boat in Galilee's storms,
I spent the whole year not losing my belief in God alone,
just doing as I could what had to be done.
Laid up sick, I suffered for more than a month,
there were many hard things in the family and the world,
but having endured it all meekly, it proved more valuable
than any good fortune could have been.
These days, as I dream bright dreams of the world beyond,
entrusting all things to His divine Will,
even if storms are forecast for the coming New Year
there is nothing I fear.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 25th of November 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who wishes you a very haengboghan ganglim (행복한 강림), Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.