Frank S. Page developed a respect for Billy (Jang Hwan) Kim when he saw Kim translating a Billy Graham sermon televised during the 1973 Graham crusade in Seoul, South Korea.
Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, recalled the moment more than 40 years later as Kim spoke at the May 4 weekly prayer gathering at the SBC Executive Committee Nashville headquarters.
“I grew up in a non-Christian home but I did come to know the Lord. And I remember watching Billy Graham on television and I saw the crusade in Korea and Dr. Billy Kim was interpreting, translating for him. And how impressed I was with him even then,” Page said. “So it’s an honor to meet you sir. God bless you.”
Kim, pastor emeritus of the 15,000-member Central Baptist Church in Suwon, South Korea, said the church prays weekly that God would continue to bless the U.S., which he called a “great nation.”
South Korean Evangelist and former pastor Billy Kim addressed Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC) staff and friends during a May 4 prayer service at SBC EC headquarters in Nashville.
“We pray for the U.S. every Sunday morning in our worship service because we want the U.S. to maintain the strong leadership,” said Kim, a former president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), “because you still have so many missionaries, so many churches, so many Christians here able to help people. Now South Korea is the second largest sending missionary force next to the United States.”
The Korean Children’s Choir from Pohong, one of 11 such choruses sponsored by the Far East Broadcasting Company-Korea that Kim chairs, performed for the Executive Committee staff during a stop on the choir’s U.S. tour.
Ranging in age from 7 to 13, the 40-member group sang hymns of praise to Jesus Christ and performed liturgical dance. At one point in the program, the children left the stage and walked among the audience, hugging attendees. “Amazing Grace,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “Down in My Heart,” and “God Bless America,” were among the group’s repertoire, all sung in English.
Kim expressed a deep love for God, the U.S. and the SBC.
“I appreciate [the] Southern Baptist Convention. You have helpful resource materials for the Korean Baptist Church and we are indebted to you and your organization,” he said. “And I hope Southern Baptists will continue to grow and see people come to Jesus Christ.”
Kim praised the SBC for its international missions work, and encouraged the audience to practice unconditional love as an avenue to increased cooperation in international missions akin to the cooperation found in multinational corporations.
“I believe God has no territorial boundaries of race or color, if they are a child of God who can work together to reach the world for Jesus Christ,” said Kim, who pastored the Central Baptist Church in Suwon, Korea, for 45 years, and served as president of BWA from 2000 to 2005.
Kim typically baptized 500–600 new converts a year during his Korean pastorate, he said, and suffered persecution because of the uniqueness of baptism by immersion in South Korea.
“I’ve been persecuted because Korea is predominantly Presbyterian. They have a bowl of water … they baptize like that. And we put them under the water, and they think we’re a cult,” he said. But Kim worked to remove the stigma of baptism by arranging for a group of churches to baptize 10,000 people in the Han River during the 1990 Baptist World Congress in Seoul; the churches postponed baptisms for the year until the meeting.
“I wanted to show Korean Christians that baptism by immersion is biblical. And the newspaper came, television came; since then on, they don’t consider baptism [a] cult,” Kim said. “You know that’s a wonderful feeling [for the stigma to be removed]. So God has blessed.”
Kim grew up on a small farm in rural South Korea, but moved to the U.S. after working as a houseboy to U.S. soldiers during the Korean American War. One of the soldiers, Sgt. Carl Powers, offered to bring him to the U.S., and paid for his education and other needs while here.
Kim tells his story in his autobiography, The Life of Billy Kim: From Houseboy to World Evangelist, released in February by Moody Publishers.
Kim graduated from Bob Jones Academy and University with a bachelor’s in Bible and a master’s in New Testament and Theology, and ministered internationally. In South Korea, Kim led many family members to salvation and baptized thousands, including at least 4,000 at military bases.
In 1998, he chaired Korean Studies for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, based in Fort Worth, Texas.
“It’s all providential,” Kim told Baptist Press. “He [God] had a plan. The Lord has blessed; you cannot explain. God has been so good.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)