Pastor Jung Myung Seok
Founder, Christian Gospel Mission (Providence)
Jung Myung Seok was born on 16 March 1945, as the third oldest child among seven siblings. He was born in the mountain virllage of Sukmak-ri (Wolmyeongdong or Dalbak-gol), Chinsan-myun, Geumsan County, South Chungcheong Province, South Korea.
His family led an impoverished life far from any cities. Moreover, this was a period when South Korea was recovering from a 40-year occupation at the hands of the Japanese. They were so poor that Jung could not afford to study in middle or high school, even though he had graduated from Jinsan elementary school. Instead, his family tasked him to help the family farm for a living. It was difficult to even make ends meet, and often that they had to rely on water, arrowroots or thin gruel to combat their hunger.
As a young child going through poverty and difficulties, Jung Myung Seok realized about the meaninglessness of life at a young age. He sought the purpose of life and read deeply into the bible for answers after bibles were distributed to the households in his village. When Jung Myung Seok was in his teens, he would farm in the day, while going to pray and read the bible in the caves near his home in the remaining time. Through this ascetic life of faith in his teens, he began a deep and personal relationship with Jesus.
Jung Myung Seok visited many churches and was diligent in attending Suk-mak Church near his home. The revival speaker at the churches mostly preached apocalyptic messages about the coming return of Jesus and judgment of the world by fire. Even though he could not reconcile why Jesus had to burn up all unbelievers in the world based on Christian teaching, Jung Myung Seok passionately waited for Jesus’ return and lived trying his best to put the words of the bible into practice.
When he was 19 years old, he served as a Sunday school teacher at Suk-mak Church. When he was 20, he went out to the streets of nearby towns and villages to share the gospel of Jesus and encourage people to begin attending nearby churches.
Drafted for Military Service
When Jung was almost 21 years old, Jung was drafted into the Vietnam War as part of the 9th Infantry Division (White Horse Division). Instead of killing the enemies, Jung would bring along a rope in order to capture them instead so that he could spare their lives. This was highly discouraged at that time when commanders regarded morality and justice in war as ridiculous, and soldiers prioritized personal survival by killing the enemy. However, these captured prisoners ended up providing essential intelligence that contributed significantly to the success of their operations, such as Operation Hong-kil-dong. Colonel (Retired) Choi Hee Nam, one of Jung’s direct commanders, wrote about this in his Vietnam War Memoirs titled ‘My Blue Days – On the Vietnam Battlefield’.
As a result of Corporal Jung’s valor in combat and contributing to the peace between both nations when he captured instead of killing prisoners, General Chae Myung Shin, Commander of ROK Forces in Vietnam, awarded Jung with a Citation for Distinguished Service in War. After Jung’s second tour in the war, Jung was also awarded the Hwarang Medal and Inheon Medals. However, above all, Pastor Jung testified that God had protected him and his company on countless occasions because he also kept Jesus’ teachings to ‘love thy enemy’.
Christian Gospel Mission (Providence)’s origins in Seoul, Korea
On June 1st, 1978, Jung Myung Seok arrived in Seoul, the largest city in Korea. All he took with him was his clothes, about 300,000won or USD300 equivalent of cash, and a suitcase with the diagrams of the 30 lessons. He lived in a small apartment in Shinchon that could barely fit 4 seated people, and began his ministry through evangelizing on the streets.
In March 1982, Jung Myung Seok established MS Missionaries (Christian Gospel Mission today). Within a few years the size of the Missionaries quickly grew from a few hundred to a few thousands, then to tens of thousand. It became urgent to get a place where all the members could get together. After much prayer, he and his disciples began developing his hometown of Wolmyeongdong into a retreat in 1989. This site eventually transformed into the natural temple that attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually today.
He worked hard for the numerous men and women who were evangelized, often sacrificing sleep to preach and provide counseling. After the domestic foundation was firmly laid, he set off in January 1999 to travel the path of worldwide mission following God’s lead. This was also the period of time when persecutions took place against Pastor Jung on a large scale beginning in South Korea.
Pastor Jung Myung Seok Today
Pastor Jung Myung Seok was accused by the media of various crimes which he did not commit, but was eventually sentenced to 10 years imprisonment based only on verbal testimonies that did not match. (See details of the religious injustice here) In spite of that, Pastor Jung continues to live a life of prayer behind bars, and diligently writes sermons and counsels members through letters. He also continues to write poetry and proverbs about God, some of which became bestsellers. In 2013, Pastor Jung was awarded the National Seoul Literature Prize for his literary work despite the trials he faced.
In spite of widespread media allegations and Pastor Jung’s imprisonment, more than 200,000 followers all over the world continue to live joyfully in Providence, and according to the teachings of Pastor Jung. These members have testified of how Pastor Jung’s teachings helped them make a breakthrough in their lives of faith and transformed them from their inglorious pasts.
Is this the working of a man, or the working of God? Let God truly be the judge. In the wise words of Gamaliel, an honored teacher of the law in the time of Jesus, “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)
* Footnote: This information is collected from a combination of Jung Myung Seok’s books, sermons, and personal testimonies. Many of the original sources can only be found in Korean. We want to give a special thanks to the International Mission Department in Korea, and to the pastors in American Providence who were a great help in providing references, sources of information, dates, and titles.
(Disambiguation: There are various romanization for Pastor Joshua Jung Myung Seok’s name, including Jeong Myung Seok, Jung Myeong Seok, Jeong Myeong Seok.)