From the Foleys
Today’s Most Effective North Korean Missionary: A 19th Century Scot
Here's a piece I wrote with Release International's Scotland Area Representative James Fraser following Dr. Foley's and my recent visit.
Every year, hundreds of South Korean and Chinese tourists flock to Scotland. They come for the customary reasons: to see the beauty, the history, and the castles of this blessed land.
But a steady stream of South Korean and Chinese Christians also come annually on a more unique pilgrimage. They come to pay their respects to the 19
Century Scottish missionary John Ross, whom they consider to be one of the fathers of Christianity in their respective countries.
Ross was born in the small north Scotland town of Nigg. He was the minister of a church on Skye before being called to Northeast China in 1872 by the Scottish Union Presbyterian Mission. While serving as a pioneering missionary there, Ross was intrigued by the “hermit kingdom” of Korea, completely closed to foreigners but accessible to trade through the so-called “Corean Gate”. In the midst of vigorous daily engagement with
, interested, and sometimes hostile Chinese residents, Ross also learned Korean from unsuccessful Korean traders. He evangelized these traders by enlisting their help in the creation of the first ever Korean translation of the New Testament, in 1887. A burgeoning “Three-Self” (government registered) church located in Shenyang, China remains the most visible fruit of his considerable efforts in China, the country to which he was officially sent.
After a quiet and uneventful return from China in 1910, he served as a church elder in Edinburgh until passing away in 1915. It is to this church and nearby cemetery that Chinese and South Korean pilgrims are drawn, many dropping in to pray, take photos, and shed moving tears of genuine thanksgiving. John Ross may be remembered (or, more likely, completely forgotten) in his own country as just another 19
century Scottish missionary, but this father of the churches of Korean and Northeast China won’t soon be forgotten by the descendants of those to whom he was sent
To read the rest of Pastor Foley's update on our blog,