The First Protestant Missionary to Korea Continued
Sadly after four months Caroline died and due to stress and deep grief Thomas resigned from the Mission Society. He went to Peking (now Beijing) and became a lecturer in English and Chinese. In 1865 Thomas met two Korean traders (Korea at this time was the Hermit Kingdom and had no contact with outsiders) who told him that there were about 50,000 Catholic converts who were instructed by eleven priests and met in houses. These traders had crosses and rosaries but no Bibles, so he offered to go back to Korea with them, taking Chinese Scriptures. To be able to go he became an agent for the National Bible Society of Scotland who paid for his travelling expenses.
On 4th September 1865 he went to Korea from Chefoo and he quickly picked up the language. Thomas was heavily disguised and those he sold Bibles to risked being decapitated if discovered. Thomas wrote that "they (Koreans) were very hostile to foreigners but by a little chat in their own language I could persuade them to accept a book or two". He left after four months.
Many Koreans visited Thomas on the ship and received the Bible In 1866 there was a serious uprising in Korea and many Roman Catholic converts were massacred as well as some priests. The French dispatched an admiral as nine French priests had been murdered. The admiral looked for an interpreter and so Thomas was employed. On a particular stop, supplies were brought on board and the admiral sailed on leaving Thomas behind. Thomas then got employment as a translator on an armed American merchant-marine schooner called the General Sherman.
Many Koreans visited Thomas on the ship and received a Bible. 'The Rev. Thomas Story' by a Korean, Oh Moon Whan includes several eyewitness accounts by some of these Koreans. "There were occasions when the ship was in danger of tipping over due to so many Koreans being aboard. At Poh-ri alone, more than 500 Bibles were handed out". This shows how dedicated Thomas was to evangelism.
They sailed up the river to Pyongyang (which is now North Korea’s capital) but were warned to leave as they did not want foreign trade, but the captain opened fire much to Thomas’ horror. The chief of police Lee Hyon Ik boarded the vessel, and was kidnapped and his official seal was taken from him. Only after seeing the Governor would the chief be released and this was relayed in a letter written in Chinese by Thomas from orders of the captain. The boat continued to sail up river while angry crowds lined the shore demanding the chief’s release.
Then the army was called out who fired cannons against the ship. By this time the ship had floated onto a sandbank as the tide was going out. Fire rafts were sent out towards the ship. Thomas opened his case of Bibles and started to throw them to those who lined the shore whist shouting 'Jesus, Jesus'.
Frantically gave out the Bibles until he was captured Whang Myong Dae, a 20-year old youth, witnessed this act. He was so impressed with Thomas that he later embraced Jesus becoming a founding member of a church near Pyongyang. In his 80's, Whang attended services at the Jo-wang-ri church (Dae-dong-gun) near Dae-dong-gang." Thomas with his clothes on fire leapt overboard with his few remaining Bibles and swam to the bank and frantically gave out the Bibles until he was captured and taken before the governor. All 24 crew members and the owner of the ship a Mr Preston were executed. Thomas humbly knelt down and begged the executioner to accept the last red Bible from him. Thomas shut his eyes and prayed, the executioner hesitated, but then had to do his duty and so Thomas was beheaded at only 27 years of age. Some accounts stated that Thomas was knifed through the heart and that most of the crew were beaten to death by the angry mob.
After many weeks the executioner was greatly troubled in his mind and had in fact picked up the Bible and taken it home with him. The soldier was full of regret and remorse as Thomas' martyrdom made a deep impression on his mind. After many weeks Thomas’ body with the rest of his companions were buried on the island of Sook Syum.
A few days after the execution an edict was issued threatening the arrest for any person who was found in possession of such books (Bible). Many were thrown away but some people gathered them up and the pages were used as wallpaper. After time curiosity arose and the texts were read which were on the walls of people’s homes and as the Holy Spirit gave revelation, the Koreans gradually came to believe in Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour. In time a Presbyterian congregation was formed.
Koreans gradually came to believe in Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour
In June 1871, a U.S. naval force attacked and captured five forts to punish the "natives for depredations on Americans", particularly for murdering the crew of the General Sherman and burning the schooner, and for later firing on other American "small boats taking soundings up the Salee River".
The 1904 revival broke out in Moriah Chapel, Loughor, South Wales (UK). It swept through the valleys and sparked off a revival in parts of India as well as other places. Word came to Pyongyang and the Koreans were hungry for some of the fire, and so a week of fasting and prayer was set aside for the church in Pyongyang. The church wanted God to come and touch their community but nothing happened!
Then the church elder came to the front and publicly confessed that he had been misusing money that had been entrusted into his care. An outpouring of public repentance began, and many people queued until the following morning to confess sin. The revival had begun. A policeman confessed that he had come to spy and a woman confessed adultery and her husband publicly forgave her. Eventually an old man went to the front and confessed that he had been the one who had killed Thomas, nearly 40 years before. This old man's son eventually became an elder of the Presbyterian Church in Korea and the revival began to spread to other churches.
In 1932 near the site where Thomas Jermain Robert had been martyred, in Pyongyang (now North Korea) the Thomas Memorial Church was erected at the place of his martyrdom by Korean Christians. The revival had begun