This was my first APBY Conference and I leave blessed!
Truth be told, I had never heard of APBY or APBF until Pastor Vee reached out to me last Fall asking if I could participate and lead a workshop on “Writing God-centered Songs”. In the US, outside our many Baptist conventions and associations, we don’t really talk about Baptists internationally. So to be a part of this conference was an eye-opening experience. Getting to see all the various nations and cultures in the Asia Pacific gather in one place to worship God and have fellowship in Him was like a dream come true. Surely, living in the States I get to witness the plurality of immigrant churches existing in our neighborhoods. However, it is rare to see immigrant churches come together to worship together. Even in a racially-ethnic diverse church, it is rare to celebrate diversity in cultural representation. I was therefore amazed at how the Holy Spirit created unity in a gathering that is complex considering cultural boundaries and differences. In the States, some have become desensitized to the fact that cultures exist and that not one culture is above others. We don’t talk about the Holy Spirit as well. On the flip-side, some have become too sensitive to not offend other cultures. Hence, generally in American churches, American Christians do not know how to let the Spirit create unity within us as Christians as we celebrate the different cultures in our congregations. I was therefore extremely blessed to witness the coming of nations into one place to celebrate and worship our Almighty God. If I could, or if I was a Missions pastor, I’d like to convince my American church to join in on one of the APBY conferences to experience what it is like to worship God in a unified body outside our American context.
As a Korean-American, it was odd for me at first. I was not necessarily coming from an Asian-Pacific nation. Though I identify myself as a Korean, I was not coming from South Korea but the States. So when the different countries were being called out, I was like, “Do I represent my Korean peoples or not?” To my thought, culturally, I could have. When I saw the different tribal clothings on Friday evening, I thought to myself, “I could have bought my Korean 한복(hanbok).” I was reminded on how often I’d wear the hanbok as a kid on important holidays/special occasions. Though, I am sure I would have sweated a lot on stage had I worn it and led praise. BUT I loved and enjoyed every moment of APBY Con2019.
Aside from worship leading alongside gifted worship leaders and musicians, I was privileged to lead a workshop on writing God-centered songs. When Pastor Vee initially asked me if I would like to lead this workshop, I had my joy and concerns. I am a nobody Christian singer-songwriter based in the United States. I have been writing songs of worship and testimony for 10-years. Unfortunately, Asian Americans are not known of or heard of in the American Christian Music Industry. So leading up to the conference, I would go to the LORD and say, “LORD, I really have nothing to offer or give to the delegates of the APBY Conference. I am highly unqualified to talk about writing songs that are God-centered. Yet if this is Your Will, then so be it.” I was going into unknown territory of what worship and praise music looked like outside the US/Korean context. I remember telling the delegates that my way of writing was different because of the cultures I grew up in. Because I grew up singing both Korean and English worship songs, my influence of writing comes from there. Theologically, Korean worship songs are focused more on suffering and hope in Christ, whereas English songs (outside the hymns) are more focused on the glory and praise of God. And so, I hope that the delegates who attended the workshops understood that writing God-centered songs reflect foremost on God and then creatively crafted by one’s culture. As we were writing our “group” song per session, I told one group, “My way of writing is not the same as your way of writing.” We have a lot of good praise songs written by international Western Christians. However, God have given those of use to write new songs to Him rooted in His Truth and creatively expressed through our own culture. It would be a great loss when we stop writing songs for our people that glorifies God through the culture He has given us in order to cultivate into His own.
Overall, I thought the workshops went well! I pray that those who attended the workshops got something from it. I hope to hear more songs rise from local congregations in order to bring glory to God and impact their respective communities.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of this conference and community. It means a lot for me to be able to witness Asia-Pacific Christians and Asian Americans like myself praise God in one accord. I pray and hope we all will use the gifts God has given us all to make genuine disciples and multiple throughout the earth for His Kingdom’s cause.
by David Kyei Ko