Praise Instead of Prejudice
Daesung Kim, South Korea
Office buildings surround the Seoul Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, and it is very difficult to make contact with people. When I was pastoring there, I thought that it might be effective for the church to operate a vegetarian restaurant. If we provided fresh food and friendly service, perhaps the nearby office workers would like it.
When I first approached the church about this idea, most members were against it because they already had tried this but had failed. I assured them that I wouldn’t use the church budget and that Ellen White had said many times that if we established this kind of restaurant in the cities, it would be very successful. At last, the members agreed.
As a nonprofit organization, the church isn’t permitted to own a restaurant, so I organized a health association and invited those working in the surrounding offices to join so that they could eat in our restaurant. During the next three months, I visited every office and invited each person to become a member of our health association. I explained that we would provide the freshest vegetarian food and that by becoming a member of the association they could eat this delicious food Monday through Friday. The membership fee was the equivalent of US$100 per month. Many people signed up.
The church members and I distributed more than five hundred free meal tickets. Each recipient was entitled to one free meal on a certain day at the restaurant. We were happily surprised when nearly five hundred guests arrived. As they enjoyed their meals, I announced that as members of the health association, they could eat here every day. Many joined.
To operate this kind of restaurant is not easy. It’s important to have a good building, and the church pastor must have a good relationship with the community. Of course, the food is important—if it isn’t tasty the guests won’t continue coming. A few years after we started, we lost our cook, and her replacement wasn’t as skilled. As the food quality went down, so did the number of guests. Once we replaced her, the food quality improved and again membership in the health association rose.
We found that there are many benefits coming from this venture. In Korea, many people think that Adventists are an unwanted sect. Because of this mind-set, some were reluctant to visit the restaurant.
But as our vegetarian restaurant became more well-known, Christian church pastors, Buddhist monks, and priests decided to come. After getting to know us, these people have only praise for our church, instead of prejudice. Many of our guests have high statuses in the community.
By God’s grace, our vegetarian restaurant has been operating successfully for more than 12 years. It is one of 117 centers of influence in South Korea.
Adult Sabbath School Lesson L8Q22015 Inside Story