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O’Brien Trip Celebrates Asian Partnerships, Opens New Doors

Dr. Randall O’Brien preaches with the translation assistance of Dr. Billy Kim, pastor emeritus pastor emeritus of Suwon Central Baptist Church and chairman of Korea’s Far East Broadcasting Company. The trip gave O’Brien and company the opportunity to visit old friend as well as make new connections in South Korea and China.

Carson-Newman President Randall O’Brien’s recent trip to South Korea and China granted him several opportunities to celebrate personal and institutional friendships while laying the foundation for continued growth with partners in both countries. The first fruits of the venture include a new scholarship fund and plans for a motion picture which will feature C-N’s campus.

O’Brien traveled with his wife Kay, Dr. Danny Hinson, C-N’s dean of Global Education, and Hinson’s wife Jan, an instructor in C-N’s English Language Institute (ELI). The group began their outreach in South Korea where they were hosted by Dr. Billy Kim, pastor emeritus of the 15,000-member Suwon Central Baptist Church and former president of the Baptist World Alliance.

It became quickly evident that the most important part of the trip “was showing up,” said O’Brien.

“It just meant everything to them that we had come. Everyone (there) wants to come to the States, and those with the means do, but for Americans to visit them is not as common. It conveyed supreme honor that we’d come to thank them in-person for entrusting us with their students and for allowing them to study with us.”

While C-N has had covenant agreements with Namseoul University and Sungkyul University for several years, Hinson said he thinks “the non-stop trip” may well lead to “opportunities we just haven’t had before.” Some mornings began as early as a 4:50 a.m. to prepare for a six o’clock prayer breakfast where O’Brien was able to talk about C-N and share a devotional message with some 3000 people.

“There were several opportunities we do not normally have during a trip like this,” said the dean. “The relationship Dr. O’Brien has with Billy Kim opened opportunities that will serve us as we seek to serve more students in the near future.”

In his role as chairman of Korea’s Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC), Kim invited O’Brien and company to attend the Far East Forum, where U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim (no relation) spoke, and to attend the thanksgiving service for and inaugural broadcast of FEBC’s Gwangju station.

O’Brien first met Kim when he had the chance to host the internationally known pastor during his tenure as Baylor University’s executive vice president and provost. Beyond campus engagements, O’Brien invited Kim to preach at the church he served as interim pastor.

“He is a great evangelist and highly respected across the country, and here as well,” O’Brien said.

It was not long after his appointment as C-N’s president four years ago that O’Brien heard from the Baptist statesman with an invitation to travel to South Korea. Like most American evangelicals, O’Brien knew of Kim’s billing as “the Billy Graham of Korea,” but says the trip offered him a much greater understanding of his friend’s Kingdom impact.

FEBC is a 65-year-old Christian radio operation that ministers to listeners in 50 countries through some 130 languages. O’Brien said FEBC’s slogan – “Making Christ known to the world by radio” – is closer to reality than some might think, given that three billion people, almost half the world’s population, live within reach of the network’s signals.

The Korean stations also advertised information sessions where the president and dean talked about what C-N offers, including its Center for Global Education and ELI. Events include a Central Christian Academy event, hosted by Joseph Kim, son of the noted pastor. Some of the daytime sessions drew as many as 200 moms, given that their children were in school and their husbands at work.

“They had lined me up to speak at breakfasts, lunches and dinners with leading businessmen and women, and school officials; there were presidents, principals, pastors and church leaders. Every meal was important,” said O’Brien, who chairs the Consortium for Global Education. The 40-institution group facilitates and supports education at domestic and international colleges and universities.

Between the two of them, O’Brien and Hinson preached eight times and were able to meet scores of businessmen interested in helping students grow through American educational opportunities.

“It’s the Great Commission – doing what the Bible says do” said O’Brien.

During one gathering, O’Brien surprised his friend by announcing the establishment of the Billy Kim Scholarship Fund, whereby Korean students will have assistance to study on the Jefferson City campus. Hinson said the news created a sense of excitement he believes will result in donations and ultimately even more students. The dean said since returning to East Tennessee on June 1 he has heard from two students seeking information in hopes of fall admission.

The couples made a quick trip to China before heading home, traveling through Beijing to Yantai University, located near the Yellow Sea in the city for which it is named. O’Brien signed documents that will continue C-N’s partnership with the 28,000-student institution by establishing a “two-for-two” faculty exchange program that Hinson says could begin as soon as January. He further expects C-N students will have the availability of summer study programs there by next year.

Hinson said they learned that a Chinese film producer has in the works a screenplay based around a courtship and subsequent marriage that began at Carson-Newman several years ago. The producer hopes to grant authenticity to the story with location shooting on campus during the fall term. Hinson said those behind the idea hope for a large release in that country and that he and O’Brien expect to learn more as the summer progresses.

“It was a busy, busy trip, but an important one for us to make,” Hinson said. “The Korean economy is booming at this point and we were able to make some very important connections that moved Carson-Newman up to the next level. China opens possibilities that we could not have imagined not too long ago. The more we learn there, the more it can help our students and serve our mission in the future.”

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