About Sarah Barry


2 Co 12:9a "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

I. Jesus' Grace and Missionary Calling

By God's grace, I was born in Benoit, Bolivar County, Mississippi on January 22, 1930. My mom and dad loved each other, but my grandmother did not approve of the match between her only son and the red-headed first grade school teacher. So it was by God's grace and sovereignty that they married. I was named Sarah for my great grandmother, Sarah Boone Barry (family of Daniel Boone). My brother Tom was born in November of that same year. Our family lived in my grandmother's home. My father was the only son of a widowed mother. My mother lived under her powerful mother-in-law for 50 years. I slept with my grandmother. She read the Bible to me every night. I was her chauffeur. She didn't mind it that I was only 13 and had no driver's license. My mother loved music and played the piano for church. She wrote poetry and fairy tales. I was rebellious and hard to handle. She wanted me to learn piano. But I wanted to play with my brother and his friends and ride my horse whose name was Rebel. People say that I am like my father. He enjoyed good food. He liked to party and was a good dancer. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church. He was a peacemaker in the church, in the community and in the family. He and my mother attended our 1981 Niagara Falls conference at Brock University. After my father's death, God graciously allowed my mother to live in Chicago with me for the last 7 years of her life.

I finished Benoit High School in 1947. There were 12 people in my class. I was not number 1 or number 2. I grew up in Benoit Union Church. Our church was shared by three denominations. We were Presbyterians. I graduated from MSCW in the class of '51. I lived in the dorm. I was restless and unhappy in high school, so I decided change my character and make friends in college. I learned the names of the 400 girls in my freshman class and was elected to the student council. But I couldn't change my heart or my inner person, and I had no inner peace. I majored in Chemistry and minored in Speech. During my sophomore year, I was flunking Chemistry. I saw no reason to study. I wondered if the Bible and the faith I had been taught as a child were true. I wanted to follow the truth. One night I opened my Bible to James 1:5. I found that God promised wisdom to anyone who asked him for wisdom. So I got down on my knees and asked God - if there is a God - to give me wisdom. A few days later I was invited to join a Romans Bible study group. God worked in my heart. I got a glimpse of my selfish, proud sinful life. And I learned that through the blood of Jesus my sins were forgiven. I accepted the Bible as God's word. I accepted the sovereignty of God. Soon after, I attended a revival in the First Baptist Church. When the invitation was given, the congregation sang, "Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me..." I went forward and made a public profession of faith. I repented of my sins and accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. My darkness turned to light. I wanted to give my life to Jesus. I made a small decision not to study on Sunday. I realized that as a student, I should study for the glory of God. My grades improved so that I made the honor societies my sophomore, junior and senior years. During the summer, I worked with Vacation Bible Schools. I also was a counselor at our Presbytery Camp. I spent two summers as a home missionary in White Lake, an isolated community located on the banks of the Tallahatchie River. (There was no Tallahatchie River Bridge at that time.) I learned that money and material things don't determine a person's value.

After I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I found peace that I had never known. I wanted to quit college and go to seminary, but I accepted advice and finished college. After I graduated from MSCW, I went to the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia. There were three teachers there who taught the Bible using the inductive method of Bible study. They were graduates of the Biblical Seminary of New York. When the Korean war began June 25, 1950, I was a junior in college. I thought about war and peace. I had found peace in Jesus. It seemed that it would be better to send missionaries to troubled people than to send guns and soldiers. I promised the Lord that I would go anywhere as a missionary if he wanted me to. I remembered this promise while I was working at Ole Miss. So I volunteered to the Presbyterian Board of World Missions. They appointed me to serve to serve with the Korea mission. This was God's grace in my life. I accepted Jesus' command, "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19), and claimed Jesus' promise to be with me to the end of the age. Before going to Korea, I decided to finish my Christian Ed degree in the Biblical Seminary. I wanted to learn how to study and teach the Bible. I did not want to export American Culture. I also had a course in missionary linguistics. This was a great help in learning Korean language. After finishing Biblical in 1955, I went to Korea. Much progress had been made to restore life to normalcy in Korea, but many evidences of the war were still there. There were orphans and widows and broken homes and wounded people. Tuberculosis was at epidemic proportions. I accepted John 12:24 as my key verse for missionary life: "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." I decided to study the language with all my heart and try to understand and learn from the Korean people. I wanted to plant a seed in Korean soil.

After a month on an ocean freighter, I arrived in Inchon harbor in early September. I had been appointed as an evangelistic missionary and assigned to Kwangju Station. I plunged into language study with a tutor. I designed my own study program. I lived on the mission compound in a large, old American-style house. The senior missionary in Kwangju station was Miss Florence Root. She gave me my Korean name, Bae Sa Ra, supervised my language study and introduced me to country evangelism. I itinerated in the Hwa Soon, Tam Yang, Young Kwang, Chang Sung areas, and visited islands by boat. I learned a lot about grass roots culture, and faith that sustains even in the devastation of war and poverty. I learned about the "Nevius Plan" from the early Korean Church history. Its core was Bible study. The emphasis was on training the laity to be evangelists. The goal was to build a self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating mission-minded church. I also began attending early morning prayer meetings--the church bell in Yang Nim Church rang at 4:30 a.m. I went to pray and to listen to Korean. After 3 months in Kwangju I was sent to the language school in Seoul. I decided to move off of the Mission Compound into a Korean home. I moved into the home of the Tae Hung Lee family. This was an important turning point in my missionary life.

II. University Bible Fellowship begins in Kwangju

While I was in the USA, on April 19, 1960, the students overthrew the Syngman Rhee government. When I returned to Korea in the summer of 1960, anarchy was taking over. Many students wanted to march north, join the Communists and unite Korea. Then on May 16, 1961, General Chung Hee Park staged a bloodless military coup d'etat. This brought stability, but the students were confused and without direction. In the spring of 1961, I moved to a two-story building that had been used as a billiard hall in downtown Kwangju - 176 Tae In Dong. It became the Christian Student Center. It was here, working with Dr. Samuel Lee and Dr. John Jun (then a student), that UBF was born. Kwangju students were eager to learn English, so the response to our afternoon English Bible class was very good. I learned first hand that God works through his word. Jesus commanded us to "make disciples." So we decided not to have a "come and go" student center, but to train disciples of Jesus, teaching them to obey God's word. The campus movement grew. It was truly a grass-roots movement. God worked through the students. By the end of the school year there were over 80 campus group Bible studies meeting each week. God sent his Spirit to honor and bless his word. They named themselves, "Bible Research Society", Tae Hak Sang Sung Kyung Yun Gu Whe in Korean and University Bible Fellowship in English.

We needed to deal with the beggar mentality that had infected every level of society. After the Korean war, relief goods poured into Korea. This was both a blessing and a curse. Needy people, widows and orphans were fed and clothed. But also, a beggar mentality developed. The young men and women who should be tomorrow's leaders were poor, fatalistic, and without hope. We prayed for world mission because Jesus commanded it. Students had no money. But in 1964, by faith, with our five loaves and two fish, we sent a missionary to Cheju University on Cheju Island. God taught us a giving spirit and blessed us to become a self-supporting movement. I continued to teach the Bible every morning and every afternoon. But English Bible class was no longer our main focus. As the ministry grew, my role became less and less important. Samuel Lee and the student leaders were doing everything. I had worked myself out of a job. Once, in Kwangju I struggled about this. Was my work in UBF finished? Then I realized that I was called by God, not people. I decided to stay the course and serve him in UBF until he moved me to another place.

In 1965, on my second furlough, I came back to study for an M.A. in education at the George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee. I had been there 3 days and was on my way to church, when a young black man jumped me from behind and tried to rape me. I yelled--the Bible says to yell in such circumstances. A passerby heard me and called the police. I was in the hospital for a month. After this, I had to struggle to repent of my fear. God healed me and took away my fear. My assailant repented and became a Christian. When I left for America in '65, Samuel Lee took full charge of the ministry. The missionaries in Kwangju station tried to take over student work, but national leadership, student initiative and ownership were the principles that God taught us. We prayed for Seoul pioneering.

III. Seoul pioneering: "Enlarge the place of your tent"

I returned from America in 1965, after having completed my M.A. I realized that God had spared my life because he still had something for me to do. When I requested the Presbyterian Mission in Korea to assign me to Seoul, they agreed. Samuel Lee's friend, Dr. Won Sul Lee strongly advised us not to try to pioneer Seoul. He said that the students in Seoul were too intellectual to be interested in simple Bible study. Anyway, I made plans to go to Seoul, and students in Kwangju prayed for Seoul. In the meantime, a situation arose in Taejon. My friend in Taejon who had tried to start a UBF chapter on her own returned to America. She left a student center and a handful of students. My SP missionary colleagues in Taejon asked me to come to Taejon and do something about the leaderless UBF there. So I moved to Taejon. I got a room in the Mok Chuk Inn, near the student center and taught English Bible. I stayed 6 months. Samuel Lee and the Kwangju students supported the Taejon project wholeheartedly. They even sent the inside doors of the Kwangju center to Taejon. After a leader was established, I went to Seoul. In Seoul, I rented the "Yellow House" at Hyo Jae Dong 25. It was located near the main campus of SNU. It was a small second-floor meeting place with a warm floor room in the back where I lived. On my first Sunday in Seoul a classmate from Peabody invited me to speak to her church. I spoke on Matthew 2, the visit of the Magi. I talked about the importance of seeking truth during one's student days. One young SNU freshman asked me for my address. The next day he came to study English Bible. He was Paul (Chin Hee) Rhee, who grew up to be the staff shepherd of the Kwan Ak UBF chapter. He brought his friend, Mark Yang.

In the summer of 1967, Samuel Lee was invited to speak in an IFES conference in the Philippines. He asked John Jun, Sunji Kim and Kum Ja Chung to come up from Kwangju to Seoul to help me. Sunji gave John Jun a hard time and he got mad at her. But anyway, we prayed together to pioneer SNU. They visited the campus, gave out flyers and advertised English Bible classes. God worked among students and we could take some Seoul students to the national conference in Chunju. There were many students in SNU who were seeking truth and meaning. Many came to study the Bible in English. At first, they came for English, but later, they stayed to study the Bible. We moved to a larger house in the alley behind our Yellow House. It was 37 Hyo Jae Dong. It was a typical Korean house with an open court and many small rooms around it. We put a roof over the court, put in a floor, removed the walls from the rooms and made a big meeting place. I lived in a small room in the back of the center. God did a great work in all of our lives in this humble building. The busiest students were medical students. Hyun Bae (Dr. James H) Kim was president of a Christian Medical Student society. He came to study English Bible and brought most of the members of his club. In Kwangju we had focused on group Bible study. In Seoul, we focused on personal Bible study. Samuel Lee wrote Daily Bread notes, going through the whole Bible twice. Each student studied the daily Bible passage and wrote according to his own understanding and application. Once a week the students of each college met in the Center and shared their Daily Bread writings. These meetings were student led. The Seoul pioneering period was characterized by demonstrations. The students demonstrated against the government. They did not like the relations with Japan. They did not like the constitution. They did not like the president. Each time there was a demonstration the university closed. UBF had Bible schools. We continued to pray for world mission, because this was Jesus' command. God opened the way to send missionaries to Germany. It was about 1968. In 1970, a door opened for lay missionary doctors and nurses to go to America. In 1975, I returned to the USA on my regular furlough. I went to Chicago. A small UBF missionary community had settled there and were praying for America. After 20 years, I resigned from the Presbyterian Mission. They asked me not to resign, but it seemed to be God's leading.

While in Chicago, I wrote Genesis study materials for one-to-one Bible study and began to write Daily Bread in English. I prayed about how to register UBF as an organization in the USA, and how to bring Samuel Lee from Korea as a missionary to be the UBF director. This was something that we had talked and prayed about a lot in Korea. I went to Mississippi and got help from my father and from an old friend, Jack, a lawyer. He had been my boyfriend in the first grade. We wrote a charter and by-laws and registered UBF. The small UBF chapter in Chicago gave sacrificially and purchased a store-front building, 5817 N. Clark, to use as a meeting place. Then, they petitioned Samuel Lee to come to America as the director of UBF. I returned to Korea in January, 1976. The real pioneering of UBF USA began when Dr. Lee came in 1977. Several graduates of the SNU College of Nursing came with a clear commitment to campus evangelism, so they got a one bedroom apartment in Evanston and started fishing Northwestern students. Later, we bought the Evanston Prayer house. We had a common life there. I lived in the Prayer house from 1979-1987. In 1985, Dr. Lee and M. Grace Lee went to Russia as tourists. After this, we began praying for Russia, which was tightly bound behind the iron curtain. In 1990, I also went as a part of a prayer journey team to Russia. In September of that year the door opened and Korean student missionaries went to Moscow State University. After we left Korea, God used Dr. John Jun and the Korean UBF to send more than 1500 missionaries to 87 countries of the world. The number changes every day. Samuel Lee and I are very different. It seems unlikely that we could work together for 40 years in the pioneering of UBF. This was not what we planned; it was what God planned. It was God's grace to me. Samuel Lee was a shepherd. He loved those around him with a shepherd's love. He also loved me and cared for me with a shepherd's love. I gave my heart to God first, then to Samuel Lee and to Korea. I decided to trust God's work in Samuel Lee. God used him greatly.

In January, 2002, God called Dr. Lee to heaven. Even though he had been sick for a long time, it had never occurred to me that he would leave us. The Korean Elders and the USA Elders prayed together and asked me to take over as General Director. Who could follow Dr Lee? He was a great shepherd of God's flock. It was the time for all of us to work and pray together. After becoming the General Director, God has enabled me to visit and pray with missionaries in around 60 UBF chapters all around the world. This is God's grace to me. I could see that God is raising national leadership in many chapters. God gave us a prayer topic for the Muslim world and North Korea, and to send out 100,000 missionaries to 233 countries of the world by 2041. God has been working to answer our prayer. I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit Israel and Egypt, including Mt. Sinai in January. It was like a virtual reality Bible study. May God bless UBF missionaries and shepherds in every place to be a kingdom of priests - missionaries to the unbelieving world, and a Holy nation - those who love God and who love each other.

SarahBarry University Bible Fellowship


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