The place to pray for foreigners and locals
In “Eat, Pray, Love,” author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote of how she found herself by eating her way through Italy, falling in love in Bali, and praying in India. Had she come to Korea instead, she probably would have done her praying at the Osanri Choi Ja-sil Fasting Prayer Mountain in Osan, Gyeonggi Province.
Operated by Korea’s largest church, the Yoido Full Gospel Church, Prayer Mountain was established in 1973 and can accommodate up to 10,000 people. With free shuttle buses running daily from the church in Yeouido, the resort welcomes believers from all over the world. The bus trip takes one hour and buses leave from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Popular with older devotees, some people stay at the resort for a couple of days, while others go for a day trip.
Upon arrival, you can hear cries from people praying on top of the mountain, even on days of extreme cold. There are a range of different places to pray - in groups or in private - and four services are held at the main sanctuary throughout the day.
The prayer hall is for those who prefer to pray openly and publicly. Many people camp there, so sleeping bags and blankets are spread across the center of the hall.
In the hall, you can also hear a cacophony of sounds: some people praying in tongues and some just praying loudly.
“I was a bit surprised about the big hall and how people spend lots of days there and sleep, pray in tongues and weep,” said Yuhan Zhang, a visitor from China. “It’s not what I am used to.”
Those who desire more serene meditation can go to prayer grottoes, which are small chambers for one or two people to spend time with God. There are different grottoes for Koreans and foreigners. You will find long queues of people waiting for keys to the grottoes.
For foreigners, 211 prayer grottoes are available. During Lunar New Year and Chuseok, crowds of around 600 people from the Philippines and Mongolia visit the resort. Every July, 5,000 people from Singapore and Taiwan visit.
A sign points to the Gethsemane Grottoes, referring to the garden in Jerusalem where Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion. These grottoes are located at a further distance and are like small caves less than two meters high. Each room is bare with only a small cushion and a light.
For Amanda Chang from Australia, the concept of prayer grottoes was strange. “We don’t have this in Australia so at first I didn’t understand why there are prayer huts,” she said. “In Australia, I can wander off to a nearby park by myself and just pray to God. But I see that it [Prayer Mountain] is completely different from Seoul as it is so quiet and scenic, so I can understand it’s a good place for meditation.”
For those wishing to stay the night, accommodation is available in western or Korean style rooms for approximately 20,000 won ($17.76). Although the resort is called “Fasting Prayer Mountain,” there is also a small cafe.
Yoido Full Gospel Church is a Pentecostal church with around 800,000 followers. It has seven services on Sundays with translations in eight languages for foreigners.
*For more information about Prayer Mountain and the Yoido Full Gospel church, visit the website: http://english.fgtv.com/
Getting to Prayer Mountain
Catch the subway to Yeouido Station, line No. 5, exit 2 or 5; Yeouinaru Station, line No. 5, exit 1 or 2. Walk 10 minutes to Yoido Full Gospel Church. Then catch the free white shuttle buses in front of the main church building.
By Joni Sham Intern reporter [firstname.lastname@example.org]