Darrow Miller and Friends

Disciple a NATION? The Story of the Canaan Farm School

At the Disciple Nations Alliance, we often remind people that the Great Commission actually reads “… disciple all nations” (Matthew 28:19). That’s what Jesus said. But people often ask us, “Can anyone really disciple a nation? Can a country really be transformed?” So we are always looking for case studies of how God has raised up Christians to bring about Re-formation, the radical change of a nation.

Last month, for example, we published John Calvin on Discipling the Nations. And, a year ago, Why are NORTH and SOUTH Korea Such Opposites? (which introduced a paper by Luis Bush of Transform World Connection titled Transformation: from Poor to Blessed A Korean Case Study)This post captures more about the Korea story.

I was recently in Senegal where I met Eric Toumieux of the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Eric coordinates  the Beer-Sheba Project whose mission is combine “a sustainable agro-forestry program together with holistic training and an agricultural resource center for young Senegalese farmers.” Near the heart of the program is the developmental model of Kim Yong-ki, the founder of the Canaan Farmers School (CFS). When I told Eric of my interest in Kim Yong-ki and the transformation of the nations of South Korea that he ignited, he provided me with more resources on Kim’s life (here is a Methodist pastor’s reflection on Kim’s life and the CFS model.)

Kim Yonggi's farm shows we can disciple a nation

Kim Yong-ki (1908–1988) was a South Korean Christian who understood the need to think Biblically about agriculture. In 1962 Kim founded the CFS in Gwangju, Gyeonggi , South Korea to train Koreans in Biblical principles of land and life stewardship. His life mission was to convey a vision for the spiritual and economic transformation of Korea. He was a pioneer in transforming impoverished farmers and wasteland into flourishing lives and fertile lands. It might be said that Kim understood that God was the first farmer (Genesis 1:8) and thus agriculture can be a calling from God. He was committed to not only reclaiming the land, but reclaiming a vocation and a nation as well. 

Kim understood, with the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:1-2), that to transform a nation, the mindset of the people must be transformed. Here is a statement of the CFS vision for the eradication of poverty.

While it is true that eradication of poverty through lasting and sustainable development is carried out in terms of projects and programs, it is more important to educate and empower leaders who would lead people in such projects. The first component of leadership training is mindset transformation. It is because a person can change only when his or her mind changes. Once the mindset changes, the person is then able to make decisions, act on them, make those part of the lifestyle, and finally have them embedded in the personality itself. Therefore, we aim to produce model communities of poverty eradication based on mindset transformation and to raise leaders who would practice and live out the changed mindset.

Before poverty can be eradicated in a community or a nation, it must first be eradicated in the mind of the people!

The model is based on the understanding that God, not the state, is sovereign. Human beings are made in the image of God and are not merely animals with mouths to be fed. This leads to a framework of people who are poor taking responsibility for their own development: read self-help. This stands in stark contrast to the modern statist model that makes the government responsible to get people out of poverty. While the CFS model teaches people to take responsibility for their own lives and has seen a whole nation lifted out of poverty in short period of time, the statist model of so much of the world today breeds corruption, a dependency mentality, and greater poverty.

The following matrix, developed by the CFS shows the progression of the transformation of the mind and the corresponding practice of Christian internal self – government that led ultimately to the Re-formation of Korea. The progression begins with the individual and works outward: 

Canaan Transformational Matrix shows how to disciple a nation

In the early 1950s South Korea was one of the poorest countries in Asia with an annual GNP of $50. Incredible as it may seem, Korea’s major export during this period was human hair for making wigs! Today South Korea is the tenth largest economy in the world.

The Canaan Farmers School was born in 1931. While Kim Yong-ki began small, he had a large vision: the flourishing of the nation and a whole-life model impacting every aspect of Korean society.

When South Korean President Park Chung Hee visited the Canaan Farmer’s School on March 9, 1962 he said: “This is the way by which the Korean people will live a good life and so I hope you follow the example of the living and the spirit of this family and practice it.” He ordered the members of his cabinet to visit CFS, take a crash course in the principles and methods, and then begin to apply them in their area of national responsibility.

In April 22, 1970, President Park Chung Hee launched a national initiative, based on the CFS model. Known by various names–including the New Community Movement and the New Village Movement–it sought to modernize South Korea’s economy, industry, and rural communities.

This movement stressed Kim Yong-ki’s philosophy of self-help and community collaboration. To encourage self-reliance, the central government provided each of 33,267 villages with a capital investment of 335 sacks of concrete. The concrete was delivered and the government watched what each community did with their capital. Each village was free to use its collective imagination. The 16,600 villages that demonstrated a successful initiative from the first investment were rewarded with an additional grant of 500 sacks of cement and a ton of iron bars. Kim Yong-ki was considered one of the Founding Fathers of the New Community movement, an initiative that is now spreading around the world.

For more on Kim Yong-ki, and the philosophy and history of the Canaan Farm School movement see ABOUT CANAAN-YONSEI PROGRAM.

God used the kingdom vision of one Christian farmer to bring reformation to an entire nation.

By 1978 over 110,000 had been trained at Canaan Farmers School. By 2006 the number grew to over 600,000 people from all spheres of society. God indeed used the kingdom vision of one Christian farmer to bring reformation to an entire nation. Today, our dear friend and past President of Food for the Hungry International Randy Hoag is the Director of Canaan Global Leadership.

In 1966, Kim Yong-ki was the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award which “honors greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia.

Can we disciple a nation? Yes! South Korea is a modern example.

–          Darrow Miller



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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).



    July 7, 2014 - 12:46 pm

    I wish to attend your training and also to build partnership with you for development here in Uganda.

    • admin

      July 7, 2014 - 12:57 pm

      Hello, Boaz. We are happy to hear of your interest.

      The core of the DNA training is now available online at Coram Deo.

      For further information about how to partner with our colleagues in Uganda, please write Dennis Tongoi at dennis.tongoi@cms-africa.com.

      Many blessings to you, brother.

      Gary Brumbelow

  2. Cecil

    April 23, 2015 - 2:28 am

    This is a great article!
    I also wish to study in this school. How do I get in there?

  3. Edouard

    October 5, 2016 - 1:47 pm

    I would like to receive more information about the development training.
    I’m living in Togo (West Africa)

    • admin

      October 5, 2016 - 3:44 pm

      Hello, brother. We are happy to hear of your interest in this training.

      Please contact our affiliate organization in Africa, Transforming Nations Alliance. You can find them at http://www.tna.ug/

      Thanks for writing and blessings on your service to Jesus Christ.

      Gary Brumbelow

    • admin

      October 5, 2016 - 3:47 pm

      You can also get the core of the training online at Coram Deo.