NCCK Visit to Pyongyang and Joint Worship

ncck visit 2014-8(From an NCCK news article I helped to translate into English)

The 8.15 Joint Prayer Worship for Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula was held at the Bong Su Church in Pyongyang with The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and The Korean Christian Federation (KCF).

For this, the NCCK organized a delegation of 19 people from member denominations and affiliated organizations, and they visited Pyongyang from August 13th(Wed) up to 16th (Sat).

The first steps toward this joint worship service began with the proposal of the Declaration on Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Busan Assembly, and then the process for action agreed upon at the Bossey, Switzerland International Consultation on Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

The National Council of Churches (NCCK) and the Korean Christian Federation (KCF), after the Bossey Consultation, held this joint worship prayer service at the Bong Su Church in Pyongyang keeping in mind the meaning of the 8.15 Week of Prayer for the Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula, which was adopted by the churches of the world.

The NCCK visited Pyongyang with a delegation of 19 people including member churches, member organizations, along with women and young adult representatives on August 13th – 16th. Especially, in accordance with all that had been significantly discussed from the WCC General Assembly and the Bossey Consultation toward the extension of the exchange of women and young adults between churches of South and North, each church included the participation of two representatives from groups of women and young adults respectively. Also there was a delegation of women from the KCF, so they sought the possibility of an exchange of women between the South and North; therefore they held a discussion on the movement for reunification and the exchange and cooperation of young adults from the South and North.

ncck visit 2014-8 2The Joint Prayer Meeting began with masters of ceremonies and Rev. Kang Myung Chul (Chairperson of the KCF) welcomed the NCCK delegation with a message of welcome for visiting Pyongyang during a difficult time. He said that still, we have been connected as one in Jesus Christ even though we have not had opportunities to have frequent meetings. Also he mentioned that our gathering has a very significant meaning for creating a peaceful atmosphere, as peace and reunification is the path toward life, while distrust and war is the path toward a ruined country. We should not forget that we are one people and one blood even if we are divided by foreign powers. He said that Jesus said there will be blessings for those who work for making peace in the Sermon on the Mount. So we Christians, who have a calling for peace and unification, should reject all machinations of war which conspire with foreign powers, and we should rise up for the peace and reunification of this country. And he emphasized that carrying out the 6.15 Declaration and the 10.4 Declaration is the way toward peace and the way that our people might live. And he wished that this joint meeting could beseech God so that the peace and reunification of God would be realized immediately in this country.

ncck visit 2014-8 3Rev. Kim Young Ju (General Secretary of the NCCK) expressed gratitude to the KCF for inviting the NCCK delegation. And he said that to have a joint prayer for the purpose of making harmony and peaceful reunification is particularly meaningful, especially today, which is the day that we were liberated from colonial control. And we should meditate on the fact that the true liberation will be completed only when we have realized the peace and reunification of the South and North. For a long time, the churches of South and North Korea have done their best to work for cooperation around peace and reunification. The churches of the world have also given support and solidarity along with the efforts of the churches of the North and South. This is a good thing, but we should remember that we ought to be making an effort on our own as well, independent of foreign powers. We should not forget that the division of Korea after liberation came about from more powerful countries following their own interests, and we had no power to overcome them at that time. The North and South governments, through the June 15th (6.15) Declaration and the October 4th (10.4) Declaration, set out the practical provisions for peace and reunification. However, we have unfortunately not been able to follow through on those agreements. In this reality, we should fulfill our role as apostles of peace, and our task is to uncover the stumbling blocks toward making peace.

ncck visit 2014-8 4Bishop Jun Yong Jai from the Korean Methodist Church (KMC) preached a sermon titled, “From my Hands We Become One,” based on Ezekiel 37: 15-23; As the divided Judah in the South and Israel in the North became one people by the hands of God, so he believes that our country divided into the South and North will become one by the hands of God, and moreover he emphasized that we need more effort toward cooperation and exchange on behalf of peace and reunification.

Rev. Park Dong Il (President of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea) presided over the Eucharist where the South and North churches shared Holy Communion together as one community, and through this communion the people experienced becoming one, and they experienced reconciliation in Jesus Christ.

ncck visit 2014-8 5After that, Dr. Lee Un Sunn from Sejong University and Rev. Kim Hye Suk (KCF) read together the 8.15 Joint South-North Prayer for Peaceful Reunification, which was adopted by the churches of the South and North. The Bong Su Church choir and the delegates from the NCCK performed a special hymn. Especially the choir and the NCCK delegates experienced becoming one through the singing of the hymn. After that, the Rev. Cho Hun Jung (Chair of the Reconciliation and Unification Committee) and General Secretary of the Korea YMCA, Nam Boo Won, and President of the Korea YWCA, Cha Kyung Ae, gave a congratulatory address, and then the worship finished with a blessing by the Chairperson of the KCF. Then, the NCCK delegation visited the Pyongyang Theological Seminary and the newly renovated Chil Gol Church.

The North and South Churches hope that through this South-North Joint Prayer, the efforts for healing, reconciliation, and reunification of the people will bear fruit.

NCCK Joint Worship for Peaceful Reunification

(from an NCCK news article I helped to edit into English)

On Sunday August 10th, the NCCK Committee for Reconciliation and Unification along with 600 people from 11 member churches and affiliated organizations held a joint Sunday prayer worship service, ”The Wave of Peace, Be the Breaker of Unification,” for the peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula at Sejongro Park.

KakaoTalk_20140814_102608662The Korean Church and the World Church have been observing the week that precedes August 15th as a “Joint Prayer Week for Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula.” In 1989, the World Church had determined at the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) held in Moscow to set a joint prayer week for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula and to pray together.

Also at the Busan General Assembly of the WCC held in October 2013, the Word Church adopted the Statement for Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula, which contains that reconfirmation about churches all over the world observing the “Joint Prayer Week for Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula.” It has been reemphasized in the communiqué from the International Consultation on Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula held on June 17th - 19th, 2014 in Bossey, Switzerland.

KakaoTalk_20140814_102603342The joint worship began with introspection over the situation of the divided Korean peninsula. People repented that they did not see the suffering and pain of others, focused only on their own benefit, and they made little effort for the peace and reunification of this country while instead blaming the surrounding circumstances. According to the “South-North Joint Prayer for Peaceful Reunification on the Korean Peninsula,” which was co-created by the National Council of Churches in Korea and Korean Christian Federation last June in Bossey, Switzerland, people prayed for ending the war through a peace treaty and that we may all of us walk the way of love and truth, serving and sharing.

Significantly this time, the worship used the South and North Joint Prayer for Peaceful Reunification on the Korean Peninsula which was co-written by the Korean Christian Federation and the National Council of Churches in Korea. This joint prayer was sent to the World Churches so they may join the suffering and the wishes for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula.

KakaoTalk_20140814_102611871The preacher, Rev. Kim, from Deul-Gott-Hyang-Lin Church preached a sermon with the title, “I Am Who I Am,” and sent a message that “when seeing the people and countries of the Bible they always perished surely when they divided and fought each other. So the Christians who believe in the Bible should be the last bastion which is able to create unification.”

As a thanks giving and response, lay people took the lead for intercessory prayer. Kim Kyung Yoon from Dong-Nyok Church, prayed for the creation of a peace treaty to put an end to war and for the peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula and our prosperity. Also Kim Min Kyung from Gajewool-Noksec Church, prayed, “Let all of us be an apostle of peace so that we may work and cooperate for the peace of the world.”

KakaoTalk_20140814_102606323After that all people shared the body and blood of Jesus with love and sincerity in the Eucharist. People greeted each other with greetings of peace and prayed together.

After the service, all people gathered at the back and joined in the rhythms of Samulnori and Dedongnori which is a traditional Korean percussion quartet.

Joint Peace Prayer (text only)

Today is Liberation Day on the Korean Peninsula. May they be liberated from division and war. Let us pray the prayer composed together by Christians in the North and in the South:

 

God of Love!

It has been 25 years since we agreed to keep the week of Independence Day as a joint prayer week with the wish of reconciliation, and peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. It was a promise from the South and North Korean churches’ deep prayer to God for peace and reunification and was a vow of love in a very difficult time. We, however, still have not reached full liberation and still are experiencing conflict and hostile policies. Oh Lord! Have mercy on us.

God of the Road!

You know our suffering and pain at the division of our people. Lord, the road of reconciliation and peace, created by the life and devotion of many people, has been blocked. A high barrier of division is again being built up by people who don’t want reunification. The door of joint economic cooperation into Kaeseong has been shrinking and we cannot be sure when the pathway of reconciliation through Mt. Keumkang will open again. All sky access, waterways and railways have been blocked. Lord, we are afraid of today’s reality. Oh Lord, help us be against the injust, and open the way of peace and reunification.

God of Truth!

When we look back at this long and painful reality, you convince us that the way for sincere reconciliation and peace and reunification is coming together in exchange and cooperation based on mutual understanding, and opening military and political barricades with mutual trust. “For he is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). The Lord of the Resurrection sent peace to all people through the love of the Cross. Lord, let the ceasefire agreement, which was not made by our will, be discarded immediately and let the war finally be ended through a peace treaty. Break the influence of darkness and injustice which tries to dominate the world by force and power, and let us all walk the way of service, sharing, love and truth.

God of Life!

We want to be a lighthouse for peace in East Asia and the world to light the peace of the world. Lord, let us put an end to the military culture of plunder, domination and death that has been made by the strong. Let us build the history of life through your love. Let those confess their sin who unjustly dominate, threatening the powerless and taking the lives of others, and let them do justice again by returning all that they have exploited. Accordingly, let the South, the North, and all Christians of the world pray, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”, and let us come to the Lord who calls us as the apostles of peace.

In 2013 at the WCC 10th General Assembly in Busan, 345 churches of the world, representing 560,000,000 Christians, promised to act and pray together for the peace and reunification of Korea. However, unfortunately, the Korean Christian Federation could not join us in that time. Oh Lord, let the churches of South and North Korea make every effort to work for peace and reunification, praying together now more than ever. In the near future, let us hear the Gospel of reunification which will be to us a 2nd liberation. You are the love, truth, and life. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

August 15, 2014

 

The National Council of Churches in Korea – Korean Christian Federation

 

 

Joint Prayer for Peace and Reunification

In a few weeks the entire peninsula of Korea will honor the memory of Liberation Day from Japanese Colonialism on August 15th, 1945. This will be a celebration full of mixed feelings as this day also marks the moment when two foreign powers, the Soviet Union and the United States made the decision without Korean authority to divide the peninsula into two zones. The a long that generally follows the 38th Parallel became the line of division. Upon the Korean War, it also became an impassable wall separating families and independence partners who happened to be on the wrong side.

My new partner organization, the National Council of Churches of Korea is calling upon churches around the world to join them in praying for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. They have joined together with the Korean Christian Federation that represents Christians in North Korea to write a Joint Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Hyeyoung and I have also helped them translate a worship liturgy into English so that you all may use it or parts of it. On the Sunday before August 15th, which will be August 10th, churches in North and South Korea will use this worship liturgy and prayer this prayer together so that the responsible governments including the USA, Russia, China, South, and North Korea will dispense with hostile activities and seek peaceful reunification of the peninsula.

As Christians together we believe that our connection and power in Christ transcends the limited and imperfect means of nation states and their foreign policy decisions. Together in prayer we will find a way where there is no way as the Spirit guides us. Please join in prayer with us on August 10th, 2014.

I have attached the worship liturgy and the prayer in case you want to use it in your congregation’s worship or if you simply want to share it through whatever media your community prefers.

Joint North/South Prayer 2014

Joint North/South Worship Liturgy 2014

Prayer for Peace on 6/25

Today, June 25th, marks the day commonly recognized as the beginning of the Korean War when international powers dragged the Korean Peninsula back into conflict, except this time within itself.  As part of my job with the NCCK, I come into contact with resources, liturgy, and prayers that they have created on behalf of the peaceful reconciliation movement. I would like to share this prayer with you today which comes from a service created by NCCK members for the peaceful reconciliation movement.

Oh Lord, who unites us with the joy of liberation, thank you for filling us with life and joy and for reconciling our divided hearts through [our common worship as Christians around the world and our common communion around the table]. The fellowship you have given us becomes our hope and promise while suffering from deep division between sister to sister, brother to brother, and neighbor to neighbor.

Lord, send us your Holy Spirit to overflow with the joy of reconciliation amongst our divided selves, and help us make our nation [and this world] to overflow with your will; in Jesus Christ, who unites us with the joy of liberation.

Amen.

New Position: NCCK Reconciliation and Reunification Department

This week I celebrate the beginning of a new position for myself in addition to my role as a site coordinator alongside Hyeyoung. For Hyeyoung and me, our role as YAV site coordinator only accounts for 50% of our actual job. We spent the first year putting 100% of our time behind bringing the Korea YAV site up to speed, but now it is time for us to find the other 50% of our job. My regional liaison, Rev. Choon Lim, has made an offer to the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK)ncck logo description that I join their office, particularly working with the Department of Reconciliation and Reunification (RRD). At the moment, this means I will be traveling to Seoul to the offices of the NCCK for two nights and three days a week, then returning to Daejeon the rest of the week. Hyeyoung is still working on her other part of the job, so for now she is assuming a greater role as YAV site coordinator staying in Daejeon while I am in Seoul. This will add difficulty on her part as she will also take care of Sahn on her own while I am in Seoul. We will probably begin leaning more on other babysitters and caretakers while looking for daycare centers Sahn might attend in the near future. It will be difficult for me to not see Sahn for three days! Pray for us as we balance this.

ncck and us state dept

NCCK representatives meet with US State Dept April 2013

The details of my position will be slowly evolving as the months go by. For now, our hope is that I can facilitate more communication between the RRD and other reconciliation organizations around the world, as in Germany reunification organizations, the World Council of Churches, but also the PC(USA) denomination. There is hope that I can connect with the Office of Public Witness in Washington DC so they have a better understanding of the reconciliation movement among churches in Korea. The NCCK also hopes that I can facilitate more interaction between them and our US government in Washington DC. This activity will be of particular significance because more and more Korean organizations are realizing that they cannot hope to achieve reconciliation and an end to the Korean War on their own if other nations, especially the USA, do not participate in that same effort. I also hope to introduce more PC(USA) congregations to the reconciliation movement in Korea and its history. As the specifics of my role and tasks become clearer, I will post more updates. Perhaps the next time we visit the States on itineration we can stop by your church and I can give you a report!

Brief Snapshot of the NCCK: Several denominations in Korea created a council to work together in 1905 through the General Council of Evangelical Mission in Korea, just before annexation by the Japanese in 1910. This developed into the Chosun Christian Presbyterian-Methodist Council in 1918, which later transitioned into the Korean National Council of Protestant Churches in 1924. Eventually, this national council became known as the NCCK. Initially, the council focused on sharing the Gospel with Koreans and working on unity between the denominations. During Japanese Colonization, the council focused on the movement for Korean independence. After the Korean War 1950-1953, the NCCK worked on reconstruction of the church and society in cooperation with world partner churches. Through the 60’s and 70’s the NCCK struggled on behalf of democracy against the military dictatorships of South Korea, working on mission with the urban poor, farmers, and laborers. ncck peace campaignFrom the 80’s when official relationships with Christians in North Korea could be established, the NCCK pursued the peaceful reconciliation and reunification movement. This includes joint prayers along with the Korean Christian Federation in North Korea on behalf of peace every year around August 15th, the date of liberation from Japanese Occupation and the beginning of division under the competing systems of Soviet and US Occupation. They also continue to send food and medical aid to their partners in the North, visiting each year. We hope that my efforts will help strengthen communication and cooperation with world partner churches toward the goal of peace, reconciliation, and reunification on the Korean peninsula.

Current Member Denominations of the NCCK:

  • Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK)
  • Korean Methodist Church (KMC)
  • Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK)
  • Salvation Army in Korea
  • Anglican Church of Korea
  • Evangelical Church of Korea
  • Korean Orthodox Church
  • Korean Assemblies of God

A Child of Several Cultures

2014-05-18 16.17.03

Family pic in May 2014

White Person in USA: “Wow, Sahn is so beautiful! He looks just like his mother. You know, mixed children usually look like the (insert non-white descriptor) parent.”

Korean person in Korea: “He is so cute! Very good looking… he looks just like his dad.”

This is the majority of reactions when people in Korea or in the US meet Sahn for the first time. They generally comment on his good looks and then immediately declare how much closer he resembles either Hyeyoung or me. About 90% of the time anyone in the US made this remark, especially if the person remarking was white, they declared Sahn more closely resembled Hyeyoung. About 95% of the time in Korea, Koreans will declare that he looks like me (and to Hyeyoung’s dismay they sometimes add “That’s why he is so handsome.”). This experience reminded me how much we are conditioned to ignore the same old kind of thing we see everyday (facial features); whereas, differences jump out to us, and may even dominate our interpretation of reality. I feel the same way when I drive down the same street everyday to school or work, and eventually take little to no notice of the same old buildings and people I pass by. However, when one new business with a new sign pops up, I immediately notice and may also define that drive experience by the revelation of a new store or restaurant. So, US Americans mostly notice the features that resemble Hyeyoung’s Korean face, while Koreans mostly notice the features that relate to my white-euro face; each declaring Sahn mostly resembles the other ethnicity.

After we found out Hyeyoung was expecting a child back in the summer of 2012, we started talking and thinking more about what his experience will be like having a mostly white-euro-ancestry father and a Korean mother. While I worked with a project focusing on leadership among Asian Americans, I heard countless stories of 1.5, 2nd, and more generation immigrants dealing with the feeling of “forever between – neither here nor there.” They have grown up in the US and speak mostly English and maybe none of their parents’ native language at all. Their parents’ home country is almost completely foreign to them having grown up in US schools, with US pop culture, music, arts, and fashion.

Son of a Texan and a Korean; born in Chicago; living in Daejeon, so.... he's a wookie?

Son of a Texan and a Korean; born in Chicago; living in Daejeon, so…. he’s a wookie?

Yet they constantly received questions from other US Americans such as, “Where are you from?” “Chicago.” “No, where are you really from?” “I was born in Chicago, but I lived mostly in Oak Park, a suburb.” “No, you know what I mean. Where are you really from from?” Sahn will have to bear the burden of others’ assumption: as he does not resemble the normative image for US American white-euro-ancestry, then he must not truly be from the US, implying that he does not actually belong.

Korean children also bolster the notion that Sahn may never be accepted as Korean in Korea, as they constantly remark, “He looks like a US American.” We often respond, “But because his mother is Korean and his father is US American, then he is both a Korean citizen and American citizen. He even has both passports!” “Yes, but he looks like he is a US American.”

Tisha and Sahn contemplating lunch on retreat last fall

Tisha and Sahn contemplating lunch on retreat last fall. Sahn was a bit more chubby back then.

The most outlandish moment Sahn and Hyeyoung came across happened while out with our YAVs. Hyeyoung and Quantisha entered a pharmacy together, and despite the fact Hyeyoung was holding Sahn, the shopkeeper turned to Quantisha and asked, “Is he yours?”

We hope to be present with Sahn on his journey through identity as helpfully as possible. He must claim his identity for himself even if it ends up being “neither.” We hope to be able to equip him with the skills to engage all the various ways people in both Korea and the US might treat him for better or for worse.  We will affirm all the feelings that might arise when dealing with questions and situations as mentioned above: confusion, anger, pity, isolation, and whatever else may come. We hope he develops a firm connection and understanding of all those feelings. We will struggle to transform the world into a more welcoming community. We also know that much of his choices, how he engages the world, will be up to him in the end.

If you want to explore more about what life is like for children of various ethnic backgrounds or for 1.5 immigrants and beyond, I suggest picking up Bruce Reyes Chow’s book, But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations About Race. We are also using it to think about Sahn’s future journey with race, ethnicity, and identity.