Greetings to you in the name of our hope, the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ,
The Advent is here, and just like last year, it brings me thoughts of hope for peaceful reconciliation of the conflict on the Korean peninsula. I pray that as we celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus, we may also celebrate the coming of a peace treaty to a people living in the shadow of war for over 60 years. My work with the Reconciliation and Unification Committee (RUC) of the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) has continued and has put me in connection with Koreans doing some amazing work. I would like to introduce you to one of them, but first I will update you on our current Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs).
Jordan and Kalyn have now moved well beyond the early honeymoon stage here in Korea, and they are currently knee deep in the struggle of learning Korea through Hannam University’s Korean language course. By the time you read this letter, they will have taken their first midterm and will probably be closing in on the end of the class. By the end of December, they will no longer spend four hours a day for five days a week in Korean language class. At this point in the year at their volunteer sites, they are still developing relationships with their co-workers and youth.
Now is a common time for homesickness to kick in. In fact, Jordan and Kalyn could use some of your extra prayers these days as they both are dealing with extended family illness back home in the States. In this coming year, the relationships they are developing will start to take hold and give them a source of support in Korea. So please keep them in your prayers!
For the other half of my work in Korea, I would like to introduce you to a colleague and friend with whom I have the pleasure of working in Seoul at the NCCK offices. Ji-Eun (Esther) Kim works as a kind of program assistant for the Reconciliation and Unification Committee. Actually, she holds this job by virtue of participating in a global volunteer program of the United Methodist Church of the U.S.A.
Ji-Eun grew up as a 3rd generation Methodist in Korea. When she attended Methodist Theological University in Seoul, she began to volunteer with student organizations addressing the issues of poverty, hunger, and the like. During this time she began to develop an understanding of God calling her to be a “justice seeker.” Her community there helped her to affirm the essential connection between “sharing the Gospel” and “social action,” in response to Christian communities who tried to teach that the two were mutually exclusive. When Ji-Eun sought to narrow her understanding of God’s call, she found a global volunteer program run by the United Methodist Church of the U.S.A. This program would help her discern the kind of justice that God calls her to work on, the type of people to work with, and the issue that connected most to her passion. This program bears a strong resemblance to our own YAV program! So, she went to Zambia worked with women and children as a gender justice intern, training leaders of churches in leading bible studies focused on gender justice for one and a half years. The second half of the program is one and a half year’s work in her home country, Korea.
Her return to her home Korea has provided the most acute opportunity for clarifying her passion and God’s call. She now works as a versatile program assistant for the Reconciliation and Unification Committee of the NCCK, compiling and building a reconciliation communication network, translating Korean into English, and various support in creating seminars and other events for the RUC. She will tell you how appreciative she is that I have come to work alongside her to help bear some of the load of translation! Academic Korean can be tricky to translate into English, in case you were wondering. At any rate, this work has confirmed her passion for especially striving for justice for the weak on the Korean peninsula through the peaceful reconciliation movement. Her current project is planning a Peace Walk for the NCCK RUC that will start at Jeju Island, the southern tip of Korea and walk up to the Northern border. You can also see an interview I did with Ji Eun about her work with the NCCK on this earlier post.
Ji-Eun told me that she sees the presence of God in the work that Koreans undertake to reach out and care for the weak and the suffering among them. God has instilled in her a passion for the pain of Korea suffering under a constant state of war, and for those crying out for freedom in North Korea. She is considering graduate studies in peace, war, and reconciliation once her term with the UMC program is finished, but she is also considering taking a full 3 year position as a mission worker for the Methodist Church as well. This advent season, she yearns for more vigorous progress in the movement for reconciliation. She says, “If I am a disciple of Jesus, I must work for the weak and struggle for justice.” We have much to learn for powerful women like Ji-Eun.
I thank you for your support of our assignment as mission co-workers to Korea, and Ji-Eun thanks you for the translation help. For those interested in adding your support and hopping on board this amazing journey, we welcome anything you have to offer. Especially if you are looking for somewhere to make an end-of-year donation and you haven’t found a place yet, please consider us! We have surpassed the amount we raised last year, but our target was higher this year and we still have a way to go before 2015 arrives. You joining our journey will be very appreciated! I pray the Prince of Peace be present with you and all those throughout Korea, amen.