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Showing posts from April, 2007

Trying to Connect the Dots

Returning from South Korea two days after the horrific shooting spree at Virginia Tech, I could not help but reflect on Korean culture and society in light of the tragedy.

I fear that there may be some backlash or hostility toward Korean immigrants because of the violent actions of one long-time US resident from South Korea. I remember seeing pictures of Korean shop owners protecting their businesses with fear and trembling during the ethnically-focused strive and riots in LA in the early 1990’s. More recently, the backlash and harassment of Arab-Americans in the aftermath of 9/11 demonstrates that some Americans are fully capable of displaced anger and retributive violence. I also worry that the Korean association with the tragedy will result in more restrictions on immigration that will impact the number of Korean students able to attend Drew and other institutions of higher learning.

I was heartened by the rapid response and compassionate messages of condolences from several poli…

Cross-Cultural Friendships

Homeward bound, as our plane crosses the international date line, I am reflecting on cross-cultural friendships, specifically those that developed between Rebecca and me and our hosts during this trip.

I knew Se Hyung Lee from Drew and from his participation in a Nouwen retreat I lead a few years ago for United Methodist ministers in Northern New Jersey. And Rebecca had met him when he visited to Drew to see us and set up this trip. But we had not met his son, Jon, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, who met us at the airport and was fully bi-cultural, bilingual, and a delightful host. We felt very close to him and his father on this trip.

Likewise with Rev. Jongbok Kim, senior pastor of Yeonsoo First Methodist Church, and Mrs. Kim, founder of the Elim House retreat center for people with disabilities, where our pastors’ retreat was conducted. Rev. Kim’s humble spirit, Mrs. Kim’s creativity and contagious love for Henri Nouwen as artist, and together their commitment to ‘down…

DMZ Panmunjeom

Our last day in Korea was spent at Panmunjeom in the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea was deeply moving.

Our gracious hosts, Rev. and Mrs. Jong Soo Kim, spent the day with us and showed us the many sites along the border. Near the Bridge of No Return I noticed a photograph of an old man weeping for his northern homeland. It gave me a sense of the suffering of displacement and longing for reunification. Most interesting was decorated gate across Freedom Bride, and how close one can get to the border. I asked our hosts, “If I crossed here, would I be shot?”

“Yes,” Rev. Kim told me.

“And if a North Korean tried to cross here, would he be shot?”

Again, the answer was “Yes.”

The Joint Security Area conference room is the only place where North Koreans and South Koreans can come and make peace.

Our final stop along the way was the Odusan Unification Observatory at the northern most end of the western battle line dividing North and South Korea at the Im-jin River. …

Korean Christianity

Dr. Younglae Kim invited us to spiritually savor some of the distinct features of Korean Christianity:
1. Saebyuk gidohoe (early morning prayer meetings)
2. Chulya Gidohoe (all night prayer meetings)
3. Tongsung gido (praying out loud in unison)
4. Tongdok (reading Scripture as both part and the whole)

He invited us to participate in 5am morning prayer meeting at his church. We managed to get up before that sacred hour and find our way to the second floor chapel of Seshin Church, which was filled with the devout. Methodists, of course, are not Pentecostals, but the intensity and fervency of their prayers in unison as with one voice was unforgettable. Some would pray loud and long from their seats, others cried out to God standing up, all prayed with their hearts and bodies fully engaged, sometimes rocking back and forth, visibly in contact with the Spirit of God. Rarely have I seen the spirit of prayer as James describes is so well exemplified: “The prayers of the righteous are powerf…

Malawi Connection?

This year is a sabbatical year from Drew to focus on my Malawi Mission with CitiHope International. In some ways, my trip to Korea was a distraction from my primary mission. But somehow I felt that a Malawi connection would be made, or rather, that there was a providential connection between Korea and Malawi that would become evident during the trip. Sure enough, it happened first at Elim House on Friday night and later with Rev. and Mrs. Kim at the Sky View Restaurant on Sunday night.

After dinner on the third day of the pastors’ retreat at Elim House, I was taking a nap in our room. Rebecca walked, woke me up, and announced that one of the Methodist pastors, Rev. Kwon, wanted to give me $1000 for the CitiHope Malawi Mission. I responded that I would wake up for that. I went out to the lounge area to speak with Rev. and Mrs. Kwon about why they wanted to support the mission. He explained through our interpreter that God had clearly spoken to him during their prayer time today…

Sunday in Seoul

Today is a National Day of Remembrance for People with Disabilities. Accordingly, I preached on "The Mystery of the Man Born Blind" (John 9:1-12):

I’m a seminary teacher. That’s my main job and profession. But I also have a calling to relief and development work in the world, particularly in developing countries like Africa. I’m a man on a mission to help save the lives of 1,000 AIDS orphans in Africa. More specifically, my organization, CitiHope Internatonal, is involved in food and medical aid in Malawi—one of the poorest countries in the world, population 12 million, with 15% AIDS infection rate, leaving over 900,000 orphans.

Last month I was in Malawi, Africa, where I visited a school for the blind run by the Presbyterian Churches of Livingstonia…. I was deeply touched and inspired by how those who were visually impaired learned to read and write, and gain vocational skills. The kids formed a choir and had the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. One young …

Nuclear Threat from the North?

“U.S. Maintains Patience, gives North Korea more time” read the headline today in the Korean Herald—an English newspaper in South Korea. The Saturday deadline the US imposed on N.K. to disable their nuclear program in return for favorable energy aid passed without compliance or progress. US patience is growing thin, the news article said, regarding the North Korean position to retain its right to continue a nuclear program.

A very different viewpoint is common here in South Korea, at least among the Methodist pastors I’ve talked to. They say that South Koreans are not nervous about the North and don’t really view them as a threat. Sure they have nuclear weapons, but only as a bargaining chip and to assert their ‘force-to-be-reckoned -with ‘status in the world. Truth is, I was told, the Koreans in the North and Koreans in the South feel very close these days. And the US really has no right to insist that another country give up something (like nuclear program) that they are not …

Retreat Day 3

On this third day of the Henri Nouwen Spiritual Direction Retreat, we led participants in the spiritual discipline of writing and sharing one's personal and sacred story--which Henri called "My History with God."

The idea is that each of us has not just a biography, but that our personal narrative can be viewed as sacred history in which God's hand is evident at every step along the way, and that it may be only in retrospect that we see and understand the guiding hand of God through the seasons, experienes and influences of our lives.

Henri told his story using the Rebrandt's painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son. I told my story by drawing and identifying seven Ebenezer stones of God's faithfulness on my journey thus far. "Hitherto hath the Lord help us" was the text I used for this witness (I Samuel 7:12). Rebecca drew a time line on the whiteboard and marked the events, people and places that have shapped her life. Everyone had time to repr…

Retreat Participants

Kim Jin Kook, a graduate students at Methodist Theological School in Seoul, is serving as our technologist at the retreat. In addition to running the multimedia equippment used for presentations, he captured these pictures of the ministerial leaders participating in the spiritual direction retreat at Elim House:



















Spiritual Direction Retreat at Elim House

Walking with Henri Nouwen is the name of the pastors' retreat on Spiritual Direction that Elim House Retreat Center. We are in our second day of the 4-day retreat with 50 pastors, spouses and church leaders as we focus on three Christian disciplines that help us 'live the questions'of the spiritual life: 1) the Prayer of the Heart in silence and solitude; 2) lectio divina or the meditative and devotional reading of scripture as we seek a personal word for us today; and 3) the spiritual direction of the church or community of faith. Much is of this is new yet builds on familiar practices of Korean spirituality.

Our text for the retreat is Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen, one of the many books by Henri published in Korean.






Journey to the Heart

Here at Hypsung University in South Korea, I'm lecturing on "The Spirituality of Henri Nouwen" to the seminary and graduate students, and showing film clips from the new documentary on Nouwen called "The Journey to the Heart." Its the same one being aired this week on many PBS stations in the USA.

Check out Chuck Colson's review of the documentary:

http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070407/26771_Henri_Nouwen_and_'Journey_of_the_Heart'.htm


Henri Nouwen has become popular in Korea, and most of his books are now available in Korean language.

Arrived in Seoul

After the 14 1/2 hour, 3 meal, 3 movie, completely full flight from JFK on Asiana Airlines, we arrived in Seoul around 3:30am. John Lee, a graduate student at Carniege Mellon, and his friend, met us at the airport and checked us in to our hotel: The La Vie D'or Resort and Country Club.


After a brief rest, we had a traditional Korean lunch with Drew alumni and then went to Hypsung University where Rebecca spoke in chapel on God as Poet who speaks the Word.


We return to Hysung University tonight to do a lecture on "The Spirituality of Henri Nouwen" and show the film documentary--Journey to the Heart--which is also airing in the USA this week on PBS stations.

Too tired to say much about our first day in Korea, but the weather is fine (65 degrees), cloudy, mountain are little hazy, the streets are crowded and the people
warm and friendly.


Its time now to find the pool...

Arrived in Seoul

After the 14 1/2 hour, 3 meal, 3 movie, completely full flight from JFK on Asiana Airlines, we arrived in Seoul around 3:30am. John Lee, a graduate student at Carniege Mellon, and his friend, met us at the airport and checked us in to our hotel: The La Vie D'or Resort and Country Club.

After a brief rest, we had a traditional Korean lunch with Drew alumni and then went to Hypsung University where Rebecca spoke in chapel on God as Poet who speaks the Word.

We return tonight to do a lecture on "The Spirituality of Henri Nouwen" and show the film documentary--Journey to the Heart--which is also airing in the USA this week on PBS stations.

Too tired to say much about our first day in Korea, but the whether is fine (63 degrees), cloudy, mountains a little hazy, the streets are crowded and the people warm and friendly.

Time to find the pool and fitness room...

Google Earth Zoom in on Seoul

It's strange to go East, toward the land of the rising sun, by going West into the sunset, then north on the polar route to the Orient.

Enroute to Seoul... crossed the prime meridian...lost a day of our lives...on this long, 14+ hour flight on Asiana Air packed with weary travelers.

Are we there yet?

Easter Sunday Heading East

A blessed and joyful Easter Day to you!

It's after midnight, early Easter morn, and the family is sound asleep.
The Easter eggs are dyed and ready to be hidden for the girls to hunt in the backyard, which they still love to do every year, even though they are fully teenagers. Easter Sunday Service at Central Pres promises to be one of great music with the sound of joyful Easter bells in celebration of the ancient Christian (pre-Christian) Feast.

Several years ago, when I was first involved in ministry to the children of Chernobyl, I learned how to say in Russia the traditional Easter greeting: Kristos Voskres! Voistinu voskres! (Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!)

But this Easter Rebecca and I are heading East. We fly late tonight to South Korea to teach and preach and be among the Korean Methodists. Now I need to learn the Korean version of the Easter greeting: Kristo gesso! Buhar ha sho nay!

Our hosts and sponsors for this week are Dr. Se Hyoung, Professor of Systematic Theo…