My 11-year-old son is a Pokemon fan, and by extension a fan of all things Japanese–which sometimes gets confused with all things Asian. When I told him I’d be traveling to the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly, taking place in the city of Busan in the Republic of South Korea, he asked me to bring back “some cool Pokemon things” for him–not realizing how different the countries of Asia are from each other and Pokemon may not be a thing in South Korea at all.
I tried to give him, so far as I know it, a brief history of the Korean Peninsula. I mentioned the Korean War and the fact that his grandfather, my dad, had been a conscientious objector during that era of the military draft. The church called my father to Nigeria to do his alternative service as a 1-W. He liked Nigeria so much that he ended going back as a mission worker, and spent years and years there. He took my mom back to Nigeria with him, and so my brother and I were born and raised in Nigeria.
Then it hit me: the Korean peninsula is an important place for me and my family. The unexpected turn in my father’s life that took him to Nigeria actually originated in Korea–although his faithful response to the evils of war and his determination to stick to his convictions for peace had a lot to do with where our family ended up.
I have never been to Korea, or even to Asia before. On this trip I will check it off my bucket list of continents (Australia alone remains). I had been thinking of this assembly as primarily an ecumenical event and the opportunity to be in South Korea as a bonus to the experience.
Now I realize I need to pay more attention. Korea is important to me. It has been instrumental in shaping who I am as a person of Christian faith and pacifist convictions.
Could this translate, I wonder, from the micro or personal level to the macro–worldwide church–level? Perhaps after this 10th assembly of the worldwide Christian movement, the Korean peninsula will have become instrumental in directing the church in new ways as a community of conviction and faith. We need to pay attention!
As I make my way to the World Council of Churches Assembly, I pray the prayer that the WCC has provided participants to use in preparation:
A prayer on the way
On the way to Busan, may we humbly walk with you, God of life.
On the way to Busan, guide us as we gather, pray, and deliberate as disciples of Christ.
On the way to Busan, lead us in the way of justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.