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Shalom. Salaam, Ahn-nyung

A Letter from Unzu Lee, serving as Regional Liaison for East Asia

Winter 2023

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Dear Companions in God’s Mission, 

Peace be with you! Thank you very much for walking this journey of faith with me and supporting me in a variety of ways. I hope your daily walk is being well sustained by God’s grace and mercy.

When people ask me “What do you do?” I say, “I liaise between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its partners in East Asia.” As a liaison, I make a home both in the U.S. and Korea. This summer, I went home to the U.S. to attend the annual meeting of the Presbyterian Peace Network for Korea (PPNK) in Syracuse, NY. The flight time from Korea to Syracuse was especially long because the layover time in Detroit was almost five hours. At the end of this long journey, which took 22 hours, I was met by Linda Russell, one of the co-conveners of PPNK who lives in Auburn, NY. Because Linda still had some last-minute tasks to do to prepare for the meeting scheduled to begin the next day, we made several stops and had dinner at Panera Bread before arriving at her house on the beautiful Owesco Lakeshore. By then, I had been up for more than 30 hours, and after a warm shower, my body succumbed to sleep.

The next morning I woke up refreshed in a comfortable bed on the land of the Onondaga Nation. Soon, Linda and I headed out to the Christ the King Retreat House and Conference Center, the site of PPNK’s meeting this year. By now, you may wonder, “What is PPNK?” PPNK is one of the many PC(USA) mission networks, and it is the only mission network that connects the PC(USA) to Asia. PPNK came about because of a shared common commitment to work for peace in the Korean peninsula as U.S. citizens, and it includes those who are not Presbyterian. When PPNK was organized at Stony Point Center (SPC) in October 2017, I happened to be living at SPC as a member of SPC’s multifaith community and I started to serve on its steering committee. When I started serving World Mission as regional liaison for East Asia in February 2020 working with PPNK became my job responsibility. This means I have been an integral part of PPNK throughout its life. 

On August 16-18, a total of 19 persons gathered (15 offline and five online) under the theme of Pathways to Peace: Finding Our Way. In search of our way, we listened to our voices using the World Café methodology. We gathered around a coffee table in small groups and heard each other speak in response to questions such as: What drew you to PPNK? Based on your understanding or experience, how does PPNK reflect on your faith, values, priorities, and hopes for Korea peace? How could PPNK become the kind of network that is more inviting and effective for you and others? Where and what kind of change do you want to see happen? Considering PPNK’s capacity, what should be PPNK’s priority and why? In addition, we turned our ears to two other Presbyterian mission networks, the Cuban Network and the Israel-Palestine Network as their leaders graciously met with us via Zoom. It was truly a blessing to learn from their years of experience in carrying out God’s mission in conflict zones. In the case of the Cuban network, this meant 40 years! I was so encouraged when one of the two Cuban network leaders who participated said, “We need to work together.” PPNK’s leadership is diligently following up on the action ideas that emerged from the meeting, and it looks like PPNK’s annual meeting in 2025 might take place in Korea to connect with individuals and congregations in Korea.

The Korean Mission office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) where I work is very quiet right now, but until four hours ago, this space was buzzing with sounds of members of the Korean American Presbyterian Clergywomen (KAPCW) who came to Korea on October 17, 2023, to participate in KAPCW’s first Korea Travel Seminar. Guided by Rev. Hyeyoung Lee, one of the PC(USA) mission co-workers in Korea, 10 PC(USA) clergywomen of Korean ethnic heritage spent the last 10 days visiting many sites of pain and sorrow, including the Demilitarized Zone. They paid particular attention to the experiences of the Korean women caught in the larger dynamics of their country such as colonization, the Cold War, division, military occupation and the ensuing “economics of war,” as Erina Kim-Eubanks, one of the participants so aptly put it.

But pain, suffering, and environmental degradation are not the only things they saw. They also experienced the indefatigable spirit of the women and men of this land who rise above the oppressive forces and continue to put their faith into action. Encouraged and emboldened by the resilient spirit they witnessed, many are going home, to the U.S., with a new resolve to work for peace. One participant wrote, “I am going to share the Korean struggle and history with others. I believe that ‘God makes wars cease’ and (I am going) to act toward this promise.”

We no longer hear about war cries from Ukraine. They have been drowned out by the louder cries coming from the land where Jesus walked some 2,000 years ago. According to John 20:19, the first words that the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples who were huddled in a locked room in fear were “Peace be with you.” Shalom in Hebrew, Salaam in Arabic, and “Ahn-nyung” in Korean—these words are the words with which we greet one another not just in times of war, but ALL THE TIME. Could we say the word as if we truly believed in the promise of the word?

Peace be with you! I hope to greet you with these words when I am back in the States next year for interpretation.


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