Fourteen college students from the United Methodist Mississippi and South Carolina conferences will travel to South Korea next month as part of a delegation seeking “Parallels of Peace, Pathways to Justice.” They will be accompanied on the 10-day pilgrimage by five adult leaders, including two General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) staff members who planned the trip.
Members of a Young People’s Delegation to South Korea gathered during the Mississippi Conference to be commissioned for their trip next month. In the front row (from left) are Benton Brown, Jillian Abballe of the General Board of Chruch & Society (GBCS), Jenna Johnson, and the Rev. Levi Bautista, also of GBCS, which arranged the trip. In the second row are the Rev. Justin White, Billy Rainey, Jacob Shelley, Raney Rogers, Amy Evans, Sarah Altman and Kiara Cervantes. In the back row are the Rev. Bruce Case, Mississippi Conference Peace with Justice coordinator, and Ellen Olack.
The initiative brings together a diverse group of United Methodist young adults from the Southeastern Jurisdiction to explore parallels of peace between South Korea and the United States through a multi-layered cultural and spiritual experience.
Ultimately, participants hope to encounter pathways of justice that connect the struggles for reunification and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula with the history and ongoing struggle for racial, social and economic justice in their own home in the Southeastern United States.
Members of the “2015 Young People’s Delegation to South Korea” took part in a “Psalm of Anointing & Commissioning” during the June 5 morning session of the Mississippi Annual Conference in Jackson. Bishops James Swanson Sr. (Mississippi) and Young Jin Cho (Virginia) led the commissioning.
The Rev. Lisa Garvin of the Mississippi Conference and a member of the GBCS Board of Directors represented the agency’s chief executive, the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, at the commissioning.
United Methodist resolution
Since 1988, The United Methodist Church has had a statement in its Book of Resolutions that supports peace, justice and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.
During their pilgrimage, the delegation will hear from ecumenical and community leaders about the challenges of doing mission on the Korean peninsula.
Korea has been divided for more than 65 years. The urgency of reunification is being made evident by Korean Christians, who point out that the division has separated families and people who share a common language, culture and history.
GBCS staff members, the Rev. Liberato Bautista, who directs the agency's U.N. & International Affairs ministry, and Jillian Abballe, program associate, will guide the delegation as it travels in South Korea July 1-11.
Thematic- and geographic-based travels
The delegation will be received by the Korean Methodist Church, the National Council of Churches in Korea, and other ecumenical bodies, including the Korean Student Christian Federation.
GBCS’s U.N. & International Affairs ministry in New York City arranged the “2015 Young People’s Delegation to South Korea” itinerary through the office’s network of ecumenical, inter-governmental and non-governmental contacts in South Korea.
GBCS’s U.N. office hopes to organize other thematic- and geographic-based travels modeled after this pilgrimage. The U.N. & International Affairs office envisions that such trips will occur annually with college students and young adults. Trips will focus on different regions of the world each year.
Just as with the “2015 Young People’s Delegation to South Korea,” GBCS will seek partnerships with annual conference Peace with Justice Coordinators and Church & Society networks.
7 months of preparation
Conference leaders of the 2015 delegation are the Rev. Bruce Case, Mississippi Peace with Justice coordinator, and the Rev. Jeri Katherine Warden Sipes, South Carolina Peace with Justice coordinator. The Rev. Justin White of Mississippi shares a leadership role.
The delegation’s participants have prepared for the trip during the past seven months. Preparation has included prayer, worship, reflection, and a dedicated Facebook group. They have also agreed to read the novel, One Thousand Chestnut Trees: a Novel of Korea by Mira Stout.
Delegation members have committed after they return to share their experiences with churches in both their home and annual conferences this fall. They are expected to encourage others to support God’s movement of justice and peace in South Korea.
The more than $50,000 cost of the trip has been entirely underwritten by contributions from congregations, individuals, represented colleges and universities. Most notable are Millsaps College, which has five students participating, and the Peace with Justice funds of the Mississippi and South Carolina conferences.