Reflection on Korea Advance
I began my journey to Korea with stringent rules and expectations from the Korean Embassy in Nairobi for Kenyans traveling to Korea. As I was looking and praying for an affordable flight, the Korean airline launched a direct and affordable flight from Nairobi to Seoul. They advertised their flight to their citizen as an opportunity to visit ‘indigenous people with primitive energy’. I was a bit apprehensive going to a country that has such a perception of my countrymen. My opinions and anxiety of the trip was affected positively due to the warm welcome at the airport from Young and Joshua who ensured that I changed money and had a trouble free journey to the host college in Seoul. They were very gracious hosts. This reality confronts missionaries who will plan to serve in closed countries or in regions that have cultural assumptions about the missionary that could cause apprehension for the foreign missionary. Even with information available about a culture, there will always be cultural assumptions about that are far from the truth. African missionaries need to know that the entry requirements to other countries are more demanding that those of western missionaries, but these should not deter them from venturing forward to distant lands.
The visit to the prison museum was inspiring. Though the history was hinged on Japanese invasion and occupation of Korea; I was able to see how the local people overcame great adversity to become a great nation. The visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was also memorable. The walk into the tunnels that were dug up by North Korea shows the length the two nations will go through to try and show their military might. I struggled with the fact that the adversity of north and south Korea has been turned into a tourist attraction, maybe I need to understand the conflict more deeply to see the contours of the relations of the north and south Korea. The most encouraging this is the Koreans’ desire for unification. I know that in the future this will happen though my prayer is that it will be a peaceful process. The visit to the missionary cemetery inspired me to know that every life we live is not in vain. Some of the missionaries may have lived their lives not knowing that they would inspire thousands of people in generations to come. I was honored and humbled by the opportunity to contact them through their work in bible translation, providing shelter for orphaned children, establishing schools and hospitals and most importantly, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and establishing local churches. I know then, that the dreams I have to work with the least of these in my context will be made possible ‘now that I am surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses’.
Finally, gender issues were most shocking. With all the technological advancements and a vibrant Christian community, I could help but wonder about the way male church leaders fumbled on the issue of women in Christian leadership. The reprimand to understand the Korean culture in order to understand the place of women in society was not as I expected. In my context which is mainly a patriarchal society, women are respected and when they excel, they are given leadership responsibilities. Not so in South Korea. The last presentation by a Korean woman leader about her experiences in church ministry was shocking. I thought that such incidents belong to the last millennium but it seems that the church in her context is still adhering to a theology that excludes women from leadership.
I personally would have loved to make friends with local Christian women and spend time listening to their stories of womanhood and motherhood. Spending a day with a Kenyan student who is studying in Korea gave me a Kenyan perspective on Korean culture. I feel that I can pray for the church in Korea because I have a foundational understanding of the history and the issues that the church faces.
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