All of us are a part of communities. Currently, I'm a part of Peace Building Community in Namyangju, South Korea, where family community, working community, and church community all overlap. (To learn more about us, see a description at the end.)
Community is a place of belonging.
I am an immigrant. When I walk around town, children sometimes announce, 외국인이다! - It's a foreigner! Here at Peace Building Community, though, I feel known. I feel at home.
In our community we do not all share blood or history. We do not have the same ideas. It is not being like-minded or like-bodied that makes us a community. We care for each other, and we cooperate to build peace and justice in our community and society. We are like-hearted.
My experience resonates with Peter Block's words from his book Community: The Structure of Belonging: "Community offers the promise of belonging and calls for us to acknowledge our interdependence. To belong is to act as an investor, owner, and creator of this place. To be welcome, even if we are strangers. As if we came to the right place and are affirmed for that choice."
I am grateful for the welcome and sense of belonging I have received at Peace Building Community. This belonging also urges me to take co-responsibility for our community work.
When we share our gifts, our communities grow.
Peace Building Community is young. We have used that name for only three years, during which time many people have come and gone. We are an "unintentional community," with no requirements regarding level of involvement. For some of us, this is our main community for home, work and church. Others join just the working community. And there are others in between.
As our community grows, I've witnessed the process of several people gradually deepening their involvement. When people start to share their time and unique gifts more freely, I am moved to share my gifts, too. I can see our community growing.
Around our world, many people try to pull personal benefit from community experiences, without freely sharing their own special gifts. For example, someone might join a church to help meet her spiritual needs, but not share her spiritual gifts. When we control our relationship with communities to maximize our personal benefit and minimize the cost, the community suffers, and we all become lonelier.
Sharing is the way of Jesus. At the same time, we must receive. This past Monday morning as I made lunch for our community, one of our newest members played with our children all morning in our home. When the same community that takes my energy also meets my needs and gives me energy, I feel blessed.
Love builds sustainable communities.
The command to love God and love others is clear in the Bible. One of my favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Before coming to Korea 11 years ago, I lived in South Texas. In our home shared with friends, there was conflict surrounding dish washing. After an open talk, we changed our rule. Instead of "each person washes their own dishes," we decided that "we'll wash dishes when we can do it with a spirit of love." So sometimes dishes piled up in the sink, but there was no bitterness piling up in our hearts. I learned to ask myself the question before any service task, "Can I do this task with love right now?"
Serving with a heart of love creates sustainable communities. When we can't act with a heart of love, it's best to ask others to help. At the same time, we can all grow in our capacity to love and serve others. I'm grateful that I can practice serving with a heart of love here at Peace Building Community.
Introduction to Peace Building Community
Peace Building, located in Namyangju, South Korea, was built in 2015. It is a three-story complex, currently home to about 15 people and several organizations (25 total staff) that have grown over the past several years.
Peace Building Community is the group of people who live and/or work together in the different organizations in Peace Building. Here are summaries of each of the organizations:
Korea Peacebuilding Institute (KOPI): Since 2011, KOPI (formerly the Peace Program of Korea Anabaptist Center) has been providing lectures and trainings on restorative justice, restorative discipline, and trauma healing for teachers, school administrators, NGO workers, pastors and other interested community members. KOPI is active in the city of Namyangju, but KOPI staff also travel all over the country for peacebuilding lectures and trainings.
Korea Association of Restorative Justice (KARJ): KARJ, an association of Koreans who support the restorative justice movement with monthly membership dues, was formed in 2014. There are three KARJ staff people at Peace Building; they do networking within this group of members, as well as provide ongoing education opportunities and resources for the members. Recently, KARJ went through the process to become officially licensed to certify restorative justice practitioners, at three levels of experience. www.facebook.com/korearj
Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI): Led by a steering committee with members from all over the region, NARPI is currently the only peacebuilding institute for Northeast Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan, Far East Russia). The administrative team for NARPI works out of Peace Building. Unlike KOPI, which runs peacebuilding trainings continually throughout the year, NARPI currently has just one two-week training per year, in August. Every year the training is held in a different location in Northeast Asia. The 2019 Summer Peacebuilding Training, the ninth annual NARPI training, will be held in Nanjing, China. www.narpi.net
Peace Building Press: While many books related to peacebuilding were published by Korea Anabaptist Press (KAP) during the early years of Korea Anabaptist Center, KAP has since closed. In 2016, Peace Building Press was founded to continue publishing peacebuilding resources. While the work of KAP focused on translating peacebuilding books written in other parts of the world, Peace Building Press is working to publish new materials.
Peace Building School: Peace Building School opened in September 2018, a resurrected version of an English-language school called Connexus that closed in July 2018. While Connexus programs focused on teaching English to elementary school students from the local area, Peace Building School is now creating curriculum that combines peace education and English-language education.
Circle Coffee and Bakery: Circle Coffee and Bakery opened in November 2016. Through the café, we aim to welcome people from the local community to Peace Building. We hope to share about our peacebuilding work with those who frequent the café. It is also a great space for hosting visitors and holding small meetings between staff.
Grace and Peace Mennonite Church: Grace and Peace is a small community of believers that gathers for worship at Peace Building on Sundays. A typical worship service includes singing, Scripture reading, time for sharing reflections about the Scripture, prayer, communion, and sharing a meal together. Grace and Peace first started in Seoul in 2007.