Annual Colombian camp participation on the riseCachipay, Colombiahttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Annual-Colombian-camp-participation-on-the-riseAnnual Colombian camp participation on the riseBy Dani Klotz

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Global disciple and teacherIn remembrance https://www.pjsn.org/news/Global-disciple-and-teacherGlobal disciple and teacherBy Travis Duerksen
Ecuador, a call to prayerViolence at the borderhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Ecuador,-a-call-to-prayerEcuador, a call to prayerContributed by Delicia Bravo Aguilar and Peter Wigginton
SOOP unit celebrates 25 years of service in PhoenixSharing in communityhttps://www.pjsn.org/news/SOOP-unit-celebrates-25-years-of-service-in-PhoenixSOOP unit celebrates 25 years of service in PhoenixBy Travis Duerksen
Mennonites supply food to people displaced by violence in KasaiDemocratic Republic of the Congohttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Mennonites-supply-food-to-people-displaced-by-violence-in-KasaiMennonites supply food to people displaced by violence in KasaiContributed by MCC Staff
Service Adventure partners with Mennonite Disaster Service in South TexasSouth Texashttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Meeting-together-to-serveService Adventure partners with Mennonite Disaster Service in South TexasBy Travis Duerksen
Growing relationships between urban and rural communitiesJapanhttps://www.pjsn.org/news/Growing-relationships-between-urban-and-rural-communitiesGrowing relationships between urban and rural communitiesBy Travis Duerksen
Easter in San Antonio, a SOOP reflectionChoosing to servehttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Easter-at-the-airportEaster in San Antonio, a SOOP reflectionBy Jim and Ruth Mellinger
Holy momentsA Maundy Thursday reflectionhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Holy-momentsHoly momentsBy Kelly Frey Martin
Sharing Anabaptism throughout Latin America - a life of study and serviceIn remembrance https://www.pjsn.org/news/Sharing-Anabaptism-throughout-Latin-America - life-of-study-and-serviceSharing Anabaptism throughout Latin America - a life of study and serviceBy Dani Klotz

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Ecuador, a call to prayerhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Ecuador,-a-call-to-prayerEcuador, a call to prayerContributed by Delicia Bravo Aguilar and Peter Wigginton<p><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;">As the peace accords and the other negotiations in Colombia have advanced, there have been many people in favor of the steps forward and also people who feel like not enough has been done to forge a lasting peace. There are also people who have felt betrayed that injustices have occurred and true justice has not been served. Throughout this entire process, there has been violence along the Colombian-Ecuadorian border. It has been a place where gangs, drug lords, and defectors from various rebel groups have been able to, it would seem, do as they please. There have been tense times between the two countries, particularly because of the involvement and happenings initiated by many of these armed groups, especially since most (but not all) of them have been Colombians.</span><br></p><p>Over the last several months, violence has increased in the area, especially along the coast, and in particular violence against civilians. This all came to a head a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/04/02/three-journalists-are-kidnapped-in-ecuador-signaling-the-violence-spilling-over-from-colombia/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7fbbe42b5bc9"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">few weeks ago</span></a> when three Ecuadorian journalists, who had gone to the area to investigate and report on the increased violence, were kidnapped by a narco group that split off from the FARC led by an Ecuadorian known as El Gaucho.</p><p>On Friday, the 13th of April, the Ecuadorian government <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/13/ecuador-colombia-journalists-military-strike-rebels"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">stated</span></a> that they had no way to prove that the kidnapped journalists were still alive, and announced that they would start new coordinated military and police interventions in the area together with the Colombian Armed Forces.</p><p>In response to this the three Ecuadorian Mennonite conferences have produced the following (translated from Spanish) statement in favor of peace:<br></p><p><br></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:medium none;padding:0px;"><p>PRONUNCIATION OF THE MENNONITE CHURCH IN ECUADOR</p></blockquote><p><br></p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:medium none;padding:0px;"><p>In view of the acts of violence that occurred in Ecuador on the northern border with Colombia, the Mennonite Church in Ecudor - whose mission is "to pray and work to promote justice and build peace inspired by the life of Jesus," and which as worked for over 30 years in favor of the most disadvantaged people - sympathise with the relatives and friends of the victims. <span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We ask that God comfort them and give peace to all who have suffered these losses. And in the midst of the pain that they are experiencing right now, feel that the best way we have to honor their life and their memory is to work for a more humane world, one that respects life and values peace and justice as precious goods, so that these cruel acts are not repeated in our country and in the world.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">As a Mennonite Church, heirs of an Anabaptist theology, which promotes nonviolence, peace, reconciliation and justice:</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We strongly reject any form of institutional violence, wherever it comes from, that wants to destabilize the harmonious and peaceful coexistence that has existed in our country, and for which, we must unite as brothers that want a country in peace, that is inclusive, welcoming, free of violence, united in solidarity and without discrimination. We believe that one of the fundamental riches that Ecuador has is its people, its culture, its liberating history and its ability to promote constructive dialogue that sees the other as a brother or sister, never as an enemy.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We know that the causes of violence, injustice, poverty </span>and<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> ignorance are structural and are the product of inadequate economic and social policies. They are instead based on profit and markets, where the human being is a commodity and an object. Social polarization, poverty and, social inequalities, affect people and are directly related to the deep roots of violence. Therefore, as long as the conditions that promote social injustice, environmental deterioration and the deprivation of possibilities of a dignified life subsist, structural violence will be justified. Building peace is also reducing poverty.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">In this sense:</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call to respect life as a gift from God.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call to unite in prayer that resists </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">violence.</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> call all churches to open their doors, activate solidarity and welcome the </span>most needy<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> and oppressed brothers and sisters.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call on political leaders to promote fair laws that benefit </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">everyone.</span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;">We</span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"> call to build communities of peace and reconciliation and not only individuals guided by their own interests.</span></p><p><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call to not let ourselves be dominated by the fear that paralyzes us and </span>cowards<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> us and to instead continue fighting for a permanent and lasting peace.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call to reject violence, discrimination </span>and<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> hatred.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call to be vigilant of peace and the right to life always and with all people.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call the Media and Social Networks to handle the information with truth, respect, prudence </span>and<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> restraint.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call on the Public Force and all armed groups and those who are oriented to violence to assume an active role in preserving peace, within the framework of the broadest respect for the human rights of all involved. And through this framework to seek new ways to solve conflicts that do not pose any threat against the life of the communities that live in those areas. We are convinced that weapons and wars do not bring peace, on the contrary, they multiply violence.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We call on everyone to respect life, nature, and to unite, from solidarity, from social commitment, from faith, so that Ecuador continues to be a country of peace and security.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">"But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:44</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;">Patricia Miranda</span></p><p><span style="background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;"></span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">President of Iglesia Cristiana Anabautista Menonita del Ecuador (ICAME)</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Pastor Carlos Acosta</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">President of the Iglesia Menonita del Ecuador (IME)</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Pastor Egdy Zambrano</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">President of the Council of the Iglesia Evangélica del Ecuador (IEME)</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><br></span></p></blockquote><span style="font-size:22.4px;">Read more from Delicia and Peter at their <a href="https://wiggipe.wordpress.com/">blog</a>.</span>
Easter in San Antonio, a SOOP reflectionhttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Easter-at-the-airportEaster in San Antonio, a SOOP reflectionBy Jim and Ruth Mellinger<p>Will you let me be your servant,<br>let me be as Christ to you?<br>Pray that I may have the grace<br>to let you be my servant, too.<br><br>We are pilgrims on a journey,<br>we are trav'lers on the road.<br>We are here to help each other<br>walk the mile and bear the load.<br><br>I will hold the Christ-light for you<br>in the nighttime of your fear.<br>I will hold my hand out to you,<br>speak the peace you long to hear.<br><br>I will weep when you are weeping,<br>when you laugh, I'll laugh with you.<br>I will share your joy and sorrow<br>till we've seen this journey through.<br><br>When we sing to God in heaven,<br>we shall find such harmony<br>born of all we've known together<br>of Christ's love and agony.<br>               - Richard Gillard, 1997<br><br>It is just after Easter and a time to reflect on what Jesus's life and death and resurrection mean for today. Utmost in our minds are the verses of the above hymn that we sang together at our retirement service in Greensboro, NC, and again with the San Antonio Mennonite Church on Maundy Thursday.<br><br>We remember two of the immigrant mothers this past week who said they were going to be joining their husbands--one who had been in the U.S. two years and the other four years. Neither of their husbands had met their young daughters. We can only imagine their emotions as they waited at the airport for the final leg of their long journey from homelands in Honduras and Guatemala. It takes great stamina and strength to travel for over a month to get to this point. The one woman recounted having gone at one point for four days without food or water, sleeping on the dirt by the side of the road.<br><br>None of these women or their children are fleeing just "for the fun of it," or "to take our jobs."<br>They have very legitimate fears for the well-being and safety of themselves and their children from gangs, abuse, extortion, extreme poverty, etc. We have heard that many of them, if not most, will have a court hearing and be sent back if they don't get a good immigration lawyer.<br><br>But for several hours on any given day that we help them at the airport, we get to bring a sliver of peace and hope during a traumatic time. Most have never flown before, only speak Spanish, an Indian language, Portuguese, or French or even sometimes Russian or some other language. So our job is to help them get their boarding passes, take them through the security area and on to their gates, explaining where on their tickets to find their travel times and flight number and other important information.<br><br>We are working at the airport three days a week for 7-8 hours each day with one or two other volunteers. We help 85-125 women and children who are released each day from the detention centers that are located in towns about 1.5 hours south of here. Also, another 60-85 go through the bus terminal here in San Antonio each day. Volunteers with Interfaith Welcome Coalition help there, as well. (The detention centers bring them to the airport and bus terminal and drop them off.) The airport and bus personnel have been grateful for our help since it makes their job much easier.<br><br>Our Spanish has been coming back to us and we feel we are getting better at it each day. Jim is even better than me at remembering vocabulary, but one day I was waiting with a mother and her eight-year-old daughter for over an hour and talking with them most of the time. After 40 minutes or so, the girl asked me (Ruth) in Spanish, "Do you know English? I want to learn English." Wow! I didn't think my Spanish was sounding that authentic!<br><br>The days we aren't working at the airport, we have been enjoying the sites and things to do and see here in San Antonio, as well as participating in the life of the local church. We are only a mile from downtown and can walk to festivals there that happen almost every weekend. The River Walk is also a favorite place to go. We've seen four of the five old missions from the 1600's. We hope to get to some of the museums. Days are full, sometimes stressful, but always filled with ways to be the presence of Christ in someone's life.<br></p>
Holy momentshttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Holy-momentsHoly momentsBy Kelly Frey Martin<p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">The Assembly for the Colombian Mennonite Church, similar to the MCUSA convention, often includes a lot of tense conversations. Fellow brothers and sisters disagree; we unintentionally hurt each other. The assembly had much to talk about this year and had many tense conversations. We observed some of this with the youth. </span><br></p><p>While the adults were having their meetings, we were in a separate building learning about Servant Leadership. We opened the time with the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet in John 13. We put a chair, a bucket of water and some towels out in the middle of the circle of youth and had them walk up in pairs and practice washing each others feet. For nearly all of them this was their first experience with a foot washing so we made it really casual. As they went up in pairs we laughed when the person getting their feet wet shrieked at the cold water, we took pictures on our cell phones, we said, "Hey you forgot to hug each other!" if they did between the washings. It was really a holy moment to see these kids practicing this great act of service, love and humility with each other. Afterward, we talked about the experience, to which they all responded with appreciation of the discomfort, of the beauty, and of the meaning of such an act. <br></p><p>Throughout the weekend we continued to talk about leadership using Jesus as our model. We talked about Jesus' views on power; about his use of influence instead of coercion, about leading through relationship building, among other stories from Jesus' life and ministry. We had several group discussions on these different topics. In addition, the kids also were divided into their regions to talk about how they could better organize themselves so that they could inspire and support youth ministry from a regional level. They really took this seriously and had such passion Eric and I decided to try to get them to talk to their adult leaders about these ideas. What ended up happening was that after dinner on Sunday night, the adult leaders from each church sat down in circles with the 3-5 youth from their regions and listened to them. They supported them. The affirmed them. They embraced them. It was a holy moment. It was an experience for youth to sit with adults and really feel affirmed in their involvement in the church. <br></p><p>After that happened, we gathered as a group of youth and listened to them talk about how their conversations went. It was overwhelmingly positive and they felt heard. We had many conversations about the Church throughout the week. How it isn't perfect because we aren't perfect. How it is frustrating and hard sometimes. But that the church is also beautiful. That we love the church. As a result of this discussion, we decided as a group that we wanted to go up to the adults and offer to wash their feet. As a symbol of wanting to serve, a symbol of wanting to submit our own positions of power and agendas to serve each other. So, we planned how to do this for Monday morning's closing service.<br></p><p>When we entered the space of the adults they had just closed another tense conversation. We entered the space, each carrying our own bath towel, we had scrounged up about 4-5 old paint buckets. We said, "This week we've been talking a lot about servant leadership. We want to serve and to be a part of this imperfect but oh so beautiful church. We want to practice what we learned from Jesus about serving others through the washing of the disciples feet. We want to wash your feet. Could everyone please take off their shoes?" We played some music. Then, these 20 youth and their old paint buckets and personal bath towels proceeded to go around the circle to each adult and wash their feet. The adults were moved. The kids were moved. It was a holy moment. <br></p><p>When we had finished, an adult stood up and thanked us for this special, holy experience and offered to return the act by having all of the adults wash the youth's feet. So the adults in groups of 3-4 came and surrounded each youth with prayer and a foot washing. <br></p><p>After the experience people who had long time grudges and pain from hurt relationships forgave and hugged each other.  It was a moment of hope, of love and of deep appreciation for our community and church. <br></p><p>We closed with communion as is tradition at the Assembly, but having come from a foot washing was also very meaningful. We thanked each other for their work. It again was a holy moment.<br></p><p>I pray that this inspiration of deep love and service for one another continues throughout the year. That we can continue to love God by serving others and that this spirit of submission would inspire the whole church. God is living and among us!<br></p>
Right where God wants mehttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Right-where-God-wants-meRight where God wants meBy Inga Haglund<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Service Adventure wasn't my initial plan, and it wasn't until the last minute that I decided it was the right plan, but I have come to find that sometimes that is just the way God works. I applied and was accepted to Service Adventure just about two or three weeks before the day it was to begin. After having all my plans laid out for college, I would continue to wonder, "If college is where God wants me, then why does it just not feel right?"</span></p><p>Everything involving college all fell together perfectly. I applied, was accepted, received a scholarship and even met my roommate. Although, despite how well everything fell together, something was off. Throughout my senior year of high school, I had this strong urge to go somewhere farther away from home for college and to just do something different. Something that didn't involve conforming to the mainstream choices that most seniors in my small town made following high school. I looked at and applied to schools in Washington and Montana, where I was accepted to two of my favorite universities. I loved to entertain the idea of going to one of these schools but was still unsure if college in either of these places was the right decision. By the time graduation rolled around, I was only certain of two things; one being that college and the plans I had already configured just didn't feel right, and two being that I was well aware of this strong urge that I was to be somewhere else.</p><p>As summer went on, I pushed college to the back of my head. I filled my time with summer activities and work. Any time the thought of college appeared, I immediately pushed it to the back of my head. As summer went on, it was clear that I wasn't going to attend college, but I had to figure out what exactly that meant for me. One morning, before getting ready to leave for work, I joined my mom on our back patio, under the summer sun, for some tea. She and I always seemed to have our best ideas and conversations on the patio while sipping on tea. Out of the blue, she said, "What about Service Adventure, remember Leah telling us about her time in Anchorage?" (Leah was a previous Service Adventure participant and current leader of the Johnston unit). After discussing this for a bit with my mom, I felt the urge to further explore this possibility. So, we texted Leah, seeking information on the application process and if it was still possible to even apply. Leah gave us all the information we needed, and before I knew it I had filled out the application, had an interview, and was accepted to join the Anchorage Service Adventure unit. I finally began to become excited and feel at peace with what was to come, feelings that I hadn't felt toward college as it moved closer and closer. I think it was clear that God was calling me to something more here. God was calling me to all the things I knew I truly wanted, but in a place that God wanted me and needed me. When we listen and truly want to hear what God has in store for us, God always seems to keep our best interests in mind all while sculpting them into this image and path God has for our lives.</p><p>I am certain that Service Adventure was the best decision for myself, and it was all in God's plan. God's plan for us always turns out in ways that may not always be clear at first, but will soon make complete sense, and turn out better than we could have ever planned out all on our own. Already, about six months into Service Adventure, I realize even more just how right God was for sending me up here. God continues to reveal Himself to me in ways I wouldn't have intended coming into Service Adventure, but God never fails to remind me that God is always here and that God has something much bigger in store. I am constantly reassured that I am right where God wants me, and that Service Adventure has been a part of God's plan for me all along. <br></p>
The Olympic dream of a unified Koreahttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/The-Olympic-dream-of-a-unified-KoreaThe Olympic dream of a unified KoreaBy Jae Young Lee and Karen Spicher<p>​<span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;">NAMYANGJU, SOUTH KOREA (Korea Peacebuilding Institute) – If you watched the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, you witnessed athletes from both Koreas walking together under the Korean Unification Flag. The people of Korea, and the international </span>community,<span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;"> melted the tension and fear that had just peaked a month before. </span>In<span style="color:inherit;font-size:1.4rem;font-style:inherit;background-color:transparent;"> that moment, it was hard not to ask, "Is this reality? Are we dreaming? If this is possible now, why not at other times?"</span></p><p>To help understand why the conflict surrounding Korea is so difficult, it is important to understand the background of the tensions on the Korean peninsula.</p><p>Living in South Korea is like riding a roller coaster. The tensions with the North have peaks, followed by times of rest. If you chart these tensions, you'll see that the peaks generally coincide with the schedule of U.S. joint military drills with South Korea and Japan.</p><p>These drills are just exercises for building up defense, but because of the history between the United States and North Korea, they are perceived by the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) as very real threats. The joint military drills are initiated by the United States, not by South Korea or Japan, as a part of the current U.S. military strategy to surround China by maintaining and building a strong presence in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines.</p><p>Since the U.S. media tends to portray the North's actions as aggressions and not reactions, people living in the United States may see North Korea as a crazy communist state that is threatening nuclear war. But looking at history provides some clarity as to why the DPRK refuses to let go of their nuclear weapons.</p><p>The Korean War was the impetus for the DPRK's nuclear weapons program. At the beginning of the Korean War in 1950, the United States announced plans – multiple times – to use nuclear weapons against the DPRK. Two years later, the DPRK developed the Atomic Energy Research Institute.</p><p>In July 1953, the Armistice Agreement marked a cease-fire, but nuclear threats from the United States continued. In 1958, the United States secretly placed nuclear weapons in South Korea, which they withdrew in 1991. Even though the United States no longer has nuclear weapons in South Korea, the U.S. military presence is very strong, with 37,500 military personnel stationed here. The more frequently that the U.S military holds joint drills with South Korea and Japan, the more tightly the DPRK will hold on to their nuclear weapons.</p><p>In addition to the United States, other countries have vested interests in the current separation of North and South Korea, including China and Japan.</p><p>The reason that the United States can maintain its presence in South Korea is because of the perceived threat from the North. If Korea would become one, there would be no practical need for U.S. military bases here, and the U.S. arms industry could lose significant weapons sales from Korea, as well as Taiwan and Japan.</p><p>China might perceive the unification as the creation of a U.S. ally directly on their border. For this reason, China has supported North Korea economically, despite pressure from the international community.</p><p>For Japan, a unified Korea could be seen as a neighbor with significant military power, and a possible threat. Additionally, the current government in Japan is pushing hard to revise their Peace Constitution, Article 9, which was enacted after World War II. The government of Japan wants to become a "normal state" with the right to wage war if necessary. Threats from North Korea have helped to advance the cause for the reinterpretation of Article 9.</p><p>We believe that the only hope for peaceful reunification lies in the improvement of the relationship between North and South Korea. The power that can overcome the many political, geographical and historical barriers comes from deep inside the hearts of the people of Korea. It is a common brotherhood and sisterhood given by God. It is a yearning for reconciliation between brothers and sisters who shed blood and were divided through war. A journey to restore trust with brothers and sisters in the North will not be short or easy. It is much like the journey of reconciliation that Jacob took to meet Esau – a spiritual journey during which Jacob had to wrestle with God.</p><p>The first step toward reconciliation is by ceasing military drills, to create space for new possibilities to bring brothers and sisters from the North and South together as friends. In early January 2018, we rejoiced at the news that the United States agreed to delay joint military drills that had been planned with South Korea during the time of the Olympics. Shortly after that decision, the DPRK agreed to send athletes and other delegations to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The power to take this next step lies in Washington, D.C., so we ask you to promote the message of ceasing military drills in Northeast Asia! The next U.S.-South Korea joint drill is scheduled to begin Mar. 25, 2018.</p><p>We must choose to trust the long journey of restoring the relationship between the people of North and South Korea. If there are more opportunities for interaction, there will be more information shared. This is what will bring about a power shift in North Korea. A grassroots, nonviolent revolution of people can eventually bring down the dictatorship in the North, which is strengthened by fear and threats from the United States.</p><p>Our future of peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula is heavily dependent on the situation in Washington, D.C. We are at a crucial moment in which we need our brothers and sisters in the United States to pray for us and to talk to national leaders. Tell them that we need dialogue, not threats. We must put down our weapons, not pick them up. Right now we can see a small ray of hope, and with your support and the support of friends all over the world, that hope can grow.</p><p>Let's make the dream of the 2018 Winter Olympics become our reality.<br></p>
Contemplative prayer in the chaoshttps://www.pjsn.org/blog/Contemplative-prayer-in-the-chaosContemplative prayer in the chaosBy Joanna Loepp Thiessen and Katrina Kniss<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">One of the best parts of living in a home owned by our local Mennonite church is being at the center of church activities through the week. It means that our home is often filled with different faces doing different activities. One of those activities that started recently and will continue over the next few months, is discussing contemplative prayer.</span></p><p>About a month ago, we had the joy of reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book, "Life Together". He does not beat around the bush when it comes to telling us what living in community should look like. At first we were somewhat taken aback by what he said about the role of music in communal worship. According to Bonhoeffer, groups shouldn't sing in harmony because it takes away from the words you're singing and puts the attention on the individual rather than the collective. But understood from the context of a hidden community in the midst of Nazi Germany, a society in turmoil and bitterly divided, it makes more sense that for morning prayers people should rise and sing in unison to start the day as one. This is one small example among many of the way Bonhoeffer's story reminds us of the potential of Christian community to provide a refuge and a disciplined alternative to the chaos of the world outside, equipping us to do the work that is necessary.</p><p>While before MVS we may never have thought of ourselves as those with a disciplined practice of morning prayer, we now have made space for morning meditation and prayer- at least a few days a week, and has become not only rewarding, but necessary. Joanna works in refugee resettlement, and Katrina works as a legal advocate with immigrants, and at a time like this, it is discouraging and often heartbreaking work to be doing. It is easy to get burnt out. We have discovered that through morning rituals such as prayer, we are able to combat the weariness that our work sometimes brings.</p><p>Last week we had the privilege of hosting a community dinner with a small group from our church to hear from Jack Willome, a board member of theologian Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation. Jack talked about how so often we have intentions and plans but they don't come to fruition because people worked themselves thin without taking time for self-care and ended up angry and tired. For our work to bear fruit in the world, our actions need to come not from a foundation in anger and despair, but a foundation in hope and love. Our own Christian tradition has resources which have been pushed to the margins for hundreds of years, resources to help us understand and grow our spiritual selves, to commit to the difficult and transformative practice of centering prayer. We need to reteach ourselves to contemplate the work we do- no matter the field- so that we can find outlets to talk about and reflect on what we are experiencing, enabling us to renew our energy and intention for the long term.</p><p>Self-care isn't all bubble baths and massages- though those methods never hurt. MVS has given us the time and opportunities to find new forms of self-care that enrich our experiences and help us to do our jobs even better. It is not selfish, but rather a necessary aspect of selfless action, to take care of yourself so that you can help others more meaningfully. We have found that practices such as meditation/centering prayer, yoga, spending time in nature, and music making are all meaningful and regenerative activities for us to engage in, both individually and communally, to ease our minds, bodies, and spirits when it feels like we going to explode from anger at the government and the world.</p><p>We look forward to continuing this journey of contemplative prayer and practices to see their transformative potential at work in ourselves and our community.</p><p>Peace y'all.</p><p> </p><p><br></p><p>Bonus: Some book recommendations:</p><p><em>The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice</em> by Cynthia Bourgeault</p><p><em>The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth </em>by Christopher L. Heuertz<br></p><p><br></p>