U-C: What I See

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Intro to travel in Far East, Southeast Asia, and Middle East

Sisters and Brothers,

Here comes another adventure. I have received so many gifts from God as I have served as Moderator of the General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church (USA) this year. Perhaps the most meaningful has been the gift of new friends among our church partners around the world. Earlier in my term I visited Colombia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Peru and Bolivia (Scroll down to find reflections on each of those trips). Now, I’m on an all-night flight to Seoul, S. Korea. After one day there, we will go on to Taiwan (two days), India, (five days), Pakistan (four and a half days), and Jordan for meetings with Church leaders from the Middle East (the last three days).

On this trip, I’m accompanied by Edwin Gonzales, a friend and colleague who is an elected member of the General Assembly Council. Edwin is from Puerto Rico. He’s studying full time in Seminary and teaching full time at a Presbyterian High School there. We’ve had a few chances to speak together at meetings of the GAC, but I am looking forward to getting to know him far better during the trip. I’ll also be joined by our Worldwide Ministries Division “Area Coordinators” for each of the three regions of the world that we’ll visit this trip. Insik Kim covers all of Eastern Asia, Raafat Zaki is the coordinator for Central/Southeast Asia, and Victor Makari covers the Middle East and Europe. (Learn more about our efforts in these areas by linking to www.pcusa.org/worldwide.) These are the folks who are responsible for maintaining positive relationships with our partners in more than seventy countries around the world, and for providing a sense of coordination with our missionaries. I love working with them because they understand so well the nuances in each of the countries in which they work.

I’ve never been to any of the countries that we are scheduled to visit this trip. As I’ve traveled this year, I’ve found that the world simultaneously gets bigger and smaller each time I visit a new place. It seems as if God makes room for our hearts to expand as we meet real people. Newspaper articles I read about relations between North and South Korea make the country seem almost supernaturally bigger than life. Then, I meet folks who live there and the macro, world-sized challenges are reduced to friendships built on the hospitality of shared meals and the commonalities of a shared faith.

I’ll try to write as I go along, though I will probably have to bunch up my entries and post them several at a time because of the difficulties with getting consistent access to the internet.

Thanks to all of you Presbyterians out there who have given offered me this wonderful opportunity to represent our church with our sisters and brothers around the world.