The Pilgrimage for Peace to Korea gave participants the opportunity to engage with Christians of South Korea while learning about the culture, history and division of two Koreas. Several participants wrote about their experiences while reflecting on this season of Advent: the season of active waiting. In eager expectation and action, we join the Spirit of Jesus, Prince of Peace, to bring about healing, reconciliation and peace.

The first reflection is written by Rev. Markus Wegenast, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Appleton, Wisconsin. Rev. Wegenast was born and grew up in the Black Forest area of South Germany.

I was blessed to be able to join the Wisconsin Conference sponsored Pilgrimage for Peace to Korea in October. For ten days we explored significant places in South Korea including historical sites, many Methodist churches and also three excursions to the Demilitarized Zone on the border to North Korea.

The separation of the two Koreas is a complicated matter. Of course there are explicit similarities to the separation of the two Germanys that I myself experienced as a teenager. When Germany got reunified in 1990, there were (and still very much are) great hopes among the Koreans that someday the same will happen there. But there are also significant differences; differences that seem to stall the hope.

One thing I realized is that peace between two warring countries is something that can and has to happen while it’s still in the making. I have encountered so many peace making and peace seeking ministries in South Korea. People are engaged in these peace-making efforts despite the fact that formally their countries are not at peace with each other yet.

In a way it reminds me of the theme of our Advent series this year: Awaiting the Already. Peace can already be a reality while we wait for a full realization of it in the future. Just as we can see Christ’s presence already among us while we still wait for a fuller version of it in God’s future.

What are the areas in your life in which you are at war with someone or something? What does it look like for you to make peace now, while things are still hostile?!

This Advent season, as you prepare for Christ’s coming, think about ways how you can be a peacemaker.

I met a young man in South Korea who is part of a ministry that has him go up a mountain near the North Korean border early in the morning - every single day. The sole purpose of going up the mountain is to pray for peace on the mountain top while watching the sunrise over the Demilitarized Zone.

Will you pray for peace this Advent? Will you pray for peace in Korea? Will you pray for peace in the hostile situations of your life? Will you thus be awaiting the already?

May God bless you for your 2018 Advent journey.

Blessings, Pastor Markus.

The Pilgrimage for Peace to Korea was a ten-day pilgrimage organized in collaboration with the Korean Caucus of Wisconsin UMC and the Dongbu Annual Conference of the Korean Methodist Church. Five active clergy members, one retired clergy and eight laity participated. While the majority came from Wisconsin, there were also participants from Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Tennessee.

The purpose of the pilgrimage was to experience the division of the two Koreas and to engage with Christians of South Korea in their works for peace and reconciliation. The pilgrims travelled all across the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, from an island off the west coast of the peninsula to the most northeastern tip sharing the border with North Korea. The pilgrimage provided the participants with profound and powerful experiences to realize how catastrophic another war would be in the land, how desperate people want for peaceful coexistence of the two Koreas, and at the same time how complex the issue is with all the mix of the wounds in their hearts and the power that the U.S. has exerted in the peninsula. The prayers for peace had deepened in the hearts of the pilgrims as they learned more about the history of Korea and as they met and engaged in dialogue and meal-sharing with Koreans of different generations.