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. This week’s reflection is written by Amelia Thomas, the Global Mission Fellow serving in Seoul, South Korea.

In preparation and anticipation of the Pilgrimage for Peace trip, I was excited to learn more about the country I had been newly assigned to, and honestly very happy to be in a group that spoke the same language as me again. I also learned very quickly as a global mission fellow not to place expectations on future endeavors, but rather trust God’s will in the “waiting” periods of our lives. Which is good, because our week-long journey far exceeded any expectation that I could have formulated.

It was an educational, inspirational and thought-provoking journey with a group of fellow pilgrims that I am now lucky to call friends. Throughout this journey, I found that the word “peace” is a very complex term that has different meanings for different people. This was highlighted when speaking with a group of multi-generational, native Koreans regarding the Korean War, current divide and future hopes for the Korean peninsula and peoples.

Six different individuals spoke about their experiences and thoughts for the future, and all six were different. There was an overall commonality of the desire for peace, but each had a different view of how this should happen or what this looked like. There was talk about economics, governments, politics, history, people and foreign powers. The goal of peace suddenly seemed only a fleeting concept, that should be saved for theoretical discussions and fairy tales; not a realistic, achievable goal.

Then the Lord reminded me of a few things. The first being the starfish story, where a young boy is throwing starfish back into the sea after a storm to save them before the sun comes up. Seeing hundreds of starfish on the beach and the boy’s seemingly futile efforts, an older gentleman asks the child, “Why are you wasting your time? There are too many; you will never make a difference.” The boy picks up a starfish, eagerly throws it into the water and replies, “I made a difference to that one.”

The second reminder was that God already has this under control. Reunification and peace are huge goals and they are not achievable by us alone. However, they are achievable through God. He knows our hearts and hears our cries. His heart breaks for all that is dark and divided in this world and He is the light. I realized that to make a positive difference we do not have to start by reunifying an entire peninsula. We can start by being God’s hands and feet and spreading the love He so graciously extends to us; His reach is wider than we know. I also realized that our efforts are not futile if we are genuine and active in our pursuit of peace. Peace is achievable on the Korean Peninsula because God is peace and love and He is in control.

I will close with my final thought and prayer, which is from a hymn we referenced many times on our journey, “Lord, let there be peace on Earth. And let it begin with me.”

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.