I’m writing from Seoul, Korea, where we’re hosting most of the Seoul USA board of directors as well as a team from Southwest Hills Baptist Church in Beaverton, Oregon, plus my dear bro and sis Bob and Pyong Faulkner (Bob of the Seoul USA Weekly Baekjeong blog fame). They’re here doing a surprising amount of heavy lifting:
- teaching at Seoul USA’s Underground University of NK defectors preparing to return to China and NK to minister to the NK church;
- launching gospel flyer balloons today in the very sea that you’re hearing on the news is crawling with military ships in the area of greatest political tension in the world (and we’re doing the launch on the 59th anniversary of the start of the Korean War);
- prayer walking INSIDE the DMZ (it’s all in who you know, I guess).
I didn’t really realize it during the planning process for the trip–I didn’t realize it until halfway through the trip, in a discussion time we had at the end of yesterday’s activities–but this trip has been a P to E move (Participation to Engagement).
And I think I think that move happens:
- a whole lot later and deeper than we normally think it does
- only at the behest of the Holy Spirit
- on the other side (I’m being totally serious in saying this here) of an existential crisis where we either have to choose between giving up or continuing to show up
Here’s what I mean:
I think I think all of our tendency–mine included–when we see the PEO chart is to think that we ourselves must of course be at the O level and our long-time supporters and donors (who, as we learn PEO, we now think of as champions) must be at the E and O level.
And I think I think that we’re likely mistaken about that. I think E is a level it’s possible for most of us Christian nonprofits to never even sniff.
I think I think that when we’re at the P level, we believe that the cause we love can be advanced, fixed, solved, helped, or assisted by the right programs and the right philosophy and the right amount of money to fund it all.
But then a moment comes when God opens our eyes to the fullness of the cause and all of our confidence in programs evaporates in a split second like water off your hands stuck under one of those newfangled hand dryers. And at that moment we have to make a choice as to what we’ll do.
I think I think compassion fatigue happens as one of the possible responses at that moment.
And I think I think denial is another possible response, where we just push out of our mind the thought that we just can’t fix the darn problem and we decide to pledge allegiance to the organization and its budget and its ongoing existence as an alternative to what we had originally hoped for (can you say idolatry?).
And I think I think the other option is something that Koreans call ‘Jung’.
We don’t have a word like ‘Jung’ in English, and I think it’s partly because we don’t much have the experience of ‘Jung’ in the West.
‘Jung’ loosely translates into “stickiness”, like the way that Asian rice sticks together. (It’s interesting, when you think about it, that Western rice doesn’t stick together…)
‘Jung’ is that part about being Korean that simply makes you stick together like sticky rice with other Koreans even when you disagree–even when you disagree so strongly that you hate each other (think about the puzzling relationship between North and South Korea, for example). Because of ‘Jung’, you stick together like sticky rice even when you don’t have an answer and when you can’t fix a problem and when you can’t see a way through.
I’ve always described the E level as a ‘lifestyle’ level. But I don’t think that’s strong enough. I think I think that most of us have P-level lifestyles in relation to the causes we love because it’s almost too painful to think that we can’t solve the problem or fix the person no matter what program we use or how much money we invest.
Now, to P level people what I just wrote sounds like discouragement or defeat. But to E level people, it sounds different somehow. A lot like love, come to think of it.
All this came up yesterday after we heard Yu Sang Joon speak. Mr. Yu’s story is the subject of the movie, The Crossing, a heart wrenching story that tells about Mr. Yu’s accidental defection from NK and his young son’s death all alone in the Mongolian desert.
Mr. Yu has never seen the movie. Doesn’t want to. Can’t really talk about it, even years later.
He struggles with a lot of things, really. His health is decimated. He is crippled by anxieties, fears, and sadnesses that he can’t put into words. He doesn’t like to leave home most days. Despite that, he’s still extremely active in ministering to NKs in ways that I can’t write about here.
What he shared with us is that most missionaries don’t have the patience for NK ministry. There’s no way to time when an NK will come out to visit a relative in China, no way to make it so when they come there’s a missionary on the spot to share the gospel with them and then disciple them properly. And even when the meetup does somehow occur, if you keep them in China in that spot long enough to disciple them properly, they’ll be detected and repatriated to NK by the Chinese public security bureau, almost certainly to die. And if you move them on along the NK defector underground railroad, they’ll never be discipled properly.
It was an MC Escher-esque conundrum he was laying out. Our minds were twisting and turning trying to figure out what program could be created or modified or funded to fix what he was talking about.
But when someone asked him why he continues to help, then, if there’s no way to accomplish the grand goal, he said simply this:
Isn’t it simply because it is a human life?
There was one person in the room who still stridently believed that good people giving generously could still create an effective program possible of fixing people and problems. He felt it was discouraging to think that even if we wanted to make a difference, we couldn’t be successful at it.
But almost simultaneously the rest of the room followed Mr. Yu across a bridge (he told us he wanted to be a bridge, interestingly, by the way) from P to E. From Projects to Jung.
(And I think I think you can’t get to Jung without going through projects. Something about the way God designed us. I think I think that may be what Paul is trying to get us to understand about the law, at some level.)
It’s interesting. The cause of Seoul USA relates to persecuted Christians. In Hebrews 13:3, it doesn’t talk about helping the persecuted church or supporting the persecuted church or fixing the persecuted church or healing the persecuted church. I think I think these things are necessary but not sufficient.
Hebrews 13:3 talks about remembering the persecuted church. Not recalling them. Re-membering them. Like, ‘putting ourselves back together with them.’
Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.