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On Pilgrimage and Beginning with the Right Questions

November 30, 2014
Pilgrim group at Oura Church, where "hidden Christians" were discovered 150 years ago

Our pilgrim group at Oura Church, where “hidden Christians” were discovered 150 years ago

As I begin a new work with MCC and Duke based in Korea, I’ve been thinking:  What are the right questions to begin with?

I am sure the right question is not the question of modernity:  What do we do?  This is to begin in presumption.  A very different starting point is embodied in questions like:  What is going on?  What is the story of where I am entering?  What are the stories of pain?  Where are the poor and the oppressed?  Where is God already at work? Where are the signs of hope already breaking in?

This is to begin not from a posture of action but of paying attention.  One might call it a posture of pilgrimage.  Pilgrimage is a journey onto strange and even uncomfortable ground of pain and hope.  It is a journey where strange ground becomes holy ground.  Pilgrimage is also a journey of strangers becoming companions.  Much is at stake for faithful mission in the formation of a pilgrim identity.

What is now called the Christian Forum for Reconciliation in Northeast Asia began with a visioning consultation at Duke University in December 2012.  One compelling call from the group of 25 (gathered at Duke from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and U.S.) was for journeying together into the context of pain and hope in the region.  “This meeting is a beginning,” it was said.  “Yet we greatly need to journey together as divided people into the context of pain and hope itself.  Otherwise our divided stories as nations will never become our story as Christians.”

Nagasaki, Japan will be the site of our second Forum in April 2015.  Indeed, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bomb drop on the city.  Last month eight core Forum leaders journeyed together to Nagasaki for a time of planning and pilgrimage.  Over these days we encountered the significance of Nagasaki for Christian history and witness, and deepened in friendship and common vision.  My companions represented a “new we” of Northeast Asians: Katsuki Hirano, Atsuyoshi Fujiwara, and Yuko Fukushima of Japan; Jongho Kim of InterVarsity and Hae Yong Choi of Korea; Wance Kwon of Hong Kong; and my wife Donna.

In my next blog posts I will share four powerful images and stories images from our Nagasaki pilgrimage.

Next posts on the Nagasaki Pilgrimage:

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