【April 2019 No.402】A Meeting with One Heart for Cooperation (PCUSA Asia Pacific Partner Consultation)

by Saito Naomi, missionary (education) Reformed Church of America, Kyodan representative

In the warmth of the early sun, I arrived at Chiang Mai International Airport in Thailand on Sunday, Jan. 27th, and quickly spotted the sign that read “PCUSA.” Soon after, I met a fellow participant in the consultation, and immediately I found the joy of fellowship with a brother in Christ. Though I was very nervous about the work I would have to do in the coming days, especially since I was still quite inexperienced, this fellowship at the very beginning of the journey reassured me that with God’s strength and vision it was going to be an extraordinary conference. It wasn’t long before I knew this ethos was shared by all those involved in the 2019 PCUSA Asia Pacific Partner Consultation.

The welcome dinner began at 7 p.m. that same day. Most participants had arrived at that point, and since the resort at which we stayed was very large, we rode on a tram to the venue. As we gathered, we sat in groups of eight and promptly began conversations with anyone near us. It was a blessing to be able to meet so many partners from various countries (South Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan), and as we prayed that first night, the spirit of cooperation was palpable. Eating and conversing throughout the evening, we prepared for the hard work to come the next morning.

The first meeting started early and promptly at 9 a.m., and we sat in groups of eight once more, though the seating was assigned. Around me sat representatives from Pakistan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, and South Korea. Before getting down to business, we started with a morning worship service, where we brought forth gifts representing each of our cultures or churches. Praying and singing together before the day’s work was a potent reminder of why we were all there, to share with each other not only our voices but our hearts and minds.

After a quick recap of the Presbyterian World Mission Strategy Process, we jumped right in with a tough question: “How effective has PCUSA been as a partner sharing together in God’s mission?” Many of the participants in my work group spoke of the amazing work the PCUSA had done in their respective countries, from works of reconciliation to the creation of educational and medical institutions. It was the opinion that there could always be more ways in which to be partners in our countries, but the overall consensus was that we welcomed more involvement of the organization.

Then we had stirring presentations from two representatives, Fiji and South Korea, showing their interpretations of the signs of the times. With these visions of the work needed in God’s world, we continued on to the next question, “Where is God calling us to put our energy today?” Many spoke of further works of reconciliation between countries as well as working to communicate better between associated organizations. There were also voices for more effort in the stewardship of our planet and support for minority groups in all the countries represented. Soon after, we came to our last question of the day, “What does it mean to be partners in God’s mission today?” In defining partnership, themes of equality and communication were central to the discussion. After discussing and presenting our opinions to the rest of the consultation participants, we ended the day with prayer in time for dinner. After a long day, many needed as much rest as they could get for the next day, but the evening meal was a joyous event with further fellowship and laughter.

The second day of the conference was just as busy as the first. After our morning worship, gift exchange, and Bible study, we did a quick recap of all that we had discussed the day before. Once our memories were refreshed, we dived right into the practicalities of the work ahead with the questions “What might this look like in practice?” and “What resources are needed and what can we contribute?” Many suggestions revolved around mutual responsibility for communicating needs and evaluating mission work in progress. Of course, there was always the need for financial support, but along with that, there was also a call for physical human resources and technical support for changing cultures and times. In the end, each group was tasked with creating a take-home message for the PCUSA World Mission. My group’s take-home message was very clear: “Sustainable Partnership for Reconciliation.” Sustainable because we require partnerships that will not fizzle out over time; partnership because all parties involved require an equal stake in the outcomes of the mission, all for the reconciliation within ourselves, our churches, our communities, between countries, and all of creation. With a closing prayer and worship, we concluded our discussions and enjoyed a final meal together.

That same night and through the rest of the next day, we all departed for our respective countries. Though there was sadness in our departure, we all left with the willingness and commitment to continue working together, no matter how distant we may be from one another. The time that we were able to spend together was truly a blessing, not only for considering the Presbyterian mission but also for the international fellowship that makes it so easy to bring glory to God. With one heart, we came together, and with one heart we departed. Thanks be to God, and may each mission be blessed through the hands that work there.

 

協力のために心を一つに

(PCUSAアジア太平洋連携協議会)

                          斎藤 直実(RCA宣教師(教育))

 1月27日(日曜日)朝日に照らされたチェンマイ国際空港に降り立った私の目に「PCUSA」の文字が飛び込んできた。すぐに参加者の一人と出会い、主に在る兄弟との親睦を楽しんだ。これから数日間に渡る未経験の責務に緊張している中、到着早々交わりの時を持てたことに、神の御力を感じ、並外れた会議だという予感がするが、後にこれは2019 PCUSAアジア太平洋連携協議会に関わるすべての人に共通する思いであったと分かってきた。

 その日の夜7時からの歓迎夕食会までにはほとんどの参加者が到着し、広大なリゾートホテルの中、カートに乗って会場へ。会場では8人ごとのテーブルにつき、すぐに近くにいる人との会話が始まる。いろいろな国(その夜は韓国、スリランカ、インド、ベトナム、パキスタン)から来た参加者と出会えるのは素晴しい。その夜の祈りの時、協力の精神をはっきりと感じ取ることができた。会話しながら夕食をともにし、翌朝からの忙しいスケジュールに備えた。

 最初の会議は翌朝9時に始まり、再び8人ごとのテーブルについたが、席は決められていた。パキスタン、香港、フィリピン、ミャンマー、インド、スリランカ、韓国の代表と共に座る。会議に先立ち礼拝があり、それぞれの文化や教会にちなんだ贈り物の交換をした。一日の始めに共に祈り賛美をし、声と心を合わせ、この会議の目的を私たちの心に強く呼び覚ます。長老教会世界宣教推進計画についての簡単な説明の後、すぐさま「神に委ねられた使命を協力して遂行するものとしてPCUSAはどのような役割を果たしてきたか」という質問が投げかけられる。グループ内の多くが、和解事業から学校や病院の設置に至るまでPCUSAがそれぞれの国で行ってきた素晴しい事業について述べた。自国で連携する方法が他にもあるという意見もあったが、PCUSAの事業が増えることを歓迎するという点で一致。その後、フィジーと韓国の二人の代表が終末の徴を説明する発表をして会場が盛り上がった。神の国で必要とされているこれらの使命の展望を抱きつつ、次の質問「現在、神は私たちの力をどこに注ぐことを求めているのか」に移行。多くの人が組織間の情報交換とともに、国同士のさらなる和解について述べた。地球環境の保全のためにもっと努力すること、参加したすべての国の少数者たちへの支援についての意見もあった。そしてこの日の最後の質問「現在、神に委ねられた使命の連携者であるとはどういうことか」について話し合う。連携の定義について話す中で、対等であること、情報交換をすることが話題の中心となった。討議をし、グループの意見を全体会で発表した後、祈りと共に会議を終え、夕食となった。長い一日を終え、翌日に備えてゆっくり休みたいところだったが、交流を深め大いに笑う楽しい時を過ごした。

 二日目も初日と同様忙しく過ごす。朝の礼拝、贈り物の交換、聖書研究の後、前日話し合った内容の手短な報告があり、記憶を新たにして、早速「これは実際にはどのような形になりうるのか」「そのためには何が必要で、我々が提供できるものは何か」という実際的な質問へと進む。必要なものを伝え、現在進行している(任命)使命を評価するための相互の責任をめぐって多くの提案がされた。経済的支援は常に必要とされるが、それと共に文化や時代の変化に対応した労働力の支援や技術支援も必要だ。最後にPCUSA世界宣教のために自分の国に伝えるメッセージを作るという課題が与えられる。私たちのグループのメッセージは「和解のための持続可能な連携」。私たちや私たちの教会、グループ、国同士が、そして神に創られたすべてが和解するため、時と共に消えることのない持続可能な、携わったすべての団体が使命の成果に関わる連携が大切である。最後に祈りと礼拝をもって討議を終え、共に最後の夕食を楽しみ、その夜から翌日にかけてそれぞれの国へと旅立った。別れの寂しさはあったが、皆、互いにどんなに離れていても今後も共にに働き続ける意欲と覚悟を胸に出発した。ともに過ごした時は、長老教会の宣教として、また神の栄光を表わす国際交流としても祝福され、心を一つに集った者たちが一つの心を持ち帰った。神に感謝します。それぞれの使命が働く者たちの手を通して祝福されますように。