Journey with John
The nearer we got to our destination, the quieter the bus became. Our guide, the epitome of joy and a spirited teacher about her beloved nation, grew tense and distant as we approached. Her narrative lost its luster as she reported facts that clearly were painful for her. As we came to a stop, she suddenly became the stern schoolmaster barking out directions for our short stay. “Don’t make any sudden or unexpected movements, they’ve been known to shoot without warning. Don’t walk anywhere that is not identified as safe – not all the land mines have been disarmed. When you get inside, do NOT try to talk to the personnel. It will be taken as a sign of aggression.” We knew by the tone of her voice and the real fear in her eyes that these were rules to be followed. This was my introduction to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) separating North and South Korea.
Back in May of 2010, I was privileged to travel to Seoul, Korea, with eight other Disciples in a learning/mission trip to understand the church in Korea. A side trip was to the DMZ. It was unsettling walking to the small building where one had access to the borders of both nations. It was the first and only time I’ve ever seen an automatic weapon pointed in my direction with instructions to stop me should I get out of line. A soldier from both North and South Korea walked their assigned posts, never taking their eyes away from the other. The tension we felt in those few minutes gave us a glimpse into the fearful anxiety Koreans on both sides of the DMZ had felt since the 1950’s. I was overcome with a sense of great sadness for two people so separated. Our guide was noticeably relieved as we pulled away. We were largely silent, lost in our personal prayers for these people crippled by division. My prayers for them have been ongoing.
So, it was with reserved joy and hope that I read of the historic step taken by Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In, presidents of North and South Korea, as they agreed to move toward peace for their troubled nations. Oh how I pray they are sincere and will strive to join hands in one accord and end the fearful battle of people afraid and lost. Ingrained in my mind are two things – an automatic weapon pointed in my direction and the vision of a vivacious, engaging, confident woman (our guide) wilting before our eyes because of her people’s suffering. Oh, if only this step leads to a lasting, freeing peace. Lord, bring them peace…. Sobered by the knowledge that there are countless other nations and peoples plagued by the same fears and deadly grudges, I pray…. Oh come, Prince of Peace with your healing. Come, Lord Jesus, come….