Joy that has a Serious History

(I originally emailed this in some form to some YARites, and TimN, kind soul that he is, suggested that I post here. So here we are, I apologize for the length.)

Part 1: The Introduction

Despite being a member of the Original cast, I have remained in the shadows, a lurker, secretly, greedily taking your thoughts and keeping them, without so much as an insightful comment, an empathetic pat, or a hearty guffaw. But today I join the ranks of YAR, and walk anew into the light!

So, I’m Paco, a friend of TimN. There were some legit reasons for not posting before. For instance, I was living in Afghanistan for more than half of the last two years. But now I am in Korea which is like the internet capital of the world, so there aren’t as many excuses left available to me.

But enough of that, the reason I am posting, aside from merely getting one in, is to introduce this virtual community to my physical one, and introduce myself here, in hopes to meet some of you in person, when I return to tour the US in about a month.

As has been hinted at, I have been working for an organization called The Frontiers for the last two years. We are an international nondenominational peace and reconciliation group/community/non governmental organization/funtimeparty originally based here in South Korea. Our mostly in correct English website is here.

Our blurb is here:

The Frontiers was founded in 1993 to give help for rehabilitation and encouragement and hope for peace. The focus of our work is education focused on peace building and reconciliation, helping to unite people separated physically, mentally, and spiritually by war and violence. Additionally, our projects stress community living. We believe that living side by side with people in places torn apart by conflict is essential to both local restoration of peace and broader future establishment of peace. Thus we are not merely a development/educational organization but people attempting to live truthfully in a world of falsehood, hate, and injustice. Our aim is to open up new possibilities for peace, locally and internationally, and envision together a new story of life.

Aside from our 2 intentional communities here in Korea (one rural, one urban), we live/work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Aceh, and East Timor. Basically we do various programs, largely educational, according to the need of the region, all which have a focus on community living, reconciliation, peace, and the intertwining of all of these in attempts to live truthful and nonviolent lives. Also we do some disaster relief and some disaster area reconstruction. And whatever else we can get our hands on.

Basically we seek to be not merely a church in the traditional modern sense but a true community, informed and inspired by Christian principles, but not limited to such. In this community we can learn how to truly live, joyfully and nonviolently. But we are a missional community, missional not meaning evangelism, and so believe we must also live and work communally in places of violence, war, and hardship. Or we are a neighborhood community with the whole world as our neighborhood.

We feel that most traditional communities are too inwardly focused, sacrificing our call to go into the world in a real way. Even those that do recognize this call generally relegate it to a separate entity. Thus, we have today an unnatural divide. The church/community and the Christian NGO. Yet, we want to propose that the community is God’s tool for change and rebirth. That a false divide has been created by a misunderstanding of the church and therefore Christian community, words that should in fact have the same meaning. The work of these two groups (NGO and Church) cannot be divided and do so is to serious impair real reconciliation and right living. So for The Frontiers, nonviolent community is our life and our work. Peace-building being our journey, community being our vehicle. Ever aspect of our life and work is intertwined, one part being no more valuable than the other. Thus there is no difference between our life and our work.

The typical NGO does nothing to teach us how to live and there is a serious disconnect between their work and the communities that supposedly “benefit” from their activities. Those connect with local communities tend to do so only superficially. The typical community is only involved in one place, locally, and with its own members, and tends to serve others only peripherally. The Frontiers hopes to combine these in a rediscovery of the holistic (and yes, probably over-glorified) Christian community of the early church. We seek to be a worldwide network of nonviolent communities living simultaneously personally, communally, locally, globally. We seek true peace in our lives in all aspects of our persona.

That’s the Frontiers. At least that is what our hearts look like at their most hopeful and shiny.

Part 2: The Request

Thing is we want to extend our “network” to North America. The purpose of this would be expanding the possibilities of global peace-building and connecting peace-building in North America with that of East Asia. Also we are looking for volunteers and workers from North America, both long term and short, as a way of becoming a more truly international organization, and also connecting North Americans to places where their governments policies often wreak havoc, and connecting people from economically well off nations, with those of lesser means.

So here is where your help comes into play. I am hoping to come to the U.S. in March. At this time my plan is to travel around the joint, meeting like-minded groups and organizations and interested individuals. I also hope to do some speaking to promote our group and attempt to get some more volunteers and workers. Basically touring around, visiting groups, schools, churches and whatever else.

My schedule looks like this:
March 7-17: LA and Fresno
March 18-22: Denver
March 24-April 7: Midwest (Chicago, Indiana, Michigan)
April 8-22: East Coast (NJ, NY, MA, PA, Maybe Virginia)
April 24-> Midwest Again

So I know YARies are interested in these sorts of things and may have access to jobs, universities, groups, churches, that might want to engage with me, or failing that you might know people who do. So if you wish, please assist me.

More concisely here are my aims for the trip:

1. Getting workers and volunteers for short or long term programs or community living.

2. Networking with like-minded groups and communities in North America. Making friends, sharing ideas and inspiration. Trying to connect North American peace building with Asian peace building.

3. Getting the word out about our work and or things going on in our areas of work, and peace and community type work happening in Asia in general.

4. Raising financial and prayer support.

If you have a place I can visit for meeting any of these aims or if you want to just meet me and chill, please email me: paulphilipmichelson AT yahoo.com . I realize time is short, but that’s the way it goes around here. Additionally, I hope to set up early for a similar tour next year.

That’s all. Sorry for the Novel. And thanks for welcoming me to YAR.

(The title of my post comes from Daniel Smith of the awesome art-rock band, Danielson Famile. It’s a description he gave in an interview once of his work and band and perhaps True Christianity.)

Comments (6)

  1. paco (Post author)

    Also big thanks to Lora for already helping me out a bunch.

    Reply
  2. TimN

    Paco, welcome to YAR. I said I’d introduce you a bit, so here it is:

    I got to know Paco last summer on a 6 hour road trip back from a friends wedding in St. Louis. He shared about his experience of reading John Howard Yoder with some friends who had never heard much about Anabapists before. As I remember it, he said they were inspired by what they read and decided to visit some Mennonite churches. What they found didn’t really square with what they’d read in The Politics of Jesus and so they hadn’t been sure what to do with it.

    My conversation with Paco was the final straw that convinced me this blog was worth setting up. I’d already had conversations with young Mennonites who were interested, but my conversation with Paco made me realize there were other young Anabaptists who weren’t Mennonite that might be interested as well.

    So there you have it: the Story of how Paco helped kick-start YAR.

    Reply
  3. Amy

    Paco,

    If you are in the Philadelphia PA area, you HAVE to get in contact with “The Simple Way”, a group of Anabaptists living in community in parts of Philadelphia and neighboring Camden. I don’t know their info, but Google them. They are such a good match for your organization!

    Best of luck!

    Reply
  4. ryanm

    Frontiers is a wonderful organization, grounded in prayer and commitment to reconciliation. I was fortunate enough to visit the Frontiers community in Seoul last spring and spend an evening with staff and volunteers. Thanks, Paco, for bringing more attention to this group of grass-roots radicals seeking to be part of a larger solution. We put together a photo gallery that includes shots of and information about Frontiers. Here’s the link, click on “World Christian Frontiers”: http://www.mennonitemission.net/Work/International/Gallery/SouthKorea06/SouthKorea06.swf

    You should visit Mennonite Mission Network if you come through northern Indiana. Cheryl Woelk can connect you in Seoul, or contact me at ryanm [at] mennonitemission.net and I can help make some time for staff.

    Reply
  5. paco (Post author)

    Thanks for your interest and help thus far everyone.

    Tim: your recollection is mostly correct. We were all religious studies and philosophy majors, and in attempting to undermine everything we had ever been taught or not taught, eventually stumbled upon nonviolence and Anabaptism, not limited to, but most importantly Yoder and his fancy book learnin’. Then, yes, while not undo-ably disillusioned, we did kind of become drifters after failing to find in actuality what was talked about in bookuality. Or at least I did.

    Amy: I know of the simple way, and had looked into contacting them, but it appears that they only have a PO Box, so i am not sure how to do that from Korea, especially with limited time.

    Ryan: That’s great that you got to visit us. Were you able visit Saemter, our rural community? It’s really neat. Also, I know Cheryl and Korean Anabaptist Center is one of our main partners in Korea, so i will ask her about setting me up with something with MMN, and also you I suppose. We have some very small links with several of the larger Mennonite organizations, but not being ethnically mennonite, Its not the most natural thing for me to navigate the mennoweb. Thanks for offering to help set something up for me!

    Reply
  6. Amy

    Paco

    Here’s a place to start. Email jemerson@eastern.edu. She’s the contact person for Shane Claiborne w/the simple way, and can at least be a starting point.

    Reply

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