Partnerships Take Time

By Rev Naomi Duke

Posted in News

Just like the woman at the well (John 4:1-4), partnerships take time. Time to sit and wait; time to share stories; time to reveal true dreams and desires; time for honesty and trust; and time for God to be at work.

Not everyone wants to wait. Some people, like the disciples, don’t want to put in the time, instead they are concerned with their own needs and desires. The demands of their churches and the comforts they have created for themselves. Distracted by the rumblings in their stomachs rather than the needs of others they would prefer to react to their own immediate needs and discover a quick way to feel good.

International partnerships are not about making ourselves feel good. They aren’t a quick fix to get the youth engaged in a project or a hope for baptism. They are no longer the fly in fly out, look what we did in my holiday adventure. They are a slow burn that requires thought, attention, community, sitting and reflection. Which means they are no longer a shiny fun thing that we can make about us. Because of that we can be like the disciples, looking for a quick fix to meet our hunger and desires and miss out on what God is doing in our midst.

For more than thirty years the Uniting Church in South Australia and the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea (PROK) have sat together. It doesn’t sound glamorous, or shiny and it isn’t. People might wonder why sit so long? Why haven’t you got something physical to prove the partnership is of worth? Why would we support sitting? Where is the project I can support? Anyone can sit.

It turns out not just anyone can sit because we don’t have a large support group willing to sit, listen, build community, share ideas and opportunities and encourage the church in a community unlike our own.

At our recent Synod meeting we sang Aunty Denise’s song Yanakanai – it is a song welcoming people to gather together. What did that song mean to you? We sang a song of another community as though it was ours. If we don’t mean what we sing then it wasn’t about community. It could perhaps be thought of as cultural appropriation.

Again, like the disciples we could sit and wait or we could sing the song and then turn to our own needs and miss the opportunity for community. Our group sang (with permission) Yanakanai at the PROK Presbytery meeting. An invitation to come and gather. Not just the invitation to gather for business, but a heartfelt invitation to gather to hear stories of the past thirty years of churches making the courageous decision to sit.

Despite distance, cultural differences, language differences, and no buildings to paint or build, there was a mutual desire to learn as equal partners in a way that has not been done before. A thirty year partnership is unique in the Uniting Church.

As a partnership we know we are ageing and far from sexy. We also know that sitting together in partnership has opened our hearts and minds to understanding God’s mission in the world a little bit more.

We have experienced what it means to see God at work in ways different to what we would hope or want to experience at home. We have seen God who is not white, blue eyed and with blonde hair but sometimes might look strikingly Korean. We have experienced the generous hospitality of God through copious amounts of kimchi, Korean BBQ, bibimbap and rice. We have experienced the presence of God through prayers spoken in a language many of us don’t understand in words but feel in our spirit. Like the woman at the well we have gone to the well thinking it was just another day and yet our lives have been changed as we gathered, sat, listened, prayed and shared.

Many years ago at Synod, we had a story teller join us to share the story of the stone soup. A story you might remember from childhood. A town that was once thriving had a well in the town square where people of all ages gathered, men and women connecting, as well as children who chased each other around the well. Then the town experienced drought and slowly people stopped meeting at the well. They stayed indoors, looking after their own needs rather than meeting at the well. Then a stranger came to town. He took a bucket of water from the well, made a fire and began to boil the water. Then he added two stones. From behind closed doors the people peered out to see what the stranger was doing. Eventually a courageous person stepped out to speak to the stranger and hear what he was doing. If you know the story each person was asked to bring something to add to the water and eventually soup was made for everyone and as they brought what they had, they stayed around the well, talking and eating, sitting and listening and the children played.

Our Korean partnership is like the well. Once it was a central part of the life of the church but as our own needs have demanded more attention we stopped meeting and even talking about ‘the well.’ It’s still there, even if you don’t meet there. Are you the courageous person willing to step out of your own comfort to see what is happening at the well?

We encourage you to bring what you have and to experience the well again. Drink and eat at the well. A place that invites you and welcomes you to experience community and God’s mission in the world.

Sitting might be like sitting on a zip line hundreds of metres above the ground peeking through tightly shut eyes, or it might be sitting in a bush chapel worshipping God. It might be sitting around Korean BBQ communicating through broken sentences and made-up sign language or it might be sitting laughing in a lounge room after running through the rain to see the whales. It might be sitting, listening to the pain of a country ravaged by war and occupation of another country or sitting and hearing the pain of our Indigenous sisters and brothers. It might be sitting and hearing the passion of one group of people wanting to stand in unity with another group as they share their pain and struggles.

It takes courage and commitment to sit, to meet Jesus, to welcome the stranger, to just share what you have, but in doing so your relationship with God grows and you see God in ways you never expected.

 

Indigenous / English / Korean translation

Yanakani - come – iriwahyo

Wimilangha ikpala - we will sit together - hamgae anjoyo

Arrawatanha - most high – chun Yang hamnida

Ngarpalangha ikandha - is present here – Chunnim ee hamgai hamnida

 


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