Korean students prepare for ministry via ''travelling theology''

Gyoung Ho Jeong: ''process of learning from life settings''

A Korean professor who has taken theology students to live with nomadic herders in Mongolia and with the urban poor in Viet Nam believes he may be creating a new branch of theology, one which he has dubbed « Travelling Theology ».

Gyoung Ho Jeong who teaches Christian social ethics at Youngnam Theological College and Seminary in Kyungsan is in Geneva for meetings of the executive committee of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (21-31 May).

Jeong described his novel approach to teaching theology in a review of initiatives by Reformed church institutions in response to economic and environmental concerns. In Mongolia, Jeong’s students learned from herders about living a lifestyle that respects the local ecology.

“The herders showed us that they could gather all their garbage for six months in one small plastic bag,” Jeong marvels. “Each time they cooked rice, they would put a few grains into the ground to say thank you to Grandmother Earth.”

Jeong laughs as he reports that students learned about caring for God’s creation by literally getting their hands dirty. “When the local people realized that we could not ride horses and would be of no use for herding, they assigned us to collect horse dung to enrich the soil!”

The Korean group observed that, despite the herders’ care for the environment, their drinking water is polluted by other sources and is causing high rates of kidney problems. The students left vowing to return with a kidney specialist. "This is a process of learning from life settings,” says Jeong. “It is not tourism.”

A second group of students travelled to Ho Chi Min City on a peace mission to bring apologies to local churches for Korea’s role in the American war in Viet Nam. Jeong says it is not widely known in Korea that from 1968 - 1971 there were Korean soldiers fighting alongside American troops.

“This involvement in the war effort helped Korea take off economically,” Jeong says. “We are now a rich country because of what we did. So we must apologize.”

The students were invited by the church in Viet Nam to visit congregations where they brought apologies, the first known to have been made by Korean Christians.

Seeing the poverty in the communities they visited, the students chose to eat frugally and to save their food money to contribute to a project which is building houses for the poor. The savings of USD $1500 will cover the costs of building three new homes.

“My job is to train seminarians who will work in the future world,” says Jeong. “These experiences will affect how their theology develops for years to come.”


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