The ReconciliAsian peace center brings peace and reconciliation training to the Korean-American community in Los Angeles.
Co-directors Hyun Hur and Sue Park-Hur, who launched the center in January 2013, believe the tools of peace and conflict transformation are gifts the Mennonite church can offer. The Hurs attend Mountain View Mennonite Church in Upland, Calif., where they were installed as co-pastors in January.
More than 600 people have participated in programs organized by ReconciliAsian over the past year and a half of the peace center’s existence. The couple has coordinated daylong seminars, monthlong discipleship workshops, shorter seminars and weekly book club meetings. Every session takes on peace and conflict transformation from a Mennonite/Christian perspective and offers guidance on ways to navigate conflict and work for peace.
“One of our primary roles of reconciliation is to create a space for these types of conversations that you wouldn’t normally talk about in the church,” Sue Park-Hur said.
When they started ReconciliAsian, they were pastors of their house church, Church for Others in Temple City, Calif., the only Korean Mennonite church on the West Coast, and the Hurs felt isolated from the other Korean churches in Los Angeles.
“We wanted to connect with other Korean churches,” Hyun Hur said. “We tried to think about what gift the Mennonites bring to other Christians, and we saw that we could build bridges through the peacemaking and conflict transformation work that Mennonites have done.”
All churches deal with conflict, and the Hurs knew of many Korean immigrant churches that had struggled with disagreements and had split rather than work through the issues.
“Primarily, we want to help them know their new identity here as immigrants,” Sue Park-Hur said. “When you’re shaken up about who you are, you feel lost and like you can’t do anything.
“We wanted to teach practical things like ‘I’ messages and active listening skills, but we realized that to really touch the people and to reframe their understanding of conflict, we had to teach them Scripture and reframe their theology. We want them to see that their identity is to be an international peacemaker for God’s kingdom.”
Hyun Hur said they use scriptures, such as 2 Cor. 5:17-20 about God’s ministry of reconciliation, and Ephesians 2, where Jesus reconciles the Jews and the Gentiles. These scriptures teach people that a Christian’s mission on Earth is to participate in Jesus’ reconciling ministry.
Korean leaders from different Christian denominations are now helping lead ReconciliAsian sessions. The spring 2014 justice and peacemaking discipleship school was held at a Presbyterian church.
These leaders also seek out the couple for their specialization. In July, Hyun Hur led a seminar on conflict and the church at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., with 10 Korean pastors.
“Now [Korean pastors] see him as more than just a local pastor but as a director of an organization that talks about conflict – and who doesn’t have conflict?” Sue Park-Hur said. “Before, they never would have asked him to talk because he was a Mennonite, but now they see him as a resource person in this field and are more open to talk about the struggles in their church and ask for help.”
In July, the Hurs visited the Mennonite Church USA offices to share about their ministry and to meet some Mennonite leaders. The tie to Mennonite agencies started at the beginning of their ministry when they connected with Hannah Heinzekehr, who at the time worked as a church relations associate for Mennonite Mission Network.
“I was impressed with how passionate they were about Jesus’ call to peacemaking,” said Heinzekehr, who is now director of communication for MC USA. “It was an opportunity for Mennonite Mission Network to support people who wanted to do mission in their community. They are genuine bridge-builders because they are so relational. They truly are mission workers in L.A.”
MMN encouraged the Hurs to connect with Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference and taught them how to organize a ministry support team, which is typically used to help mission workers raise funds. Now, ReconciliAsian is a registered nonprofit organization, and the support team members serve as part of the board of directors.
“Sandy Miller, [director of church relations at MMN], Hannah Heinzekehr and Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference were all instrumental in helping us launch [ReconciliAsian],” Sue Park-Hur said. “The collaborative work between different Mennonite organizations and friends helped this come together.”