Homeward bound, as our plane crosses the international date line, I am reflecting on cross-cultural friendships, specifically those that developed between Rebecca and me and our hosts during this trip.

I knew Se Hyung Lee from Drew and from his participation in a Nouwen retreat I lead a few years ago for United Methodist ministers in Northern New Jersey. And Rebecca had met him when he visited to Drew to see us and set up this trip. But we had not met his son, Jon, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, who met us at the airport and was fully bi-cultural, bilingual, and a delightful host. We felt very close to him and his father on this trip.

Likewise with Rev. Jongbok Kim, senior pastor of Yeonsoo First Methodist Church, and Mrs. Kim, founder of the Elim House retreat center for people with disabilities, where our pastors’ retreat was conducted. Rev. Kim’s humble spirit, Mrs. Kim’s creativity and contagious love for Henri Nouwen as artist, and together their commitment to ‘downward mobility’ and vision for compassionate ministry with the those often neglected by the world, was inspiring and exemplary. The four of us hope to travel together to a world area of need sometime in the future.

Also, Rev. Jong Soo Kim, founding pastor of 3,000 member Seshin Methodist Church, and Mrs. Jong Soo Kim, fluent in English and so proud of their daughter, Soung Ae, a student at Drew, hosted us for two days. The more time we spent together, the closer we all felt to each other, and we began to think about how we could do ministry in the world together, possibly in Malawi, together. Seshin Church already has 50+ missionaries and mission projects worldwide, and a new church plant in Malawi would truly be a great thing to do together.

Finally, I’ve been friends for many years with Younglae Kim, a former professor at Drew and who still teaches in the DMIN program, and now Associate Professor of Christian Education at Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul. But Rebecca had not met him until this week. Younglae invited her to preach at the Seshin Church where he is an associate pastor, served as her translator, and spent all day Sunday with us. What a friend, and what a gift Younglae is to the church and academy. I’m sure we will continue to do many ministry projects together, in the USA and Korea.

Cross-cultural friends, indeed, are a gift to be received with gratitude, as Henri taught.