“The Mennonite tradition has a very precious heritage as a peace church,” says Junggyu Anthony Yang. “If we focus more and more on peace in our daily lives, then we truly become the children of God.”
Yang and Hyejung Jessie Yum live in Toronto, where they work with Koreans and other Canadians through Sowing for Peace. “Sowing for Peace is a ministry to cultivate a peace culture in a multicultural context,” says Yum. “As we see the community’s needs, we can then respond and serve that community. We work with a committee of people who support Sowing for Peace in many ways.”
As ministering pastors, peacemakers and teachers for a number of years in California, Yang and Yum moved to Toronto when Yum received an opportunity to come to Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto. She is a doctoral candidate and adjunct instructor with a research focus on constructing a postcolonial Mennonite peace theology in multicultural contexts. Yang is currently a mechanical technician in Valcourt, Que., recently completing a journalism position with a Korean newspaper.
When they arrived in Toronto, Yang soon noticed that Korean Canadians with whom he interacted were struggling. “I realized that the people I was meeting were suffering as they tried to deal with conflict in their lives,” he says. “Many have never been taught how to deal with conflict.” He coordinated a community centre at the newspaper where he worked. He opened transformation classes at the centre. “I listened to their stories and provided some good skills in communication and conflict resolution,” he says.
He started a classic literature book club. “Book clubs are such a great way to introduce people to peace,” he says. “As we share about the books we are reading together, I am able to speak thoughts of peace.” The book clubs have run five seasons of 12 sessions over the last two years. “For many new immigrants, it is not easy to find a safe space to share their thoughts in trust,” he says. “I try to facilitate each book club as safely and equally as I can.”
Yang also runs a separate book club focused on Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled.
“For Korean immigrants who are adjusting to a new society, there is little time and energy to prioritize thinking about themselves,” says Yum. “This kind of workshop provides an opportunity and space to actually take the time to reflect on themselves.”
“Each time this club runs, the people become a community,” Yang adds. “People speak of their brokenness and their wounded hearts, and as we have shared together I have seen healing take place in their lives.”
Whether people are sorting out their futures in circle-process groups, participating in conflict transformation or racial justice workshops, or discussing life concerns at book clubs, Yang and Yum are sowing seeds of peace in multicultural Toronto.
It was during one of these workshops with their own congregation, Danforth Mennonite Church, when the congregation began to embrace the possibilities and potential in the ministry of Sowing for Peace. The couple actively preach on peace in their home congregation, and Danforth now officially supports them. The congregation asked Mennonite Church Eastern Canada to license them as pastors, which took place in March 2021.
Reflecting on I Corinthians 3, Yum says: “We do not know how seeds will grow—that’s what God knows. However, we are responsible to spread the seeds of peace. The ministry does not depend only on our ability. If this ministry is in God’s will, it will grow in God’s time. We are trusting God.”
Hyejung Jessie Yum, left, and Junggyu Anthony Yang work with Korean and other Canadians through Sowing for Peace in Toronto. They are members of Danforth Mennonite Church in Toronto and licenced pastors through Mennonite Church Eastern Canada. (Photo courtesy of Hyejung Jessie Yum and Junggyu Anthony Yang)
This is thought provoking, especially for us North American colonialist churches also losing basic peace skills. We need this thoughtful perspective - especially us Russian Mennonites.
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