Another PTS alum who became a friend at Macalester was Sam Baez (PTS Class of 1960). Though our politics were different, he counseled me through such collegiate problems as a first love. He was a wonderful athlete and could have been a great coach for me in tennis and golf had I only played.
|Paulos Mar Gregorios
He became a Navy chaplain and served in Vietnam in the Mekong Delta, came home to pastor several churches, and in retirement coaches at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. He arranged for my trip to Princeton last July and kindly made it possible for me to meet and talk with Dr. Sam Moffett.
Moffett had known a fellow missionary and another of my PTS mentors, Archie Crouch (Class of 1933), a missionary in China. We had lunch together that day after seeing Archie’s name inscribed on a plaque in the entrance to the Administration Building. Since my divorce in the late ’70s, Archie had not spoken to me. Sam and I talked about Archie and then I went back to New York where I planned to attend a requiem mass for the aunt of one of the Episcopal Franciscans with whom I was staying. That night I dreamed that I called Archie across the river in Englewood, New Jersey, and he told me to come on over that afternoon. When I awoke, I had Archie on my mind. I looked in the back pages of an issue of
inSpire I had received and saw that Archie had died on my birthday the year before, September 10. I asked that the requiem be also for Archie, and the brothers and I gave thanks for his life and our long-ago friendship.
Archie had also been part of my entrance to Asia. He worked with the Border Service Department, the first and only indigenous organization of the Chinese Church, as its only non-Chinese staff member. He worked with ethnic minorities in southwestern China in the 1940s. He was the Border Service’s English-language secretary, a Western missionary serving under Chinese leadership. He told me that early in World War II he accompanied caravans of food and medical supplies to refugees from the war. I remember that Archie had admired my photography in Presbyterian Life
and offered me a job as a Presbyterian/ecumenical writer-at-large in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, but my then-wife disagreed and we were repatriated to her native country, Thailand.
Then there was Paul Verghese, PTS Class of 1954, known more formally as Paulos Mar
Gregorios. He was principal of the Orthodox Theological Seminary in
Kottya, Kerala, India; the metropolitan of Delhi of the Indian Orthodox Church; and president of the
World Council of Churches
(WCC). I met him at the Thai Red Cross Center in 1968 during an East Asian Christian Conference assembly near Bangkok (where later that year Thomas Merton died in an accident) and really got to know him at the WCC “Salvation Today?” conference in 1972.
Verghese began his journey to Princeton Seminary as a bank clerk in India who helped some foreigners push-start their stalled car. His gesture earned him an invitation to study in the U.S. and eventually led to his role as secretary and tutor to the family of the late emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Because of his striking appearance, sometimes soft, sometimes fiery (in my mind’s eye a Jeremiah, a
Rasputin, or Santa Claus!), he attracted me as a photo subject. He was a theologian, a scientist, an author, and, not unimportantly, a stern critic of America’s intervention in Vietnam. He was also an articulate religious ambassador to Moscow and other places where Americans had a limited welcome.
But he got on well with Americans. Frank Hull, a friend and American clergyman in Thailand, studied under Mar Gregorios in Ghana, Senegal, and Amsterdam in a Presbyterian seminar on ecumenical mission. “Everyone was American except Paul,” Hull recalled. “His quiet Indian Orthodox ways and dress made him unique and fascinating to us young Americans.”
Mar Gregorios died in 1996, but his legacy continues. In 1997 the Dalai Lama received the Paulos Mar Gregorios Award for his work in interfaith dialogue. Instituted to honor Mar Gregorios by the Sophia Society, which he founded, the award honors individuals who contribute to peace, justice, and wisdom, ideals for which Mar Gregorios lived and worked.
In the 1980s, when I was back in the States working with Indochinese and African refugees and Vietnam veterans in San Francisco, I met PTS grad Gregg Meister (Class of 1971) through the InterFaith Communications Commission of Northern California, a group that I headed and that coordinated Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish programming on broadcast TV. He welcomed me to Lakeside Presbyterian Church where he was the pastor and invited me to do campaign communications for Ben Weir (PTS Class of 1950), who was then standing for moderator of the
Presbyterian Church (USA). Weir, as the world knows, witnessed to God’s sufficiency while he was in captivity in the hands of Islamic militants. He told me that he gained strength to survive by thanking God for his blessings—waking up in the morning, having life another day, having food. God sustains, he said, but perhaps not in the style to which we have become accustomed.
Which brings me to the present and the most recent PTS graduate I have
met. In the early 1800s, a vision of Christian mission fed the spirit of Adoniram Judson, America’s first foreign missionary. Judson chose Burma as his goal, a Buddhist empire that gave no sign of welcoming Christianity. A Congregationalist, he later became a Baptist. Today Burma’s leading seminary is Baptist-run Myanmar Institute of Theology, half of whose faculty are Princeton Seminary-trained. Its principal is Dr. Anna May Say Pa, who earned a Princeton Ph.D. in Old Testament in 1989.
|Anna May Say Pa
This fall she returns to the U.S. as a “missionary” to America, sponsored by the Presbyterian Church. And “coming full circle” in my journey with
Princetonians, in November she will visit Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where I graduated from high school, before going on to Anaheim, California, for a PCUSA Worldwide Ministries conference.
“Shema Israel,” Say Pa recently sang to international Christians in Bangkok. “Hear, O Israel.” Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Mennonites, Thais, Germans, Americans, Indonesians, Russians, Indians, Nigerians, Burmese: Israel among the Gentiles. The Hebrew resonates across millennia and cultures. I resonate. Here is a woman from Burma who has carried
the Word of God to my country for years. She wears Judson's
mantle. preaching reconciliation, justice, and peace not only in
her own troubled land of Myanmar but in America as a prophet to
challenge the American church.
Anna May Say Pa. Henry Bucher. Archie Crouch. Paulos Mar Gregorios. Thich Nhat Hanh. They have influenced Asia, the worldwide body of Christ, and me personally in ways that I can only begin to explain. My own experience, woven through with the strands of their lives, was shaped especially by the Vietnam War. There are many roads to peace and few are actually traveled.
As I write I think of my tableau of Desmond Tutu and my unfinished book, Hoa-Binh: Dreams of
Peace, to which he has written an introduction. There is an imp sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear. I muse on meeting Madame Nguyen thi
Binh, vice president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, on May Day 1996 near Hanoi. I was afraid to intrude. In my mind’s eye, she was still the fiery young woman who represented the National Liberation Front in Paris, whom I imagined carrying an AK-47. But she was really carrying a putting iron and said she was learning “to make golf, not war.”
The imp whispered in my ear, “Why not introduce her to Sam
Baez? He’s a super coach!” And maybe I will.
Lance Woodruff Lives in Thailand, where he is a
journalist and development communicator focusing on universities,
seminaries, and educational opportunities for refugees and displaced
persons, particularly in Burma, the Indochina countries, the Middle
East, and Africa. He is an Episcopalian layman and worships at three
churches: the Presbyterian-related Church of Christ in Thailand's
international Church in Bangkok (where he preached on July 8);
Christ Church, Bangkok, an Anglican parish; and Calvary Baptist
Church, an American Baptist-oriented Burmese congregation. His wife, Corina, is from
Woodfruff can be reached at email@example.com
Thich Nhat Hanch can be reached in France through the web site www.plumvillage.org.
Baez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bucher can be reached at email@example.com,
where he is chaplain and associate professor of humanities at Austin
|Jewels in the Crown of Korea
Joon Surh Park and Sang Chang, husband and wife (who earned their Ph.D.s at Princeton in 1978 and 1977, respectively), hold significant leadership positions in Korea. Park has been professor of Old Testament studies at Yonsei University since 1977 and was vice president for academic affairs from 1998 to 2000.
|Joon Surh Park
The author of several books, he is also president of both the Korean Old Testament Society and the Korean Association of Christian Studies. Chang has been president of Ewha Womans University—the largest women’s university in the world—since 1996. She is also a trustee on the board of the Korean Research Foundation and vice president of the Committee to Develop Cooperation, National Council of Churches in Korea.
“Ewha and Yonsei, both missionary-founded and church-related, are two of the very top universities in Korea today,” says Sang Hyun Lee, Princeton’s
K.C.Han Professor of Systematic Theology. “President Chang and Professor Park are leading figures not only in their academic fields but in Korea’s higher education in general. In the tradition of the late George Nak-Joon Paik
(M.Div., 1925), who served as president of Yonsei and later as the head of Korea’s Ministry of Education, Chang and Park are Christian scholars who are playing a central role in the life of their