Unlikely Connections: Korean’s Learn from Japanese about Affordable Housing

28 Oct

With Christian missions we can bring a gospel of peace simply by building meaningful relationships with ethnic churches and local community development organizations.

I had the honor of giving four presentations on affordable housing to ReconciliAsian, a network of Korean pastors in LA dedicated to peacemaking in the Korean community. Speaking with these Korean pastors was a Christ centered experience. The group was so fully engaged I could feel the presence of Christ at work as I was speaking.

When Sue Park, co-director of ReconciliAsian, asked what I would like to speak on during their recent Justice & Peacemaking School on October 7th & 8th. Having spoken to them twice before on a theology of land and housing and various models of how churches across the nation have built affordable housing, I wondered if the Korean pastors were ready to actually consider building affordable housing on their church properties (for example on their large parking lots). If so, then the next step would be to experience and see affordable housing firsthand. I suggested that Sue contact the Little Tokyo Service Center, a Japanese community development organization. Considering the painful history between Japanese and Koreans this tour and learning experience was itself a step towards reconciliation.

Even though the Little Tokyo Service Center made it clear that they were not religiously affiliated, it was clear to all of us at the end of the tour they were doing God’s work. We toured their first affordable housing property built 35 years ago with 100 units. Originally the city was planning on purchasing this property for expansion of municipal facilities and had given eviction notices to all the residents. Because the Service Center had relationships with the tenants they worked with them to become advocates and the city decided not to expand, giving the Service Center the building. This building was a stunning monument to God’s beauty in how it was redeveloped. Since then, they have developed 25 properties. When the Service Center develops in Little Tokyo they already know their community, but to be sustainable elsewhere, like Korea town or Filipino town, they build local teams and equip them in the development process, even dividing their development fee with them. Among developers this is highly unusual and demonstrates aspects of how Jesus empowered others and how the early church shared property.

I began this blog with the idea that we “bring” the gospel to the community. In reality, God is already at work redeeming and restoring all things. I feel so grateful to be able to participate in this process with amazing groups like the Little Tokyo Service Center and ReconciliAsian.

Learn more about ReconciliAsian or the Little Tokyo Service Center.

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