I remember my first PANAAWTM conference in 2007 in New York when I was studying for my MDiv. I was pleasantly surprised to know that the Asian feminist theologians and pastors whose names I only knew from their books and ministries, were deeply connected through their friendship within this community. One night, after a series of serious theological and ministerial conversations in different sessions, we had a party to celebrate and to have fun. I realized that their friendship even included group dancing and singing! Looking at all of the senior scholars and pastors enjoying the group dancing, I came to know that I needed to learn how to move my body in order to overcome the dualism that separated the body and spirit.
When I rejoined this wonderful group as a PhD student during the last two conferences in 2012 and 2013, I felt that PANAAWTM became a place that I wanted to consider my theological and spiritual “home,” where I can quench my, in Avtar Brah’s term, “homing desire” (not the desire for my “homeland”).
People often say, “There is no place like home.” Yet, I often ask, what do you mean by “home”? Is home about location? Or, is it related to the tradition or history of one’s ancestors? Is it about relationships? For Asian women in theology and ministry, “home” would be a place where they can feel safe enough to share their stories, especially their struggles against androcentric worldviews (of their particular tradition and of the Empire). The stories we share are sometimes about our similarities and, at other times, about differences of experience of each member before we are lumped together as “Asian” or “women.” With the “homing desire,” we are able to make a new home that is continuously evolving with our friendship within this community.
I am grateful to those PANAAWTM predecessors who strived to build this community. The more I come to know about the life and work of the scholars and pastors who paved the way for Asian American theologies and ministries, the stronger I feel that I want to contribute to the continuation of the work that they have done for us—the future generation of scholars and pastors. I feel truly blessed that I can be a part of PANAAWTM in my theological journey.
* Junehee Yoon is a third year PhD student in Christian Social Ethics at Drew University.