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Faith, fellowship, and kimchi at Methodist women’s world assembly

Fellowship, a new awareness of social justice issues, laughter, and high tech toilets are some of the memories Mataiva Robertson has from the World Assembly of Methodist and Uniting Women.

The World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women (WFMUCW) holds its world assembly every five years. This year it took place at Jeju Island, South Korea in July, just prior to the World Methodist Conference in Seoul.

The WFMUCW has nine regions. Two young women from each region receive a Helen Kim memorial scholarship to attend the world assembly.

Mataiva was one of those awarded Helen Kim scholarships from the South Pacific region. A New Zealand-born Samoan, Mataiva lives in New Plymouth and works as a career advisor at a private tertiary institute. She is the daughter of Rev Limu Isaia.

The theme for the women's assembly theme was ‘Women Making a Difference’, and it focused on the roles of women in society, churches and homes.

“The programme was great,” Mataiva says. “It equipped me with an understanding of what the World Federation is all about. I got to meet with other Helen Kim scholars and learn about how churches and governments work in different parts of the world.”

“We spent a lot of time with Katherine Akale, who is with the Women Fellowship’s United Nations team. She works with other NGOs to have a voice at the UN and she explained the UN’s Millennium Development Goals to us.”

The millennium goals are to eradicate extreme poverty; achieve universal primary education; empower women; reduce infant mortality; improve maternal health care; combat AIDS; malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop global partnerships for development.

Mataiva says she attended workshops on primary education and global partnership development.

“Every woman took responsibility to reach some targets in regards to the Millennium Goals. There are a lot of things we what can do in our own communities to make a difference. We can purchase fair trade products, and we can disseminate information to our communities and churches to increase awareness.”

An important part of the assembly for Mataiva was devotions and bible study. There was a lot of fellowship and training on how to become good leaders plus plenty of laughter.

“We also had workshops where we learned about Korean culture. We learned how to make kimchi (fermented spiced cabbage) although I never became very good friends with kimchi. We learned how to make candles for use in our own fellowship and we learned the ancient tea ritual with all the protocols to make and serve tea.

I enjoyed the whole experience, especially meeting different people and forming friendships. I am a pastor’s daughter so I was interested to see the different ways of holding services. The different music broadened my views of ways to hold service.”

Along with the assembly were a cultural tour of Jeju Island and a visit to Ewha University where Helen Kim was educated and later became university president.

Mataiva admits to experiencing a bit of culture shock during her visit to Korea. Shopping was easier when she learned how to say ‘how much’ in Korean because then the rest of the conversation could take place through calculators.

She was also impressed with Korea’s high tech toilets. Not only do they have a pamper mode in which scent and powder come out of nowhere, there is also an option to warm the seat, and a setting for pregnant women in which the seat moulds to the person’s bottom.

Mataiva will be speaking about her Korean experience to women’s fellowships and youth groups around the country. She will also attend the MU area seminar in Tonga in June 2007. She has a long list of church groups and people she would like to thank for her trip. They include women’s fellowships, local and Connexional church bodies, and Sinoti Samoa.