40 Years in America
I joined in 1967 but I actually heard the DP in 1966. I was a Menonnite, and a student at NYU. There were two sisters witnessing in New York City: Diane Giffin Fernsler and Barbara Mikesell ten Wolde. Wesley Samuel had just joined too, with his family, and there was an older lady in the center. Barbara and Diane had joined under Col. Pak in Washington, and they had gone to Japan for six months. They were among the earliest members, and were sent to New York. I met them at Columbia University. I was speaking at the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. I saw them both in the audience, and thought they might be Mennonites or former Mennonites. It turned out they both come from a Quaker background. After the meeting I talked to Diane about what she did. She said she was a secretary by profession but she worked with the Unified Family. This piqued my curiosity because I was writing a thesis on how religions impacted on people’s value systems. I was looking for groups that I could study and thought I would study this group.
I heard the Divine Principle and thought it was incredible. I took copious notes because I wanted to use it in my Sunday school class. Chapter Two really caught my attention. I had been studying psychology and Freud. I thought there was tremendous truth in this and that psychology had looked at human problems the wrong way. Once the fall of man catches your attention, the rest of the Principle really makes sense.
The mission of Jesus was different from what I believed, but it made sense to me and felt right. It was so clear. Then I knew that they were going to tell me that the Lord of the Second Advent was not Jesus. I was afraid to hear it but I had to hear it. I knew I would have to make a decision about this. I knew I would always be thinking about it, so I heard all the lectures.
It was not something that was easy for me. I knew that there was no one in the world that I could ask. I couldn’t ask my pastor. It would need to be worked out between me and God. I went to the library and got books out on the book of Revelation. I knew whatever I looked at would be someone else’s opinion. I struggled over this for four months. I had been a charismatic Christian. I was used to God meeting me. I would get intuitions about things and would be led. But in this case, everything was very quiet. I thought God would give me an answer. Then I realized that because it was so drastic, I would have to figure it out myself. If it was true, I would have to take responsibility for it. I knew that God wanted me to find the answer myself. It would not be an easy life; I would have to let go in my life and do whatever God wanted. I did not expect it to be easy; it was not a decision I made lightly. Finally I let go and stopped trying to find a loophole in it. I knew I had to give everything. I felt like I was signing away my life, giving it to God no matter what it cost me.
I had grown up in a large, secure Mennonite family. My parents and the whole church did not believe in higher education. People believed higher education made you lose faith. I believed that our faith could be challenged. I intended to go back and prove to them that you could do it. I went to college and on to graduate school with the attitude that my faith could be challenged.
So, I went to a workshop and joined in New York City. When I came to the center, Myrtle Herd was there. She was the older lady I mentioned. She was fasting and I asked her why. She wouldn’t tell me, but it turned out she was fasting for me. When I first walked in the center, she said that she had seen me the night before. It was unheard of to be seen and recognized in New York City. I asked how she had remembered me. She had been witnessing at the Newman Center. She was going to witness to me but then changed her mind because I looked too happy, like I wasn’t searching. To be seen two nights in a row in New York City was more than a coincidence! After I joined I went to Washington, D.C., and worked there for three years. Then later I went to Kansas City. Miss Kim asked for volunteers who could go to various places. There were a few fledgling centers. It was 1970 and I had been there a very short time when we heard there was going to be a blessing. She came to Kansas City and visited us and discussed it with us. I was matched to Hugh. Then Hugh came to Kansas City and we went to the blessing. Soon afterwards it was decided that the church would grow more if we were consolidated rather than being scattered.
For a short time, Hugh and I moved the whole Kansas City center, 14 people, to Berkeley, CA. We lived there for seven months. Then Father spread everyone out again and we were sent to Philadelphia. In our church life we had been there several times. Our two oldest children were born there. It was near my home in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Father came to Philadelphia on his first speaking tour. I had just had our first baby, and she was only about a week old. I was doing PR, calling people to come to the speech while I was in the hospital. Hugh got the mission to go to the Midwest with a bus team. I stayed in Philadelphia until our second child, Christopher was born. Hugh went to Minnesota, and we followed soon after.
Hugh was the regional leader and had a bus team, and it was such a rich period in our life. A lot of people joined during that time from the regional center in Minnesota. Hugh traveled with the bus team, and I served as an IW who followed to help the members afterwards. We had our children in the Minnesota center. Father often picked me out of a crowd and spoke directly to me. Once he was talking about selling tuna fish. He said, "Nora, you should stand on the street corner selling tuna." Saying that struck him funny. Then he added, "In the winter," and then. "In the snow," and then, "In a bikini!" Everyone laughed. I was so tempted after that to take a picture of myself in a bikini holding a fish in the snow.
There are many things that happened with the children. During the time when I was an IW, it was Christmas time and we had made arrangements to celebrate the holiday. I was in Denver. Hugh was gong to bring the children and I would meet them in Indiana to visit Hugh’s family. We bought the train tickets, and then I got a call that the IW’s should not go home. It was one of the hardest things for me. I couldn’t believe it was happening. It was the most painful Christmas I ever spent. I was almost alone in a big center. Most of the members went home. I bought the most beautiful white material to make a coat for my daughter. It was going to have light blue lining, and blue buttons. I made this coat on Christmas day.
While traveling on the Greyhound busses I would read books. I read Alex Haley’s book Roots. There was a section about a slave family that was separated; they were sold separately. I felt we were just like that. I shed so many tears, letting out the pain I felt being separated from my family. I decided that because I was experiencing this, I would make this an offering. I offered it for all the women in the world who had had to be separated, especially the slave women. It’s so important not to be resentful, so I always tried to find a way to offer it.
We lived in the Gatehouse at Barrytown with the Jones’s. We had only one bathroom and one kitchen. One family would bathe the children while the other made dinner and ate. We’d then switch. Our kids often played together. Once I left a gallon of paint on the mantle while we were redoing a room. The children rigged the paint with rope, and when I opened the door, the paint spilled on the brand new carpet. Betsy and I were pregnant and we just looked at the carpet. We had to clean it up by pouring water on it! The kids were really good friends and got into a lot of creative fun. They grew up like brothers and sisters. They will always have deep relationships with each other. Recently they told us that one of the main things that we gave them are the lasting friendships that they will have all their lives.
We always wanted our children to be near other blessed children and we tried to do everything we could to make that possible. Even if we had to make extra effort, it was worth it.
We bought a workshop site in Iowa and moved our family there. I did advance work or follow-up work and Hugh took the bus team. During that time it was really wonderful. We worked together. The region was growing. We had it down to a science -- about six new members joined every week. There was a 7-day workshop.
We’d give talks at the end, and there was a night of commitment. It was exciting; a lot of good people joined. After that we helped with the speech at Madison Square Garden in 1974. Then we both attended 120-day training in Barrytown. Later we were both sent out to do pioneering. The married women from 777 couples were sent out as IWs. I went out for about three years. On my first IW trip, I went to the Colorado and Texas regions. When I arrived they had just received word that there had been a terrible car accident on the way to a workshop, and several people had been killed. Two members and two guests had been killed, as well as two people in the other car.
My first duty was to attend all the funerals and deal with the parents. I had to go to New Mexico where it happened. The headline said: "Six people killed on Route 666, six miles east of...." I thought, oh my gosh, Satan really had his hand in this. I had to deal with that. I realized how important it was to have a person a little bit more mature to deal with such things. I was in that region for several years. Father was doing Barrytown training, and sending one person out to several cities, pioneering. The church centers were being broken up, with one member in one city. Father had conferences every 45 days.
Father said the IW’s should visit all the pioneers once a month. I had a big region: Kansas and Oklahoma, and Colorado. Traveling by Greyhound bus every night, I would visit in the daytime. Once a pioneer picked me up in Kansas. He said, "I don’t know where you can stay tonight, but let me show you my house." He had a funny house he built himself in the woods. He had taken Mr. Sudo very literally, and built a cardboard house in the winter! He kept his ginseng tea fundraising product in a hole in the ground. He hung his Sunday suit on a tree branch. I said, "Where do you teach people?" He said, "I wander around." It seemed like he was really enjoying this way of life. It was a good condition, but I didn’t think he should make it his permanent goal.
I often traveled like that, visiting all 60 pioneers. In some cases I stayed at the center a couple of days. It was quite an experience. During that time Father said to send him a report every week. Not all IWs did, but I sent him a report of what I saw. I think that really meant a lot to Father. Col. Han said later, "Nora, I really miss your reports. I used to enjoy reading them to Father. It helped Father stay in touch with what was going on because of such reports." At the time I never got any feedback about the reports, thinking they would end up in some bin somewhere, but they actually turned out to be the foundation of Father’s trust in me in the future. It wasn’t my motive then, but I was glad that I did it. It was my way to keep connected.
It was during that time that we left the children. They spent a lot of time at the nursery. Hugh was at the seminary, where the nursery was located. We never knew how long these missions would last. Sometimes I wondered how long I could drag my heavy heart around from state to state, I so longed to be with my family. Then we had to work for Yankee Stadium. We thought that might be the end of the IW mission and that Father would say to go home after Washington Monument. By then many of us were pregnant. I think we all felt like it was time for us to go home. Then Father said, "IWs, stand up." We all stood up. He said, "Continue." Our hearts sank, to face the word "continue." We all went back out, but then I came back to Barrytown to have our third child. After 40 days I went back out, but I took her along with me. Hugh provided a car for me, so I drove around the region with her. I’d come to the center with my baby and a bag. I slept on the floor with her in my sleeping bag. After four months, the baby needed more than I was able to give while traveling. I thought that maybe she needed stability rather than to travel with me. So while I was working I used the nursery again.
We had a conference every 45 days in New York. We would see our children then. We would visit them for a day and we’d go back out. But once we had a conference in California and it meant not being able to see our children.
I went to the prayer room to pray about it. I realized then that True Parents were doing the same thing. They were traveling to every state without their children. True Parents ended that trip on the seventh anniversary of our blessing. So it became a condition that I’d made too, not to see my children during the last 40 days of our seven years because True Parents were doing the same thing. When things got really tough, it helped to make a condition about whatever it was, and then it would free me to do the mission. That way, if I offered it to God, I could avoid feeling resentment by putting that sacrifice on the altar.
That period of time was long. Father finally called us and said he was going to move the nursery to Jacob House in Tarrytown. Father said, "I’ve decided that after mothers have three children you should go home and take care of them." But we didn’t have homes anywhere. We asked him where he thought we should go.
Farley and Betsy Jones’ family and our family moved to the old nursery in Barrytown, where our two families lived together at the Gate House. Our husbands were at the seminary. I was there for a month, but then I was called to go as an IW for just one month to Southeast Asia. I went to Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Iran, Japan and Australia to visit the missionaries in those countries. They had been out for three years. Their stories were incredible. They had not been able to tell anyone their stories for three years. They had gone out after they were blessed in the 1800-couple blessing in 1975. Some were young high school girls, six-month members who were sent out. All kinds of things had happened to them and some had been in prison. Father decided that he wanted to teach them to be correspondents for the News World at that time. But in addition to that, Father sent IWs also to hear their stories and help them. Lady Dr. Kim went to Africa and Mama-san Choi went to South America on this mission. It took me a long time to digest that experience. I listened to the missionaries and tried to help them and love and mother them. Some of them had to pour out so much stuff.
We lived at Barrytown for six years. We lived with 12 different families at various times. It was quite an experience of learning to live with different families. In 1979 there was a matching, and I was asked to come and work on the blessing committee, and for the Blessed Family Department. I visited New York two days a week during that time. A lot of seminary students did babysitting for our children then. Between 1979 and 1987 I worked for the Blessed Family Department. Hugh finished his Ph.D. and began his work with PWPA.
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