40 Years in America
Pioneering the State of Louisiana
IOWC team #5, with Father and Team Leader Martin Porter, Kevin McCarthy, Jack Hart, Robert Williamson, Gary Fleisher and Beverly Lee.
Father gave $500 seed money to each state leader to pioneer the church. I headed south in a van with half a dozen other pioneers. They dropped me off at a grocery store in New Orleans. I headed straight for the YWCA. I began a three-day fast and a seven-day condition to walk around the city all day picking up garbage. In my trek, I witnessed to a nun who invited me to board at the Dominican College, a women’s college. Here, my roommate was going out on a date with a fellow named George Glass. It wasn’t a serious relationship and as she talked about him -- he had studied to be a priest -- I felt that I should witness to him.
I found a tiny apartment and bought a small table and two chairs at the Salvation Army. Next came a blackboard and I was all set to teach. To support myself financially, I also got a part-time job as a cleaning lady at the LSU dental school.
I had been studying my notes from Pres. Young Whi Kim’s lectures intensively. With great anticipation, I invited George, who came for a series of eight lectures -- the first I had ever taught. Not amazingly, everything made a great deal of sense to him. He even took the Conclusion in stride and simply asked, "Okay. What should I do now?"
That was lucky since the bus team headed by missionary David Kim was arriving in a few weeks and we needed to find a larger center for them to stay. By that time, I had also taught Peggy Kercz, a nurse from Boston doing social work at a clinic for the Catholic Diocese in New Orleans. Peggy and I met very early one Sunday morning on a bus on my way home from praying at the New Orleans holy ground.
We rented a New Orleans "shotgun" house (long and narrow) in the historic section on -- wouldn’t you know it -- Harmony and 9th! Still with no furniture, Peggy and I made a large, beautiful felt banner with our movement’s motto: "Let us go forth in the shoes of a servant, shedding sweat for earth, tears for man and blood for heaven."
I had already been to the city’s major paper, The Times Picayune, which had written an article about my mission to found a church in Louisiana. Now I told the press that a very important bus team was coming -- and this time the TV cameramen showed up -- albeit a little disappointed at the size and humbleness of our bus team! David Kim was incredible -- energetic, supportive and fatherly. As a truly veteran pioneer, he taught his bus team and we New Orleans members to street preach and witness up a storm.
With the bus team gone, I continued witnessing, mostly on the nearby campuses of Tulane and Loyola Universities. Students would come for a two-day seminar at our house on Harmony. After each spiritual child heard the conclusion, I did a 3-day fast for them to accept DP and dedicate themselves to the cause. George had a full-time job so I had been able to quit my lady janitor job. (This was during pre-fundraising days.) George came with a fire engine red Pontiac Firebird and a little later Mitch Dixon joined with a florescent blue late-model car as well. I think we had the fanciest wheels of any pioneer center. The working members kept their jobs and by pooling our resources, we did fine financially.
From Tulane University, six students joined and dedicated themselves -- five of them are still dedicated members: Mitch Dixon, Chris Ching, Peter Spoto, Mark Turegano and Donna Jean McMillan Brewer. Everyone of them left Tulane University, considered an ivy league school of the south, very shortly after hearing the Principle. (Mark had a prestigious governor’s scholarship.) They were that kind of people. They understood immediately the depth and importance of the Divine Principle and the need to dedicate themselves totally to help Father.
Their parents all came to visit them. They listened to Divine Principle themselves and trusted the decision of their children, God bless them. This was before the days of the media hysteria about brainwashing. When I think of the fine families all these members have today, I know those parents are still glad they trusted their children, although it could not have been easy.
Other members who joined in New Orleans pioneering days were John Robbins, Peggy Parker Nakamura, Steve and Judy Rondino and Scott McAffey. Almost all the members who joined in New Orleans are dedicated members to this day. My faith and focus had been to fulfill 1-1-1 and with some help from the bus team, it was fulfilled our first year!
We received some special visits to our pioneering center that first year. Neil Salonen came by on a swing through the South doing anti-Communist work; George was relieved to speak to a brother. Father assigned IW’s to each region and so Hilly Edwards arrived by bus one day. She stayed about a week and was a warm, wise and wonderful IW. She went out fundraising with us, witnessing with us and offered lots of love and encouragement to all of us. John Doroski visited with some members and we did a workshop together.
One day I came home to the Harmony St. house to find a small package on my doorstep. It contained a black enamel vase with a hand-painted inscription: "Let us be flowers for the Heavenly Will" -- a gift from True Parents in Korea.
Fundraising was born in the form of multicolored and multi-smelling candles in glass brandy snifters. The whole movement began its first fundraising campaign to raise $120,000 to purchase Belvedere so True Parents could have a residence in the United States. I received the candles in boxes by mail. There was no one to tell me how to fundraise. I had never done any sales work of any kind but I just walked out the door and started selling them door-to-door. Peggy and George joined me and this became a regular evening activity for Belvedere. We had outgrown our little "shotgun" house. A number of our members had savings accounts, and with donations from Chris Ching, Mitch Dixon and others we were able to put together a $5,500 down payment to buy 4411 Canal Street, a house I chose because of its central location. The wife of our Harmony St. landlord was our realtor.
In 1973 HSA-UWC was legally established in the state of Louisiana. After we pioneered about a year, Father began to spend more time in America and he began to summon us "state leaders" and HSA-UWC officers to meetings every 40 days at Belvedere. We would give reports and Father would guide us, often personally pouring out his heart. Through these conferences, he began to raise up the leadership of the American movement.
At one of these conferences there was a church holiday and Pres. Young Whi Kim asked me to organize the state leaders into a skit as part of the entertainment. We decided to do a comedy review of our experiences with Father on the speaking tour. In one of our scenes, one beefy member by the name of Gil and the diminutive Helen Chin Alexander did a hilarious imitation of Mrs. Choi translating for Father. They spoofed how Father would say strong things in a strong way and then Mrs. Choi would translate it all in a soft, feminine way. The skit was a hit, indeed hilarious, and Father and Mother were rolling in the aisles. Later, Pres. Kim told me in the nicest way that one does not do spoofs of the Messiah. Of course I was mortified. Just like True Parents to absorb our ignorance with a big heart.
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