40 Years in America

Early MFT Days

John Hessell

The New York church in 1972 was able to provide members with a comfortable center and a healthy menu, but our meager salaries as secretaries, clerks and deliverymen could not fund a growing movement, even when we pooled our incomes. Weekend fundraising was a constant in our schedule. We made candles in the garage on a Coleman stove and then sold them door-to-door. We did well enough that Philip Burley, our church leader, asked several of us to quit our jobs and begin a full-time fundraising "Team." This was a gamble, because we had to make at least as much money as our regular jobs had been producing for the center to survive. In fact, Philip said: "If this works, youíll get the credit, but if it doesnít, Iíll get the blame."

There were 6 or 7 of us, with myself as the team leader and Paula Gray as the team mother. We knew how to go door-to-door on the weekends, but what would we do on the weekdays? New York City was less than an hour from our center in the Bronx, and there were plenty of people on the streets, so that is where we went. I remember the first time we huddled together for prayer on the corner of 34th and Broadway. With our heads bowed in a tight circle on the sidewalk, I could feel people leaning on us to look over our shoulder into the center of our little circle to see what we were doing. I learned about parking in New York the hard way: as I came around the corner of 33rd St., I saw our van with the front wheels off the ground being towed down the street. I ran down the street and jumped onto the running board of the tow truck. I begged the driver to let the van go -- he was "taking money from the church offering basket." Giving it some thought while he waited at the light with me hanging on his window, this kind old black man with a southern accent said, "Boy, the Lord was with you today!" and gave me the van, avoiding a big towing fee.

National headquarters decided to form a team to support national projects, and most of us were drafted for the campaign. That is when the term "MFT" began, because we were to be mobile as opposed to working from the center. Our first stop was the Philadelphia center, where the Spurgins were directors. Soon we purchased trailers that were pulled behind the two vans -- one for six brothers and the other for six sisters. We were then truly mobile, and not limited to the cities where there were centers to house us. It was so inspiring to wake up in a campground surrounded by trees and rivers, sometimes seeing raccoons or deer. During the winter we were often the only trailer in the campground. We had a more relaxed schedule back then. We would spend the evenings studying Divine Principle together, and we sometimes attended a local Christian church on Sunday morning. I will always remember the congregationís enthusiasm when we sang "Bye and Bye" from the pulpit to the Rock (as in Rock of Christ) Church of Norfolk, Virginia.

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