40 Years in America

40-Day Pioneer Witnessing Experience

John B. Parker

Of all my experiences in the Unification Church, my 40-day pioneer witnessing experience was one of the most precious. I was doing Home Church in Brooklyn, New York, during the summer of 1980. I was shocked when I heard the announcement that we would now be doing 40-day pioneer witnessing twice a year in the United States, as had been the tradition in Korea and Japan. (I believe the exact dates of my pioneering were July 20th through August 31st, 1980.)

The city of Middletown, Rhode Island, was chosen for me. Before long, I found myself on a train headed for a strange place I had never been before, with only a few belongings, a little money, and a little faith. When I arrived in my city, it was already dark. I was scared, but there was no turning back. I took a bus from the train station, and decided to get off near the beach. When I got off the bus, I noticed that the street signs showed that I was at the corner of "Kane Street" and "Purgatory Road." I climbed up some rocks overlooking Rhode Island Sound, found a sandy spot, huddled under my thin jacket, and tried to keep warm. Needless to say, I didnít have any trouble staying awake during prayer that night. The cold wind made me shiver, and I had a hard time sleeping.

The next day I wandered around the city and prayed for the people there. I asked Heavenly Father what I should do to fulfill the goal of bringing one full time member to the Church. I just started talking to people, and one young Christian invited me to stay with him at his house. It felt so good to have something to eat and a warm place to stay, but the next day he just abruptly kicked me out. I think he had asked his pastor about our movement, and got very negative. So there I was, back out in the elements, without a clue how to survive, much less how to witness to anybody. What little confidence I had was quickly turning into desperation. The next night I slept on the porch of a church, and had a vivid dream. In the dream, one of my first Divine Principle lecturers, Sandra (Lang) Lowen, was stuffing fresh raspberries into my mouth, more that I could eat. She was laughing at me, saying, "John, you donít have enough faith -- donít you know that Heavenly Father has already provided for you?" The very next day, as I was walking and praying, I noticed that there were bushes full of ripe raspberries scattered throughout the city! They were so delicious, and filling. I felt so much love from Heavenly Father, and his miraculous provision renewed my hope of at least surviving. Those raspberries turned out to be like my "quail and manna" during my 40-day pioneering.

I found an abandoned house that had been a former Church of God in Christ, and adopted it as my base of operations. I rented a small storage locker at the nearby bowling alley, where I stored what little I had brought with me. Although wild raspberries were my staple food, I also discovered that the grocery stores often threw away expired baked goods, fresh fruit, etc. I checked the dumpsters daily, but there wasnít always food there. So I used $1 as seed money for fundraising, purchased a box of peanut brittle, sold it, and eventually bought more and more in order to fundraise for food money. I also met a few good contacts during my weekly fundraising efforts. Many days I just prayed, studied Fatherís words, or just walked around the town. I felt little confidence in approaching people at first, so I just gave Divine Principle lectures to the spirit world, instead. Every day was a battle just to survive spiritually.

In order to make friends and find a way to win peopleís hearts, I handed out the best of the expired baked goods, which had I found behind the grocery stores. On one occasion, I had just handed my contact at the gas station a package of pastries when a policeman drove up in his patrol car, looked at my Unification Church nametag, and promptly arrested me. He drove me to the police station, fingerprinted me, but never told me why he was doing this. He was negative against the Unification Church, and asked me if I had ever sought out psychiatric help. I told him, "No, but I did study psychology in college." I was locked up in a jail cell for several hours, and then a detective came in and asked me some questions. I explained why I was in Middletown -- doing my 40-day pioneer witnessing -- and wondered why I had been arrested. He said that on that day there were fundraisers from the Unification Church who had been kicked out, and they assumed that I was one of them coming back into town to fundraise without permission.

When I explained to the man that all I had done was give a gift of pastries to my contact at the gas station, he looked surprised, and abruptly left my jail cell. A little while later, the original policeman came to my cell, unlocked it, and told me that I was free to go. He looked very embarrassed about the entire incident. After all, he had arrested me without any due cause, and it looked like he had been reprimanded by his superiors for his mistake. I visited various churches in the area, including Roman Catholic, Church of Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The people were friendly, and we had some interesting discussions about our respective faiths. One time, I visited a Baptist church and attended the service and Bible study. However, the minister was very negative about Reverend Moon, and kept raising his voice as he asked me to get out of his church. The choir director tried to reason with him about letting me at least attend their Bible study, but the minister refused to listen to him, and angrily demanded that I get out and never come back again.

One day on the beach I met a young man about my age, named Greg Walsh. We talked about God and about life, and he didnít have a problem with the fact that I was from Reverend Moonís church. I remembered True Fatherís words in the Way of Tradition about how we can learn from the birds, who lovingly go out and find food for their young. So I went behind the grocery store and found a dumpster full of fresh strawberries, which I brought back to my abandoned house. When Greg woke up, his jaw dropped as he gazed upon the strawberries, which I had prepared for him. He excitedly explained about how he had just been dreaming about eating strawberries! Wow! He was now convinced that God was showing him that he should come back with me to the workshop. I was very inspired, but I only had one train ticket, and not enough money to purchase another. Greg didnít have enough money with him either, so we just hitchhiked our way back to New York. The person who picked us up was negative against the Unification Church, but he let us ride with him in his truck anyway. When Greg and I arrived in New York City, we went together to the workshop at Camp New Hope in Accord, New York. After the 7-day workshop, he decided to join the Church!

I am grateful to Heavenly Father and True Parents for making this precious 40-day pioneer witnessing experience possible. Despite my lack of faith, God could work through me to fulfill my goal of bringing one new member to the Church.

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