The Words of the Moennesland Family
40 Days in Jardim
Ann Helen Moennesland
Last spring, my family decided to go to New Hope East Garden, the 40-day training workshop for Blessed Families. It is close to a little town called Jardim in Brazil. For me, it was a great challenge only to accept the fact that we were going. Mostly because I wanted to participate in all the HARP-summer activities in Europe (which I can now see was very selfish of me), but also because it was far away, for a long time, in the middle of nowhere.
Anyways, on 25th June, we finally left, and I was sometimes grumpy, sometimes depressed, but most of the time, both. I don't even need to say that I had a really bad attitude concerning the whole trip. :o) On the airplane from Sao Paulo to Campo Grande (the closest city with an airport), we met many other blessed families, and that helped a bit. After a long drive from Campo Grande to Jardim, we were all exhausted because of the heat, but also because of the long trip.
Honestly, New Hope East Garden was almost like I had expected it would be like :o). It looked like a small village. I wasn't disappointed at all though, I actually became a bit more positive. We were warmly welcomed by the staff, and they showed us our room. We (well, at least I) was shocked to find 3 spiders the size of my hand and two tiny yellow frogs in our bathroom! However, after cleaning the room, those were practically the only ones we saw.
Even if my attitude had changed a bit, it didn't last long. I was really depressed during the first week, I thought I wouldn't ever manage to talk to anyone, and I wanted to go home. By now, you probably think I'm a really grumpy person, but I think it was mostly because I have a real problem with changes :o). Fortunately, we met a few Norwegian families who were already there, as well as a couple of other families I know, and that helped a lot. The children showed me everything there was to see (the parrots, True Parent's house etc...).
The first three weeks consist in reading Hoon Dok Hae 6 hours a day (4 times one and a half hours). Then, the next 12 days, we did service, which means you work to keep the place going (in the nursery/school, in the office, cleaning, gardening, etc...). The last 7 days are called hobby days. All the Sundays are counted as hobby days, as well as Holy Days, and days when True Parents came. However, you don't follow that exact order because sometimes True Parents come, sometimes they need someone at the nursery and you have to count that day as a service-day, etc...
HDH went fine. Well, of course it was hard sitting still for more than an hour each time, trying to concentrate on what's being read (especially if it was extremely cold and you had to hold on to your blanket while reading...), but I got used to it, and actually came to the point where I started enjoying it. Those hours were really precious because you get to focus completely on reading True Father's words. You don't have any other thing to think about, like school-work to be done for example. You can entirely concentrate on reading Hoon Dok Hae and nothing else. It was particularly great reading through the whole Divine Principle. Because even though I had done it before, once you read it a second time, things become much clearer.
We were lucky enough to meet True Parents twice. I had never seen True Father 'for real', so that was quite an experience. When they came the first time, we welcomed them by doing mansei and clapping. They inaugurated the new house that was built for them because it was the first time they came after it was built. When True Parents came, the whole atmosphere became so peaceful and so filled with love. It is an incredible feeling, and I was really touched by this. After a few minutes, all the families attending the workshop lined up to get their pictures taken with True Parents. And then, it was our turn. It was soooo special standing that close to them. Right behind them. It felt like time stopped. That was so great. It's something I'll never forget. Now we have a huge poster-like picture of the whole family standing behind True Parents. =)
The second time True Parents came, it was a bit different. True Parents were going to speak in front of 3000 guests (yes, 3000!). And for the first time, they would both speak. During the two weeks before that day, all HDH-sessions were cancelled so members could do their service period instead, preparing for their speeches. There was a lot to be done and not much time. Some people worked day and night. It was very inspiring to work with others like that. When True Parents arrived, we welcomed them just like the last time, and didn't see them for a while. I volunteered as 'hospitality'-responsible, which meant I was going to serve food to the guests. We worked under a small tent during the speeches in the Temple, and when the guests came out, we almost panicked because there was so much to be done and so many people! Sometimes, we were missing forks, sometimes there wasn't any meat left etc... But all in all, it went fine. It was great working with other BCs, and we had some fun too. I felt we were really serving these people and investing all our heart into it.
When the guests had left we all had to practice for the evening entertainment. During the whole week many choirs had been rehearsing, and many people had been practicing skits and other entertainment. I was in 3 choirs : the Norwegian choir, the French choir, and in a Second Generation choir. The second generation choir had practiced a lot on a Korean song. We had to learn it all by heart which was a big challenge. That song was on our mind 24 hours a day for 3 days. But when the judges chose who was going to perform, the Korean song wasn't picked, and we were devastated because we had worked extremely hard. My heart was broken! Finally, we convinced the judges to give us one more try. That time, we sang as loud as we could, we smiled as much as we could, and we tried not to seem too stiff =). At the end, it was picked (!!!). Instead of eating, we practiced (we were going to be the first ones to perform). And then, when we actually did perform in front of TP, we did really well. We sang so well! I think TP enjoyed it too, and besides they could understand it, since it was in Korean. Singing that song is something I'll never forget either. That song means a lot to me now, and I will treasure it forever in my heart =)
All the other performances were really well done, and True Parents seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. It feels great being able to give something to them, when usually they give something to us. Finally, we all went to bed, and got up only a few hours later to do Pledge. True Parents both came. We read HDH for a while, and True Father started walking around, looking at us. Then, he started talking in Korean to us (fortunately, we had translation on the radio!). He talked for more than an hour. It was incredible. Sometimes, he stopped at a couple, and started banging their heads to together, to make them understand that they should unite. He seemed much younger than 80! I have never seen or heard of an 80-year-old man who has done and still does so much. And he does it all for others, for us. I feel I don't deserve all this at all and I really felt ashamed in front of him. However, when he looked at me, it didn't seem like he was accusing me of anything. I think he has a lot of un-conditional love for us. All in all, I had an incredible experience at Jardim. I made many friends all over the world, even though we weren't the same age, or couldn't speak the same language. I also think I got closer to my family. Even now, almost 6 months later, I find myself crying because I miss Jardim so much. It truly is a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, at least, it's the closest you can get to it. Getting out to the 'outside world' again felt like a cold shower. Now, NHEG is the place I love most in the world, and I recommend anyone who hasn't been there to go with their family because it's incredible how much you can change and how much can happen in 40 days. =)
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