The Words of the Robertson Family

STF Witnessing Workshop

Niall Robertson
January 5, 2007

It was a group of somewhat excited 2nd year STF members that departed from Schmitten a couple of days after Christmas. We traveled by vans to a place in Austria called Gaflenz, a small village hidden in the hills. It had been a long journey throughout the day, and it was late, so after a short welcome from our hosts, we all went to sleep. The following morning, we woke up to a blue sky and had our first Hoon Dok Hae. After breakfast, we gathered in the lecture room and sang a few songs. The singing was very spirited and showed a lot of potential for a very good workshop. One thing that I noted was unique and rather interesting about this workshop was that we studied various faiths. On the first morning, we heard a presentation on Judaism. Not only the belief itself, but also the traditions and culture that attaches itself to this faith. Following this, Juan Pique gave some witnessing guidance and went through the quarterly goal: "2nd Quarter: Experience the transformative power of Godís word and the Culture of Heart, and deepen the realization of True Parentsí value."

Everyday we had sports in the afternoon. A good opportunity to take a breath of fresh air and let out some energy. On the first day we took a walk in the hills and played a few outdoor games afterwards. After sports, Eriko Kobayashi and Niall Robertson gave a joint presentation on Junior STF in England based upon the activities that had been organized as well as an overview on the program and how it was progressing.

After this, the witnessing teams were announced. As usual in moments like these one could feel the tension in the air. However, the teams turned out to be very nice. Four nations. Slovakia, Spain, France, and England. Chris Maloney was to be team leader of Slovakia. Rebecca Karnowski was to be team leader for Spain. Daniel Stringer for France, however, since he is in Canada at the moment, Henry Freeland is substituting him; and Naomi for England.

We then had dinner, and in the evening welcomed Peter Zoehrer the national leader from Austria. He gave us a very enthusiastic testimony about his work in the movement, notably with Human Rights activities. This concluded the first day of the workshop. Iím sure everyone now had a lot to think about.

The second day of the workshop was the similar schedule. We received a presentation on Buddhism from Juan Pique. Later Simon Cooper invited us to join him in some meditation exercises. It was very interesting and received positive feedback from everyone. The afternoon saw more sports and then a presentation from Peter Haider. Again another exemplary member from the Austrian movement. He mainly spoke about his work with UPF and his work with Ambassadors for Peace, which also interested many of us.

On the third day, we studied Islam and its traditions with the help of Theresa Earl from England. After, Simon Cooper gave a talk on ĎFathers lifeí and Ďa life lived for God and World Peaceí. I think that these presentations were good and relevant also because they reminded all of us present of the foundations of our movement and how we are to expand it.

That afternoon, we had something slightly different, brothers/sisters time. The sisters had sharing, and the brothers learnt how to play rugby, mainly involving become very muddy and exerting a lot of energy! But it was a lot of fun. The sisters were also very inspired.

In the evening after dinner, the witnessing teams made plans for witnessing. I really thought this was good because it offered them the chance to get together as teams and discuss, get to know each other, see how the team works, and plan something. All the teams presented their ideas in front of a panel including Juan Pique, Motomi Uruga, Eriko Kobayashi, and myself. We each in turn gave constructive criticism and positive feedback. Their ideas included a youth ambassador awards night, concert for peace, marathon for peace, and inter religious school children activities.

The fourth day, 31st, was a lot more relaxed. It gave people a chance to wind down after three days of intense lectures and schedule. We watched the film Ghandi which I thought was a very appropriate film for witnessing. Afterwards we enjoyed an afternoon at the swimming pool and then met the first year STF members at a youth hostel situated in a castle nearby for New Yearís Eve. After a nice reunion and dinner, we all had reflection time, and then at midnight we gathered for midnight prayer in the castle courtyard whilst fireworks were being fired into the sky. It was loud and dramatic. After three cheers of Mansei, we enjoyed our own fireworks out on the lawn before returning to our workshop site.

Godís day was spent in Vienna with the Austrian church. In the afternoon, STF provided some quality entertainment and showed their kick off workshop video. The Austrian members were impressed, or so we felt. This, I think was good for STF. I think more of these public appearances should be made where STF members can present themselves in front of Church members and offer something. It helps increase the popularity for the program.

Anyhow, after a long day, we returned to our little village called Gaflenz to complete the witnessing workshop. The following day in the morning, Juan gave some closing guidance on witnessing. Strategy and internal aspects alike. Afterwards, I (Niall Robertson) gave a testimony based upon my two years experience with STF. I was happy to share what I learnt with them and offer advice.

In the afternoon, due to a lot of snow and cold weather we stayed indoors and had some fun activities followed by some serious goal setting for the New Year and the witnessing condition. In the evening after the goal setting and dinner, the teams presented their individual and team goals. I was impressed by their sincerity and desire to succeed. Juan then closed the workshop officially with some few closing remarks and a workshop mansei. High spirits and mixed emotions all around. After all, I am sure many of us know how it feels before going on mission all over again.

Anyhow, this basically sums up this report of the witnessing workshop. I hope that I could be as objective as possible. I spent a lot of time with the STFers as I knew them all from last year. I could note a change in spirit, as well as a change in many of them. A more optimistic atmosphere in contrast to previous years. I hope this years witnessing efforts can prove to be more fruitful than those of the past.

Finally an overview of the staff. Juan Pique was director of the workshop. Eriko Kobayashi was MC, other members of staff included Aika Sasada taking care of most external things and elder sister, Motomi Uruga, Theresa Earl, and finally myself Niall Robertson as sports coordinator. Not to worry everyone, your children are in good hands.

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