The Words of the Saver Family
Paul Saver is the UPF director of the Melanesia region, within Oceania.
French Polynesia, a nation comprised of 118 islands and atolls spread across five hundred sq. km. of the Pacific, was the site of an April 18-20 character education seminar. More precisely, the seminar took place in Papeete, the French Polynesian capital, on the island of Tahiti. The seminar was made possible because last year, despite its being one of the remotest inhabited places on earth, six thousand kilometers from the nearest continent, my native Australia, Rallies to Declare the Beginning of a New, Universal Civilization of Peace, were held on Tahiti. On that basis, Colette Takigawa, a longtime missionary, Izumi Sasaki, leader of missionaries in Oceania, and I traveled to Tahiti to speak to an audience of twenty-three.
Three Tahitian women, with the support of their husbands, welcomed us to revisit Tahiti after last year's rally tour. They took care of all the practical aspects of the seminar and most importantly persuaded other people to come. The seminar was held in a facility owned by a Christian association that brings together people of various Christian churches.
As well as the lecture hall, there were accommodations and kitchen facilities. It was located at a high elevation with a panoramic vista of mountains meeting the sea with volcanic islands dotting the horizon.
The cost of accommodation and all meals was borne by one couple, both of whom were appointed ambassadors for peace during last year's tour. Their commitment to raising young people to live good and noble lives was palpable as they worked tirelessly transporting guests and material and leading the way in the kitchen. The gourmet meals were imbued with love. This reminded Izumi that Dr. Yong Chong-sik, our regional president until the recent change, had once said, "You need to prepare good meals at workshops in order to bring down the Holy Spirit."
I presented the lectures, while Colette translated into French, even though several participants had a working knowledge of English. The presentations made a good impression; their directness brought clarity to issues such as how members of the opposite sex seduce each other and how advertising can manipulate human emotions thereby influencing people to smoke, drink alcohol, have sex or take drugs. They helped show the distinction between true love and sex, and between freedom and responsibility.
We showed several videos, including a French introduction to UPF and several videos that are now being used by World CARP (Real Hero and Ryan's Project) as part of their new approach to teaching workshops, which was initiated by Hyun-jin nim. These videos moved most people to tears and became a good launching pad to speak of the power of the parent-child relationship, the "power of one" and living for the sake of others.
In traditional French Polynesian culture, society is seen as a large extended family. This is expressed in their form of greeting, where all the women and girls approach the men and offer first their right cheek and then their left cheek for a kiss. This happens when they meet and is repeated when they depart. Two men usually shake hands. The kissing of members of the opposite sex many times during the course of the seminar was a bit of a cultural shock for us.
During the graduation ceremony, participants volunteered to share some reflections. That in itself was an accomplishment, because the people by nature are more reserved than expressive in public. Those who did speak did so because they felt changed in some way and wanted to convey their gratitude.
One young lady, twenty-six-years old, had been sexually abused and abandoned in her youth. As she fought hard to stop tears from flowing, she spoke of being resurrected and empowered to follow her conscience. Others saw her as an introvert; no one had expected her to speak. The seminar had awakened in her something true that had been long dormant.
A sixteen-year-old who often volunteered to pray said, "Now I know that sex is not love and without love sex is empty."
One young man praised Izumi for her love and kindness. She had worked hard behind the scenes making sure everyone was happy. She made paper cranes (origami) for everyone, including parents who visited.
One of those three ladies who were instrumental to the success of this seminar testified in front of all the young people that she left her husband in 1992 but had since remained pure. She told them she felt honored to become an ambassador for peace. After reading the guidelines of how ambassadors for peace should conduct themselves, she said she first had to go to a relative to repair their relationship, which had been strained for many years. So sincere she was. A promising sign after the seminar was the fact that several parents of the participants reported how happy they were to see positive changes in their children even after three days. The future of our work in French Polynesia is bright.