The Words of the Schanker Family
Chun Il Guk Mobilization Activity - Yesan City, South Choongnam Province
Greetings from Yesan, a small city in Southern Choongnam Province, about 20 kilometers from the Western coast, and about 2 hours drive south from Seoul along the highway to Pusan. All of our Western members are having a rich experience of heart, working with a dedicated team of Japanese sisters, and the local members. I am fortunate to be sharing this experience with two of my children: Mi-ae (18), here from STF in America, and Joshua (13), who is studying in the GOP Program in Korea. Whether witnessing and working together by day, or sharing backrubs, memories and heartfelt testimonies by night, I feel so much love for them, and am so touched and proud to see them embrace this experience.
Yesan is a countryside town, divided into ten "Myun"- size districts, and two larger "Eup"- size districts. Most of these Myuns, or villages, are out in the midst of farmland and orchards. Yesan is well known for growing those large tasty "saghwa" (Korean apples), as well as grapes, strawberries, and more. It is so incredible to be out in the countryside, walking along dirt paths from farmhouse to farmhouse, greeting farmers, "haksengs" (students), "harabojis and halmonis" (grandfathers and grandmothers), and sharing rich experiences of testifying to Korea’s value and the work of True Parents worldwide, rooted in the culture of heart and family. Through the heart of our members and the Korean people, I am slowly realizing again what I had nearly forgotten: that Korea is a gateway to the culture of heart.
In recent years I have so quickly been critical of organizational problems, strategic priorities or other leadership decisions in our movement that I couldn’t easily digest from my American viewpoint. But here, in the midst of fields and farmlands surrounded by hills on every side, welcomed by leathery-skinned grandmothers or bright, respectful students, sharing our evening meal with Korean members at the Yesan Family Church while children run here and there, I see things differently. God is a God of heart and love, and until we live truly centering on heart and love, we cannot begin to understand God. Because of our own limitation of heart, we may not realize at all what Korean culture has to teach us. I feel my heart cracked open again and again, layer by layer, and still I understand so little.
Our circumstances are so blessed in Yesan. The church is not rich, and carries many debts. But one family owns a hotel downtown, just blocks from the Yesan Train Station, and has offered us the top floor. We have heard that teams in some cities have just the traditional hole in the ground for a bathroom, and can only wash when they can get to a public bath. In Yesan, some 25 of us share 4 rooms, each with a bathroom, western-style toilet (quite common in Korea by now), and with a huge round bed and refrigerator in each room. Each morning members deliver buns, rolls and bread from the local bakeries. Though a day-old, it tastes fresh with the milk that fills our refrigerator. Worried about our nutrition, the church adds cereal, or hot dogs, or something else each day, and an endless supply of oranges. Lunch is on the run, in a local restaurant or simple carry out. Yesterday they brought bags of barbecue hamburgers to complement the "kim-bap," rice, meat, and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. Dinner is always simple yet plentiful and delicious, shared on the warm floor of the church center with added gifts of sweet strawberries, pears or some Korean specialty from the local members.
Our mission work so far has been quite successful, and filled with precious experiences. To cover the 10 Myuns and 2 Eups, we have held 3 rallies per day for the first 4 days -- 12 in all. We will gather all these results at a city level rally and celebration for True Parents’ birthday. Although both the Yesan Church leader and the regional director have been in Chung Pyung for 50 days, the members made great effort to prepare for these rallies. There is a good foundation with the city level government through previous community efforts, Tong Ban Kyok Pa Activity and North-South Unification programs. In particular Mr. Pak, a well-known community leader, a former Myun-level leader in several communities, convinced the Yesan government to officially sponsor the town-level meetings.
Letters were sent to all the Myun, Dong and Ri-level leaders, followed by phone calls, visits and even loudspeaker announcements in some communities. Although our town rallies have been small -- usually 40-70 people -- nearly all of our participants are Ri and Myun leaders, making the meetings quite substantial.
At each rally, after a short video about our efforts in North Korea such as Peace Motors, friendship tours, etc., our western and Japanese members sing 1 or 2 songs, such as Arirang, Omaya Nunaya, or Urie So Wonun Tongil. Sometimes an individual will sing as well. Then the official program begins with the Korean Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Pak, who has organized these rallies with the city, gives welcoming remarks. A pure and righteous man, he explains that though he remains a faithful Buddhist, he will respect and follow Reverend Moon’s direction because this work is beyond religion, class or nation. He strongly testifies that only Father Moon can lead Korea into unification, and shares his impression about Father and our movement. His speech is salty, direct, and filled with humorous ways of confronting his Korean audience about their attitudes, prejudices and limitations in understanding True Father.
After Mr. Pak, I share a message on behalf of the international members, sometimes beginning with a Korean song, often with my son and daughter. I first explain in broken Korean about my long-haired, hippie background, the dysfunctional family situation I came from, and how I learned loyalty, filial piety, fidelity, and God’s heart through True Parents’ teaching. I explain about my blessing, express my love and respect for the Korean people, and then, because we lack good translation from English to Korean, I read a speech prepared for just such a circumstance, while a Korean elder reads a written translation. Despite the language barriers, the audiences have been touched by the songs and testimonies from international members.
Hoon Dok Hae follows, with readings form the messages of Marx, Lenin and Stalin from the spirit world. Professor Sung Bae Jin, shares the keynote message, explaining Father’s efforts with world leaders and demonstrating that Kim Il Sung’s "Juche" philosophy ultimately rests upon the establishment of True Parent, True Teacher and True Leader. These can only be fulfilled by God, the True Parent, Teacher and Leader of all. Professor Jin teaches philosophy at Sun Moon University, and serves as the Regional Federation Leader, which seems similar to our AFC Regional Director’s position.
All members, both Korean and international, are investing tremendous effort to make these rallies successful. Rev. Shin from our Atlanta region, who is coordinating in Choongnam Province, visited Yesan, yesterday. He expressed that because the Yesan membership is a bit smaller than other cities, some worried that the mobilization here might be difficult. He was pleased to find the opposite: "total mobilization" of local members, because without everyone’s help, it won’t work.
Each morning we hold Hoon Dok meetings from 5-6 AM in our hotel rooms: one in Japanese, one in English. Following breakfast and preparation, we are out by 8:00 AM, going to the district of the first rally. So begins a daily caravan of cars, jeeps and vans, moving members from place to place. If transportation is not available, our team jumps on a bus with the guidance of local members or those who have been mobilized here for many months. One team visits the "Myun Jang," or local area leader. We make sure to give a gift that someone brought from their country: a wind chime, a bag of almonds, a hand-made decoration, or whatever. Then we visit homes, or speak to people on the street, divided into teams with one Korean speaker for each team. Koreans are unaccustomed to strangers visiting their homes in the morning, and people on the street are usually on their way to work, but with love and effort we can break through and bring guests.
The first rally begins at 10:00 or 10:30. The second is at 1:00 or 2:00 PM, with the third at 4:00. At each site, a banner is hung-up, chairs set, video equipment prepared, and we are off and running. By now we are becoming like a well oiled machine. Rev. Jung Soo Shin, the Yesan church leader, works humbly and unassumingly to move members around, set up the events, and handle all the logistics. Professor Hiroaki Tokunaga, who teaches at Chung Cheung College and assists at the Yesan church, handles emceeing and translation responsibilities. Both of them are totally invested. So many other members show up time after time with a car or van, or invite us to witness where they live or work. Everyone seems so completely anxious to take care of us, and so appreciative of our efforts.
The team is anxious to work. With setting up and dismantling each rally, travel and lunch, there is little time for mobilization outreach. So some members will depart from the rally early, after singing, to go ahead to the next area. We invite people to the rally as well as sign up those who support the Unification Family association and the idea of North-South unification not by politics or power, but by the shared ideals of true love and true families. In a few locations we had just held rallies shortly before the mobilization, making it harder to get a response. In one such place the hall was unprepared and no one came. In another the leadership resisted a second rally so soon after the first.
Not wanting to accept defeat or waste an opportunity, in both cases we called the local seniors’ recreation center and found 30 or 40 people gathered for fellowship and activities. They welcomed us warmly, and suddenly the banner was up and an instant rally began. The banner was bigger than the room, and we all squeezed in on the floor, but the songs, sharing, and hope for peace and unification brought everyone together, including a number of community leaders who joined us there.
We have faced other challenges as well. We arrived on Saturday, February 8, and spent Sunday after church service planning, organizing and visiting our areas, which Father has termed our "Eternal Hometown." That evening, however, church leader Rev. Shin’s mother-in-law passed to the spirit world. Without his presence with his wife, they would not have been able to convince her non-Unificationist family to hold a Seung-Hwa Ceremony for her mom, who was Blessed. Suddenly we were without Rev. Shin. Then Tokunaga-sensei, our emcee, had to respond to a family emergency. But no matter what challenge we have faced, someone has appeared to take up the slack. With each difficulty, our hearts have become closer and closer.
On our fifth day of official activity, we will hold a festival and celebration for True Parents’ Birthday and Blessing, lifting up the ideals and values that they represent. Following the celebration and lunch, we will visit a shrine to one of Choongnam province’s many Korean patriots, followed by reflection, report, and a couple of hours at a hot springs resort before resuming our activities in our local areas tomorrow.
I can feel that God has much to teach me in this place: raw and simple lessons about truly loving and living for others. As Father has extended the mobilization another week (so far!), I do not yet know what is in store for us, but I will surely let you know!
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