The Words of the Schanker Family
From November 14 -- 17, 2009 at Chung Pyung Lake in Korea, we experienced an entirely new realm of True Parents’ matching and Blessing for Blessed Children. Four hundred eighty-eight candidates traveled to Korea from 28 countries, arriving at the Chung-A Youth Camp adjacent to the Heaven and Earth Training Center at Chung Pyung. On the morning of the 14th, candidates traveled to the training center to begin education and preparation for the matching. From the moment True Father knew we were gathered, however, it seemed that he wanted to be with the candidates, calling for them to come to the Original Palace even as they began their first session. Knowing that the matching could take place at any moment, candidates were shuttled back to the youth camp to change into their best attire, shuttled back to the training center for lunch, and then to join True Parents’ meeting with elder Blessed Couples that afternoon.
True Father’s strong connection to the candidates was obvious from the start. When he walked into the room and saw the candidates waiting patiently, he was anxious to begin. He immediately called out, “Where are the 777 Blessed couples? Why does it take so long to start a meeting?” Although Father was focused on the elders, with reports, testimonies, songs, and so forth, he seemed to want the young candidates with him. At one point, he stood them all up as the rest of the audience applauded. When the meeting closed just before 6 pm, Father said, “I will be back in three hours. If you are prepared, I can match you in 30 minutes! Prepare yourselves, and I may be back, or I may not come back. It is up to me.”
As the candidates waited excitedly in the beautiful and holy Original Palace, a snack of buns, bananas, and milk was served. The education program began once again, but at 8:50, True Parents returned and immediately began matching. One hour and 15 minutes later, 190 couples had been matched. The process was strictly governed by age, and Father emphasized throughout these several days that these 17 - 24-year-old young people with purity and absolute faith and trust in True Parents represented an entirely new and exemplary level of Blessing.
The candidates had been seated by age, with 24-year-olds in the front, 23-year-olds immediately behind them, down to the youngest candidates. Those older than 24 were seated in back. Father called for the 24-year-olds to line up, with men and women facing each other. Father and Mother began matching this group, walking slowly from the front of the room to the rear as each matched couple bowed briefly, passed behind him, and gave a copy of their name cards to each other and another copy to the staff for recording. Then each couple offered a full bow to True Parents and exited the room.
As the number of 24-year-olds dwindled, each younger age group was lined up alongside them. The older candidates were also brought forward. Father entered into a rhythm that seemed mystical, magical, and absolutely mesmerizing. I was moved to tears to see the faith of the candidates as Father approached them, the love of True Parents expressed in Father’s intense and serious effort, and the beauty of the resulting couples as they received their match. Some of the candidates smiled broadly with excitement and happiness as Father approached. Others seemed overwhelmed with nervousness at the intensity of the moment.
Father occasionally made comments to certain couples, such as, “You each have different strong points.” Because there were more women than men and Father was matching chronologically, there were many couples matched in which the woman was two or three years older than the man. More than once Mother suggested that the age difference might be a problem. In each case, Father affirmed the quality of the pairings. Once he even said, “This is absolutely the best young woman here for this man.”
As the matching drew to a close just after 10:00 pm, there were about 80 women left over, nearly all of them 17 or 18 years old. In fact, these youngest women never even stood up in front True Parents because there was a smaller number of men. Father matched every man available, as well as one who was barred from international travel at the last moment but whose photo had arrived anyway and one or two other special situations. It was, of course, a bit of a letdown for the younger women who were not matched, but they could see the situation and understand that it had nothing to do with their personal readiness or qualification and that Father tended to the elders first to make sure that they were matched. In many ways, it was a profound education and preparation for these young women.
The following morning, education began for the matched couples in three different groups: Korean, Japanese, and international. Translation was provided whenever possible so that international couples could attend the education together. Americans Rev. Phillip Schanker and Mrs. Debby Gullery joined the European director of Second Generation Blessing, Geros Kunkel, to share with the international group regarding the value of the Blessing, especially how to prepare and begin well. But that afternoon we heard once again that True Parents wanted to meet the couples and take a photo with them, and would be coming to Chung-Ah Youth Camp soon.
True Parents arrived with two grandsons. The couples were divided into five groups, and each group joined in a photo with the True Family. As each group shouted “Aboji!” or “Omoni!” for each successive photo, the True grandchildren shouted out the loudest, bringing laughter to all. Then Father spoke to the couples, urging them over and over again to be exemplary. He encouraged them to be a model toward their families, communities, and others. Father emphasized that on the foundation accomplished through earlier Blessings, this group was to set the standard for future couples. He asked all of the elder couples to mentor and support them, and gave the young couples advice on living a public life and beginning their families.
Father became increasingly intimate and grandfatherly, taking off and demonstrating the special socks he was wearing, asking for representative couples to sing, and sharing whimsical personal memories. It was clear that he felt a special bond with these new couples. Then Father did something we had never seen before. He mentioned that he wanted to look closely at each couple, to carefully evaluate the results of his matching, and assure that they are prepared for the responsibility he was giving them.
Father began to come down to the hall floor to pass among the couples, but instead the couples were lined up and, one by one, each approached the stage. “Don’t bow!” Father called out. “I want to see your faces.” After observing each couple as they passed in front of him, he mentioned that there were a few that were not clear internally, who were struggling about participation in the next day’s Blessing. In fact, at least two candidates approached the staff later that night, confessing secrets they had kept hidden up to that moment.
As the evening grew late and long, Father asked several elders to sing. The emcee, perhaps with encouragement from True Mother, attempted to bring the program to an end, but Father would have none of it. He really seemed to not want to leave the young couples. “Are you trying to get rid of me?” he asked. Finally, Father grabbed the microphone and sang some songs himself, with elders joining in. When he eventually departed to cheers of “Eog Mansei!,” the couples grabbed a short sleep, with the women tending to hair and makeup throughout the brief night.
The day of the Blessing dawned clear and especially cold, as couples adorned in dark suits and flowing wedding gowns gathered in the beautifully decorated main hall at Chung Pyung Training Center. Following a 9:00 am rehearsal, special entertainment was offered from ensembles representing the Lovin’ Life Ministry Band and the Three Rivers Choir. The Blessing Ceremony itself was brief, yet elegant and moving. International President Rev. Hyung Jin Moon offered a declaration to Heaven and opening remarks. It was beautiful to see True Parents surrounded by the young representative couples from many nations who came to the stage for the Holy Water and Ring Ceremonies, and to present flowers and gifts to the officiators.
True Parents’ invocation prayer became tearful and moving, as Father implored Heaven over and over that these pure couples might be a “textbook” for future marriages and families. The well-known daughter of former Korean president Park Chung Hee, who recently received the Blessing herself, gave a wholehearted testimony to True Parents in her congratulatory remarks. After the ceremony there was plenty of time for photos, couples and families together.
Father seemed to want to be with the couples at every moment. Later that day we learned that in the morning Hoon Dok Hae he asked, “Where are the couples?” “They are preparing for the Blessing Ceremony, Father,” was the answer given. “They should be here,” Father intoned. “We are deeply sorry, Father, but they must prepare their hair, makeup, clothing, for the rehearsal, and so forth.” “There should at least be representatives here,” Father mentioned.
True Parents extended a special invitation to the new couples, their families, and their friends to celebrate True Children’s Day the next morning at the Original Palace. Shuttle buses began early from the youth camp; upon arrival, each guest received a breakfast bag with festive rice cakes and a drink. Both the main hall, where a huge offering table overflowed with colorful stacks of fruit, rice cakes, and other traditional items, and a second overflow hall with multiple TV screens were filled to capacity.
The celebration began at 8:00 am with True Parents’ entrance and a representative bows. Once again, the Lovin’ Life Band and the full Three Rivers Choir performed. As soon as the ceremony was complete and a celebration cake cut, True Father began to speak. He emphasized the purity and sincerity with which one should approach such a holy celebration, particularly at the Cheon Jeong Goong, and expressed that he could feel that the internal preparation was not enough. “You cannot play around with these things,” he noted.
Once again, Father focused upon the couples with urgency. He spoke strongly about the importance of pure lineage, exhorting all Blessed Families to be honest and true, and warned that those who violated the absolute sexual morality of the Blessing would naturally decline and disappear. Once again he encouraged all elder families present to support these young couples. And once again, it seemed that Father wanted to keep the newly Blessed couples close to him. At around 11:00 am, Father suddenly said, “I’m hungry. Are you hungry?” Let’s finish and eat.” But, in fact, he continued to guide the couples, explaining the path to true freedom and reminding them of his expectations for them.
Several times Father wanted to end but simply couldn’t. Hoon Dok Hae was read. Father called for elders to sing or tell funny stories. During one particularly joyous song, Father suddenly jumped up and began to dance his way through the room, getting up close and personal with as many of the couples as he could. Finally, the program came to an end in the mid afternoon.
For the candidates who participated, the newly Blessed Couples and their families, the experience of True Parents matching and Blessing is surely one which they will never forget. In accordance with the conditions established through the October 14th Blessing, Father intends to give the Blessing continually through 2012. He announced a major Blessing for True Parents’ birthday in 2010, which will include couples matched by them at that time. The coming months, therefore, are a time for preparation for this.
Written by Rev. Phillip Schanker, Director of the Blessed Family Department