The Words of the Selle Family

Interview of Jerry and Catherine Chestnut about their Home Church work

Angelika Selle
July 1989

Families enjoy a ride to the country

Question: How and when did you receive your home church area?

In the summer of 1986 we were fortunate to inherit two home church areas in Brooklyn, New York, from Hiroshi and Kathleen Goto, who, together with Freiderun Abrahams, had been faithfully working there under Reverend Won Pil Kim's guidance.

Question: Can you explain how you first started developing your home church, and your vision for your area?

The way we began is a testimony to the hard work of our predecessors, Hiroshi and Kathleen Goto, who at the time they started home church in Brooklyn had two-year-old triplet boys. Very often, Kathleen and Hiroshi would bring their boys and Freiderun would bring her three children to do home church. What a precious sight this was in God's eyes! Obviously people's hearts were also moved by this heavenly parade up and down the streets for many remember them well.

The Gotos kept good records making it easy to continue their foundation. The home church roster system records enabled us to know the names and situations of many people in our new area.

We got immersed into our area as volunteers in a children's summer camp the Gotos had founded in a nearby church. The pastor had attended religious freedom rallies, CAUSA conferences and an ICC in Korea. Working in this camp enabled us to establish a reputation of being willing to help in the neighborhood and brought us closer to the families of the children who attended.

We aimed at meeting the people with whom the best relationships had been made and quickly became friends with them. We tried to determine which was our best family, our best three families, and our best twelve families. We always try to find ways to involve these 12 families with one another. Our vision is to develop our area in a course parallel with Father's work to unify the Fatherland and then to connect our tribe to that nation.

Question: What kind of people live in your area, and what was their initial response?

Our home church area has a wide variety of people. Almost every race, economic situation, cultural and religious background is represented. We are quite fortunate in this respect. Although the greatest percentage of our people are Afro-Americans and have a Christian heritage, there are other religions there such as Muslims and Buddhists. Chinese, Europeans, Central and South Americans keep many of their homeland holiday traditions, bringing their culture and wonderful cuisine into our lives. Well-to-do folks, single mothers on welfare, students, and the unemployed all occupy homes next to each other. The elderly hang on to their memories and homes they know so well, telling nostalgic stories of days gone by when doors could be left unlocked and children respected the elders in the neighborhood.

The initial reaction of the people varied according to their worldview, of course. We experienced little unfriendliness because we started after Father's victory in Danbury. Any resistance has been subtle and unspoken. Some of them were very curious about this couple who had stepped into the Gotos' shoes.

Question: Have you started any particular projects?

We have initiated several projects that help solve problems in the community. We recently held some meetings centering on health under David Fastiggi's wealth of knowledge on the subject. Sharing with parents about protecting children from outside abuse and providing some counseling on parenting problems has been quite rewarding. The Principle can be practically applied in all directions. We have had countless birthday parties with cakes and gifts, mostly for the children of the area. We have taken them on trips to the New York Symphony as gifts, too. For many of them it was a first occasion. They loved it and we always took plenty of pictures at these times, so the memories could be relived.

Home church guests appreciate the entertainment at the UTS Open House

Question: How did you get people involved?

We have always tried to invite people to attend Unification Church sponsored events. We are grateful to the Unification Theological Seminary for its beautiful open house held in May of each year. This day is so special to the families we bring up each year that when we drop them back home at the end of the day, completely exhausted, filled with games, rides, food, entertainment and the love they received, they can't wait to go again next year!

There is also Ocean Day offered by Ocean Church in Gloucester, Massachusetts. What a unique and exciting event for home church contacts!

Of course, CAUSA and other conferences, Divine Principle workshops, and Sunday Service are all there for our guests. Each time a person attends and feels God's love, heart and caring, they are elevated and can bring this heavenly change to life in their homes. Because of the tradition of heart of our True Parents and brothers and sisters, we can really be a family. We offer something so precious -- the true love philosophy. Home Church is a priceless gift from our True Parents.

One of our most precious experiences came when we gathered money and other resources for Liberia in West Africa. On one occasion, we organized a fundraising dinner. The proceeds helped our missionary brother of Liberia, Steve Buono, to build a grade school against incredible odds (see Today's World, Aug. 1988). We were so grateful to be able to help. Next, we began collecting clothes for the same area in Liberia. We helped a man in our home church take the clothing in an ICUSA truck to a New Jersey port to be sent to Liberia. We and quite a few people in our home church area feel very connected to the people there from helping in these projects.

We continue to try to work with the children and teens in the neighborhood, especially by taking them on outings in the summer. We have organized trips to lakes, Wonhwa-do classes, and even to an apple orchard for a pick-your-own experience.

Trading and loaning videotapes, which includes a wholesome mix of movies, educational documentaries, Divine Principle and CAUSA tapes proved to be quite successful. We have a video "loaned-out and got-back" book. We also keep careful records of birthdays, gifts given, cakes, breads, and cookies baked.

Getting people involved in our projects depends on our sincerity to meet a need. If we are sincere, then people naturally want to help.

Question: Did you have any particular difficulties in your area?

We try to hold God's ideal in our hearts and work toward this goal. We are learning what it takes to break down the barriers not just in people's hearts, but in our own as well. True Father reminds us that we are parents to our home church people. This takes big guts and big hearts. We do meet with some resistance, but the greatest resistance that we find is within ourselves. We find most problems arise whenever we allow ourselves to drift away from involvement with the district home church center or the traditions that keep us connected to God's heart and will.

Question: What did you learn from the time you spent under Reverend Won Pil Kim?

Reverend Won Pil Kim is a living extension of our True Parents and gives a great deal of love and respect to everyone. I learned from him that you must try to take total responsibility for the lives of the core group around you and then the core group will do the same for others. Of course, everything that Reverend Kim does is a reflection of what he saw Father doing for him and others.

Reverend Kim is a consistent man who strictly maintains a Principled order; yet, he is very broad-minded, embracing everyone. He knows that others are observing every move he makes, so he is never free to say or do a single thing centering on his own ideas. He is a prisoner in that sense. Similarly, we realize our home church people will also observe us very carefully as representatives of True Parents.

Reverend Kim always looks after the one who is struggling or suffering the most. If you obey Reverend Kim's advice for your difficulty, then he takes full responsibility for the outcome to be good. Should you decide to pursue your own solution, then you must take responsibility for the outcome. Still, Reverend Kim is always there to support you.

There is one pattern in his daily life that never changes, in spite of his taxing and varied schedule -- he always prays with his wife in the early morning, long before five a.m.

Question: What has been your deepest experience since starting home church?

Our deepest experience in doing home church has not been one single experience, but, rather the joy and the pain that one feels over a long period of time in making relationships and watching people change. This is especially true when we notice a positive change in their thinking about True Parents and subsequently their internal relationship with them. This produces a positive change in their relationships and lifestyle. Everyone is searching for solutions to their family problems. By openly sharing our knowledge and personal experiences, we become closer in heart and change occurs.

Question: Are there any experiences you would like to share?

An answer to this question could take volumes, even though we have only been doing home church for a short time.

One experience is a testimony to the preparation that Heavenly Father has made in advance of our coming to our home church areas. One couple in our area is interracial and international. The husband is white and from New York City. His college education and slender build are in contrast to his wife's pleasant, motherly plumpness and upbringing in the jungles of Liberia. There the family ties are deep, broad, strong and lasting. Her wisdom comes from her goodness and her hugs leave you feeling really welcomed and loved.

The Blessed Couples Club of Brooklyn visited their home one evening for a West African banquet and a testimony from each of them that made us laugh and cry. Our blessed couples listened with great interest and could share similar experiences of their own. This special couple's testimony is one of going through unthinkable hardships and misunderstandings conquered only because of their courage and determination to make sacrifices for the sake of love. They have cared for their family and friends in Liberia in a way that would put most Americans to shame.

After we got to know this couple, we found, to our amazement, that the homes they had built for the wife's mother are within five minutes' walk of the home of our missionaries, Steve and Jo Buono. We didn't discover this until the wife met our missionary to Liberia at the fundraising dinner we held. Now the wife and Steve Buono are good friends and will hopefully cooperate for the betterment of the people of that village. It is a small world after all. We like to think that by following our True Parents' ideals, we're helping to make it even smaller.

Jerry (right side) picnicking with two guests

Question: Do you have any advice for people starting home church?

Try in every way to connect your home church people to the foundation that our True Parents have established. Besides introducing them to the Divine Principle, you can educate them through books from Paragon House, publications from the International Security Council, the Washington Institute, CAUSA or other parts of our movement. There is also Insight magazine, The World and I, and our great daily newspapers. You can take them to any educational or cultural project that our movement sponsors. Introduce them to our economic foundation by taking them to one of our restaurants.

The second bit of advice would be to expect no more results than the amount of heart and effort you invest. Finally, as Father has said, clean up the dirtiest places and situations. Your area is only as great as its dirtiest place or its worst problem. Father's course in Danbury is the best textbook on how to clean up dirty places in your home church area.

Question: How do you find time for home church given both of your busy schedules?

We remember Father's advice when he said it is more valuable to accomplish home church when you are busy with other responsibilities, than it is if home church is your only responsibility. It really depends on our determination. We only wish this interview could be with someone who could speak on the foundation of greater victory in home church.

Jerry's current mission is in the European Office and Catherine works in the Legal Affairs Department at National Headquarters. 

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