The Words of the Takami Family
Good morning, brothers and sisters. Wow. It's good to see all of you here at the Manhattan Center. Thank you. I'd like also to welcome all the brothers and sisters across the nation at 100 locations joining us through live cast. Everybody, please be seated.
Today is very special. Not only am I speaking here, but over 200 leaders, district pastors, state pastors, Lovin' Life pastors, volunteers, and brothers and sisters from all over the nation are gathered here and having a great national conference since last Friday. Those who are attending that, please raise your hands. Wow. Let's give a big hand.
I appreciate being here so much. We as Lovin' Life Ministries just celebrated our third anniversary last week, and it was awesome. I especially want to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to our senior pastor, Rev. In Jin Moon, for leading this nation. It's not a simple thing to lead a nation in this age.
I want to really appreciate her because, during the last three years more than 100 times, week after week and month after month, she has delivered the message from here. That's incredible. So once again, let's give a big hand to our senior pastor.
By the way, you may be wondering who I am. So far six district pastors have spoken here, and usually they have gray hair and a little lighter skin color. I'm a little bit different. My name is Rev. Kazuo Takami. I'm the district pastor of District 7, which consists of three great states: Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. I want to mention our 10 locations. In Illinois we have Chicago and Champaign; in Michigan we have Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids/Battle Creek; and also we have in Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Madison, and Sheboygan.
Besides all those, we have the Hispanic community in Chicago, led by pastors John and Marina Acevedo. You know what? Last year in Chung Pyung there was a witnessing competition. The Acevedos won the First Prize because over 20 people joined the Hispanic community. That's a phenomenon. I want to acknowledge of them. Let's give the Acevedos a big hand.
I also want to mention our district a little bit more. Reverend Swearson, the other day, speaking from here said his states together are bigger than England, France and also Spain. Well, we have just three states, so geographically we're a little smaller, but in our district we have 28 million people, so we consider that we are also a big district.
As you may see by now, I'm from Japan originally. I have a Japanese accent. So please bear with me today, especially my Jenglish, Japanese English. You have to pay attention to me. But actually I am very confident and comfortable because of you, because our brothers and sisters are specialists in understanding unfamiliar culture. I have often observed very unique scenes when I go to a restaurant with brothers and sisters: Western members are using chopsticks, while Japanese members are using a knife and fork. It's a very unique cultural exchange.
Today my sermon title is "The Road: Walking a Path Together." To walk a path together, we need to know each other, and we need to know our differences. If we know about our differences, we can easily become more united, and in our journey we will walk closer together, right? Our journey will become more happy and joyful.
I'd like to talk about three kinds of differences. The first kind of difference is the culture difference. Let me start by introducing myself a little bit more. I joined the church in Japan in 1989 through CARP when I was a freshman in college. It was just 10 days after my entrance ceremony into college. My spiritual parent approached me in the library and brought me to the video center of CARP.
I was looking for good friends, actually. The previous year, unfortunately, I had failed the entrance exam to the school. Therefore, I had to spend another year in a prep school. I was so serious. I had determined not to make any new friends because they might disturb me; I might be bothered by them. I had made such a decision and commitment.
One good side of that, of course, was that I could study a lot, but also I began to think about the meaning of my life. That was great preparation before hearing Divine Principle, but on the other hand, it was extremely lonely. So I was so excited at the CARP Center because of the love and care of our brothers and sisters. I could share anything -- even my stories. I had never shared so much with my parents, but I could share with the brothers and sisters of CARP.
Also I could discuss my future. I was wondering what kind of path I should take, but they really listened well and gave me great advice. Also the Divine Principle gave me a clear answer to every single question I had struggled with over the previous year. Naturally I joined the church. Everything happened within one month. Then in 1996, when I was a local CARP leader in Japan, a big turning point came to me. True Father selected over 200 brothers and sisters in Japan and said, "Go to America and study at UTS, the Unification Theological Seminary."
I was one of them, so I attended UTS at the end of 1996. Until that time, honestly speaking, I never had had a chance to associate personally with any Westerners. Wow. I'm from the countryside so I never saw real white people or black people or Hispanic people -- never. I remember when I arrived at UTS for the first time from the airport. A white brother and a black sister came to me and spoke to me. I was so nervous, I couldn't speak.
But during the UTS time, besides my theological study I learned a lot about cultural differences, especially between East and West. I want to share a couple of my stories.
One day at UTS I tried to borrow a notebook from my friend. He was a friend, but we were not so close. I had previously exchanged a few words with him, but basically we just knew the face of each other. I approached casually and started with, "Hi, how are you? How are you doing?" I talked about the weather, just like an Englishman does. Then I mentioned about music, movies, and also the currency exchange rate, because I was an international student. Finally I said, "Can I borrow your notebook?" He smiled and passed me his notebook kindly, but he said, "It's not necessary to use a long introduction before revealing the purpose of your visit. In America you can just honestly share what you want and explain why you need it." That may be just a small difference, but to me it was eye-opening. I learned that the speaking style is different.
Here's another example. It's much deeper. It's from my internship course in San Francisco. I went to San Francisco in 1999 to take an internship course for three months. At that time Rev. Kevin Thompson was the state leader, and he was already well known as a great speaker and preacher. He said he had already prepared 27 or 28 topics, and from those topics he could talk about anything. He was ready to speak.
Then he told me a very interesting fact. If the audience contains multiple nationalities, each nationality has a different preference of topic. For instance, a Japanese audience listens very well to stories of indemnity and restoration. They repent and shed tears, while American brothers suffer on such a topic. But when he spoke on a topic from the Principle of Creation, such as creativity or uniqueness of the individual or volunteerism, the American brothers' eyes would be sparkling, while there would be not much response from Japanese brothers.
As for uniqueness, fundamentally Japanese want to be the same as others, not different from others, and certainly not unique. And they don't volunteer easily. Basically they want a leader to tell them what to do. Do you have such an experience? Why are the Japanese like this? Have you ever thought about this? Why are the Japanese like this? Let me quickly explain.
Japan is a small island country, the same size as the state of Montana, which is the fourth largest state in America. The largest state is Alaska, the second largest is Texas, third is California, and then comes Montana, a great state -- although I have never been there. Japan is the same size as the state of Montana, but 80 percent of Japan is mountains. Rice is the most important food, but the Japanese people can use just 20 percent of the land for agriculture. Obviously we are so tight, so crowded onto the land. Therefore, in a village, everybody must cooperate. You cannot be outstanding. You cannot do something different from others. Therefore, it is better for Japanese to behave the same way that the other people do.
As for the tendency to enjoy hearing indemnity and restoration stories, I think Buddhism's influence is very big. The Buddhist worldview is quite different from the Christian viewpoint. Buddhists see the world as a world of suffering. Life is full of suffering and pain.
One of the biggest Buddhist themes is how to end this suffering. First, you have to accept reality, suffering reality, as it is, and deny all your desire because desire leads to greed and attachment. And attachment causes suffering. Also they believe in cause and effect, so everything has happened because of some cause. Naturally, then, typical Japanese thinking is that your ongoing suffering results from misdeeds -- misdeeds in your earlier life or mistakes of your ancestors.
If you accept and endure suffering and try to do good things to redeem your sins, then your problems will disappear. Generally speaking, Japanese people are very patient, but it doesn't mean they have a happy and enjoyable life.
Lovin' Life liberated me from that concept. Cultural background has a huge impact on the life of faith. I used to think my life of faith should be, must be, one of suffering. "If there's no suffering, it must be wrong; something must be wrong." So I used to think I must endure. I couldn't think that my life of faith could be enjoyable.
Also by denying your desires, you become passive, so it not easy for Japanese to volunteer for something. I was the same before. When I had an opportunity to be a volunteer, first I wondered, "Am I the right person to do the job? I'm not sure." And I used to find myself being more excited and more empowered when I was told by my leader, "Please take care of this. Please do this." Here my sense of mission would rise, "Oh, yes, this is my mission; I've got to do it."
This wasn't necessarily wrong, but Lovin' Life was revolutionary for me. Because of my cultural background, I didn't understand Lovin' Life's emphasis on volunteerism, in the beginning especially. But now I can see. Even the Divine Principle states in the beginning that your good desire leads you to joy and happiness, and your wicked, evil desire leads you to misfortune.
So, to volunteer for something, first you need a good desire. But even if you have a good desire, but you don't practice it, you can't experience joy and happiness. Lovin' Life provides a lot of volunteering opportunities, so please take this opportunity if you can. See your local pastors. You can volunteer. It's a great training ground for our spiritual growth.
In Jin Nim appointed me as district pastor in August 2010, two years ago. If it had been a few years earlier, I wouldn't have accepted. I would have thought, "I'm not worthy. Somebody is better." Somehow I had a strong concept, and that concept was, "A Japanese shouldn't be a leader. Either a Korean or an American should be chosen, and a Japanese should be just an assistant." I had such a concept.
Through hearing In Jin Nim's message every week, over and over again, however, I gradually realized that every child is equally God's child. Therefore, opportunity will be provided, regardless of nationality, race, even gender. That's why you see many kinds of leaders at Lovin' Life Ministries.
Honestly speaking, I have to confess -- yes, actually I repented greatly -- because I realized that I was kind of a racist. I was racist toward myself because otherwise why can I say, "I cannot be a leader"? I was judging myself by nationality alone. So I was liberated from such limited thinking by In Jin Nim. I really appreciate In Jin Nim's wisdom and courage.
Even though I didn't consider myself to be a leader, she did. Not only did she install me as a district pastor, she brought me here to speak and stand in front of you. It's a courageous act.
Everybody needs to be prepared. Next it may be you.
I have two questions. Question Number One is very simple. Did In Jin Nim know me personally before appointing me? No. Question Two: Did she know how I speak in public before she asked me to come here? No. I have not spoken in front of In Jin Nim for more than two minutes.
And how about Mrs. Heather Thalheimer? She is the head of education and ministry development, such a major department. She shared a couple of Sundays ago about how she was appointed. She just worked for In Jin Nim on some project and after a few conversations In Jin Nim appointed her as the head of the department.
Why? How could In Jin Nim give such a position to these people whom she didn't know before? My opinion is that she trusts people; she trusts in God as her Father and her Mother; and she trusts what God and True Parents have shown to her and shown to us.
I want now to read a quote from Hyung Jin Nim, her brother and our international president. The message was given during his inauguration ceremony as the international president, back to April 2008. Here is the quote.
"Briefly, a minister is a person who conveys God's love and True Parents' love. It is simple. I strongly believe that a minister [who] cannot give True Parents' love and God's love to others will find himself in great difficulty. I have come to believe that real ministry is caring and having compassion for others, believing in the good of others, practicing patience, empathy and forgiveness, even if others hurt me. It is having faith in God and True Parents' presence, help, and guidance, even when the path before us seems dark and gloomy."
I put this quote on the wall by my desk, and I look at it every day, because I want to be like that person. I want to be like In Jin Nim. I want to be like Hyung Jin Nim. Ultimately I want to be like True Parents. So I deeply admire their heart and ability to trust people. Let's give a big hand to True Parents and True Children.
So far I have talked about cultural differences, but I'd like to talk next about the era we are living in, a different era. We are like the Israelite people who have arrived at Canaan after 40 years in the wilderness course. They needed to settle down in the Promised Land and build up a nation. The focus of the people was quite different between the two ages. In the wilderness course your main concern may be how to protect your tribes and how to move to the next place quickly; but after settlement, your focus would become how to contribute toward building the nation. They may need fewer soldiers but more construction workers or officers, or they need many kinds of people, talents, and skills. And more importantly, they need a new mind-set and different attitude.
If someone's mind-set still remains the same as in the previous age, he may be left behind in the new age. I'm pretty sure some of Israelite people were confused, questioned their leaders, and complained. Some people probably just waited for the next move and did nothing. But they had to adjust themselves.
I believe that Lovin' Life Ministries is the ministry for the Settlement Age. It deals with life. Life goes on 24/7, all the time. And it's ministries, not ministry; plural, not singular. This means that Lovin' Life deals with all kinds of people, all aspects of life, whether you are young or old -- let's say "mature" -- or native or immigrant, or a new member, a lead member, or a long-time member. Whoever you are, Lovin' Life Ministries deals with you.
Also it's not Love, Life Ministries. It's Lovin' Life Ministries. It's in action, loving. It's action. We are the subject of the action and the owner of faith and love. In Lovin' Life Ministries you can freely express yourself through your involvement in ministry. Let's give a big hand to Lovin' Life ministries.
So, brothers and sisters, we've got to realize that this is a new era, and our lifestyle needs to change, fitting into the new era. You cannot wear winter clothes in the spring season. Whether you like it or not, the new season is coming. You cannot resist it; no matter how much you love your winter jacket, it doesn't work in the spring season.
I need to mention one thing. I'm not saying to change everything. I'm saying we need to be flexible according to the age and Heaven's desire. Be flexible, but on the other hand there's something that we shouldn't change: That is our core faith. Your clothes can be changed, but you yourself shouldn't be changed. That's why our senior pastor is teaching the very core value, core faith. That is our True Parents. The True Parents are True Parents from the beginning and now and forever. That will never change.
Furthermore, in this age we need to be more confident to testify to our faith. Let me share one story. In March, during our monthly ACLC prayer breakfast in Chicago, we held a press conference titled, "A God-centered marriage is the answer to build a healthy society." In front of 160 Christian pastors and ministers, a few of our members testified to the marriage Blessing and our faith. The audience listened really attentively to their stories. We had three couples on the stage: one from the 8,000 couples blessing, one newly blessed couple, and one Second Generation couple. Three couples testified.
The Second Generation couple that testified to the Blessing was none other than Pastor Jario and Pastor Lena, Lovin' Life pastors of Chicago. They are the only Second Generation Lovin' Life pastor in this nation at this point. I remember In Jin Nim came to Chicago as part of her listening tour back to 2008. She asked all Second Generation about their dreams, and our brother Jario is the only one who said, "I want to become a church minister." Then, as you know, he, together with his wife, Lena, became Lovin' Life pastors last year. So God remembered his voice.
I want to share a little bit about them. Since Pastor Jario and Pastor Lena became Lovin' Life pastors in Chicago, they have opened the doors for young people to come in. Immediately after they were installed as pastors, three college students who graduated from STF, the predecessor to the current GPA program, stood up and became the youth pastors of Chicago. Two Second Generation sisters became volunteer coordinators. And now our Chicago Lovin' Life band is being led by a Second Generation group.
Our current leadership is a healthy mix of First Generation and Second Generation. More Second Generation are coming to church, and they are looking for ways to get involved.
One more thing. One great attribute of Pastor Jario and Lena is their own communication together as a couple. Whenever I talk to one of them, within a few hours the other one knows what I have spoken. Many times especially leaders have a problem in this area. Our leaders know about programs and lead things, but the wives sometimes are left behind a little bit. There could be the situation such that the whole congregation knows about it, but the wife doesn't. Sometimes such things happen.
In Jin Nim is so wise to install couples as the pastors. Who is the model for the couple's ministry? That is True Parents. If you think about it, in the 1960s, the 1970s, and even the 1980s, True Mother used to walk behind True Father. But now True Mother has attained equal position to True Father and they stand together as True Parents side by side. So even for True Parents, their way of appearing has changed. The age has changed.
Now, back to the story of ACLC. I believe the foundation of outreach is our internal ministry. Outreach activities are more external. If our members and the church are healthier, we can achieve more results. I strongly believe that. If you want to build a higher building, you need to dig deeper and build a solid and big foundation. Then you can build a higher building.
In this sense, the Chicago ACLC has a great outreach foundation. Our energies have been invested in building the Christian foundation, which is successful. But it is more important to build our own ministries through Lovin' Life, and we can even apply the vision of Lovin' Life to develop outreach activities.
I want to share one example. In Chicago I have a small group of several ACLC pastors, including Rev. T. L. Barrett. He is well known. Together with several more prominent pastors I have a small group. This is the so-called core pastors group. It meets once a month. That meeting was designed a couple of years ago to prepare for the monthly prayer breakfast, but now it's becoming an intimate fellowship group. In the meeting we can share anything: our faith, our challenges, or our difficulties -- in the church or at home. We can discuss anything. To me this is the type of small group that Lovin' Life is encouraging each of us to have.
Last year in the core pastors meeting there was an exciting discussion that I want to share with you. In the meeting we discussed, "Is Father Moon a messiah or the Messiah?" The word Messiah means anointed one in Hebrew. It also means king. So any king can be called a messiah. But if you are talking in the context of Christian theology, the Messiah is the king of kings, lord of lords, and savior.
Do you want to know what they said in the meeting? Some clergy said, "Yes, Father Moon is the Messiah." The rest of them agreed that Father Moon is a messiah. Isn't it amazing? If we didn't have such a small group meeting, we could not have such a discussion. So I believe that through the Lovin' Life vision these pastors are getting close to True Parents.
Finally, I'd like to talk about the difference in growth speed. Everybody grows at his or her own pace, so that's why we have to be patient sometimes. Let me share my story. I was 22 years old when I was blessed with my wife, Hiromi. It was 1992, so we are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. But after the Blessing, we were separately working in distant cities, and we didn't have so much chance to meet each other.
Then one time I had a chance to visit her. It was my birthday, and it seemed like I was dating her. At the end of our date she gave me a present, a handmade sweater. Have you ever received one? I received it. But you know, it was handmade and the size was so large. It hung down maybe around here, but I was so moved because she said she had worked on it every day after work, bit by bit. It took three months. So I really felt love and care from her.
Honestly speaking, until that moment I never thought about when we were going to start our family. But her love awakened me, even everything. My spirit was totally awakened. After that, I was always thinking, "How soon can I start our family with her?" By the way, God has blessed us with five kids. I really appreciate her patience and her sincere devotion toward me.
Here in Lovin' Life we have all kinds of people, as you can see. We have many choices of ways to come to know each other deeply, but at the same time there are many chances to experience friction. Because many people are working so closely together, more heat can be generated sometimes. But we need to understand that each person's growing speed is different, so we need to respect each other. Sometimes we need to be patient with whoever they are: our spouse, a child, a friend, or whoever. We need to help them to quickly grow with our sincere heart. Then we can overcome the differences.
Our Unification community is a diverse community. Therefore, we find more challenges here -- but that is America's beauty. No other country has so many nationalities living together as this nation. Therefore, if we succeed here, we can apply our model anywhere, anywhere in the world. Amen. Let's give a big hand for America.
So today I talked about three kinds of differences: Difference in culture, difference in age, and difference in growth speed. Despite all these differences, we can be united because we have the same parent, God, and God is reflected in True Parents. Our True Parents are the ultimate pioneers who have paved the way for us, and Lovin' Life Ministries makes our journey more joyful and happier. Would you like to join us? Let's go. Let's take our journey together.
I want to conclude my speech with a quote from the Bible. It's the passage on the King's Highway in Isaiah Chapter 35, verses 8–10. "And the highway will be there. It will be called the way of holiness. It would be for those who walk on that way. The unclean will not journey on it. Wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ferocious beast; they will not found there. But only the redeemed will walk there. And those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."
We all started our journey from different places, and each individual has taken a different path. Some of you may have taken a very difficult life course -- a mountainous or muddy or winding road. You may have experienced many kinds of difficulties, but we all are here today in the place where True Parents are present.
True Parents have paved the path for us, and from here we can go together. I want to read once again the last part of this Bible quote. It says, "They will enter Zion with singing." We're going to enter with everybody into the Kingdom of Heaven, and with singing like the Sonic Cult does. Everlasting joy will crown our heads; gladness and joy will overtake us; and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
As I said, I really appreciate everybody, because you are part of this diverse community. We have so much potential. If we can build the Kingdom of Heaven here, we can apply it to rest of the nations all over the world. We can reign with the spirit of True Parents, with love.
Thank you so much. God bless you.