The Words of the Yakawich Family

"The Power of People Working Together" - 5th Annual Montana ACLC Conference

Mike Yakawich
April 19, 2008
Cochair, Montana ACLC

On Saturday, April 19th, 2008, the 5th Annual Montana American Clergy Leadership Conference was sponsored in Billings, Montana, at the War Bonnet Inn. There were over 45 clergy, lay ministers, educators, counselors and community leaders in attendance. The conference began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 4:00 p.m. This conference was cosponsored, organized and staffed by four different churches.

The title of the conference was “Creating Outer Peace In Our Community Through Addressing Inner Peace In Ourselves.” The focus of this conference was on the topic of drugs and alcohol abuse. Many spoke from a spiritual view on how we can overcome such social problems with a strong character where God is the center. Many insights, guidance, and solutions were offered.

One of the cosponsors, a pastor of the All Nations Christian Fellowship Church, guided us with prayer and a personal testimony of how someone so involved in the secular world could emerge with the grace of God to become a pastor of a church and a community leader. Then, Mr. Paul DiLorenzo guided the conference with an internal perspective to peace by using the model of the three blessings found in Genesis 1:28.

The conference then turned to a real and serious understanding of the problems of drugs and alcohol use in our community. A DEA agent provided deep insight from his 30 years as an agent. He clarified that marijuana has been a gateway drug to many other serious problems people face in relation to addictions.

Later a speaker from United Way presented a survey that was taken in the local schools, where there has been increased use of alcohol, tobacco and cigarette among the sophomores in high school. She later led a breakout session. Another breakout session leader, a clinical social worker, shared how she has discovered that spirituality is so vital for recovery.

Our lunch program began with a testimony on a prayer vigil that sprouted out of our past conferences. This prayer vigil has continued each month for over two years. Then our District Leader of ACLC, Larry Krishnek, gave the keynote speech, “A Vision of Peace from a Global Perspective.” He praised the good work of the local ACLC members. He then shared on a national and internal level what great accomplishments inspired by Father Moon that the ACLC membership has been doing all over the world.

Our afternoon program included entertainment by six Latter Day Saints (LDS) elders offering wonderful songs. A young 6th grader performed on his clarinet for the audience as well. We proceeded with Evangelist Eunice Terry, who spoke from her heart and the Bible on the need to push through these serious conflicts in our community and not give up.

Then we were given an excellent presentation by a member of the LDS church on addressing addictions by building strong families. The next speaker, the Imam of Montana, shred deeply his views of building peace through the Koran.

One pastor spoke on his work with building addiction homes for recovering addicts. Later, a psychologist from Billings shared her new discoveries of breakthroughs in addictions by addressing chronic stress. Finally, another speaker also offered keen insights regarding her ministry of compassionate communication. These later two presenters then continued with breakout sessions addressing these topics in more depth.

In a nutshell, some remarkable insights emerged. We need to include God in all this type of work. We need to work on a clearinghouse for youth activities in the city. We need better training for parents. We need to change our way of looking at issues. A determination was reached that we are giving new birth to our city. This is a “people’s war on drugs,” not just a government’s. We need to engage in spirituality and not enable our youth to do whatever they want. Marijuana has THC, a chemical that has increased dramatically in strength over the years. We need to study this and other issues to be more educated and provide better alternatives. We need a stronger attitude to identify the problems earlier, become caring adults, provide safer places, offer a healthier start, educate more effectively, and provide opportunities for people to give back to their community.

We felt these goals for our conference were fulfilled.

Unity and cooperation for those committed to freedom from addictions Education and sharing resources regarding solutions to addictions. Implementing and networking with religious, spiritual and wholistic practitioners. Creating a whole new addiction-free family We handed out over twenty door prizes generously donated by businesses in the area. We then gathered in closing prayer with representative prayers spoken in Dutch, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, and English. One Lutheran minister was so inspired, he asked to lead the group in singing the Lord’s Prayer. We had twelve faiths represented. Those attending were two bishops, five ministers, seven missionaries, an evangelist, an Imam, lay ministers, three social workers, several community leaders, community members and several youth. We had Native Americans, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Whites in the audience.

We are very grateful for the local members who worked so hard to help make this conference such a success, including the Martin, DiLorenzo and Yakawich family. The spiritual guidance by our District ACLC coordinator Mrs. Noriko Fisher was vital. The conference stayed with in its budget by including donations from several churches and a freewill offering. The local papers, The Billings Gazette and the OutPost, did a fine job in publicizing our event.

I will conclude with the words of those who participated. A social worker stated, “I really appreciate being invited. I liked hearing the variety of viewpoints. I love the diversity of religions and ethnicities here and the tolerance for differences.” One Lutheran minister shared, “I really enjoyed the interaction between so many different ways that were presented and how to have relationships and understand one another.” A community leader explained, “The breakouts seemed to cause a lot of excitement.” Finally the DEA agent wrote, “What a wonderful group of people who have come together to address the drug problem. The passion and experience of the people is what makes the conference so powerful. I strongly encourage that the conference continues every year and that word spread to an ever broader extent.” 

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