The Words of the Yakawich Family
It didn’t matter much to Rev. Mike Yakawich, Family Church minister in Billings, Montana, that only a handful of allies showed up for his march against drugs and violence in the summer of 1998. He went ahead with it as planned, counted it as a victory, and started organizing the next year’s march.
But what a difference 11 years has made. The 12th Annual March Against Drugs and Violence on June 13 featured Montana’s Secretary of State as keynote speaker and drew close to 500 citizens as well as camera crews from both of Billings’ local TV stations. The long list of cosponsoring organizations included the Montana American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), Boys and Girls Clubs of Yellowstone Country, DUI Taskforce, the Family Church, the Billings Police Department, Tumbleweed Teen Runaway Program, the Rimrock Foundation, Passages, the Elks Lodge, and several other community organizations and churches. Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy and other speakers reportedly publicly praised the Billings Family Church for taking leadership in this successful community event.
“We were especially fortunate to have the Montana State Secretary Linda McCulloch as our keynote speaker,” Rev. Yakawich told Familyfed.org. “She praised our march and recognized it as one of the largest antidrug and antiviolence events in the state. She uplifted all with words of encouragement and determination that such stances were vital to saying, ‘No more drugs or violence in our community.’
“Our own church members were excited and so proud of being part of our church,” Reverend Yakawich commented. “Several home church members expressed a deep gratitude for our work in the community,” he added. “We know that such events are not intended to provide new membership to our church. It is a genuine effort to support community education and service. Nevertheless, through our consistency and investment, we naturally produce credibility and trust regarding our church, the members, and the founders, Father and Mother Moon. Several ministers attended this event.”
Originally founded by ACLC clergy 11 years ago with about a dozen youth, three parents, and two clergy, the march has grown into a citywide community event. Marchers and other participants were close to 500 strong. The program on June 13 began with an enthusiastic group at the Courthouse Lawn. Pastor Yakawich and Brian Dennis, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Yellowstone County, served as masters of ceremonies. The event got moving with music in the background from the Limited Warranty Band.
The one-mile march through downtown Billings was led by Young Marines and Boy Scout Troop Number 7. The Billings Police Department bike patrol guided the group, providing safety and traffic stops all along the way. The marchers carried red “noodles” inscribed with the slogan Marching Against Drugs and Violence and were accompanied by a marcher in elk suit, known fondly as the Elks Club antidrug mascot, “Elroy,” walking the entire distance.
Rev. Melvin Terry, cochair of the Montana ACLC and minister of the All Nations Christian Fellowship Church, led the audience in prayer over the meal. As people proceeded to a barbecue on the lawn provided by many volunteers, the assembly heard encouraging messages from inspirational speakers, including Bob Hillard of the Elks Lodge and Eran Thompson, representing U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. Senator Tester’s letter to the demonstrators included the following: “The best way to confront illegal drugs and violence is to work together to keep them out of our lives, to open the lines of communication. And to reach out to those who need help. That’s what’s happening at this march. Montanans—and all Americans—appreciate and admire what you’re doing.”
Many local sponsors brought volunteers to help cook and offer background support. Family Federation volunteers took on the job of barbequing and serving food for all. Nine youth from the Special Task Force (STF) also volunteered and participated in this year's march, according to Reverend Yakawich.
Media coverage of the march this year was unprecedented. The local CBS and NBC affiliates placed interviews with Rev. Yakawich and other march leaders on local news programs on June 13. The Billings Gazette (www.billingsgazette.com) printed an article on Wednesday, June 10, and another respectful story the day after the event on June 14th. The weekly paper, The Outpost, also gave a public service announcement of the event.
Participants at the march reported a sense of authentic community atmosphere. According to the Billings Gazette story of June 14, an achievement of the march was getting scores of young people to join in: “Tracie Musso, an outreach coordinator with Tumbleweed, was one of the marchers. She said one of the best things about the march is the number of children involved. Many of the participating organizations made sure to bring youngsters along so they could hear the message as well.”
Reverend Yakawich considers the march both a public service to Billings and a teaching tool for the ACLC organization. As he expresses it, “It is inspiring to plan such events and rub elbows with the police department, county and city youth organizations, local churches and neighborhood groups. The ACLC membership is especially inspired to not just have meetings every month but to go out together in the community and work together on some important social issues. Our youth gain a greater vision of our church that is not limited to the four walls of our own facility.
“We are especially grateful for the inspiration of the Core Values from Hyun Jin Nim Moon, the value of community service and our True Parents’ incredible example of living for the greater good that encourages us and inspires us to do the same.” Rev. Yakawich says.
Contributed by Douglas Burton