The Words of the Yakawich Family
There is no other way to explain the participation, passion and presence of so many great people for a great cause than due to the hand of God. On June 12th, 2010, the community of Billings, Montana took part in the 13th Annual March against Drugs and Violence. As our Governor Brian Schweitzer wrote, "Lt. Governor John Bohlinger and I are pleased to offer our support to the 13th annual March Against Drugs and Violence. I believe this effort to stop drug abuse and violence will be a tremendous asset to the community and the state of Montana."
As of many minor miracles, the angels kept the rain from falling as clouds threatened the day. Youth, community members, civic, church and political members participated in this annual event. Planned months in advance and co-sponsored by the Montana American Clergy Leadership Conference, Boys and Girls Clubs of Yellowstone Country, United Way: Roots of Promise, DUI Taskforce, the Family Church, Billings Police Department, Tumbleweed Teen Runaway Program, Rimrock Foundation, Passages, Elks Lodge and several other community organizations and churches, the turn out this year was exceptional. Our goal of 400 participants was spilled over. MT Attorney General Steve Bullock commented, "Welcome to the 2010 March Against Drugs and Violence…Thanks for your efforts to raise awareness about drug addiction, and to support a healthy, drug free lifestyle in your community."
Originally founded by American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) clergy twelve years ago with about a dozen youth, a handful of parents, and two clergy in 1998, it has grown into a citywide community event and recognized by the state as the largest event of its kind. The program began with an enthusiastic group at the Courthouse Lawn. Pastor Mike Yakawich of the Family Church, Brian Dennis of Boys and Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County and Kristin Lundgren director of the United Way: Roots of Promise were M.C.'s for the program. The event began with music in the background from the Limited Warranty Band.
A wonderful prayer was given by Evangelist Eunice Terry (co-chair of MT ACLC). Her prayer was firm as she stated, "We seek His guidance and wisdom in addressing the drugs, racial and gang violence in our city." Native Drummers from Crow Nation called all to gather as they played their honoring song. We were especially fortunate to have the Montana State Secretary Linda McCulloch as our key note speaker. She praised our march and recognized it as "one of the largest anti drug and anti violence events in the state". She uplifted all with words of encouragement and determination expressing, "Alcohol abuse, Methamphetamines and other drugs, fighting in the streets and in our homes. Lost children and mommies and daddies. Pain. Tears. One day, the fight against drugs and violence will end. Until then, I'm happy to march beside my fellow Montanans."
Our new Mayor Tom Hanel was then invited to welcome all on behalf of the city of Billings. It was great moment for Pastor Mike to invite Mayor Hanel as they both vied for the position of Mayor of Billings just a year ago. The Mayor praised the work of the march and its importance. Preceding this were encouraging words of praise and pride by Deputy Chief O'Connell. He commented, "When you're doing the walk, walk tall, keep your chin up and be proud of what you're out here representing today."
Our march then began, lead by the Young Marines and the Boy Scout Troop #7 under the leadership of Mr. Chad Martin. The entire group of marchers walked about one mile around the downtown of Billings. Billing Police Department bike patrol guided the group providing safety and traffic stops all along the way. It was especially inspiring for many to walk in the middle of 27th Street, the busiest street downtown. The marchers blew horns along with the Elks Club Anti-Drug mascot, "Elroy," walking the entire distance.
The group then arrived back to the Courthouse Lawn to another waiting group of non-marchers (who were unable to march due to health issues or etc.) and music by the band for the main event. Dr. Dennis Briggs, another co-chair of MT ACLC and elder of the Chapel of the Diamond Hope, lead the entire audience in prayer over the meal and success in our work. As people proceeded to a wonderful barbecue on the lawn provided by many volunteers, we had some wonderful inspirational speakers.
These speakers included State Senator Roy Brown, Bob Hillard of the Elks Lodge and representatives of U.S. Senator Jon Tester. Senator Tester stated in his letter "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."
Our other sponsors included Signs Etc., Coca Cola, Meadow Gold, Southside IGA, who donated or gave at cost a great deal of refreshments, ice-cream and food for the barbecue. Many sponsors brought volunteers to help cook and offer background support. Mrs. DiLorenzo, Mrs. Yakawich, Mrs. Thiessen and many volunteers did an excellent job barbequing and serving food to all.
The local media was a fantastic support for our annual event. The local CBS and NBC affiliates did interviews with us earlier in the week. The Billings Gazette (www.billingsgazette.com) printed an outstanding article with photo in the Enjoy on Thursday, June 10th. That night the local NBC ran a wonderful interview with Pastor Mike. The next day the Billings Gazette reported, "Standing Against Drugs, Violence: Reverend tells group that event started small 13 years ago." billingsgazette.com/news/local/article_13acce48-76ae-11df-b8d1-001cc4c03286.html
We find such events provide a positive model to address such issues as drugs and violence, an opportunity is provided to present sound information for the participants to deal with these serious issues, and a showing that organizations can work together to find common ground and teamwork. In addition, personally, the events show the community that our church is willing to roll up our sleeves and invest through community service. U.S. Senator Max Baucus' office under Jim Corson, City Councilman Jim Ronquillo and Commissioner Kennedy and other speakers, publicly recognized our Family Church for taking leadership in this successful community event.
You could sense a real community atmosphere. Guests were sitting in the park, listening to the speakers and music as well as talking with each other. There were many children with their parents. We had several races, faiths, and cultures represented. The weather was fantastic. We handed out 250 free tee shirts, ice-cream, hundreds of hotdogs and refreshments. There were several door prizes given included three bikes, potted plants and many 'give aways' provided by Wal-Mart, Kmart, United Way and Costco.
People are always so grateful for such a positive event for such serious issues. And, our own church members were excited and so proud of being part of our church. Several home church members expressed a deep gratitude for our work in the community. We know that such events are not intended to provide new membership to our church. It is a genuine intent for 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. As we often hear going door to door, "Oh you are with Rev. Moon's church? You are always doing good in our community!" One new member of our church, Al, was so delighted to help serve and support the program that day.
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 our four walls of our own facility. As Maggie Lough, who is with Not In Our Town, stated "Your investment in the community is a slow step by step process but I see how much it is growing and blessing our community."
We are very grateful for Rev. Larry Krishnek, who provided our District with important guidance and support. We are indebted to the many local families and members of our church such as the Martin, DiLorenzo, Woods, and Yakawich families for all their hard work and investment in the program. We are especially grateful for the inspiration by our True Parents' incredible example of living for the greater good that encourages us and inspires us to do the same. As on this serious drug and social issues, Father Moon's words echo in our hearts, "The Church should save the area and the country in which it is located."