The Words of the Yakawich Family

Bridge-Building on the Great Plains

Rev. Michael Yakawich
Billings MT
March, 1999

We started our year off with a whack! That is, with a piñata whack, as we celebrated True Godís Day 1999 on January 1 with a lot of neighbors in the community. It was a great chance to welcome old and new friends into the church, push away the pews, and celebrate. We had a brief talk on the value of the day; then we had a potluck buffet, songs, testimonies and even a magic show. Later, we had a piñata stuffed with candy for the children to break open. With 60 people attending (including children), most were guests from around the community.

On New Yearís Eve, our church was invited to another church for evening service. We could share and sing together. I was invited to give the sermon about "True Godís Day." Then, at midnight with my family, our members and the host congregation, we knelt in prayer. We were very grateful to share with our friends the dawning of 1999.

Some may ask "Why give so much testimony on your rural ministry? It is true that (inspiringly) places like Chicago and New Jersey, for example, have so much to highlight. We do celebrate in their victories and learn from them. Also, I am confident that smaller churches in our ministry have also a lot to highlight. Like branches on a tree, some of our work may seem like small fruit or minor leaf production. Yet, as a whole tree, we make a very dynamic and powerful ministry nationwide and worldwide.

Our Japanese sisters have been working hard. They sponsored a program at the church, gathering other Japanese friends for the New Year. At that same time, an elder Japanese sister helped sponsor a program at the local YMCA. The local paper (Billings Gazette) reported, "Wounds of war find healing in Japanese-American marriages." It provided an opportunity for deeper dialogue and sharing of Asian and American traditions.

We have been challenged by the need for outreach to the neighborhood youth. Recently we have been doing a youth program for all young people in the community. Combining a talk on Principle and a fun event, each month we have been gathering church youth and neighbors for such events as making a manger scene out of cardboard, and painting it, as well as bowling, ice skating and movies. Now the young people are asking, "When is the next program?" and the parents trust us and are coming closer to our church through all this.

During the Blessing of 1999, our Bishop Rev. Weon Geun Kim challenged us to do a satellite hookup in a local restaurant or other establishment. This would save costs, for one thing. We tried first to approach the businesses we fundraise in. One owner said, "Mike, I love you like my brother, but to show a marriage program in my business is hard to do! The customers would revolt!" Undaunted, we approached a local restaurant with a satellite. The manager was so inspired by the concept of showing and having a marriage program in her casino/restaurant! We prepared for the program there, and she had no problem with it. Although we could not ultimately manage to get the live feed from Korea, we showed a 20-minute video from RFK í97 Blessing. Our guests enjoyed the video, the meal and the testimonies. During the Blessing toast, the management wanted to participate too! A number of customers joined in watching the video and program, since we were in an open room area. The manager came to me later and said, "That was a great program. How can we do a better job next time?"

Finally, with Rev. and Mrs. Moonís birthday celebration, we could get our clergy friends, tribal leaders, community leaders and the local mayor to sign a birthday card. We also received letters from the governor, a state senator and a state representative. Of course, such directions are always challenging to fulfill. It was also a chance to see where we stand in the community; for that reason in particular it was a good experience. A close minister who first signed brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful these righteous men and women are -- the John the Baptist figures of our community. Most inspiring was when a couple of prominent leaders, who were not so positive a few years ago, stated: "I cannot help but respect your churchís work. You have continued to make good effort in our community. I figured you would have quit a long time ago. I see you doing good things in the community. I cannot help but sign this card." Some others even said, "It is my honor to sign and I am grateful to wish them a happy birthday."

So, here we are, the Bridge-builders to the Future, a tree with many branches all over the country. Each spiritual plank that we add to the bridge, each limb extended on the tree, will never be in vain. Some are fast growers, some are stronger, and together we build the bridge which enables all people to cross into the New Millennium.

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