The Words of the de Souza Family
Alejandro de Souza served as True Parents' Spanish and Portuguese interpreter in South and Central America for five years. During that time he traveled with them day in, day out, attending them from morning to evening -- sometimes with no other staff members present. He helped them as they carried out many aspects of their work. Alejandro is originally from Argentina and lived in Korea for more than seven years, during which time he focused on mastering Korean. He was interviewed during his recent visit in Korea to interpret for the International Leadership Conference.
Question: How did it all begin?
Answer: While Father was still in Danbury, I heard of the possibility that he might go to South America. When I came to Korea to study Father had been telling the main Korean leaders and elder brothers, "You have to study Spanish." While I was at university in Korea, some elder families called me to help them study Spanish because Father wanted them to. It was more than ten years later that Father actually went to South America. Everyone had already given up their Spanish study by then. Nobody imagined Father would really go to South America one day.
I graduated from college in Korea and went back to South America at the end of 1991. The continental leader of South America, Hyung-tae Kim, saw Father often, and Father always told him, "I have to come to South America." So he was sure that one day Father would come to South America. He always thought about which places were best to take Father to in South America. Because he knew the way Father moves around the world and develops the ocean or river providence, we started looking for a place for Father to begin the providence, and we found it.
I had previous experiences with True Mother when she had done a tour in South America, so we had had some chances to talk. But still then we couldn't imagine that Father would be around South America for so long.
Father finally arrived there, and I heard that the main concern would be the language problem. How could Father develop the providence in South America without an interpreter? The continental leader told Father not to worry.
So they brought me to Father. We sat at a table. Father asked me some questions to see if I was able to understand what he was talking about. I replied to all his questions.
Were you nervous to sit in front of Father?
I wasn't nervous to be in True Parents' presence. From the time I joined, I had felt very close to them. Whenever I faced any difficulty or temptation, just thinking of True Parents helped me overcome. I don't know why; I always feel Father's heart. I was nervous because I thought I may not be able to fulfill my duties. He needed me for interpreting and I wasn't sure I could do a good job.
Even though I was confident -- at that time I was much better than I am now at the Korean language, but I still had had the experience of being in the Cheongpa-dong (Headquarters) Church and not being able to understand many things Father said. I was afraid I might not understand most of what he was saying.
We had a first gathering with all the members, more than three thousand members, in Sao Paolo, Brazil. This was in 1994. I went to the restroom on the fifth floor of the Brazilian headquarters and I opened the window and shouted, "Heung-jin nim! Heung-jin nim! Help me!" Desperately!
That night we had the gathering and Father started speaking. I was able to understand because when I was in Korea I used Tonga Segye magazine to learn Korean. I read Father's recent speeches, but I couldn't understand most of them at first reading. So I used to make conditions, such as to read one sentence or one paragraph forty times. I am not a model member. I am not a good person with nice character, either. But Father's word was the most precious thing to me -- though I may not live up to it! [Alejandro laughs] I understood most of the providential content Father spoke about in his speeches.
So Father started talking to the members. He spoke for four hours in the hot weather. We had a huge fan at the back but it was not enough.
When Father started explaining something, I had already studied it in his speeches; it was easy for me to just flow naturally. That helped me, because the Korean leaders thought, "Oh, he is very good." Maybe they thought I was better than I actually was. But Father was happy to see the response of the Brazilian members. When he made a joke, they laughed. Or when he was serious, he would see members crying and he would think it was going well.
I had the feeling when I saw Father at the Cheongpa-dong Church that he sometimes had finished all he had to say but wanted to share some time with the members and take some time for jokes..saying things intentionally to get the applause of the audience! Of course, in Korea people naturally know the right time to clap. But how could Brazilians sense that he is expecting applause? So I had to tell the members, "Let's give a round of applause to Father!" Later I discovered that some people thought that I could not really understand what Father was saying and that I was asking the members to applaud so that Father would think I was doing a good job!
The members gathered again for some hours the next morning. It was so hot, I sweated so much that even my leather belt was completely wet through. I was half Father's age, but sometimes after two or three hours interpreting, I felt I was going to faint. So I had to pray a lot.
Father told me then that, from then on, whenever he came to any place in South America I had to be there beforehand and wait for him and help him get around, assisting him and interpreting.
Father had not yet been to Jardim, and the leaders were going to take him there the next day. That night they had a banquet in Sao Paolo for prominent guests. But they asked me to leave beforehand and wait for Father in Jardim. They would bring Father there the next day. For the banquet, a Korean sister living in Brazil would interpret for Father.
So what happened? Father had been very clear. I had to stay by him, interpret for him and assist him. But that night, I had already left for Jardim by bus. Father asked, Where's Alejandro? He was told I had gone to Jardim. He was angry. For twenty years I had tried to do things just to give joy to God and True Parents....
The next day when he arrived in Jardim, and he saw me, he started to scold me so strongly! I was so sad, because I had never expected not to give joy to True Parents.
Father's assistants came and asked me, "Why did you come without permission? Father wanted you to interpret at the banquet."
I answered, "I am a regular member. If the leaders ask me to go, I go; if they tell me to stay, I stay. I know they didn't want to spend the airfare. It's not that I decided to come by myself...."
Since that time I just had to follow Father's direction while Father was there.
That was the first day in Jardim. It was not the New Hope Farm. It was the home of a friend of the movement; who had invited True Parents to stay there. At that time, we used the chance to show Father the New Hope Farm that was for sale, so that he could decide later whether to buy it. That was the beginning.
So you were with Father very early on in the Latin American providence.
Father went just with his assistants, such as Mr. Yoon Kibyung and Wonju McDevitt, no one else. No one knew why Father was there and what he was doing, and there were no security personnel. There was the continental leader, the Brazilian leaders and all the members who came to assist Father in the fishing. But the main leaders from Korea and America didn't know what Father was up to.
It was interesting, it was revealing to Father, also. He got on a boat, and he caught a lot of fish. One big Dorado jumped out of the water and landed in the boat in front of Father. Actually, if you talk to the natives, they say that sometimes that happens, but to Father that was a very important sign. I have seen Father so happy there. Father, and Mother, too.
They liked South America....
I saw them so happy in so many humble places. Once we went to survey the Amazon River. The only small hotel we found to stay in was so dirty and old and hot.
When I looked at the air conditioner, there was all this dirt stuck to it. When we showed True Parents their room, that was the first thing I saw. But Father never minded. He was so happy there. We felt ashamed and sorry. But you will not hear Father complain about such things -- never.
The first time Father traveled by private plane was in South America. For years, his party had traveled in regular commercial aircraft. The interesting thing is that people knew he was Rev. Moon. He was going around without any security personnel. We were a little concerned about that. But whenever he got on the plane, all the people knew he was Rev. Moon. If we had seats at the back of the plane, for example, someone in the front would stand up and say, "Oh, Rev. Moon, please take my seat here in the front!" Always kind, never an unkind word; they were respectful. That was interesting.
Was the heart to welcome Father part of South American culture? Even though they may know his teaching is different from what they are used to?
Yes. Because religion there is not a popular thing. Maybe the leaders of the Catholic Church are not happy with Father there, but the people don't mind religious differences -- especially in Brazil where you have all kinds of religions.
Did you do other types of work for Father and Mother than interpreting?
Oh, yes. Basically, I spent most of five years attending them from morning to evening, until they went to take their short rest. My wife too. We didn't have children then, so my wife, who understands Korean, could attend them at the table and in their room. My wife is Japanese. When I got blessed I didn't feel like studying Japanese, so I just started to talk with her in Korean all the time. "If you don't understand something, look in the dictionary." I had that kind of spirit. 'Alejandro laughs] So she learned Korean. And she even had chances to interpret into Japanese for Mother when Japanese members were called to go down to Jardim years later.
I had to assist with the fishing also. Fishing is a very hard condition. It is not enjoyable. When we settled at the New Hope Farm, and Father was fishing all day long as a condition and making prayer conditions for the South American and the world providence, insects would bite him. More than a year later he said these bites were still itching a lot! Father was amazed that after one year.... But he was happy there!
Basically I had loved fishing since I was a child, but one long day of fishing is enough for me. You get exhausted with the sun reflecting off the river or the ocean. It was too hot for the body-50 degrees under the strong sun, day after day, sometimes for two months continuously. Father was making conditions.
I was there all the time because I had to help with the bags, the rods, the hooks -- everything. And if Father needed something, I had to be there to interpret.
I hope I am not misunderstood when I say this: Living in Korea you find that between the president of a company and those who work under him there is a kind of gap. Usually they don't allow others to see how they really live or who they really are, and they keep you at a distance, and you respect them from a distance. And I understand the era of the Korean kings it was also something like that. So although I was sure that True Parents are who they are, somehow I wondered, "What if, seeing their lives from the inside, from morning to night, I feel some disappointment?"
But it had just the opposite effect. I found that if you love Father and if you respect him, and you see how he really lives, you will love him more than ever and respect him more than ever. He is the most divine human being, and the most human divine being. That is what I strongly felt.
What kind of relationship did you have with True Parents? Could you express yourself honestly to them?
I was honest with them all the time. Especially because I was free from the way that an oriental had to relate with True Parents. And since I always felt very close to them -- closer than to my natural parents, even -- sometimes I acted in a way that a Korean would not. Just as when I would relate with my own parents, if I had a question, I would ask it. If I wanted to make a comment on a soccer game, I would do so. And they would be very nice to me.
They were so concerned about our not being able to have children. Whenever they came to South America, I felt that Father felt sorry. He was worried that we didn't have children, but that we had to attend them, and we didn't have room to sleep together as a couple. And you could see this strong concern in him, as if he were thinking, It is because of me that he cannot sleep with his wife.
I got that feeling many times. Whenever he came to South America, the first question he asked me was, "Is there any news about a baby?" I would say, "No." He would say, "You have to do what you have to do!" I remember once he strongly said, "You have to play your role as a man and it will work."
I told Father, "I know if I were more religious and I knelt down and prayed and made more conditions, I might have results already, but it is not in my character to do that." Father replied, "What conditions? What kneeling down to pray? God gave you everything you need to make a child. Do you want God to make one for you? Work at it!" That was very interesting!
Many times I felt they loved us as parents. For example, Father would tell me, "It is useless that you go around with me, all day long, day after day, month after month, year after year, interpreting my speeches. If you don't have a child, you will never know what God feels for each human being. Religion, faith will not help. You have to have a child to under- stand what God feels for you and for everybody." That moved me very much.
Somehow, I related freely with Father. Later, when the main leaders came and Father already had quite a foundation in Jardim to bring them and was starting special conditions, some elder brothers were worried that I was impolite to True Parents. Because they think that if Father doesn't speak to you, you should not speak to him. Yet I always felt free. Even at the beginning I dared to interrupt Father's speeches because I wanted to give 100 percent of his message to everyone.
You would stop him in mid-sentence?
Yes, I would say, Sorry, Father..., and he would kindly tell me what he had said again. Because sometimes he turned his head and spoke, and I couldn't hear what he'd said well. Later, leaders told me "Don't ask or interrupt him. Just keep going." But it was my character.
Was that a problem for Father?
Not at the beginning. But years later when he was carrying out the providence in Uruguay with religious leaders -- Catholic, Protestant, all parts of society -- in speaking to them, he was so anxious to share all that he had, he would tell me to use an interpretation booth and stay there, rather than having to wait until I had finished interpreting what he had said into Spanish. "Get out of here and go up there!" he would say!
Can you say something in particular about your personal experience with True Mother?
Well, of course, when I talk about Father, I am talking about True Parents in the same way. It's amazing, the love they have for everyone and the interest they showed in every single member there. For example, for Father to do his conditions, we had a lot of members in Brazil attending and serving in many ways. Father and Mother were concerned for each and every one of them. You don't see her looking at you or at someone else, but after a couple of days you find out that Mother knows the names all the members there and she cares about their living conditions, their well-being. Or when she goes shopping, she will not just buy things for themselves but for all the members who are around them. She has their names in her mind and the size of the item [of clothing] she will buy for them. She is just a natural mother -- a natural true mother.
I was so blessed. I don't deserve the blessings I got from True Parents. But also, while in Sao Paolo, they gave me a Korean name. I am Alejandro [pronounced Al-e-ium-dro]. They "baptized" me Han Do-rae. And Mother looked so happy, as if I were one of their family, one of the Han clan! She was always so nice to me. Of course, she would scold me if I did something wrong! I felt she was always a natural true mother, and I know this treatment is not because of me, or my character. I felt, and I later learned, that I represented Latin America. They wanted to give all their love and concern to Latin America, but they could not. So they gave it to me. But I had to be clear that it was not for me or because of me but was a blessing for all of Latin America. They were always concerned about everybody. And even in Father's prayers; I was amazed how the staff members were in his prayers. I felt so deeply touched by their sincere concern and love.
I am sure I have seen an instance of Father mentioning you by name -- perhaps it was in one such prayer.
I know my name is in the volumes of his sermons, because sometimes he would speak to me and of course it was recorded. But a long time passed before all that he said and did was recorded, before everybody came and found Father was commanding a new providence in South America. A long time passed without recording what he did and said there. Days and days on the boats. I wished I could have spent more time with Mother. But they would go in separate boats, for a long time. Father was so serious setting the conditions -- for Latin America, the Americas and for the world.
Can you say something about these conditions? Was it fishing for many days in a row?
Yes. That is like torture. To be on the river for more than three days is torture. It is not fishing for pleasure. I wished I could go with Mother on her boat, because she was always nice and kind to me. But he would not have liked that. Because he's not fishing, he is not enjoying himself. I am not there to enjoy myself; I am there to attend Father during his conditions and endure the same suffering and make the same effort he has to make. I participated in establishing the conditions. We were uniting with Father to establish conditions for the Americas and the world.
Are there particular situations or stories you could share about True Parents?
I want to mention how Father relates with people. We met hundreds of people and I forgot who they were. But Father remembered very clearly. One person Father met for three minutes, years earlier, had mentioned to Father that his wife was sick and in the hospital. On meeting him again, Father said, "Oh, the mayor of Corumba! How are you? How is your wife? She was in the hospital then..." That amazed me because we met thousands of people, and I interpreted for him in meetings with hundreds of people and I couldn't remember who they were. This was because I was meeting them horizontally. I did my job and interpreted for someone he met, but later I couldn't remember who he was, much less that his wife had been hospitalized.
I saw that God is living with Father, and Father is living with God. A simple meeting with someone is not held externally or horizontally. Father is always totally focused on fulfilling God's will, and he has to find people to work with him. So whenever he meets someone, he prays with God's providence in mind, so he registers people like a computer. When he meets people, he is totally centered on God and on what God needs, thinking, What can this man do for God in the future?
I have quite a good memory, but I couldn't remember people, and Father was about eighty years old. That amazed me.
Also, if you do not have authentic care and concern for others, you will not remember them. So this shows Father's true love and true concern for people. Even though members may think Father is distant, that is not Father's heart. Father is not distant and unconcerned. He is always thinking about those who are with him while he conducts the providence. Even the least thing you do for him, he is so grateful. That happened many times. There is no way you can mistrust or doubt who True Parents are.
At one point, Father went on a special tour to meet the presidents of Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay... Afterward, when we went fishing in Corrientes, in Argentina, the pilot of the boat was a very simple man, with a very low intellectual level, but Father started witnessing to him with the same respect and with the same words he had spoken to the presidents. He expressed the same heart while witnessing to that simple boy as he had expressed while witnessing to nations' presidents the previous week.
Another time, Father spent one whole day sitting and talking with a Korean medical doctor. This man had been in Africa and the Amazon to work with the natives. He was a very strong Christian, and Father talked to him all day about God. Father was calling him seonsneng nim, treating him as if he were a teacher, speaking to him in polite language. They were sitting there, and after a couple of hours I saw they were still there, so I sat at a distance, just to see him talking to this other man -- for hours, in a very respectful way, talking about God, never talking about the Christian church. This went on for hours, from morning to the middle of the afternoon with this man, and nobody was around. Father will never think, Oh, everybody's out doing something, I will go and take a nap. Never.
Please tell the story of the airplane.
The airplane! We had been traveling by commercial plane. It was hard. Hot weather, always crowded... Including True Parents, there were around twelve people, plus luggage. The leaders would repeatedly tell Father he needed a private plane. Father would always say no. But sometimes he agreed to travel shorter distances in a small airplane. It was a very small plane. It had only five seats -- the pilot and co-pilot, True Parents and me. Me, because I was the interpreter. The regional or national leader should have been there to attend True Parents, but because there were only three seats they needed a seat for the interpreter in case True Parents had to talk to the pilot, or if something happened.
On the way, we saw a storm coming up. The pilots had not been informed of that, even if it had been forecast. We saw this black, electric storm directly in front of us. No way to avoid it; we went in. And the plane began to go up and down, and shake in such a terrible way that you would think it would break up at any time. This broke open the doors to the luggage compartment, and luggage was falling out and hitting True Parents -- all of us -- on the head and body. True Parents were also hitting their head and body on the wall of the plane.
We came out of that. I don't know how long it lasted, but it was like eternity. I saw death so near. But I was calm because True Parents were there.
When we came out of the storm, the pilot was completely pale. And he said, look up there! We looked up and saw what we had come through. It was so scary. But we still had a long way to go to Montevideo. We had to make a stop, so we landed at a small airport in the countryside. There was just one man to open the gates in the morning and close them at night. We landed and everything was calm.
Mother did not feel like getting back on the plane. I felt sorry for her. I had to go to the restroom and Father came in after me. He asked me, "Were you afraid?"
I said, "No. No. I was not scared, because you were there, Father. If you had not been there I would have died of a heart attack." "Oh, so you have a lot of sins!" Father replied."
Afterwards, as we came out of the terminal, he said to Mother, "Don't worry; let's keep going." After a little while, Mother was okay.
Do you have some reflections on that special time?
True Parents left Latin America around 2000, after that, they didn't come so often or stay long. After that, I thought I wouldn't see them anymore. It took me more than a year to get used to not seeing True Parents from morning to night. I was empty, totally empty. But later I came to Korea with the Uruguayan VIPs, and we went to have breakfast with True Parents. It was the time of True Parents' second Holy Weddings Mother asked me if I would like to come with them to Hawaii, and I went with them and with Hyung-jin nim and his wife.
After they left South America and some legal troubles and complications came to Jardim. I was so sorry, because I had seen Father and Mother suffer there a lot. A lot. They were happy there but their life was one of establishing conditions to develop the providence and go to another level. They devoted themselves totally to the conditions they made. I saw them suffering so much through the effort they made that I felt so sorry that there were problems in Jardim.
So, when I went with them to Hawaii I could not hold back my tears. "I am sorry Father that you suffered so much there, invested so much there, and now it's in difficulty."
He surprised me, because he said, "When I went to Jardim, we had thirty-thousand blessed couples. When I came out of South America, we had so many more blessed couples. So what I do does not fail." Of course he was concerned about the property and the situations that had arisen. But his main purpose in going to South America had not been to develop external projects. He was there to develop the providence.