The Words of the Biermans Family

The Joy of Witnessing

John Biermans
November 1985

A significant factor in successful witnessing is enjoying it. This does not mean that it is easy or always pleasurable, but there are ways to experience tremendous joy and inspiration from witnessing.

We all know that we can either have a positive, optimistic view of life or a negative, depressed, pessimistic one. This applies to everything we do. Father is the greatest example of a person who is able to bring joy out of adversity. While imprisoned in Danbury, instead of letting his family and visitors comfort him, he was always comforting and uplifting them. In other words, it all depends on how you look at things. This has been my experience in witnessing.

Overcoming Barriers

In the beginning of my church life, I found witnessing to be extremely challenging. Even though I was an outgoing person, the idea of approaching total strangers really frightened me. Going out with older brothers and sisters helped, but still, I had to overcome many barriers inside myself. I distinctly remember one of my first days of witnessing, when I saw a sister standing on the library steps reading a book. It took me more than a few minutes to muster up enough courage to approach her. It felt like a battle raging inside my head. There were many voices trying to influence me. Some voices kept telling me that I would look like an idiot if I went up to talk to her. Nevertheless, the good voices won and I finally went up to talk to her. She was a nice person and we had a good talk. Although she was not interested in spiritual matters, our brief give and take made me realize that initiating a simple conversation with a total stranger was not nearly as awkward as I had imagined, and I could see that the real problem was with my own concepts.

Persistence was the key to winning this battle, and after a little while I began meeting very good people. In fact, I discovered that there was really nothing to be afraid of. I began to realize that people were not monsters; they did not growl at me, and even if they were not positive they did not bite my head off. Often it is the person being witnessed to who is the most apprehensive, so our main task is to be relaxed and make him or her feel at ease and natural in speaking to us.

Sharing My Faith

After several positive experiences my attitude began to change -- I started to experience the joy of witnessing. The reason for this was that I discovered the beauty of sharing my faith with others. I had always enjoyed making new friends, but my past experiences could not compare with the exhilaration I began to feel from witnessing to my faith in the Principle and the Unification movement. I have a very vivid recollection of the first guest I brought to an evening program. I remember her stopping at our witnessing table at the Berkeley campus to find out what we were doing. As I shared deeply about the ideals we believe in and the hope we have for the future, she became almost enchanted by the beautiful vision I presented to her.

There was a series of circumstances which prevented her from joining, but the power of this experience had a strong impact on me. I was moved by the bond that we developed so quickly through her excitement at finally finding answers to questions she had been struggling with for many years. The more experiences I had like this, the more power and desire I gained to go out and witness.

Of course I also endured the pain and heartache of rejection, but through time I developed a thick skin to this kind of problem. More significantly, Heavenly Father gave me the power and strength to forgive because the joy I received from finding His wonderful heavenly children made any negative experiences seem small indeed.

This feeling of giving' life to spiritual children can be readily compared to the tremendous pain a mother must go through at childbirth. 1 he pain that seems unbearable is almost forgotten the moment the child is safely and miraculously delivered and placed in her arms.

This is not to say that I was able to get rid of all the resistance I felt toward witnessing. This is a problem that still continues, but I found that through much effort and persistence along with strong unity with my central figures and brothers and sisters, I had the power to overcome the barriers Satan would constantly create. Setting spiritual conditions such as prayer and fasting and following consistent patterns of witnessing were also invaluable.

Developing a Parental Heart

As my first spiritual children began to grow in their faith and dedication, I gradually came to experience the most wonderful aspect of witnessing -- developing my own parental heart.

Before joining our movement, I was basically a self-centered person. I had a certain level of conscientiousness, but the central focus of my concern was myself and my personal situation. The experience of becoming a spiritual parent affected this flaw in my character in a most powerful but simple way. I have heard many testimonies of how brothers and sisters experienced dramatic transformations upon becoming spiritual parents. This happened to me mostly through the intense desire I felt to give spiritual life to each person I met.

I especially remember two of my first spiritual children; they were so open and sincere when I first met them that I became desperate for both of them to come to the workshop. There were many complicating factors which made them feel it would be impossible for them to come. Nevertheless, I kept praying and back and forth through the house, determined to figure out a way to bring them.

I distinctly remember one crucial moment when the brother said he would like to come but the sister listed all the reasons why it was impossible. I felt so desperate, but of course I couldn't make the decision for them. I had done everything possible -- all I could do then was to pray deeply that Heavenly Father would move them to make the right decision... which they did. Both of them have now been wonderful members for eight years.

Through feeling the power of Heavenly Father in experiences such as this, as well as through the example of my older brothers and sisters, I was able to develop a parental commitment to my "children':

By making such desperate efforts and thereby paying indemnity of heart, I was able to develop very deep ponds of love for them. It became apparent to me that what each person needed more than anything was someone who was unconditionally loving and devoted to their wellbeing. I felt drawn to this way of service, and through a natural process I grew into my role as a spiritual parent.

Realizing My Capacity to Love

Becoming a spiritual parent was highly significant for my spiritual life. First of all, by focusing on the urgency of bringing new people into the movement, and by becoming increasingly concentrated on the well-being of my spiritual children, I had much less time to think about myself.

The second major result of my spiritual parenthood was even deeper. It didn't happen immediately, but after a year or so of making a sincere effort to impart spiritual life to others, I had a very deep realization which I distinctly remember. It happened in the prayer room after midnight. As I prayed for various brothers and sisters, I suddenly realized that I really loved them! Before this time, I had never been able to say I truly loved anyone. I was too focused on myself to be confident of my ability to love. But this time, I knew my heart had changed. I felt chills go through my whole body and I was able to offer a truly heartfelt prayer of gratitude to God. It was clear to me from this time on that Heavenly Father had given my heart back to me; it was alive, it was beating, and it was open. I truly felt love. Now whenever I witnessed, my heart could easily open. Just looking into the eyes of a sincere child of God made my heart melt, and I could then become what Saint Francis prayed for when he said, "Make me a channel of your love!" This experience became totally authentic to me.

This feeling or "state of heart" has grown through my years in the movement. I experience this feeling of love in many circumstances -- in relationship with brothers and sisters, with people who are not Unificationists, and of course with my spiritual children. In recent years, my mission has been very practical and rather secular, since I am an attorney in the HSA legal department. Nevertheless, the joy of witnessing is still just as real to me and sometimes much stronger than before.

When I have opportunities to share about God and my life in this movement I often have very deep experiences. Recently, as I was driving back from a meeting with another attorney, he asked me why I joined the movement. I traced my life for him back to my years of searching and how I found the fulfillment of my odyssey through meeting our True Father. He was quite moved by what Father had done for me and for so many others.

I feel fortunate and deeply grateful to have discovered the joy of witnessing. It has most certainly changed my life and given me rebirth. Now as our movement in America grows older, more mature, and more sophisticated, I feel that our challenge is to maintain a witnessing consciousness. Through experiencing joy in witnessing it becomes no longer a burden, but a wonderful blessing. 

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