The Words of the Biermans Family
An enthusiastic team gets ready to witness in Berkeley, California. The author is on the far left.
(John Biermans is a member of the HSA-UWC legal staff.)
Introduction: Witnessing is something that is challenging for all of us. Nevertheless, it is also the most fulfilling experience we can have because it allows us to truly experience what it means to be parents. When I hear Father talk about the Age of Parentism, I believe the deepest way to appreciate what he is saying is I witness, and really seek to give life to others.
As the father of three children myself, I experience the heart of Parentism in a wonderful way, but going on this IOWC has allowed me to experience the heart of parents in a much deeper and more internal, vertical way. Father expresses this heart in such a profound and moving way in a speech called How to Witness: To State Leaders:
I have had many sleepless nights, particularly in the 1950s. How could I humanly continue to do that? My sense of joy and happiness was so great in talking to new members around me that I wanted to continue hour after hour, even until three o'clock in the morning. If one of them had to leave because he had something to do in the morning I felt really sorry to see him go, wishing that he could stay longer. You must experience these feelings also. When I missed him that much I knew that he would return in the shortest possible time because he could not bear the separation either.
As I write this, we are entering our final week on the IOWC and I have just had the deepest experience of the entire three month crusade. The focus of our efforts has been to reach out to young people and that is what our team, centering on Dr. Tyler Hendricks, has done. Personally, I have tried to take this focus very seriously even though there have been lots of distractions -- lots of practical matters that need to be dealt with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these practical matters can very easily cause one to lose the focus one needs to witness effectively.
As things happened, I did not find it so easy to focus during the early weeks of the campaign. More recently, I have been doing better to the point where I have been meeting some really special prepared people. The deepest experience came as I was witnessing at the Colorado University Boulder Campus. I was actually feeling physically ill at the time but managed to persevere until I met a student named Hiroko who responded so quickly and eagerly to our movement and our beliefs.
She came over for dinner that night, which happened to be "Japan Night" -- which was quite fitting because Hiroko grew up in Japan. At first I didn't realize quite how special Hiroko was and just how much she was receiving and responding to everything. However, by the end of that first evening, I was beginning to realize that Hiroko was extremely well-prepared, and that she had actually been searching for a church for some time.
After hearing the first lecture, she immediately expressed a desire to attend the two-day workshop as well as the revival we were planning for the next evening in Denver. She also told me how much she enjoyed the atmosphere and the friendliness of all the brothers and sisters, a feeling reciprocated by everyone who met her that evening.
My heart had already begun to open to her but when she arrived the next evening we became deeply connected in a most special way. It finally became abundantly clear that my prayer during the whole trip to meet a precious new spiritual child had been answered in her. Somehow Heavenly Father had been telling me all along that I was going to meet at least one person who would become so very special in my life. This was so real to me because my other spiritual children all mean so much to me already. I thought, somewhere out there, there are others who are just waiting for me to meet them, and when I do, I will feel so grateful I made the effort every day to get out and witness. They will be my very close loving spiritual children forever.
During that second evening I made every effort to invest my whole heart in Hiroko, and she responded to everything. She loved the speech by Dr. Hendricks and the wonderful testimony about Rev. Moon and our movement by Rev. Blackwell, one of the ICC Alumni. It seemed that her heart was like a totally open door for God and for each of us to come inside.
As I look back I can see how this openness on her part allowed my heart to become the same way. I became so open to her -- so happy and inspired. I found I had so much more energy and enthusiasm to give because of her.
It was one of those special nights that you wish would never end. But I knew it would, so I was very anxious to share as much as possible with her. I wanted to tell her everything about our movement, our ideals, about Father. I tried to share and express the type of pure love that God wants each of us to experience as we come to know Heavenly Father and as we learn to relate to each other in a true, pure and unconditionally giving way.
As I shared with Hiroko, one other sister who was listening commented to her, "He is giving you so much love!" And I guess I was. It wasn't forced or calculated on my part. It was just that I wanted to connect to her as deeply and heartistically as possibly that one evening because our team was leaving the next day. I wanted to give so much so that she would never forget the quality of love Heavenly Father wants her to receive.
I also told her she is such a very special person -- that Heavenly Father had obviously prepared her and protected her for all these years so that now she could receive this truth and this love. She told me that my saying these things meant so much to her, to which I responded that her receiving it meant so much to me.
Parting from her was so difficult -- it's so difficult to say good-bye to your child -- and that is really how it felt. As much as I had missed my own children for the previous two and a half months, I now felt I would miss her even more. I told her that being separated from my wife and children had been very painful these past months but meeting her had now made it all worthwhile. Then as she was leaving, she said, "I love you." This came as such a surprise to me that I was almost shocked. I had not realized just how much her heart had opened.
All of this was an amazing breakthrough in my heart. From here on, my heart has been so much more open and able to reach out to others' hearts. I feel as if I have been transformed. Now I can come to tears so easily -- for Hiroko and for many other people I met since, not just my own spiritual children.
One night, a few days after we left Denver, as I prayed I began weeping and weeping. Somehow I felt tremendous concern that Hiroko was in danger spiritually. My weeping came because I felt so helpless to support her and protect her, and this made me realize Heavenly Father's grieving and aching heart because He is even more helpless to protect us than I am. And this reminded me of how many countless tears Father has cried when he discovered the sorrow of God, the sorrow of God the Father for his lost children. Father's words became so much more real to me:
As witnessers, you must have such a
deep heart of concern that you burst into tears when you pray for the
people. You must strive to make yourselves that way. Suppose one of
your hard-won members goes somewhere and does not return by the
middle of the night. Would you really stay awake and cry for him,
praying for his return? If you do that and he does come back the next
day, he will tell you that he also had a sleepless night....When you
feel that deeply about some person, if he does not come for a few
days you will not be able to control yourself in your urgency to see
him. When you pray from your deepest heart, "I must see him; I
cannot live without him," then he will be drawn to come by a
warm feeling. Once such a bond is established then even if you kick
him out, he will not leave you... Have you ever experienced this
yourselves? Have you been able to love another in such a way that you
can save him, and he will follow you wherever you go? That is the
perfect savior, isn't it? When you share this beautiful love with
another it will probably be the first such experience in that
person's life. Since it is the first, he will cherish the memory of
it as long as he lives.
How to Witness: To State Leaders
The following day, my weeping continued -- four or five times throughout the day. Later I found out that indeed some difficulties had arisen and Hiroko had become somewhat afraid and distant. Through numerous telephone conversations from various cities we have visited since Denver, much of this has been overcome. Nevertheless, as I write this, I still feel a great deal of anxiety and longing in my heart to be with her, to help her get to the point where she really understands the Principle and True Parents. Just now someone gave me several photographs taken with her during that final evening. We all look so bright and inspired -- almost intoxicated with God's love. Yet the photos only make my heart ache all the more because I cannot be with my daughter.
I truly believe this is the situation of Heavenly Father's heart. He is so desperate and aching for us to find His heart. He is working so hard with incredible anxiety and pain -- we cannot even imagine it. But through experiences such as these, I can see how we can begin to catch even a small glimpse of God's heart and True Father's heart all these years.
All of this made Parents Day especially meaningful for me this year. As I prayed on Parents' Day, for the first time I was able to understand the true meaning of this day, of what it really means to have Parents' heart. And the way I was able to feel this was through crying tears for my spiritual children.
In a real way, I think this was the main reason Heavenly Father wanted me to go on this IOWC -- to rediscover the heart of witnessing and, in the process, rediscover my own heart.