The Words of the Beard Family
"The Last King of Scotland," a fictional movie that takes great liberties with Ugandan history during Idi Arvin's dictatorship was the initial inspiration for this article. Space constraints narrowed its focus to the activities of early missionaries. The first person I spoke to worked in Uganda long after Amin had fled, but epitomized a missionary's heart.
Asking Dr. Colette Takigawa how she and her husband ended up in Uganda produced a laugh and a brief answer. "Rev. Kwak," she said. "It was Rev. Kwak's desire, so we just went. Simple! Our faith was very simple. Both my husband and I were like that."
In fact, the couple had already worked in other African countries and it would seem destiny had connected Colette with Africa at an even earlier stage. Before joining what is now FFWPU, she had gone on summer holiday there with a friend. They had gone to Burkina Faso (then known as Upper Volta) and from there to Cote D'Ivoire. "I was very moved by Africa and by African people.
I thought, 'These people who are so poor look so bright. Why are they so bright?' In France we think, 'Africa-poor people.' They were poor people, but actually they looked much brighter than many European people. I thought they must have some secret, so I wanted to go back and I wanted to do something for Africa."
Two months later, back in France, Colette, a Catholic, had quite uncommonly refrained from going to church one fateful Sunday. It was a special day devoted to missionaries in the church she attended, but she stayed home, drawn to experience mass via television broadcast from Cote D'Ivoire. And so it was, while driving later that afternoon to visit her brother, that she was predisposed to being more sympathetic than usual when approached by a girl at a traffic light selling hand-painted cards to support missionary work.
"Contrary to my habit, which was not to buy anything in the street," Colette explained, "because I hadn't given any donation to the church that day, I did buy her little cards and I gave her four times more than she was asking of me." In response to Colette's generosity, the girl added the second issue ever of New Hope magazine to the cards Colette had bought. [A magazine produced by members and used as a fundraising product] "I read the magazine and was very moved. It was about God in France. I didn't know it was from a church. It announced three lectures, three days in a row, and I went there. Following the three lectures, I went to a three-day workshop and a seven-day workshop, and I joined right away. It was quite quick," she said.
Colette was already a qualified medical doctor when she joined. "I was doing my third year of specialization in dermatology," she elaborated. "I completed my specialization after joining the church."
As a member, Dr. Takigawa established the French branch of the International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF) in 1979. The following year, she was part of an IRFF medical team that delivered medical supplies to Zaire (today's Democratic Republic of Congo) and treated patients. "I first went to Zaire in 1980 for a short time," she said, "after that, in 1981, I went again to Zaire, for about three months with the European medical team."
1982 found her in the Central African Republic, in Bangui, the nation's capital. This time she was with a mixed team of Europeans and Japanese medical professionals. On a "honeymoon" Father would have approved of, she was working with her husband Dr. Yasuhumi Takigawa. They had been blessed in 1982 in Madison Square Garden, on July 1. "We left New York on the fifth and we just passed over France and went to Africa directly after the blessing," she said, "and for the first time, I worked with my husband." Colette, her husband, two dentists, an ophthalmologists and a few nurses worked in Bangui for two months.
From the Central African Republic, the Takigawas spent four years in Zambia where they set up a clinic -- something they knew Rev. Kwak had been thinking about for some time -- in Barlaston Park, a suburb of Lusaka. They spent just a month in Kenya en route to Uganda.
Uganda today is a youthful, vibrant country with the energy to confront the challenges it faces. Most Ugandans were not even born during the worst years of its recent history. The nation has traveled such a long distance from the gloomy past that young Ugandans are probably unaware that their country was the first Commonwealth Nation the UK ever severed ties with when it closed its embassy and withdrew its diplomatic personnel in July 1976. [Commonwealth - An association of sovereign states, the UK and some of its former colonies] The U.S. had done the same in November 1973. Yet, quite recently, President Yoweri Museveni was at the White House with a Ugandan delegation for talks with the American president, and a month later, he welcomed the Queen of England to Kampala for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which Uganda hosted. Much has changed.
When Rev. Kwak's letter reached the Takigawas in Zambia in September 1986, Yasuhumi was hoping to return to Japan for additional medical training. Colette was hoping to attend a long workshop in the U.S. "Rev. Kwak understood our concerns, but he urged us to go to Uganda. We knew there was no running water, no electricity no this and no that -- no sugar, no nothing. We had two small children at that time, about three and one-and-a-half."
They knew the practical situation included dangers for the health and safety of their own family but they had to find trust in their hearts that allowed them to be guided by someone else's intuition. A missionary's life calls for putting impressive faith into practice.
"At that time, the news was not so good about Uganda. The month before Rev. Kwak sent us," Colette continued, "Mr. Shirao, a missionary in Uganda, and David Magola, a Ugandan member, had been tortured. The police found some old military outfits in a cupboard somewhere. They thought they were involved in some kind of revolt. They were tortured for one day. Especially with small children, we were a little bit wary, worried, scared or whatever. But it was Rev. Kwak's desire, so we just went."
Colette, who has a sharp memory when it comes to where she was when decades ago, easily gave the date of their arrival in Uganda as November 25, 1986. To understand something of the Uganda that greeted their arrival, it is necessary to look back a few years.
The man whom Idi Amin overthrew to become president in January 1971 was Milton Obote. Obote set up camp in Tanzania and fought from there to regain power. Ugandan rebels accompanied Tanzanian Army units that drove out Idi Amin in April 1979. For twenty-one months following Amin's departure, there were three short-term presidents (including Godfrey Binaisa, who's long been connected to our movement) and one military commission before Obote returned to power in December 1980. As the Library of Congress Country Study of Uganda describes it, "the early 1980s became a time of revenge-seeking and despair under the second government led by Milton Obote... The Obote government's four-year military effort to destroy its challengers resulted in vast areas of devastation and greater loss of life than during the eight years of Amin's rule."
Yet, when the time came, Brigadier General Basilio Olara Okello removed Obote from power in a single day (July 27, 1985). Two days later, Brig. Gen. Okello handed the reins of power over to the (unrelated) Army Commander Gen. Tito Okello, who became chairman of a military council. Those were chaotic times. In early December journalist Edward A. Gargen wrote in the New York Times, "Robbers, often dressed in khaki and carrying Kalashnikov automatic rifles, are looting houses and stealing cars with increasing frequency "Kampala itself has been hewn into four parts with private militias occupying each quarter. A well-equipped and disciplined rebel army is pushing to the outskirts of the capital."
The rebels moving toward Kampala manned the National Resistance Army (N.R.A.), led by Yoweri Museveni. In December, Gen. Tito Otello signed a peace treaty with Museveni. In late January 1986, the N.R.A. took the capital and the same Museveni in power today began his presidency.
"There were roadblocks," she said. "There was still shooting at night. In fact, in the center where we lived, the windows were full of bullet holes. It was not a secure place." She can't forget going through a roadblock where a policeman used the barrel of his rifle to move her son. "'Get out of my way' -- like that." He had pushed him with the side (not with the open end) of the barrel. Nevertheless, she pointed out "with a three-year-old boy, he was about that height [she indicates about 60 cm], so it was close to the shooting end." She did not think the man intended to do more than get to the trunk of their car and check for weapons. Still, of the atmosphere in general she said, "We felt very insecure."
The Takigawa family spent two years in Uganda. They renovated a clinic, where Yasuhumi Takigawa worked half-days dealing with the same kind of diseases he might have in Europe; only malaria was additional. "Originally, my husband trained to be a surgeon, before going to Africa, but there was no way he could practice as a surgeon, so he just did general medicine," Colette said. "I didn't work in Uganda; I worked a little bit in Zambia as a dermatologist, but very little. I was always pregnant or nursing babies."
For a while, Mr. Takigawa was also the temporary national leader, because a month after their arrival, Ulf Ingwersen, the German missionary who came in 1975, had to leave the country. All the members lived together. There were four couples blessed in the 6,000-couple group, David and Ritsuko Margola, David's brother John, Raymond and Tomoko Otika, and Cise and Margaret Mugide-Kone. There were also single mothers with children. They stayed together for safety's sake.
Colette returned to Uganda in 1994 to help with Japanese missionaries to the country. She commuted for forty-day stints between there and Japan from 1994-1997. She returned again in 1999 to welcome True Mother to the country, an event she'd had a dream about years before. Despite her security concerns, she obviously has deep affection for the country. "Ugandan people are very warm," she told me, "very spiritual and quite gentle... The majority of Ugandans are actually peace-loving people. They have kings; they have traditions. They are very giving, forgiving, and they believe in God."
Colette cautioned me not to have a simplistic view of Africans. "They are not all the same," she said, "just as Europeans are not all the same, and Europeans are not like Americans."
There are geologic factors that contribute to Africa's diversity and they are evident in Uganda itself. Seen by satellite, Africa differs from other continents. It has no extensive mountain ranges because there has been no collision of tectonic plates beneath Africa as there has been beneath the other continents. Instead, as East Africa's Rift Valley System indicates, the single tectonic plate beneath Africa is subject to opposing pressures, stretching the plate and causing cracks to develop. Simply put, the land sags into those rifts.
Although Uganda has mountains in the east and west, most of Uganda is a plateau, an elevated tableland, through which run two branches of the Rift Valley System. It is relatively cool in temperature despite Kampala being half a degree north of the Equator, and there are few areas of heavy jungle or steep mountains to impede travelers. Over the centuries, these factors have attracted various groups to Uganda, where they have settled.
No one anticipated that independence from Britain in 1962 would unleash forces that led to the bloody decades that followed. Expectations were that Uganda would develop into a stable nation much sooner than it has. In retrospect, there are divisions between language groups; farming tribes compete over the best land with herding tribes; hierarchical groups organized under a king vie with groups organized according to familial clans; Muslims, whose fortunes diminished under the British, were set against Christians, whom the British favored; and there are groups that have traditionally fought for dominance or over territory.
Nowadays we often hear about transcending boundaries such as those these conflicts represent, and like Ugandans today, we enjoy the benefits of a world with less friction and satanic enmity than in past decades. True Parents brought together elements to create this current foundation through the 1,800-couple blessing and the dispatch of missionary trinities, who struggled for harmony among themselves even as they bumped up against the culture of their assigned nations. Later missionaries added to this foundation.
As Father explained at Lancaster Gate, in London, on May 20, 1978:
Before I sent out all the missionaries, I blessed 1,800 couples... Where did the number 18 come from? Eighteen is six times three. Six is Satan's number. The lost number, six, was taken away by Satan; restoring the number six in three different categories resulted in 1,800 couples, which includes all the satanic families. In other words, any kind of satanic family can come to God, can come to truth, can be saved. I laid railroad track in 1,800 directions so everybody finds a track, finds a direction. Any nation can find a direction to come to God and the True Parents. We are now moving on those rails.
What I find remarkable about these men and women is how quickly they had to go from plebeian single member to blessed foreign missionary. The 1,800-Couple Blessing Ceremony took place in Seoul on February 8, 1975. Father announced, in Tokyo, four days later, that members of their blessing group were to become foreign missionaries. William Connery, then barely twenty-six, remembers, "Both Rev. Moon and Neil Salonen (president of the American Church) emphasized the importance of the 1,800 Blessing for the work of world-wide restoration. We had a special meeting on February 12: a list of 95 nations was read out and we were to pick out 3. My choices were French Guyana, Rhodesia and Singapore." [All quotations of Mr. Connery come from a seminary thesis he graciously provided. He had written it based on diary entries.]
From Tokyo, Mr. Connery went back to the U.S. and invested himself in his usual work until he began a workshop for missionary candidates at Barrytown, which lasted from March 3 to May 14. "During that period, Rev. Moon came to speak to us at least 10 times. His advice was always strong and fatherly," he recalled.
William described the workshop schedule as "strenuous." Along with attending many lectures by Rev. Ken Sudo, they set conditions of preaching on public streets for thirty-hours at a time, twice in New York City and once in Washington DC. "The personal commitment of each missionary was being challenged," he wrote. "My own greatest challenge started on April 5... Mr. Salonen took me aside and asked if I would be willing to go to Uganda. Without much hesitation, I said yes. Actually, I knew very little about Uganda but my information soon grew."
What had happened in Uganda that might have come to William's attention? An American journalist and a university lecturer disappeared there together in July 1971. The story of their murder by soldiers emerged in April 1972. In August 1972, President Idi Amin announced that eighty thousand South Asian merchants had ninety days to leave Uganda, where many of their families had lived for three generations. The missionaries would later see the economic devastation that this mass deportation caused.
In July 1973, it was mere coincidence that Idi Amin was in Entebbe Airport as a plane that had refueled began taking off. As if on impulse, he shouted, "Who is on that plane?" When told the plane held members of the U.S. Peace Corps, he bellowed, "Bring them all back!" Immediately, his orders were acted on. The control tower radioed the pilot and ordered the plane back. The plane would be pursued by military jets if the pilot failed to obey. As a crew member looked out his window, he saw two combat aircraft coursing through the skies above Entebbe. Newspapers would later report that the 112 Peace Corps volunteers were being held prisoner by Amin on suspicion of being mercenaries en route to an infiltration mission somewhere in Africa.
This occurred only days after Amin had sent a telegram to the man he called Brother Nixon wishing him a speedy recovery from the Watergate scandal, and it added to Amin's reputation for being volatile, erratic, tempestuous- "the wild man of Africa." All over the globe, this leader of a relatively small country was making headlines.
Perhaps embarrassed at having to release the Peace Corp volunteers "unharmed and unalarmed," after receiving assurances that they were legitimate aid workers, President Amin lashed out again a few days later.
The Washington Post reported that in a radio broadcast, he said "he would not stand for any 'dirty tricks.' He said he was shocked to learn that 22 minor religious sects had infiltrated Uganda from the U.S. in the past two years." Certainly, that was not a report to calm the heart of our young missionary, who had said "yes," to Uganda.
How did William respond to what he learned? "I gave my fate to God, praying in my mind: 'Well, if You want to get rid of me, this is Your chance. Anyway, I will go because someone must bring Your New Word to the Ugandan people and it is better for me to die than for some worthier brother or sister to go and die. -- He flew to Uganda in mid-May 1975. That first step caused apprehension. Of the flight to Entebbe Airport, he recalled, "My stomach was turning over like a person awaiting execution."
One of his fellow missionaries would later testify to the strong conditions William Connery set while in Uganda. "Rev. Moon told us to make special conditions for our nations," William wrote, "My first started as soon as I left the plane -- I began a seven-day food fast. I felt that God was protecting me from the very beginning."
By chance, he met the Germany missionary, Ulf, soon after his arrival. The last of their trinity, Kamiyoshi Hideaki, they would not find until late September. Mr. Connery's testimony describes their efforts to get work permits and employment, but it is not a dry account of young men job hunting. There's palpable tension from opposing forces -- their desire to make a mark on the country and the awareness that they must remain hidden from predators who could put an end to their mission, or their lives. "As our circle of friends grew," he wrote, "more people told us stories of the beatings and killings that were taking place. Our hands were tied: if we did anything to help our friends, we could be easily kicked out of the country. Our only solace was the word of God we could teach people through the Divine Principle."
William chronicles many instances of teaching people, beginning from his third day in the country. It was while teaching the Principle of Creation, quietly, one-on-one, in a small park, on July 27, 1975, that he was descended on by an officer of the State Research Bureau, Amin's secret police. Papers confiscated, address revealed, he headed quickly home once released; but like hounds on a scent, S.R.B. officers rapidly were at the door. He, Ulf and Abdul, a Bangladeshi they rented a room from, were arrested and put into the back seat of a car. The driver took them to a vacant building. He went in, came back and kept driving. "Next, we were driven to the three-story building, which had the external appearance of a motel, where most of the S.R.B. victims were beaten and eventually killed. Our driver again went in and again he came out after a few minutes and drove us away." Even after darkness descended, the car continued to wander the city streets. They reasoned it was just an attempt to throw them off-kilter, an intimidation tactic. But how where they to know? Ugandans were not the only ones who had "disappeared."
Eventually, they were taken to a small ground-floor room beneath S.R.B. living quarters. There, officers interrogated them, hurled wild accusation at them but did not beat them. It is the uncertainty that must have worked on their hearts.
Many have speculated as to how many thousands the S.R.B. killed. No figure has been offered for how few walked away. On Tuesday afternoon, the three men were taken to meet the Permanent Secretary for Education, who may have intervened because Abdul was a college lecturer. They had been released, physically unscathed.
William's daily life, as revealed in his thesis, continued thereafter in a focused, determined manner as he spread Heaven's "New Word" up until the day in 1978 that he was called to attend the seminary. The other two missionaries continued in his absence.
All of the missionary trinities carried out their world-level mission against the backdrop of their assigned nations. Sadly, some missionaries were overwhelmed by the internal difficulties they confronted. Many are remembered with fondness in the nations they served.
We have no way of measuring to what degree the effort of these pioneers contributed to freeing the world from national and lesser boundaries. What we have is Father's word that they were part of a railroad track to freedom, hope and the original world, which he laid "in 1,800 directions."