The Words of the Suguri Family
K. Suguri began a home group for Japanese brothers in Korea to help them gain financial stability. After he became an assistant pastor at the Headquarters Church, serving Japanese members, he reoriented the group's purpose toward witnessing. Mr. Suguri also writes for the Japanese Unificationist magazine published in Korea. Following the interview below, in which he speaks as a church pastor under Hyung-jin nim, is an extract from one of his recent columns in which he shares his belief that small groups (home groups) are a profound vehicle for spiritual growth and a viable way to church health.
What is your feeling about moving into Cheon Bok Gung?
When we move in there, it will be so different from the Headquarters Church. It gives us a confident feeling about our church. The new one is big and well designed. We will have to witness seriously. It gives me a sense of hope. It will be very good because we will have the confidence to bring guests and teach them.
In the current church, there is very little space, very few rooms here for lectures or home group meetings. In the growth-stage Cheon Bok Gung there is much more space. There are many small rooms, so we have much hope for our activities there.
How have you been doing activities?
There aren't many people I can witness to among the people I know, so whenever I have time, I go out to witness on the street. I witness in front of the Headquarters Church, or the Korean Church Headquarters Building, or the Dowon Building. I find that when I make some condition before I go out, I meet someone. Our international president also has been out street witnessing on a good number of occasions. He says that when he prays, he meets people. That's true for me, too. I go out witnessing quite a bit; I find that on the days when I pray to prepare before I go out, I meet a good person. If I don't prepare, I don't meet receptive people.
Can you say how you like to approach people?
I show people a copy of the autobiography and tell them I will give it to them if they agree to read it and later write and tell me their opinion of it. Hyung-jin nim also visits senior Buddhist monks and other prominent members of society, but I am focusing just on the ordinary people I meet!
Are people reading it?
Some accept a copy of the book. It's difficult to meet people on the street again. That's why I take their name and telephone number. I call them later and ask them what they thought of it. I often hear, "I haven't read it yet!" Interestingly, though, on the days when I pray before going out, the people I give the book to are the ones who actually read it in the end. Some have told me they were very moved by what they'd read.
What gets you out there?
The Messiah is on earth. And we need to restore a nation for God. We should witness. Our international president has taken the initiative in this; he went out witnessing first. I thought, "There's our president out there working hard; I really must go out too." I felt pain in my heart. It is we who should be doing this, but because we had been unable to get it going, our international president has been going out himself to set an example. I felt I could not just sit quietly. I decided to go out too. Many members think like this. There are many hard working senior sisters, in particular, woman leaders, who go out with our international president, witnessing on the street. They express their determination to do their best. You gain some inspiration from Hyung-jin nim directly.... During the morning Heavenly Fortune Ceremony, the international president gives us a special individual greeting in the final part of the service, to each person or couple personally. At that moment, spiritually, the power to witness comes to me. I receive that spiritual power.
During these cold days, during the Heavenly Fortune Service, the international president prays, "Please guide the brother and sisters who are going out witnessing." Because he gives out a certain spiritual protection or spiritual leadership, I believe that if we align ourselves with that, and then pray and go out, we can meet very good people.
Would you say that enthusiasm for witnessing is increasing?
It is increasing. The fact that our international president makes conditions is the most significant impetus for witnessing, I would say. He makes these for the sake of church development and the realization of Cheon Il Guk. Not all the members from the Headquarters Church have renewed their desire to witness, but a number of them have.
What do you think you can contribute to the development of the growth-stage Cheon Bok Gung? I am thinking about home groups. There will be a larger number of members there. With regard to the organization of activities, for members to do activities well, and then become proactive, become "owners," we should create small "faith groups" in order to strengthen our community. This is my feeling.
There are only ten or so pastors at the church. Many thousands will come for the services, more than a thousand at a time. The pastors won't be able to meet everyone. In order to build a good community...
I am the assistant pastor supporting the Japanese members. I am thinking of gathering the Japanese brothers -- I think there will be fifty or so connected with the new church. We can create "faith groups," and witness or do voluntary activities together for the church.
Through my home group, I will also invite people I know, or people I have met, to come. We will pray for them and try to care for them.
Does Hyung-jin nim emphasize one particular method over another?
He doesn't emphasize one kind of witnessing in particular; he doesn't even give orders; he first goes out and does things and becomes an example that we can observe.
Home groups can naturally form among people with the same interests. The group can appoint a leader and do activities centered on this leader until they become closer to one another. Then, they can invite someone to whom they wish to witness to join their group. If there are five people in the home group, each person might come up with one individual he wants to witness to. That would make five potential guests. Choose one out of these five, in whatever way the group may decide. Then decide on a period, such as twenty-one days or forty days, to pray as a group for this person.
By setting such a prayer condition, the group prepares to witness to this person. As a home group leader, I feel that the leader must guide the group toward unity. For that to happen, the leader should set a spiritual foundation by also praying for the members of the group. The group can become a strong community by each member praying for the others according to their prayer requests. When strong relationships develop within the group, the members are ready to make it a priority to pray for a new person.
There was an Abel figure that deeply influenced me when I was working in the Japanese church. He had already converted most of his own family, including his parents. He said, "You have to love the Cain realm before you love the Abel realm." This is what Father has taught us, of course, and it is because Satan cannot be subjugated without a condition. In order to subjugate Satan, you have to let go of your object of love first. That is why True Parents have always loved us, in the Cain realm, before they loved their own children, who are in the Abel realm.
Similarly, in order for us to witness to our own families, we have to love the Cain realm first.
Who are the real Cains for us? The answer that came from that Abel figure was quite unexpected. He said that the real Cains are our fellow church members. This is because church members will never become our own spiritual children, no matter how much we love and pray for them. In that sense, there is absolutely no "reward" for loving a fellow family member.
A light lit up in my head when I heard that. I had heard many testimonies of brothers and sisters who were able to witness to their families and people in society after they had practiced loving their brothers and sisters.
Similarly, when you are witnessing in a home group, it is even better to pray for and love your group member's guest than your own, because you will be loving the spiritual child of your real Cain. This is the best way to subjugate Satan. I understood the amazing potential of home groups from this point of view.
Hyung-jin nim was the one that directly taught us the process of focusing on one guest in the group and bringing him to join through setting a condition of group prayer. This kind of thinking impressed me.
We are presently praying for a guest that we decided on. Since he is just beginning to form a relationship with us, we haven't seen actual results yet. But it is a very natural way to witness to someone, and I can see that we will eventually form a community. If we can create a wonderful community like this by establishing a strong horizontal bond within the group, the guests will automatically want to be a part of the community. This is the purpose of a home group. Not only because "the Principle is the truth," but if we pray for each other and do Hoon Dok Hae and deepen our heart-to-heart relationships, guests will naturally feel something impressive about the group and want to stay.
The leaders that come out of such a group will be leaders that have nothing to do with bureaucracy. There will be no distance between these leaders and their members and they will bring results by teamwork. 1 always knew that teamwork was important conceptually, but it was only when I began home group activities that I could understand what teamwork means.
Teamwork is bringing out each person's strengths and compensating for each other's weaknesses. Discussion also brings about a better solution. Idea A and idea B may clash at first but through discussion, a better solution, C, can come about. This is a result of synergy in action.
Home groups can be a place to mature a culture that produces synergy through teamwork. When home groups multiply in number and the number of leaders that guide these groups increases, the culture and organization of the church will spontaneously change. We would no longer have to worry about leaders who cannot adapt to a new culture. If home groups grow and their members start witnessing, we will be able to start identifying the naturally outstanding leaders from among the members.
It will then bring change to the leadership style. If those in higher positions can actually see what is happening with their own eyes, they will be able to understand and change.