Unification News for March 2003


by Stefan des Lauriers

It was my Fiftieth birthday February 9, the day the North American Cheon Il Guk activity for 2400 blessed central families in Korea was officially kicked off. We divided into small teams after Sunday service in the A-frame Kwang-San Church and were driven to our respective areas. My village was Tong-gok, in the countryside where a new elevated highway was under construction. We stopped at two community centers and picked up small stones, as we were directed to do. That evening we were taken to a bathhouse and had dinner at a restaurant that specialized in gray tofu.

We had Hoon Dok Hae in the A-frame church; I was barely able to follow the Korean text by listening for the verb at the end of each sentence. The only text that jumped out for me was "Moon Sun Myung." After the reading Rev. Lee Hwa Beum, the tribal leader of Mozambique, took us on a pre-dawn climb of a nearby "mountain." Although the summit was a mere 1,685 meters above sea level, I was exhausted and almost crying about halfway up. It was not easy for me to make the ascension; it being nine years since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In one of my songs I write about conquering the mountain within and was reminded of the line: "You go as high as you can go, and then the climb begins." So I had to continue and made it to the top. We stood in the peak’s open pagoda and took in the panorama of lights in the distance -- the neon crosses, the train disappearing in the distance, and the glow of Kwang-ju rising from behind a neighboring mountain. On the way down we took the easy route, following the steps that had been carved on the hillside.

Our Korean host, Cho In Kwan and his wife took excellent care of the eight Japanese and the ten Western members that stayed in his center. For breakfast we had yogurt, bread, peanut butter and jam, and sometimes hash browns and eggs to augment the traditional Korean fare. Great lengths were taken to see that we were happy and well fed. There seemed to be a never ending supply of tangerines. It was always a struggle for me to eat sitting on the floor; to fumble with chopsticks. Several times someone would call out in Korean "Get a pork for Su-tae-pan. (fork for Stefan) On more than one occasion I spilled Kim chi on my tie.

On our first day witnessing we went house to house in the area around the center. I was intimidated that every place had enclosed courtyards, that required you to communicate through an intercom before someone would answer the door. Plus we had to make our announcements phonetically by following the script in our approach books. Despite the obstacles we were able to get people to open the gates and sign the forms. It helped that we had the Japanese wives of Korean brothers working with us.

Our first event was at a center in the countryside, near where the first church of Kwang-ju was located. We stopped for photographs in front of the humble church building. Then we went inside the newer center. For entertainment the Japanese sisters sang their version of "If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands." This proved to be popular with the elderly crowd, so when it was our turn to sing we had a number of grandmothers dancing along with us to the "Hokey Pokey."

In future events, of which our center put on eighteen or so, the same format was adhered to. A video presentation, a speech, Hoon Dok Hae by the local leader and perhaps a testimony of one of our members. We would line up at one point, in front of the banner; the Japanese and Westerners all wearing our mauve blessing scarves. When it came time for each of our introductions, the audience would be hanging on to every syllable. Then we’d sing: "Sarang Hae," "Ommaya Nunaya," or "Urie Sowon." At the main event we did the sisterhood ceremony. Some of the events were at restaurants, most were in community centers. Refreshments of McCol, tangerines, rice balls and fried chicken were offered. As the guests left they were given large designer Omar Sharif umbrellas with commemorative engraving on the wood handles.

We had been coached by Mr. Hong, a retired fighter pilot who wrote out introductions for us and helped us with phrases that we added to our approach book. He was very helpful to us, accompanying us on excursions and meeting with us at the center. The room seemed so quiet when it was my turn, I would be shaking, (as is my usual condition) and trying my best in a raspy voice.

Before breakfast on Valentine’s Day we drove into the countryside to a memorial our church had created for the first ancestor of the Mun clan. We stopped at a massive rock said to be 1,500 years old, which was protected from the elements by an open wood pagoda. It was at this spot that a very bright young boy had been left abandoned in a box. We were photographed as a group before visiting an ancient courtyard of a school from a few hundred years past. The courtyard was nestled in a large farm with many long plastic covered greenhouses which are typically seen throughout Korea. We bought two trays of strawberries that were picked before the sun came up that mild wintry morning. Riding home we had a small taste of heaven.

On the last day we were taken to the May 18 Memorial, which commemorated the 2,000 massacred at the Kwang-ju uprising in May of 1980. I wondered why we were taken there, because to me, it didn’t portray Korea favorably. We were told by Rev. Lee at our closing meeting that he felt the victory of the week long Cheon Il Guk’s activities came on the foundation of those whose lives were sacrificed in the Kwang-ju uprising.

Rev. Lee and Rev. Cho spoke at the closing meeting, pleased with our one hundred per cent victory. Our center had sponsored 18 successful events, collected 480 signatures, and had made impressive relationships with local high level leaders. We were asked to continue our support, financially, and to make a lifelong commitment to our area. We should even think of sending our children in the future. The Western members chipped in to buy a jeweled necklace for Mrs. Cho who had taken such good care of us. Connie Sato had picked it out the day Mr. Hong lead us through the local marketplace. After presenting it to her, Mrs. Cho showered even more of her heavenly heart by presenting Connie with a red dress that once belonged to True Mother. We were all given a home movie video of our week long activities, an Omar Sharif umbrella, plus individual gifts from our new friends. On the final night we piled in the van to be taken to the overnight bus to Incheon Airport, and everyone came out to enthusiastically wish us well and wave goodbye.

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