Unification News for March 2004

St. Louis

by Carl Swearson

The Salad Bowl Restaurant on Saturday, January 24, in St. Louis was the setting for one of the more moving and successful programs appointing Ambassadors for Peace and updating the 70 attendees on last year's pilgrimages to Israel.

Even though registration did not begin until 8:30 a.m., some of the guests arrived 40 minutes early. "I really could not sleep well last night thinking about today. I didn't want to miss it," said one of the participants.

Rev. Cecelia Maclin, Chaplin at Jefferson Arms Apartments, opened the event with a reading from scripture (Psalms 41:1) and a blessing for the meal. The restaurant soon had to set out more plates and food, because more than expected decided to attend. At one point, the late comers had to sit on chairs along the wall because the tables were filled.

Since a number of the guests were attending for the first time, everyone briefly introduced themselves during the meal. So many of those already appointed as Ambassadors for Peace would proudly announce they were an Ambassador for Peace.

Carl Swearson, President of the American Family Coalition of Missouri, gave a powerpoint presentation on the four requirements for world peace, as well as what is expected for someone appointed as an Ambassador for Peace. One of the first-time guests, Dr. Behrad Majidi, director of the Baha'i Faith Information Center, said remarked, "I saw so much of the same principles of my faith in that lecture."

Rev. Bill Stoner then shared about his life-changing experiences in Israel during the most recent rally and pilgrimage just before the Christmas holidays, "I shall never forget the experience of traveling halfway around the world to see thousands of people from different backgrounds praying for harmony in the midst of so much violence. World peace begins when we can transcend the boundaries of race, religion and ideology to experience the love of God within each of our hearts."

A powerful video, Peace under One God II, gave an overview of the first three pilgrimages was shown next. Many who watched it could not help crying as those traveling to Israel shared emotionally on camera what it meant to them to be there.

The regional leader of Missouri, Iowa and Kansas, Rev. Eog Cheon Choe, then brought many of the guests to tears as he shared his testimony of growing up in Korea and his spiritual search that led him to read the Bible and discover the unconditional love of Jesus. That was when he wanted to offer his life to God as a sacrifice, "as Jesus had sacrificed himself for me, a lowly sinner," he concluded.

State FFWP leader, Rev. Charles Cherutich, and Rev. Earlice Wrice of the Women's Federation for World Peace then called up the newest recipients of the Ambassador for Peace appointment. First, Rev. Ceclia Maclin, spoke of a dream she had not long ago, where she was in the midst of leaders from many different faiths, all coming together to honor God. "I know this is the group that was in my dream," she said in tears, "I know God has led me here!"

Another recipient, Eli Muhammad, was so moved that it took him a few minutes to compose himself before speaking, "you don't know how grateful I am to be given something like this."

Bertha Gilkey Bonds, wife of Ambassador for Peace, Robert Bonds, asked that she be allowed to sponsor the next meeting on March 6th at her place of work, Carr Square Tenant Management Corporation. "You are doing exactly what needs to be done. All problems in our society can be traced directly back to the breakdown of the family," she concluded.

Rev. Cherutich then closed the program with prayer and invited everyone to attend the next meeting.

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