Unification News for June 2004
God and the Pilgrimages
by Frank Kaufmann
Many who participate the Pilgrimages to the Holy Land find new life and a renewed sense of the ideals and dreams characteristic of their early Unification days. I see in these Pilgrimages genuine sacrifice, genuine results, and a real application of the principle.
Now we have completed 5 Pilgrimages to the Holy Land, (perhaps even more by the time this article appears). Each visit has its own unique character and flavor. But many ask, "Are we really making progress? Are we really making a difference?" Daily public news from the region (the Middle East) is mixed. Some news is promising, but most is despairing. We must ask as we write these great testimonies and web-reports, "Are we living in a fantasy in which our outreach touches only pure hearted dreamers, but is without an effective strategy, and cannot reach up to the realms of power and influence where true change can occur?"
I have been blessed beyond measure to be a part, not only of every Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but further, to have served in providential activities both prior to the Pilgrimages, and on occasion, in missions and activities between the Pilgrimages.
Presently I see two types of Pilgrimages: 1. those in which life or death providential conditions must be set, and 2. those which are fulfilled in obedience, but the plan of God is not clearly revealed or commanded in advance.
In some, God (through Father) describes precisely what is needed, in others Godís mystery is revealed along the way. I call Pilgrimages 1 (May, 2003) and 4 (December, 2003) the former sort, and Pilgrimages 2, 3, and 5 the latter sort.
Let me state (and get this pitch out of the way) my view that Dr. Chang Shik Yang and Reverend Michael Jenkins are true and honorable sons of God, True Parents, and the Providence, and should be supported. Just an opinion.
I place Pilgrimages 1 and 4 in the category of providence-revealed-in-advance. In short these fulfilled and faithfully executed two unimaginable demands: Pilgrimage 1: Have the Jews repent for the crucifixion of Jesus, and Pilgrimage 4: Have Jews offer Jesus a crown as King of Israel. Only a nut in a zillion years would dream up and require such a thing, and only Father (also in a zillion years) could actually, successfully pull it off. (Hint: Believe the Heung Jin Nim stuff, and believe the Clouds stuff. It is true. Whatever stands in your way, find a way past it.) These (Pilgrimages 1 and 4) are dramatic tales of stirring proportions. Learn of them, study them, and understand them. They are history. And if you are even remotely related, you carry some solid credentials for heaven.
But what of Pilgrimages 2, 3, and 5 (Iíve dubbed them the "off Pilgrimages")? Where do we find the true and mighty hand of Father and God in these? In a way, these are the real litmus test. Perhaps the inner quality of these "off Pilgrimages" has not been adequately transmitted to the eager and devoted member who longs to adhere closely to what God is doing at any given moment.
Pilgrimage 5 is an excellent example of an "off-Pilgrimage," of which I write now so as to invite every member to jump in without hesitation.
If Father gives a providential obligation (as he did in Pilgrimages 1 and 4), it is easy to be a supporter and a faithful fan. But what of the Pilgrimages in which there are no historical rallies, crownings, cross-burials, resolutions and so forth? Then who helps the likes of Yang and Jenkins? Who understands and supports the sacrifice and life-threatening dangers embraced by Christian clergy by the 100ís? Oftentimes the ACLC leaders are not so well encouraged or supported. They do not have that magic mandate from on high to carry the day.
I want to tell you of Pilgrimage 5, so that you do not join the naysayers, and do not succumb to the seduction of cynicism. See if they are holding up the other magical end of Providence, namely generating an offering by faith through the pursuit of True Sonship declared in the Era of Chun Il Guk.
Pilgrimage 5 was a perfect set up for the skeptical to undermine by voice and by whisper the likes of Jenkins and Yang. "Whatís THIS Pilgrimage about? Why are we doing this one? What are we supposed to be accomplishing with this? Havenít we already done enough of these?"
It is my contention that every Pilgrimage has its own purpose, flavor, and face of God, be it revealed beforehand, during, or after.
Pilgrimage 5 is a perfect set up to support my contention. We just finished a "can you possibly top this?" Pilgrimage in December, 2003. Jews shattered the historical boundary of enmity between the 1st and 2nd Israels, by crowning Jesus King of Israel. What more could one possibly do? "Why are you doing the same thing, again?" If anything the path of the 5th pilgrimage seemed to traverse a lesser course. Even the Peace Walk had moved to the tiny Arab town of Nazareth and away from the international and inter-cosmic, Holy City of Jerusalem.
But God himself differed, and showed his face in all its Glory, using Pilgrimage 5 to shout out to the world that it should know True Fatherís grandeur and the truth of Godís almighty power.
Shortly before the launch date of Pilgrimage 5, Sheikh Yassin, the "spiritual" head of Hamas was obliterated by an Israeli missile as he rolled out of morning prayers on a peaceful dawn (Yassin is a paraplegic who moves about in a wheelchair). Only his head rolled about as the Prime Minister Sharonís command was successfully executed. The devotees of this manís spiritual piety (incomprehensible though it was to most) wailed to the heavens and pledged that every American and every Israeli would pay with death and suffering for this abomination wrought by Sharon and his military apparatus.
Only days later Father, Dr. Yang, and Michael Jenkins led a contingent of ACLC ministers into this land aflame with revenge and death. Everyone said do not go to the Holy Land at this time. It is a cauldron of death and fury. As leaders prepared to tell Father that a postponement was absolutely necessary, Father, in the middle of a morning Hoon Dok Hae, said "I will send 10 times, 100 times more ministers to Israel to bring the true and lasting work of eternal peace through sacrifice and through true love."
The mere fact that 100ís of clergy would walk into the grinding gears of death and revenge, on no other guaranty than True Fatherís love of peace, alone is more than enough for the story of pilgrimage 5 to last forever.
Imagine the bonds that are formed among a community which, to a man (and woman) choose to walk into the valley of death, for the sake of peace, and with only the prayers and protection of True Father to shield them from destruction. These men and women, for the sake of peace, in obedience to God, True Parents, and surrender to the leadership of Dr. Yang and Reverend Jenkins walked headlong directly into the most dangerous path on earth. Do you think Fatherís movement is floundering? Find me a religious leader with one zillionth the influence to move people to path of sacrifice for the sake of good.
Shortly prior to this Pilgrimage 5, a phenomenal (an unbelievable story in its own right) event occurred on Capitol Hill. Father and Mother were crowned King and Queen of the Universe. Perhaps I shall tell that story soon. It is in this context Pilgrimage 5 occurred. Hereís the bottom line on Pilgrimage 5: "Are the claims of True Parents regarding the harmonization of the spiritual world, and physical world true? Does the spiritual world have free access to collaborate for the sake of good in dispensational activities?" Pilgrimage 5 put these questions to the test.
Most people including all people centrally responsible for Fatherís directions on the Middle East presumed that Pilgrimage 5 would have to be canceled or postponed following the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. The rage, instability, and downright danger, especially for Americans, were at a pitch where one simply could not ponder walking into center of this bullís eye willingly. There had been a number of conversations among the organizers on how to handle the cancellation or postponement of this pilgrimage. All that remained was to report the matter to Father to get his OK for the cancellation of postponement.
Leaders met with Father intending to present these plans for his decision and advice, but before the report on the situation could be presented, Father spoke for some time. He spoke about many things, including uttering the following: "The situation in the Middle East is becoming so serious. Now I will send 10 times more leaders and clergy there." Do I need to add that the question about cancellation didnít come up? The U.S. State Department issued a no-Israel travel advisory. We left for Jordan the next day.
Not just "we" left. 120 Christian ministers left. Is it that these people do not have televisions, radios, or do not know how to read? By whose assurances are these Christian ministers walking into a cauldron of madness and blood-thirsty seeking of revenge? People must consider these sorts of phenomena when reflecting upon Father as a spiritual leader.
This was the first pilgrimage which made Jordan its first stop. The routing through Jordan was what spiritually obtuse people call "a coincidence." In fact, however, this route was the parent of a great many fascinating phenomena, which themselves could fill a volume.
Briefly, though, because of the political tensions and hardened national positions in the region, the Arab and the Israel universes are blocked from one another. Our own brothers and sisters in neighboring countries are not free to travel to each otherís nations. By having the pilgrimage spend time in Jordan, the Arab Peace Ambassadors and the Arab-country based Unificatonists could integrate into the peace-making dynamic inherent in these Pilgrimages. This is very important, for many reasons. We were deeply, warmly welcomed by our brother and sister Peace Ambassadors who were so grateful and proud for these emissaries of peace to come to their country. Our welcome night in Jordan was wonderful and heart warming.
David Fraser Harris (from Damascus, Syria) gleefully welcomed our group as we arrived in Amman (Jordan), and performed magnificently to add to our understanding the complex history and relations in the region. This indispensable wealth of information and perspective could never be made available to us, if we only ever traveled to Israel and Palestine.
Secondly, Jordan is the place of Mt. Nebo, the site where Moses stood and gazed out at Canaan, forbidden to enter the Holy Land. This was a site of torrid spiritual experience for our ACLC pilgrims. But more than just this was our benefit to visit this site. Recall that by now we have already done 3 major providential acts related to Judaism in the context of these pilgrimages: 1. The May 2003 signing of the Jerusalem Declaration containing among other content, Jewish repentance for the crucifixion of Jesus. 2. The December 22, 2003 crowning of Jesus of Nazareth as King of Israel, by Jewish representatives, and 3. The February 4, 2004 crowning of Jesus as the King of the First and Second Israel in the Dirksen Senate office building in the U.S. Capitol, again by Jewish religious leaders.
With these 3 acts, Father out of his endless love for Israel and the original family of Godís Covenant, orchestrated spiritual and symbolic acts in history to liberate the generations of Israel. For this reason the visit to Mr. Nebo had enormous significance and power, both as the place where the Biblical heroes Joshua and Caleb inherited the providence, but now we decided to add one more element. Under the new conditions of the complete liberation of Judaism, Mosesí descendants and community, we decided that our visit to his mournful site would be the occasion to put Mosesí sorrow to an end. We would "take Moses on the bus with us" as we crossed the River Jordan to the Promised Land. Many on the tour had ineluctable experiences in connection with this determination.
The phenomenon of traversing the River Jordan remained a powerful part of our narrative this time on the 5th pilgrimage, again in ways which could make up the content of a volume in itself.
Finally, this itinerary provided us with the unique experience of traversing international checkpoints in the region. This was new, and it provided excellent insights into the reality of the people living there. Each checkpoint is double, moving from one sovereignty to another, back and forth. Furthermore, checkpoints are the kernel of conflict or peace. The border guards (especially in a time of terrorism) represent the greatest vigilance, and the greatest sense of separation and enmity. Yet though this is their job and responsibility, it is not their nature or desire. Our group, as a multi-religious task force for peace, provides these otherwise stern and agonized guards with a ray of hope, and a face of gentle and hopeful humanity.
Once through immigration from Jordan to Israel, we began the Israel and Palestine portion of the Pilgrimage.
As we continued on our way, it quickly became clear that this group was avant garde. This group was the needle (the front most point, the tip) of sewing together the spiritual world and the physical world. The saints of history and the phenomenal power of spiritual reality coursed through our number throughout the days of the Pilgrimage, yielding an unbroken flood of miracles and spiritual experiences in all the moments of the tour. For example, how was it possible to envision the eventual safety and protection of the lives and welfare of our members trapped in Al Aqsa Masjid during an historical raid and incursion by Israeli troops following Friday prayers?
Signs of God and the spiritual world ensconced in the day-to-day life of our pilgrimage include: The rescue to safety of our four pilgrimage members who were trapped in Al Aqsa Masjid, while under assault from the Israeli State, Safe passage and restoration events in Gaza during our one-day conference in Gaza (this SO soon after the assassination of Sheikh Yassin), the Pentecost in the Upper Room on Palm Sunday, the Blessing of peace in the Gaza-Israel return (through the checkpoint), and many other such moments and occasions throughout the journey. And recall, this was a pilgrimage which did not carry a specific providential task or mandate from Father (such as the crowning, or the Jerusalem Declaration). I point this out particularly in light of the sometimes bewilderment, and sometimes cynicism in response to the Pilgrimages: "Why are we doing this again? What is this one for? What are we accomplishing with all these trips?," and so forth. At the end, there is a part of every Pilgrimage that is unknown before the outset. There is something which cannot be anticipated, something which only reveals itself as the narrative of each pilgrimage unfolds.
The bottom line of this pilgrimage was that our lives and our safety were in Fatherís hands. Conditions of rage, seething hatred, and determined revenge so poisoned the air in every corner of the world (following the gory assassination of Yassin), that NO ONE dreamt that this pilgrimage would hold. People were SURE that Father would not risk the lives of important and known Christian and multi-religious clergy under HIS OWN NAME in such a time as this.
Imagine what sort of conditions, spiritual commitment, and spiritual confidence would be required to risk the lives of saintly, trusting devotees by sending them into the jaws of death at such a time as this? Think of the depth of prayer and spiritual power which would have to obtain to put oneís self, history, and reputation on the line, to have so many people IN YOUR NAME in a land of madness, walking moment by moment as sitting ducks!
Strangely, this 5th pilgrimage, one which a person might call "an off pilgrimage," might, in its own way be one of the greatest testimonies to Fatherís spiritual power that a person could ever find, even in a life as magnificent as Fatherís.
This is why I write at this time. Since Reverend Jenkins usually does a fine job of keeping us all informed, I usually do not feel pressed to write "too." For a couple of these points however, I really wanted to take the time.
On the second day of our pilgrimage, 4 or our group (including some of its leaders) had gone to Al Aqsa for Friday prayers, and to pray and to meet the sheiks of this Holy Site to set up the logistics of our visit. Suddenly, quirky matters took a turn for the worse and hundreds of Israeli soldiers began to storm the sacred compound of Al Aqsa. Tension was thicker than gruel, and the elements of world war quivered at the brink. A breath in or a breath out could have defined a holocaust and international horror.
Imam Bundakji, from a life-threatened position in the mosque made a telephone call that should forever be told. "Michael Jenkins, I do not know if I will live now. If I die, please do one thing for me. Please tell Mother and Father that I love them, and please tell my Jewish brothers, that I havenít changed. I love them."
Michael called Dr. Yang in the United States. "Dr Yang, four of our brothers are trapped in Al Aqsa Masjid. We do not know if they will live. They send Mother and Father their love. Please pray for us."
Where was Dr. Yang when he received this call? Dr. Yang was about a half a mile from the Hudson River marina at Half Moon Bay. He was about four feet from Father. Father had forbidden Dr. Yang this time (for the first time) to travel to Israel with the ACLC pilgrims. "You must stay here with me and pray," were Fatherís instructions to Dr. Yang. This day on the Hudson was frigid, bitter, and tumultuous. So serious were the waves that Father was nearly thrown from the boat, and was in fact tossed shockingly from his seat off onto the sloshy deck. Members begged Father to please care for himself and return to shore. Father would not.
In this moment Dr. Yang reported to Father that the unthinkable was happening at Al Aqsa, 100ís of Israeli troops had stormed the sacred ground of Islam, bombs and bullets roared, our brothers were trapped with 1,000ís of worshippers, the chances of mass death are high. The US State Department, and even the US Marines were at the ready due to the presence of US citizens in this tense and potentially massively tragic event.
Moments later, the leaders of Al Aqsa, by absolute miracle had negotiated the safe passage of the worshippers. Our brothers walked freely to safety and returned to report to all of us who were in prayer for their safe return; our Jewish brothers and sisters praying perhaps hardest of us all. Pilgrimage number 5 had only just begun.
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