Unification News for September 2005

Montana's 8th Annual March Against Drugs and Violence

by Pastor Mike Yakawich

8th Annual March Against Drugs and Violence

On June 11th, 2005, the community of Billings, Montana, took part in the 8th Annual March Against Drugs and Violence. Youth, community members, civic, church and political leaders participated in this annual event. Co sponsored by the Family Church, Billings Police Department, Tumble Weed, several other community organizations and churches, the march had an exceptional turnout this year. Originally founded by ACLC clergy eight years ago with less than ten participants, it has grown into a community event. Today it exceeded 250 people in participation. The program began with an enthusiastic group at the Courthouse Lawn. With music in the background by the Dirty Jones Band (a popular Billings Band), Rev. Tom Schlotteraback of the Lutheran King of Glory Church offered a prayer. Preceding this were encouraging words of praise and pride by Deputy Police Chief Archer, who commented, "This showing of so many people shows a serious concern for our community."

Our march then began, led by a Boy Scout troop. The entire group of marchers walked about one mile around the downtown. The Billings Police Department guided the group, stopping traffic all along the way. It was indeed a novelty to walk down the middle of 27th Street, the busiest street in town.

The group then returned to the Courthouse Lawn for the main event. Rev. Dr. Vernon Johnson of All Nations Christian Fellowship Church led the group in a prayer of thanksgiving and protection. As people proceeded to a wonderful barbeque on the lawn provided by many volunteers, they listened to the event’s speakers.

One cosponsor of our event, a Montana state government Republican leader, commented: "Every legislative session has a long list of bills attempting to do something about the problems resulting from drugs and violence….. Families are being destroyed and lives are being lost. Yet even with more legislation and more resources put in place, the problem continues to grow. The solution lies in a grassroots effort by dedicated community members who are willing to step forward and do what they can to alleviate this scourge on our society." A Montana U.S. congressman commented: "Drugs and violence destroy the hopes, dreams, security, and health of children and families.....You can make such a difference, and you do. You are the eyes and ears and conscience of this community. You set the standards...Thank you for gathering to reaffirm our commitment to end illegal drug use and violence in our lives."

And the mayor said, "When you demonstrate by your participation in this march that drugs and violence are not what we want in our community, you are setting an example for others."

We had a band performing and a youth ensemble from the Family Church. Also, local organizations and companies donated some great door prizes and helped cover the cost of the food. The local media was a fantastic support. The local ABC and NBC affiliates did interviews with us earlier in the week and then placed our event on that night’s local news programs. The Billings Gazette printed a guest editorial about the event from one of our key sponsors. The weekly paper, The OutPost, also had a nice public service announcement of the event.

You could sense a real community atmosphere. There were many children with their parents as well as elderly with wheelchairs and canes. Numerous races, faiths, and cultures were represented. Our closing prayer was given by a Native American from Wolfpoint, Montana, who thanked the Creator for such a beautiful day. And it was a miraculous day, since it rained consecutively for the past five days but on this day the clouds opened up to give us 72 degree weather with much sunshine and good cheer.

Here is some background on the event. Montana is one of the crystal meth capitals of the country. Why? Because people who move from inner cities to rural areas to get their youth away drugs sometimes bring such problems with them, and rural America can be a safe corridor for dealers to distribute drugs between larger cities. When my wife and I moved back to Montana from Manhattan, I was astounded to see the drugs and violence in rural communities. A young girl was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting a few houses from where we were living. Later, I was shot at and my children were finding drug needles in the street. A clergy friend and I talked about doing something publicly and substantially as a way of addressing this problem. On the first march we had ten people. We had three major goals, (1) to educate, (2) to find common ground to work together with other churches and community organizations, and (3) to provide a positive event for the community. We find that we are getting information out to our community in a creative way and that we are stimulating ways for groups and people to work more together.

We are very grateful for Bishop Lee, Rev. Mary Anglin, and Rev. Gerhard Wiesinger, who provided important guidance and support on the regional level. We are indebted to the many local families, friends from the local schools, and members of our church for all their hard work and investment in the program Certainly, we are grateful for our True Parents’ incredible example of living for the greater good that encourages us and inspires us to do the same.

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