Unification News for January 1995
by Michael Yakawich-Billings, MT
On May 13, 1994, the day before Mother's Day, I was in a serious car accident. Fortunately now, nine months later, there are no lasting effects. The highway patrolman stated: "In all my life as a highway patrolman, I have never seen anyone live through such an accident!" I knew I was fortunate and blessed once again by God.
This caused me to think about my recent past. What have I really accomplished in my mission, my work with this church here in Montana? Certainly not enough! Yet, I reflected to evaluate and count my blessings. It was also my neighbors, friends and members who in their outpouring of kindness, food, support-my brother even taking time off from work to help-indicated to me that there were many rich blessings surrounding me. This helped me to realize my blessings even more.
It was in 1988 Rev. Moon assigned me to Montana, along with my wife. I have been blessed with such opportunities as talking with the governor, US Congressmen, chiefs of police, mayors, etc. My memories resound with opportunities to meet with various ministers, community and state leaders, wonderful picnics with neighborhood families, and quiet coffee/tea talks in the homes of many great Montana folks. And of course, our four children were born in Montana-another blessing!
It is not an article of advice, theology or even suggestions. More so, it is our story as a pastor and provider, a father and friend, husband and neighbor. Yet no story could begin without recognizing the incredible parents I have and how they gave me the great start to my life. The more I live around them, the greater is my appreciation and gratitude for them. Also, I am very grateful for the elder leaders of our Unification community, who have had a positive influence on me and my work-and the many others from family and friends to church members and colleagues. I am extremely appreciative and grateful for Rev. and Mrs. Moon, who have had a major impact on my spiritual values, through their direction, guidance and teachings. I am confident to say that without them my life would not have been as rich, as profound and as purposeful.
We arrived in Montana in the spring of 1988. With early church financial needs, I was encouraged to travel extensively in the first few years of our ministry to raise money. It was a great opportunity to visit the great expanse of my home state. I traveled approximately 50,000 miles each of the first three years! Later and since then, my traveling on the road has been down to 30,000 yearly. Interestingly, I often run into clergy colleagues of mine in various establishments. They remain quite humble and some are inspired knowing that they may get a salary and other financial benefits and do not have to take on extra work as I do to pay for church and other expenses.
Early blessing came with front-page coverage of my wife and me, in the largest paper in the state, The Billings Gazette: "Moonie Church in Montana: Pastor Finds New Faith in Unification." Later this was reprinted in my hometown paper, the Butte Montana Standard, with the new title: "Moonie Pastor: Butte Native as Pastor in Unification Church." It was great. It immediately stirred up interest, controversy and letters to the editor.
The Catholic bishop of western Montana even got into the act by writing a letter to the editor regarding my article. Through all of this, the bishop and I could meet in his office, talk and even take a photo together. Later, he sent me an Easter card before moving on to his new post this past year, at Boys Town, Nebraska. He wrote, "I ask the risen Lord to bless you and your family." I was invited to, and attended, the last two Governor's Balls as a guest. What a great experience to be there and meet the many leaders of our state of Montana. I already knew some of the state senators from various other meetings we'd attended.
We had some great experiences with the USA tour (an awards program for youth-related volunteers). The ACC leader, Paul DiLorenzo, was coordinator for the tour, and he and I traveled to 50 communities throughout Montana. Even my dad participated by offering help in meeting and introducing the mayor of his hometown. Later, he offered his artwork for mayor USA community awards. It was a wonderful experience to travel hundreds of miles and meet some of the greatest people in Montana.
Joining such groups as the Billings Clergy Association has provided a great opportunity to meet new people and network. Though at the beginning there were various responses to my affiliations, later over the years colleagues have invited me to comment at the meetings, have coffee and lunch together and even asked me for ideas. One minister/professor who initially met my wife and me was unfamiliar with our work. As notable a person as he is, he took time for us to meet over the years. While writing his second book, Religions in Montana Book II, he requested and I submitted to him an article of the history of the Unification Church in Montana. He accepted this article with gratitude. I asked him to include the statement Mrs. Moon made here in Billings, July 12, 1993, "declaring the Rev. and Mrs. Moon the first True Parents of all mankind." He did. It will be printed this year, 1995.
Having Rev. Moon speak in Seattle in 1993 offered us a great opportunity. Thirty guests and dignitaries attended from Montana. Ministers, parents, community leaders and political leaders traveled from all over Montana to attend. My dad was also a guest who attended and, as an artist, he offered a painting to Rev. and Mrs. Moon: one of Lewis and Clark, the famous explorers to Montana and the West. They joyfully accepted it in Seattle after the talk. Mrs. Moon's 1993 talk in Billings also provided an opportunity for a variety of Montanans to attend. One reporter, who is sparing of "nice words," said it was one of the best events he has ever covered, with such a variety of representatives of cultures, races, religions and creeds.
Interestingly, one outreach that has been a pleasure to do has been my wife's distribution of homemade pies, jams, cookies and jellies. Even my friends who own businesses which I am able to fundraise in are genuinely grateful for the pies, cakes and other goodies we drop off throughout the year.
Participating with local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, South Side Neighborhood Task Force or a community board have been not only a service opportunity but a way to make friends. A few years ago one minister who had wondered greatly about me found me working as a volunteer for one of his organizations that work with children. I was helping his group in the painting of the local park equipment. He was looking up at me while I was painting on a ladder one day. He was in his suit while I was in my painting clothes. He was sincerely moved and ever since our relationship has been much closer.
We were able to do some projects this year with CARP and community outreach. When in the past I was usually mobilized to another state to help out, or to Israel one summer and Russia another, this was my first summer to stay close by. We were able to buy 700 lb. of potatoes and hand them out to families in the area. Also, we have a movie showing on Wednesdays and during the summer we held a white water rafting trip for the older children. My dad in fact came with us to teach the participants about fishing. In these experiences, I found the attitude of our church looked at in a different light. In the community where we handed out 10 lb. bags of potatoes, I have been introduced by the local residents as Pastor Mike, the guy who handed out the potatoes. Other parents have expressed gratitude for trying to provide something for their children during the summer. One community leader was genuinely moved by the effort and said this may touch people who cannot be reached by the other groups.
My brothers repaired the church for me. Out of friendship for me, they have helped the church in plumbing and other repair needs.
The genuine leaders in the community really want to make a difference. One Hispanic leader, who introduced Mrs. Moon, pushed me to get more involved. He has invited me onto various boards of one of which I am now a member. This led to the opportunity to meet one of Montana's U.S. Senators.
We have had our share of reality checks. Like other cities, we have not been immune to drugs and other problems. One of the largest drug busts occurred across the street from us. A 16-year-old was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting three doors from where we live. We have had two more shootings in the neighborhood since. My son, after one Sunday service, was out in the front with some other children, and he came up to me with a hypodermic needle having its cap off. These realities have pushed me to be even more concerned for my neighborhood, community and state.
Even over New Year's Day 1995-True God's Day-we had over 30 guests join us at our church for a celebration with potluck, videos, fellowship and fireworks. There are many good people who are happy to associate with our church and genuinely respectful of our activities in the community.
These may be small examples of our work; yet I feel these are examples of a larger picture. For me, it is the challenge and struggle, the joy and inspiration of the coming acceptance of Rev. and Mrs. Moon and their ministry. We all have our testimonies of our work. Though it is true I haven't done enough, I hope that through reflections and counting our blessings, we gain greater strength and momentum really to break through in the future, to achieve our goal of a better world for all.
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