Articles From the July 1995 Unification News
Region 6 Family Retreat
by Alan Jessen-Cedar Falls, IA
On the weekend of May 26-28, Region 6 held a "Day of All Things Family Retreat" at the beautiful Villa Maria Retreat Center in Frontenac, Minnesota. The Center was founded in 1891 by the Ursuline Sisters on the concept of a praying Community living in unity, and is on the site of the first Mass in what is now Minnesota. The rich spiritual heritage amid the natural beauty of the Mississippi River valley combined to create the perfect atmosphere for our families to come together as brothers and sisters. In all, 37 adults and 32 children from four states participated, including our Regional Director, Rev. Hun Suk Lee.
The purpose of the retreat was to strengthen our identity as a regional family and to create a bonding of heart and unity among all members, including children. Our children need to have fun with each other, make friends with their Unification peers, and experience the shimjung of our extended Unification family. Therefore, our goal was simple: to create a "heavenly kingdom" experience for all. If successful, this event would set a standard for next year: a measurement for investing our heart and creativity. It appears to have worked, for already the Wisconsin families have volunteered to plan and organize the Region 6 family retreat for 1996. Isn't heavenly competition wonderful? Onward and upward!
We arrived Friday evening to find private rooms with linens and towels waiting for us. A quick tour took us through the gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, cafeteria, and the peaceful, beautiful chapel.
Saturday began with prayer in the chapel, led by Rev. Lee. Afterwards, we introduced ourselves and the names of our children. Because many of us have just recently moved to hometown, this was a first meeting in many cases. Following a hearty breakfast served by the Ursuline staff (hey, we're on vacation here!), the children were led outdoors for exercises by Andrew ("Andy says do this") Shoultz. For the morning, we organized the children into three groups, each with a team captain to lead them in activities, while the adults gathered into two discussion groups. Our creative department meanwhile had set up two art stations: one for the children to paint murals and the other for tee-shirt decorative painting.
In the afternoon we had free time and, though it was raining outside, we were happily all together inside. At 4pm the gymnasium was the scene of a men's basketball face-off. While it wasn't a pretty sight (a few out-of-shape bodies and rusty skills), it was a typical Unification sports activity-100% competitive. Let it be known that Rev. Lee's side won. As one keen eight-year-old observer put it, "They won because they had Rev. Lee-he is God's representative" (spiritual perception at a young age!).
The evening was Fun Night. Because of the rain, we had races and games in the gym, capped off by a hilarious "Family Dash" through an obstacle course. Afterwards, we finally left our castle, to venture outdoors to a beautiful lodge tucked into the woods. There, Steve Bohle had prepared a crackling fire and we all gathered to sing songs led by South Dakota's very own-Daniel Weigel! While the singing continued-hot chocolate flowed, popcorn spilled everywhere and the children ran around having a blast. We ended the evening on the most powerful note of the weekend. First, all the sisters sang a simply angelic rendition of In the Hills and in the Valleys, then the brothers pounded out Generation of Righteousness with all their strength and fervor. Together we sang Sarang Hae and I'll Never Leave You Anymore and closed with prayer. It had been a very moving finish to a Heavenly Kingdom day.
On Sunday a few sisters rose early to prepare the offering table for our Day of All Things regional celebration. Earlier we had been given permission by the Ursuline sisters to use their chapel for our service (they were quite impressed that after such a busy day we would all rise early for prayer). We used the beautiful mural made by the older kids, and placed our picture of True Parents on the altar in the chapel. Rev. Lee gave a beautiful prayer and sermon using the New Hope Farm Declaration to discuss Father's vision for the natural world and what our attitude should be. Afterwards we took photographs and brought the offering table downstairs to the cafeteria where we enjoyed the fruits, nuts and candies to cap off our weekend together.
I went off with Sister Chabanal of the Ursulines to pay our bill. She asked me: "I see that your group is very multi-cultural. Tell me, what is the thread that ties your people together? I see a lot of groups here but you seem to have a special feeling for each other." Just as we spoke, Rev. Lee came in, so we explained about Father's mission, the Blessing, and our many efforts to bring unity to the world's religions. The sister then said, "You also have such well-behaved children. If they keep this up when they get older, you should be congratulated. You are always welcome to come back here anytime."
We asked the children to write down their reflections. To sum up our family retreat experience, I'll quote a few lines from Tami and Jayna Anderson, Amadea Jessen, and Komyang Yokoi: "I learned more about Heavenly Father and I made more friends and got to know more people"; "I really liked making the banner and making my tee shirt"; "I learned how to listen to other people's ideas and how to have fun, but still worship Heavenly Father. I hope that next year and the year after, our church can come here"; "Now I have a few friend. I am going to write to him." This is what it is all about.
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