Articles from the September 1997 Unification News

Unification Annals - Peanuts and Poster Beds

by Joy Pople

There was a national campaign in 1972 to raise money for a down-payment on Belvedere, a home in America for our True Parents. I had recently arrived in Mississippi and was the only Unification Church member in the state. I would walk to the bus station in Oxford and carry a 20-pound case of scented candles in brandy snifters back to the cottage that served as a center. Then I would walk back for the next case in the shipment. I didn't want to waste a precious dollar on taxi fare. It wasn't always easy motivating myself to go out, and sometimes I collapsed on the floor just inside the door after returning from fundraising. At the end of each week I treated myself to a root bear float at the Dairy Queen.

Barry Cohen sent out weekly campaign newsletters from headquarters that made members in 48 states feel like family members working together. Sometimes I would call directory assistance for Bismarck, North Dakota or Boise, Idaho and ask for the phone number of our pioneer there. Even though I couldn't afford the long-distance phone call, to hear the voice of someone in the same city as my brother or sister was a treasured moment.

For 40 days that winter it rained every day. People joked about building an ark. I was surrounded by darkness; far, far off in a distant galaxy I could see a tiny pinpoint of light, and when I prayed it got brighter, ever so slightly brighter.

I witnessed to both blacks and whites; people didn't know what to make of me. It wasn't that long ago that northerners were killed in Mississippi for promoting desegregation, and my accent is definitely not southern. I told people I grew up in Virginia, which was the capital of the Confederacy; but in Mississippi, anyone born across the state border is a foreigner. When I crossed the state border, whether in a bus or car, it was like entering a dense gray fog that only lifted when I crossed another border out of the state.

I took Taiwanese university students witnessing to black churches. The Chinese students were chuckling about a recent news story of a small down in the Delta area with a population almost evenly split between blacks and whites. The blacks could not accept a white mayor, and the whites could not accept a black mayor; they compromised an elected a Chinese mayor. (Chinese laborers had been brought to the south in the 19th century, and there descendants are found here and there in Mississippi.) I told them about Rev. Moon's vision of the yellow race harmonizing between whites and blacks.

Bus teams came through in cycles. Each time I would go to the county sheriff and remarkably they would bend rules so that members could fundraise and hold rallies. After the team left, however, we would have to find a new center, for no landlord could tolerate such upheaval.

When Father returned to the United States in the spring of 1973, he invited the pioneers to a conference at Belvedere. By ones, twos and threes we arrived in Memphis and headed northeast in a van. Led by our IW, Hillie Edwards, we sang the songs of the Old South day and night until we pulled into the gates of True Parents' estate. The pearly gates of heaven could not have looked more golden. Before we could see Father, we had to sit and listen to three days of lectures by Pres. Young Whi Kim. After being on the run day and night, it was nearly impossible to sit still for three days. To see Father, to hear his voice, to pray at the holy rock, to slide down the fire pole at the Agora house, to help Darlene Pepper in the kitchen, to stay up all hours sharing stories.

When we returned we said sad farewells, one by one. Dropping me off in Oxford, Jack Hart explored the cottage and returned to tell everyone that Joy had a four-poster bed. Much impressed, they dashed into the bedroom and beheld . . . a sleeping bag on the floor. But Jack's remark created in my imagination a bower with a poster bed, complete with lace canopy, and I went to sleep every night as a heavenly princess enveloped in a divine embrace.

Later on another sister and I were pioneering in Hattiesburg, sleeping on the living room floor of a house in a poor part of town, guests of a kind woman and her children. We would drive to New Orleans and buy 50 pound sacks of peanuts. We found nobody in Mississippi who didn't like roasted peanuts. We roasted peanuts on trays in the oven. Children from all over the neighborhood would gather around the house, drawn by the smell of peanuts. They had never seen such quantities. We packed the peanuts in small paper bags and went out each day selling them. People in Mississippi must stay up late at night thinking of reasons for not buying from us. I still chuckle over phrases such as, "I'm so poor I can't pay attention," and "I'm broker than the Ten Commandments."

One day our hostess announced that she was going out fishing that day in order to prepare a special meal for the two of us when we returned that night from selling. She spent hours along the river and came back with some catfish, which she fried and served us along with turnip greens and corn bread. No river fish ever tasted sweeter than that catfish caught and prepared with so much love. She beamed when we presented her with a parting gift of a lacy nightgown and covered roasting pan.

A dark cloud descended over my life when Father sent brothers as Mobile Unit Commanders to states pioneered by sisters. It was heavenly order that a male be leader. The brother assigned to Mississippi was young and defensive. He claimed fundraising rights over the entire state and wouldn't let me fundraise to pay my bill to the candle factory and other expenses. Mind you, national MFT's bypassed the state of Mississippi for some years. County sheriffs did not easily grant permission for door-to-door soliciting, and only a handful of towns permitted it.

After a conference, I pleaded with Neil Salonen to be allowed to remain in New York to fundraise. There was a Japanese fundraising team working out of Belvedere, but I couldn't join them until Mr. Kamiyama returned from Japan to give permission. In the meantime I was told I could stay at the 71st center in Manhattan and sell on the streets with a team of young members. I arrived at night with my suitcase and sleeping bag. At each sisters' room I looked into I was told there was no space for me, not even a corner of the floor. Finally I found space on a shelf of the lost and found closet. The next morning, I was yelled out for leaving my suitcase in the hall (there was no space for it in the closet). I was persona non grata for three days in that center.

If the new members weren't going out fundraising, I would take a box of candles, head for the subway, and discuss with Heavenly Father what station to get off at. For evening rush hour I would sell on the Staten Island subway until I was kicked off. One Friday evening, I was rejected everywhere I went. "What's a nice Jewish girl like you doing selling on the Sabbath?" I was asked. To no avail, I explained that I wasn't Jewish and since the sun hadn't set it wasn't quite the Sabbath. A young woman and her baby were assaulted in the neighborhood a few hours earlier, and everywhere I went people were terrified. Finally I went to a phone booth and called the center, asking for the person who had yelled at me for leaving my suitcase in the hall. I humbled myself and described what was happening and asked for advice. Finally, I sold out and returned to the center. The next morning I was informed that I could go to Belvedere.

Nobody spoke English on the Belvedere fundraising team. I couldn't complain because nobody would understand me anyhow. (Mr. Sudo arrived a year later and began the "offering has no mouth" internal guidance series, but I was enrolled in an introductory course.) We must have prayed 15 times a day: when we woke up, before eating breakfast, before leaving the building, before the van headed out, before starting a fundraising period, before eating sandwiches, before going out again, on returning home at night, before supper, before sleep, etc., etc. We lived humbly. We ate cold leftover supper from the training center when we returned at night, and for breakfast we ate cold leftover supper leftover from the night before.

One day the captain dropped me off at a grocery store in the projects of Patterson, New Jersey. None of us knew anything about Patterson. After about an hour I was robbed. Small boys informed me that someone had taken money out of my purse. Police were called. "What are you doing here?" they asked. "First they rob you, then they rape you, then they kill you. Where can we take you?" I asked them to take me downtown, assuming-correctly as it turned out-that the captain would have dropped off some team members there. I spent the rest of the day telling those who purchased flowers from the Japanese sisters what cause they had contributed to.

The next day I was dropped off in another part of town. While heading back with my partner to the afternoon pickup site, I was starting to cross a busy intersection when the light changed. I backed up to what I thought was the sidewalk but fell instead into an open storm sewer. The cover was missing, for some reason. I found myself unexpectedly at chin level with the asphalt, cars and trucks whizzing by my nose. I never let go of the flower bucket. Before my eyes flashed the headlines: Loyal Fundraiser Holds Onto Product Until the End. Eventually my partner backtracked and discovered my head. He helped me out of the sewer. There were scrapes on my skin, but no broken bones. He must have described what happened to the captain, for he let me ride around with him for the next two or three hours.

That night I had a serious prayer. The words of the police kept repeating themselves: first they rob you, then they rape you, then they kill you. If the difficulties progressed in such an incremental fashion, would I survive the following day? I wasn't ready to die. I hadn't made much progress in Mississippi. I wasn't blessed. I had no children to carry on after my demise. I prayed, "Please, Heavenly Father, don't let me die tomorrow. No matter how terrible my sin and the sin of my ancestors, let me stay on earth and pay whatever indemnity is necessary." I cried tears of repentance more seriously than ever before.

Not only did I survive the next day, but I sold out. The atmosphere that surrounded me changed. I met my goal. I returned to Mississippi, the heart of hell. I still couldn't get along with the Mobile Unit Commander. One young brother decided to fast until we made unity. After three days I decided I couldn't be the cause of this sincere young man's untimely demise, and I humbled myself. Almost immediately I received a call from national headquarters asking me to edit Way of the World Magazine, the English-language publication of our international movement, which at Father's request was going to be produced in America.

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