Unification News for October 1998

Montana, Big Sky and Big Hearts

by Michael Yakawich-Billings, MT

There is so much going on in this world that it seems so hard to keep up. Yet, in this fast pace, I had to take time to reflect once again as the olí Christian tune reverberates in my soul, How Blessed Thou Art, How Blessed Thou Art!

We have all been inundated with the media and other forms of scrutiny. It was during this time that I received a phone call from a friend who requested me to marry some friends of hers. She being the maid of honor could only think of me to marry her friends. Through some marital counseling on the Blessing (marriage) in which the couple sat down to hear some lectures at the church and deeper explanation of the Blessing vows, they were set. On Oct. 4, with my wifeís support, I conducted the wedding in their friendís home with 50 guests. It was so wonderful to be invited and allowed to share such a Blessing. The rest of the story however remains. Let me call her Pauline. Pauline (the maid of honor) met me out fund-raising a few years ago. She was an employee in a business which often had a hard time to welcome church members who were fund-raising. She expressed this to me very strongly. Yet with patience and a good heart, she was moved by the Christian response. She was moved by the Christmas cards and other acts of kindness to a point she requested me to marry her good friends. This is the way of our founder which I could see actualized.

And now, we have had so many other activities lately with the media. Yet, what has been so moving to me has been the letters and cards from the leaders in the community who continue to encourage me to keep going. As one community leader wrote, "You and your members of the church are like army ants...working hard and not being always recognized...donít forget that others do see your efforts...donít ever give up!"

With the opportunity to host some of the activities of the IOWC team in our region, it has been a great opportunity to continue to build our outreach. We could focus a lot on social service as a way to reach out and witness. One local paper covered the river rafting trip we had sponsored with parents and children in our community. The IOWC team could both experience Montana plus help support the witnessing of the community. We were able to have a seminar along the river after the rafting trip. The Stillwater County News stated, on Aug. 26, 1998, "River rafting links parents, kids for a day of fun."

In some other projects, we were able to do community service at the local YWCA, a Baptist community center and neighborhood cleanup. The largest paper in Montana, the Billings Gazette covered this with the title, "Unification Church, Volunteers help needy in Billings." It stated in the beginning of the article, "Honoring the spirit of Paul and other great philosophers, a group of international volunteers is spiffing up Billings for the winter." The local YWCA sent out a newsletter statewide informing its members about the work of the Unification Family Churchís volunteer work for them. What a great witness.

I believe we have so much to be proud of. Though we may get unfair media coverage sometimes, there is so much good we are doing that we can hold our heads up and be proud of who we are and what we represent. At the end of August, we were able to host an ecumenical service at our church. About ten churches, pastors and congregations converged here for worship. The IOWC team and our local church members could celebrate with so many of our Christian friends. There is a respect in the grassroots toward Rev. and Mrs. Moon and our church that even we as members forget to recognize.

I am proud of our local church members and the dedication of the IOWC team as they worked together in witnessing, conducting service projects and hosting seminars in Billings. Twice we gave international singing performances in the local convalescent homes. Seeing our members singing, sharing and embracing the elder residents was both heart-moving and inspiring for both the participant and observer, entertainer and entertainee. We have so much to offer. As the Billings Gazette reported, one IOWC member, Chris Saito, stated, "Itís a good feeling to help people accomplish something. It sounds basic, but if you donate your time to others, the pleasure really comes back to you."

In conclusion, our lives can be so rich and rewarding. Seeing both new and old friends coming to our center to hear Divine Principle seminars is so encouraging and inspiring. There are many people out in our communities who do appreciate our friendship and others who long to meet one of our church members. Yes, at times persecution is good for our soul. It can strengthen us and help us think more deeply. Nevertheless, I can see we are surely and steadily building faith communities. As we dwell more on what we can each offer to our communities, I believe we will be astounded how much we are not only welcomed but vitally needed. As the Stillwater County News reported in the article, "The focus of the group is to help families stay together in the face of social struggles, such as drugs and alcohol." As I work in our community, I realize more and more how much people need our support, our friendship and fellowship, our internal guidance and external role models that so many can offer within our church. As Jesus reminds me again and again, let us not hide our candles under a basket but let it shine for all to see.

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