Unification News for February 1999

The Cosmos as One Village

A Report on Blessing ’99
Tyler Hendricks

It happens every time at a stadium event: the moment you enter into the sunlight.

From the outside, a stadium is a formless, too-big-for-any-use massive gray monstrosity. You park miles away. You struggle to find the right gate. You pass through the dark cold tunnel, seeing in front of you a television screen's worth of green and light and brightly colored seats. Then you enter and gaze upon a new world. A private sky is captured for you and only you by the tremendous bowl.

You feel the energy from the hum of activity on the field in preparation for the event, an event that is drawing multitudes, an event that is worthy of a stadium. The world of the event opens up before your eyes. New sounds, new colors, a world enclosed unto itself for a time. On February 7, 1999, at the Seoul Olympic Main Stadium, some 150,000 people shared that illumination of a stadium entrance. I am quite sure the stadium had never held so many, because even the Olympics did not have thousands of people on the field. And I’m not counting the myriad of spirit men that were in attendance.

I was part of the American contingent. We were housed in a lovely hotel, the Tower Hotel on Namsan Mountain, due to the foresight of Rev. Joong Hyun Pak and the sacrificial work of Go-World Travel. We were a scant 15 minute drive from the Olympic Main Stadium on a Sunday morning. We had attended the rehearsal the day before, arriving early. Because we were the only participants there, the staff allowed us on the stage, where we took many photos and digested the sunlit atmosphere.

That evening we gathered in a restaurant on Itaewon. In front of a big window looking out onto the sidewalk, we had the best holy wine ceremony I've ever been part of. We had the St. Petersburg directors, Rev. and Mrs. Jeff Tallackson, with us, as their daughter was part of the second generation blessing. They officiated and gave good guidance. Also Mrs. Tate, whose son was in the second generation blessing (blessed with the daughter of "General" Chang Song Kim), assisted. Despite the secular environment, the atmosphere was sanctified. Word and sacrament together always bring the Holy Spirit.

Sunday morning, the day of the Blessing, we departed our hotel at 10:30 a.m. and were engulfed in the flow of buses arriving from across the Korean peninsula. They had left their homes far away as early as 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. to be there on time. We heard that the church leaders of Korea who prepared the event expected some 5,000 buses to converge that morning. We found our parking place and indeed, rivers of people, literally rivers, flowed past us. These were hardy country folk, taking on several hours in the frigid weather with a simple suit or sweater. It was an overcast day, although a sun filtered by haze broke through after the event started. It was as warm as anyone could hope for in a Seoul day in early February.

By the time we got into the stadium, it was hard to find a seat. I sent our matched couples to the field, where they had seating reserved from the day before, and those with photographs to the upper tier, and headed for the observers area. I spotted many friends, European leaders, but it was Heiner Handschin, National Leader of Switzerland, who had an open seat available. The members who were in the upper tier told me later that even arriving there at 12:30 (the event began at 2:00) they had to stand in the very top. All the seats were taken. I heard that about 40,000 people could not get into the stadium. They had the poor judgment to arrive a mere hour and a half early.

The warm-up acts were energetic singers and dancers, covering a repertoire ranging from Korean folk music to contemporary pop and rock'n'roll. Well, that's what the growing churches in America are doing, inspiring the people through contemporary music. East and West, it's the same musical style that people wake up to. I recalled my high school days with our town band, Norman Bailey and His Nervous Cats. It’s the same beat. These days, the number one song in Seoul is the 1964 Animals’ hit, "House of the Rising Sun." And there we were witnessing the true rising of the sun, at the Blessing Ceremony of 360 Million Couples, a band warming up the crowd with Chuck Berry riffs. A marvel to hear, especially from where I was situated, in a room directly below the stage.

I went there to see two American brothers whose photo matches had refused them. Yes, it happens, it happens. We were there in that big barren room with about one hundred others, either late arrivals for the matching or people who had been refused. One of my Americans was nineteen years old, so we were not as concerned because he is still young for marriage. But the other, Harold, was 36, high time for settling down with a wife. And here was the deepest part of the day for me. Here was where the massive blessing of 360 million couples assumed a human dimension. And herein is what it all comes down to, the resurrection of love in the life of the individual.

So here was Harold, and Dr. Chang Shik Yang, Regional Director of Washington, DC, was talking with leaders from Japan about him. Rev. Katsumi Otsuka, a prince of a man and president of the church in Japan, looked at Harold and went off searching among the many Japanese sisters there. A few moments later he came back with Michie. Michie was 33, and it was high time for her to marry as well. Here parents had joined the movement ten years ago, but Michie had just joined a few months ago. She was the right age, the right height, tall for a Japanese, very pretty and not a word of English. But she had the right face for Harold-both with soft features and sincere eyes. Harold is all heart.

Now, I was a photo match, so I had never witnessed a "live" matching of two people who had but a moment before been total strangers. I mean, they would have passed each other in the crowd without a glance, two anonymous people among tens of thousands. But suddenly, they were face to face, matched. They were chosen to consider each other as eternal mate. Yes, it was just by church leaders, not by True Parents, and so it was even more a testimony of absolute faith on their part. Would they accept the possibility of the match? They were looking at each other, each exploring the other's countenance. I knew that Harold was positive, but he had been rejected three times and so surely there was some trepidation of being rejected again.

But they seemed to agree. Between the shuttle diplomacy of the Japanese, Korean and American matchmakers, Harold quietly said to Michie, "Will you, I mean, do you want …to … be my wife?" She didn't understand the question, not knowing English, but she was just looking at his eyes and, gee, she's four months in the church! But there she is, and her eyes are saying "Yes" to this all-heart American.

Just then we heard that True Parents had arrived upstairs and we were off, all hundred of us, to request a last-minute matching. The mob crowded at the door of True Parents' waiting room. True Parents had yet to change their clothes, and the program was about to begin. So Father just said, participate in the Blessing and we'll see what we can do later. The mob turned about face and headed into the stadium.

I found my way back to my seat next to Heiner. And the event began with Dr. Bo Hi Pak's sonorous baritone resonating in Korean and English, announcing the start of the event to heaven and earth. He introduced the one man "on the ground" most responsible for the filled stadium (at 30-days notice), Rev. Sun Jo Hwang, President of the church in Korea. Rev. Hwang, a UTS graduate and former Regional Director of New Jersey and Washington, DC, is loved by many American members. Moments after his prayer, the representative leaders of the world's religions ascended the stage. Each gave the blessing of their faith tradition upon the couples.

Among them, Chicago Pastor T. L. Barrett's prayer in particular was powerful. He gave his entire heart and soul, lifting up God and True Parents to the world. The Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo's prayer and counsel on stage was extremely meaningful. He is the Head of the Pontifical Council for Refugees, and one of the first, if not the first, active Vatican leader to play a major public role in a Unificationist religious event. When you consider that on the same stage with these two spiritual leaders were an eminent American Rabbi, Herzel Kranz, Sheik Alamin Osman, Grand Mufti of Eritrea, together with major leaders of Buddhism, Hinduism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Sikhism, you can see that the convergence of humanity’s spiritual paths is finally a substantial historical reality. It is happening in one place, beyond the conference room tables and academic journals, in the midst of God's holy blessing of marriage. This can only be the hand of God. In the hand of God is the hope of the human race.

The ones who set this all in motion, our True Parents, then entered the stadium in glory and with a light spirit to the strains of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." They performed the ceremony as they have done many times. It is at its heart very simple, with a sprinkling of holy water, the reciting of the marriage covenant, prayer and proclamation of the blessing, the exchange of rings, and congratulatory remarks and songs. His Excellency Kenneth Kuanda, former president of Zambia gave the remarks, and the musical ambassador of Paraguay, Gloria del Paraguay, presented the lovely song.

At the conclusion, as thousands of balloons ascended into the sky and fireworks exploded from the stadium roof, I truly felt the resurrection of the spirit world. As soon as True Parents departed, the crowd began to leave. There were some further performances, and a lottery giving away cars and television sets, but the event was over. People were hugging and greeting each other everywhere. I watched the crowds making their way out for a bit, then suddenly recalled that I'd better get back downstairs to see if Harold and Michie would make it back.

So I squeezed my way against the traffic to get to the waiting room, and soon after I arrived so did they. They had stayed together through the ceremony, and, as Father had literally said, they participated fully, even exchanging rings! We talked with them more, and discussed their backgrounds and, yes, they really determined to make it work. Now all we needed was True Parents' blessing on the match. That is yet to come, as we found no opportunity to meet True Parents, but, somehow, I think it will come without a hitch -- a hitch without a hitch.

As we drove back to our hotel, we saw again the buses from far away, with the Korean old folks dancing in the aisles, clapping and singing. These are called karioke buses, according to our tour guide. Feeling the spirit, we enjoyed spirited renditions of "Eres Tu" and "Blue Suede Shoes" to do our bit on behalf of Korean village life. May the entire cosmos become as one village, dancing and singing, young and old, all races together in the same world hometown. I think we're all blessed on this bus.

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