Unification News for December 1999
True Family Values Banquet in Chicago
B. Russell Sucharoff
Nearly everyone thought that our church community was crazy. How could you schedule a True Family Values Banquet the day after Christmas. And yet when all was said and done, every seat in the banquet hall was filled and the 3rd True Family Awards banquet had been a huge success. I guess that God knew that the Saturday (December 26, 1998) between Christmas Friday and Church Sunday would be a free day for the pastors. And in fact, they were all relaxed and in the most joyous of spirits as the Chicago Ministerial community celebrated a full and exciting year. And one would not have to go back too far-to just Thanksgiving, 1997, when again, everyone thought that the Chicago Church was crazy to think that 52 busses could leave Chicago at 7 pm on Thanksgiving night in order to make it to the RFK Blessing in Washington, D.C. on time. But alas, 52 busses (most of them paid for by the church members filling them) in fact left on time, Thanksgiving night and their church congregants had a splendid time at the RFK pre-banquet and blessing.
Our regional director Rev. Ki Hoon Kim has never been one to rest on his laurels. So in 1999, rather than challenging our 4th annual True Family Values Banquet by holding it on Thanksgiving night or the day after Christmas, Rev. Kim decided to invite our True Parents as the guest speakers. Our Chicago leaders discussed this during our monthly October Committee Leaders meeting and we began to pray that True Parents would consider coming to Chicago for the event. Then at the end of October during our 2nd Hoon Dok Hae meeting, Rev. Kim passed out flyers announcing that True Parents would be the guests of honor at our November 20th True Family Values banquet.
From this point we began to focus on bringing our Christian ministers to the banquet. One of the greatest assets proved to be our Japanese sisters. Our strategy was this-we would attend Sunday Service, weekday Bible studies and many of the Church banquets for the next month. And we would bring along our secret weapon-the Japanese Missionary True Family Values Choir. I must admit that I was personally struck with the choir when they would sing before our evening program at the center-it was amazing-they sounded so beautiful-but it was a spiritual beauty beyond just the sound of their melodic voices singing in unison.
Then they began to bring their magic to the different churches of Chicago. One particular event which was so very important is when they came to sing at the anniversary banquet of one of our very best ministers, the Rev. Leroy Elliott. One of Rev. Elliott's special guests was one of the most significant and influential ministers in Illinois. I truly believe that it was the Japanese choir, more than anything else that melted his heart at the banquet. They visited him again at his weekly bible study and shortly thereafter, he signed a check for $400 buying a whole table at the banquet. This pattern was repeated many times in the next 4 weeks. The Choir continued to visit ministers and then the day before the banquet they serenaded two of the leading political Leaders in the state-both of whom attended the banquet the next day.
Meanwhile, our community was continuing to pray for the arrival of our True Parents. Eventually we would begin an all night chain prayer with each department taking one night from midnight until 6 am. They say that faith without works is dead, so Rev. Kim then dispatched Rev. Michael Jenkins to East Garden to plead our cause. I am not sure what happened in New York but Rev. Jenkins was able to meet with our True Parents. During this time we began to receive many proclamations honoring our event and many letters of greeting from top political leaders both honoring our work and also wishing our True Father a "Happy 80th birthday." One special card came from the White House and was signed by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. I was told that True Parents were very happy when Rev. Yang read them the card. Another special effort was presented be the Rev. A. I. Dunlap of the Mt. Olive AME Church in Chicago. Rev. Dunlap wrote a beautiful testimony to True Parents. He explained how grateful he was to have participated in True Parents' projects over the past 20 years and that he was proud of the fact that he had been arrested for defending the good name of our True Parents 12 years ago. In closing, Rev. Dunlap implored our True Parents to come to Chicago to be our honored guests at our banquet.
Meanwhile we continued to visit our best churches. In fact the Sunday before the banquet, we held a very limited Sunday Service and all of our members attended Christian Churches. Rev. Kim himself, even preached in a very influential Baptist Church and of course, he brought along the Japanese Choir. During his sermon, one Japanese sister saw Jesus standing beside Rev. Kim, who had the congregation fully enveloped with the Holy Spirit. His sermon dealt with the topic of having the faith of a mustard seed. Amazingly the next day we received a letter of greeting from one of the most important members of Congress. He stated that "although Congress has the power to enact many important laws to help our society, he feels that prayer in the family is the most significant thing that one can do to help to save America. Then he said, if the American family-in prayer-can just have the faith o mustard seed, we can overcome all the obstacles that are preventing our Christian nation from building the Kingdom of God on Earth.
The following Monday night we gathered at our church for a rally to prepare to receive our True Parents on Saturday. We were joined by 2 of our most supportive and powerful Christian ministers, Rev. Helen Cooper and Rev. Constance Bansa. They each gave a beautiful testimony to our True Parents and you could feel the spirit that our community was coming together. We continued to move forward. Then on Tuesday we began to hear some rumors and our Wednesday, we received confirmation that True Parents would, in fact, be coming to Chicago on Saturday.
Now, all we had to do is to make sure the event was a success. We continued to prepare, to visit church services and bible studies (always with flowers, gifts and the Japanese Choir whenever possible). We continued to receive proclamations and letters of greeting and we continued to confirm tables and individuals to fill our banquet hall of 1200 seats. So many details, and so much incredible hard work and sacrifice from our brothers and sisters. We received a beautiful letter of greeting from the City of Chicago who also provided a Police Escort for our True Parents to and from the Hotel.
True Parents arrived at 10:00 am. They were joined by Hyun Jin Nim and Jun Sook Nim. They immediately met with our members until 11:00 and the banquet began promptly at 11:30. One thing that struck me was how healthy and wonderful they both looked. I had been with True Parents in Jardim just 4 months earlier-now, here in Chicago, Father and Mother both looked so healthy and vibrant.
The program itself was wonderful. The room was packed---over 1200 guests filled every seat in the banquet hall. We presented some of the most powerful choirs in Chicago. Then 6 of the leading clergymen and clergywomen in Chicago, representing the Baptist, the Catholic, the Lutheran, and the Church of God in Christ gave beautiful testimonies to the life and work of Our True Parents. The amazing thing is that each of the clergymen gave testimony, looking directly at our True Parents and referring to them as True Parents. Rev. Yang said that he had never experienced an event quite like this one. One after another each religious leader shared his heart of gratitude to the life and works of our Father and Mother. As they passed in front of the podium, the Catholic Priest and the Lutheran Minister hugged each other. Rev. Constance Banza remarked that when she opened her eyes after her prayer, the only thing that she could see in the room were True Parents. Then, Dr. Hycel B.Taylor gave a brilliant, heartistic and spirit filled introduction to True Father.
True Father delivered his speech, "Everyone Wants True Love," in Korean while Rev. Peter Kim gave simultaneous translation over our headphones. At the conclusion of the speech True Parents received gifts and flowers from Rev. Dwayne and Mrs. June Luckett (RFK '97) and then one of our U.S. Congressmen presented True Parents with a beautiful crystal bowl mounted on a plaque as he read the birthday greetings from President and Mrs. Clinton.
Still, the program was not over. We were now to hear from Pastor T.L. Barrett. Pastor Barrett's church had been the first in America to host True Mother during her speaking tour and his Life Center Church of God in Christ was also the first Christian Church in the world to fly the FFWPU flag. Now Pastor Barrett took the stage and implored the Pastors, ministers, clergymen and congregants present to prepare to fill Seoul's Olympic Stadium in February for Blessing 2000. Pastor Barrett gave an impassioned plea that left our True Parents smiling. He committed himself to go to Korea and asked every pastor in attendance to bring at least one couple from their church to be blessed.
We then presented our True Family Values Awards to Rev. A.I. Dunlap from Mt. Olive AME Church in Chicago, Father Lawrence Fares from St. Ronald's Catholic Church in Detroit and Mother Tynetta of the Nation of Islam.
Chicago, is known for many things, but the brevity of our programs has never been one of them. True Father was looking at his watch. His flight was due to depart at 3:30 pm. However, we still had a cake to cut. So we once again welcomed True Parents on the stage and they were joined by each speaker and honoree. True parents joyfully cut the beautiful cake and then flowers and a copy of True Parents' newest collection of speeches were given to each program participant. Afterward, the book was given to each of the 1200 guests. The program was then beautifully closed by our Japanese Choir singing one of True Parents favorite Korean songs. Finally, that same Baptist minister who was so moved by our choir at the banquet last month gave a moving and emotional closing prayer.
True Parents then left immediately for the airport. At exactly 3:30 they were comfortably seated in their airplane and at the behest of Rev. Kim, True Father was signing one banquet program after another. At the last minute we presented True Mother with just one more plaque-from Rev. Bansa, honoring her for her support of Rev. Bansa's annual Jericho Walk-to break down the walls of racism and injustice in America.
As the plane taxied down the runway, still accompanied by the Chicago Police Escort Jeep, Rev. Chang Shik Yang, Rev. Joong Hyun Pak, Mr. Dong Moon Joo, Rev. Ki Hoon Kim, Rev. Michael Jenkins and many of our leaders waved good-bye and our True Parents turned to the north and headed for Alaska. As they departed, all we could think of was the love that our True Parents had talked about in their speech and the love that was given to us during their presence in Chicago. It s a fitting conclusion to reflect on the experience as one minister greeted True Parents by saying, Father and Mother, "Thank you for the love."
One additional reflection-nearly every guest that participated in the program had to overcome some scheduling adversities. One minister came in the middle of the program, directly from a wedding that he had just conducted, one minister came directly from his annual board meeting, the Congressman came directly after attending 3 funerals in the morning, one state official came in between 2 other media engagements and literally changed his airline flight in order to stay at the program 15 minutes longer. Our Catholic Priest attended his morning mass in Detroit and jumped on the next plane in order to make it on time, the minister who gave the benediction finished officiating at a funeral a fought rush hour traffic in order to get there in time to close the banquet-and he apologized for being late. Dr. Don Olson a Lutheran Minister from Florida who has been working with us for nearly 20 years flew up from Florida for the event on the heels of being inspired by a recent Hoon Dok Hae conference that Rev. Jenkins had attended in Florida 2 weeks earlier. There are many more examples, but let me suffice it to say that the response is being spurred by the Holy Spirit in ways that we have heretofore only dreamed possible.
Excerpts from some of the Proclamations & Letters of Greeting received for the banquet:
State of Illinois: "Whereas the FFWPU will be holding its 4th annual True Family Values Banquet and Whereas, your international founder will be celebrating his 80th birthday, we therefore declare November 20, 1000 as Family Federation for World Peace and Unification day in Illinois."
City of Chicago: "The strength and solidity of family life is at the heart of our society and is fundamental to the well-being of our nation. I commend your efforts to uphold and nurture the critical role of the family in America."
The city of Chicago wants to extend a special welcome and birthday greetings to the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the international president of the Family federation for World Peace and Unification."
Congressional Leader: "Let me take a moment to congratulate both of you on reaching personal milestones as you prepare to celebrate your birthdays-on the same day no less, in February of the year 2000.
State of Illinois: (Proclamation) "Congratulations to reverend Sun Myung Moon on your 80th birthday."
Dr. Tyler Hendricks: "I tell you, I have never heard the kind of accolades poured upon our True Parents from anyone, "inside" or "outside", in my life. Father and Mother seemed very happy and satisfied."
Some comments from Rev. Michael Jenkins: "The religious leaders paid for their tickets and the banquet was paid for by the guests. No Honorariums were given. Our receipts exceeded our expenses and the surplus was given as an offering.
"All the religious leaders affirmed that Father and Mother are the "TRUE PARENTS". They did it from the heart. As they were passing each other on stage during the Tribute to True Parents portion of our program, Father Fares and Rev. Don Olsen representing the Catholic and Lutheran Traditions embraced—symbolizing the substantiation of the concordant recently signed ending their traditions long history of division. When they hugged True Mother almost fell off her chair laughing. True Father gave a big smile.
"Rev. Barrett gave the altar call.—One church brings one young couple to Korea. Rev. Tom Jackson—of the Church of God In Christ and Minister Ishmael the top leader of the Nation of Islam under the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan gave heartfelt congratulations and support to True Parents.
"Dr. Hycel Taylor—who read Michael Breen's book on Father's early suffering life. Is having a profound effect on the Washington IIFWP conferences. He introduced True Father as our True Parent. Father Fares said, Rev. and Mrs. Moon are my True Parents and then he led a cheer for Long Life for True Parents—VIVAS, VIVAS , VIVAS !!! Rev. Bansa, who was inspired by True Parents had a profound spiritual experience as she spoke before True Parents. She had her speech completely prepared. She was going to testify about her blessing at RFK and her participation at MSG. When she got to the stage she felt two words ringing in her ears -- TRUE PARENTS. She started proclaiming before everyone—"Father and Mother Moon—you are the True Parents—you are the fulfillment of God's dream for a Man and a Woman to stand as the model parents for the world families.—You are the True Parents".
"One of the State of Illinois' Highest Elected Officials-- (We have worked with him since 1983 when he was a State Representative and our brother David Caprara won his heart with the govt. cheese give away provided by Project Volunteer) had attended True Mother's HDK tour in 1998 and her speech in 1999. A Congressman and close friend did the same. My honest reflection is their attendance at True Parents speeches they are now part of our family
"Mrs. Erikawa related Father's words recently. "The purpose of the Japanese sisters in America is to work with Established Christianity. The UC and Christianity must unite and then a spiritual fire will sweep this nation." I've seen this with my own eyes.
Olfat El-Mallakh Professor, World Religions: Chicago, Illinois: "It was amazing to see all the different religions coming together. Especially the Catholic and Lutherans hugging in front of the stage. To see all the religions and denominations coming together, not because of their differences, but rather taking this opportunity, provided by Rev. Moon and the Unification Movement. This was a chance to put aside their differences. This was a beautiful experience.
"Also, the Nation of Islam people were so beautiful. Everything you read in the media is negative. Yet everything that I experienced at the conference was exactly the opposite. The Nation of Islam guests were so kind, polite and loving.
"I am a Coptic Christian from Egypt. My Father left Egypt in 1954 because of the religious persecution that was going on there. Last week's Insight magazine talked about problems that Christians are now having in Egypt. I am so grateful to be in America and to be able to experience the religious freedom that we have. I feel that Saturday's banquet took full advantage of the freedom that God has given us here in America.
Mrs. Phyllis Taylor, J.D. (Mrs. Taylor is the wife of Dr. Hycel B. Taylor who introduced Rev. Moon at the banquet- She also attended the Madison Square Garden Blessing where her husband offered the prayer representing Black Christianity in America).
"I love coming to your conferences. There is always so much love here."
Illinois State elected official: "There is so much love here. Whenever I come to your conferences, I experience so much love."
Rev. Olivia Jones, (Rev. Jones has been participating in our conferences for over 15 years. She is a graduate of CAUSA, ICC, Common Suffering, WFWP, Hoon Dok Hae Seminars and True Parents Speaking Tours. Every year in her anniversary bulletin she gives thanks to True Parents for being given the gift of the opportunity to attend these conferences).
"The banquet was wonderful, but the most valuable thing is that we were able to hear Rev. Moon himself speak."
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