40 Years in America
Going to Misery
Rob Sayreís "Deli on the Tracks"
I met and joined the Unified Family in the summer of 1974 in Missoula, Montana. I was working as a diesel mechanic at a truck stop, contemplating college and the future of mankind. The night I moved into the Center and began living there, I had just returned from an antelope-hunting trip in East Central Montana, near a town called Two Dot, with a few colleagues from work. After driving all-night and skinning the five antelope we had shot, I drove to the Center and collapsed on their couch in the living room. When the European sisters and others came down for Morning Prayer, there I was, blood on my clothes and my gun on the floor! Iím surprised they let me stay.
I have no idea how I ended up on "the list" of people who would be selected to be State Leaders. We had just ended the Yankee Stadium campaign in New York. I was expecting to return to Wyoming and resume managing our church-owned restaurant, The Deli-on-the-Tracks. Instead, I found myself with a large group of members outside East Garden, with Father "eyeing" us. Soon, he began to assign us to various states as the new "state leaders." He told me in his gruff English, "You go to Missouri," but he pronounced it misery. After finding "my members," we left New York, headed for St. Louis.
Upon arriving, our car died and we were evicted from our center the next day. This was the high point of my six months there. I spent the next six months moving stuff from one center to the next; fundraising, trying to figure out what it was I was supposed to do; and returning to monthly meetings in New York, which were always depressing, not because of the content, but because I felt so completely clueless about what to do. Surprisingly, several good people joined during this time, which is a testament to their preparation, but mostly to Godís never-ending quest to re-unite with mankind, one person at a time and intimately. I was there and witnessed it, but can honestly say I contributed almost nothing. Luckily, Betsy Jones and Neil Salonen came to the rescue (did I ever say thank you enough!). They asked if I would like another mission and I quickly said yes. Not everyone spent their time selling flowers and candy on street corners. A few were in the mainstream of commerce. I was one of the lucky few. The Deli, as it was known, was a New York-style delicatessen in downtown Laramie, as western a town as you will find. It was a profitable business, supported the center, and was a wonderful place for new members to work and develop a spiritual life and a great witness in the community.
I have no idea why, but I have ended up involved in a variety of VERY oddball enterprises, not the least of which was Christmas trees. In the fall of 1974, in preparation for going to Seattle to work on Fatherís 21-City Tour, the Mobile Unit Commander (remember that title!) and the State Leader came up with the idea of selling Christmas trees to help raise our financial contribution to the tour. At the time, I was a new member, still working at my job and living in the Center. They assigned me to figure this out and proceed.
I found the trees, negotiated a price, and planned on how to transport them to Nebraska, where I thought would be an ideal place to sell, and presented this to my leaders. They agreed and we put our plan into motion. A few days prior to loading up and departing, we were told that everyone should come to Seattle immediately, trees and all! If youíve been to the Northwest, you know that there is no shortage of evergreen trees.
We drove all night and upon arriving, we were sent out immediately to find locations to sell. This was tough, not knowing the city and with no one to help out. We did find a few places and set up our trees and began. I was dropped off at a motel, near a strip mall, with no money, my trees, some cardboard and a marker to make some signs. I was there for three days before anyone returned. The couple who ran the motel felt sorry for me and let me stay in the furnace room of the motel for free. I soon had some cash, so I could eat and spend my days singing Christmas carols and selling what trees I could.
Several weeks passed and it was obvious we were not selling enough. Regis Hanna, the State Leader of Washington, went on TV and explained our plight to a local TV station, which did help publicize the speech, but not the trees. Finally, we loaded up trees in vans and trucks and every night ran door to door with a sample in hand and pleaded with people to come to our truck and look at our trees. We did this up until Christmas Eve.
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