40 Years in America

First Love

Joy Pople

Dramatic changes began on January 17, 1975, when I received a letter informing me that I am a candidate for the Blessing on February 8 in Korea. Father has been talking for several months about a Blessing. Rumors of a Blessing appear periodically. My trinity of co-workers at HSA Publications in Washington, D.C. began a 21-day prayer condition. Mr. Han Joo Cha came to translate Fatherís Godís Day speech. A predecessor of mine as "Way of the World" editor and a 777 blessed couple, he works at the vacant desk in my office. Before sleeping I see a vision of Mother. I see her smile, and all the negative elements of the creation respond in delight. She smiles and the hummingbirds dance and the stars waltz and the moon radiates. I have never before dreamed of Mother, and I have not understood her spiritual position in the cosmos. But to me she is the source of one polarity of radiance, beauty, harmony, rhythm and color. How wonderful she is!

What a wonderful vision of how we as women can complement our mate and reflect aspects of God.

After awakening the next morning I see two more visions. The first is about engrafting. When we accept True Parents we are like a limb yanked off a satanic tree.

The break is ragged, and in time scars form over the wounds. To prepare for the Blessing, I or Father must cut apart the old scars and whittle the broken edges down to a perfect wedge to fit into the notch of the Tree of Life. I will receive the living sap and return the true joy of fruit. In the second vision I see our True Parents as a huge rock and our family as building on the rock. In the beginning only a small part of the rock could be seen above the dirt, and first 3 couples, then 36, then 72, 124, 430, and 777 couples or families could be built on it.

Now we have been clearing away more dirt, with Fatherís aid, and there is space for 1,800 couples. But again, we must plane our surfaces to fit the surface of the rock and join the other families. This leveling is crucial to the preparation. I pray to recognize my sin, repent, and work to root it out.

I call my parents, after deliberation. Perhaps my mother has been receiving revelations. Last December she asked, "Arenít you going to Korea soon?" Today she says she was expecting a call from me. They talk about how they expected that their children would someday get married. The catch is that I donít yet know who the husband will be. My father says he would be happy if I brought someone home, said I loved him and wanted to marry him. But since I donít know who it will be, they worry. I ask my father to lend me travel money.

Eventually my father agrees to lend me money, with interest. I can feel that my mother doesnít want me to have the same difficulties she has had in her marriage. She had met my father before he left for Paraguay in 1941, on assignment from the Mennonite Central Committee to help resettle refugees. She accepted his marriage proposal and traveled by boat to meet him and become his wife.

Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Honolulu, Tokyo and finally Kimpo Airport, near Seoul Korea. It is about 9:00 p.m. on February 3. After clearing customs, about 100 American Unification Church members walk out of the airport to face floodlights and Koreans singing "Tong-Il." By bus we ride through Seoul toward the village of Sutaek-Ri. There are no street lights, but street vendors cook over open fires. We wave, and some people wave back. Soldiers with machine guns guard major intersections.

Buses careen down the narrow streets of Sutaek-Ri toward our churchís training center next to the Il Hwa ginseng factory. High above, Orion watches over us here as well as at home. We enter a hall, pray and receive dormitory assignments. I pray outside, and a man taps me on the shoulder and says, "Itís too cold; you must go in." At 6:45 a.m. Sara Rinehardt Pierron and I set out on a walk. We bow in passing to a Korean girl, barely visible in the grayness, who smiles in return. Sara folds her hands in a gesture of prayer and gives a questioning look.

The girlís eyes light up and she takes our arms, leading us down the roadway, across paddies, through a hamlet, and up a rocky path to a grove of trees where Koreans are praying. Sara and I join them. The rugged shape of the mountains gradually rises out of the fused land and sky. Dawn has wakened. Back at the training center, David Kim warms up the crowd of Americans and Europeans in anticipation of Fatherís arrival. He counsels a humble attitude, advising us to be "like a baby who depends on motherís milk." He urges us to accept Fatherís first choice, but if we cannot, to humbly decline and ask for another chance. On the one hand, Mr. Kim reports that Korean astrologers who study Fatherís matches declare that they are perfect, while on the other hand he jokes, "If I were you, I would not be here." Then he has various brothers stand up and introduce themselves, while he discusses their unique aspects and speculates about good matches for them.

At 10:45 Father appears and welcomes us to Korea, where, he says, the sun shines purely. "More than anyone else, Heavenly Father has been very worried about you," he grins. "Why? Because every one of you wants the best mate, and the best is just one! Heavenly Fatherís idea is to make everything even -- the best matched with the worst." As is typical in his talks, he reviews the Principle of Creation, Fall, Restoration, and the Mission of the Messiah, leading up to building projects in Korea. Our destination after marriage is the battlefield, he says, with the initial task of shifting from being a slave of Satan to a slave of God and then progressing to the positions of servant and then younger son in relation to Fatherís immediate children, who are the elder sons.

"What is the Blessing?" Father asks. "It is to possess Godís love, Godís son or daughter, and then all the universe." He says that he matches people for harmoniousness, and he promises that we will uncover that harmony in at least three years. "Stretch your arms out wide so you can accept any kind of person." At 1:30 p.m. Father announces, "At 3:00 the matches will begin." People pick at the plates of rice, hamburger and vegetables in the dining hall, but no one seems very hungry.

For the matching, Father has candidates line up facing the center aisle, sisters on the right and brothers on the left. People seem to avoid staring across the aisle. The oldest candidates are matched first and shown to a small consultation room. Ernie Stewart and Therese Klein, and Zack Piorkowski and Pat Hannan set the examples by returning quickly and bowing their acceptance. Zack, a priest for 20 years, and Pat, a nun for the same amount of time, had heard about each other but had never met; they sparkle like little children. David Kim greets each new couple with a handshake, then they kneel before Mother, greet their national leader, sign the register, and shake hands with Dr. Sang Hun Lee. Afterwards, they go outside to become acquainted. Still in a journalist mode, I try to take pictures. I donít want to miss a move. I know both partners in many of the American couples, and later I am amazed to learn that many had never met each other; they were meant to be introduced by Father.

Father studies each pair before motioning them to the consultation room. Some of the European members had been matched by their leader before arriving in Korea and Father makes his own matches; two national leaders plead with Father to keep their match to a partner who can complement their mission well, and Father approves. After about three hours, Father paces up and down, humming to himself. Candidates laugh nervously.

When Father announces a dinner break, I reflect on why I came to Korea. I put aside preconceived ideas and focus on Father. Fewer people re-enter the matching room. Father looks right at me several times and then motions to me and points to the consultation room. I look across the aisle and see a tall, young man. Inside the room we look at each other and discover that we are total strangers. We say our names. After some silence, I ask, "Can you think of any reason why we should refuse Fatherís suggestion?" He shakes his head. We come out, wait for Father to finish selecting another couple, bow, shake hands with leaders, and sign the register.

We part to get our things. Then I cannot find him. I look all over, wondering whether I remember how he looks. Finally we find each other. "Have you been to Holy Ground?" I ask. On the way we talk about small things. There we kneel and pray. Returning to the training center John asks, "What kind of person are you?"

Father decided to hold the engagement and holy wine ceremonies that night. He had expected the matching of Western couples to take three days, but it took only about six hours to match 107 couples. Father explains the meaning of the engagement ceremony. Our hands are joined one on top of the other, symbolizing uniting heaven and earth, spirit world and physical world, four seasons, and four directions with God. Then Father prays.

The holy wine ceremony follows. Father prays again, and a great spiritual warmth fills me, like a garment which dissolves and penetrates my skin and becomes part of my blood. We receive the wine from President Young Whi Kim. I receive the cup, drink the contents and replace it in the container. Then I pick up another cup and hand it with both hands to John, who takes it with both hands, drinks and passes it back to me for returning to the tray. Father and Mother sit on the platform, watching.

The ceremonies had to take place very quickly since Father has to return to Chungpa Dong before curfew.

After True Parents depart, the sisters try on their white chima choggori gowns. On World Day last year Father said that the first tears were shed by Adam and Eve when they fell through illicit love, but actually their first tears should have been on the day of their holy marriage. Those would have been tears of joy. I felt I was crying the tears of joy on my wedding day. The engagement is the formation stage Blessing, the holy wine ceremony the growth stage. So the day I met my husband was also my wedding day. From the Monday of our matching to the Saturday of the public Blessing ceremony, the days are quiet and cold. John and I talk about our relationship with God, our life of faith, our church missions. He joined in California and has been working at a printing company with other church members; I joined in Washington, D.C., and have been working for the publications department there. We search out the printing operation near the ginseng factory and watch the pressmen hand-feed sheets of paper to the presses; type is set, one line at a time, from boxes of metal letters. "The Way of the World Magazine" which I edit used to be produced at this shop, and I bring some recent issues as gifts.

Japanese and Western couples gather around a bonfire and sing. Groups rehearse for the wedding reception. Rings are fitted, engagement photos taken. We take snapshots, listen to other couplesí stories. At times we retire to our bunk beds to hem the wedding dresses and slips, and to write letters, or just close our eyes for a while.

John and Joy with Nanette Doroski (left)

On Friday we go to the gymnasium which will be our wedding hall for rehearsal. Village children line the fences, and we entertain them with renditions of "O Maya" and "Toraji." Visits to the local bathhouse offer the chance for long soaks in hot water and hand laundry. I am grateful that Father chose a husband whom I can respect, like and feel comfortable with. Each night before retiring we pray together. On Friday night John formally asks me to marry him and I say yes. John offers a beautiful and deep prayer and asks, "Are you happy?" "I have never been happier," I reply, and then ask if he is happy. He says he is. After a night of tossing and turning I rise at 4:30 to the music of the Little Angels chanting, "Iím Getting Married in the Morning." We wash and dress. After breakfast of a half cup of milk, we put on our gowns and veils. Korean ladies help us arrange the veil. With two sets of long underwear, top and bottom, I feel like a stuffed doll. The sisters parade out between rows of clapping brothers. I find John and we climb onto a bus. The cold sunrise is soft and pink over a quiet countryside.

On the bus we discuss the veils. At first I declare they are for purity, but after trying to turn my head from side to side, I decide they are for singleness of mind. Outside the Chang Chung Gymnasium colorful boards announce the Blessing, and flags fly for each of the 20 nations represented.

The couples line up outside the gymnasium. We are the front couple in row #29 -- couple #1653 out of 1800. The temperature is -8 degrees centigrade. I eventually lose feeling in my hands and feet. The Japanese couples around us sing "Shiawasate" and the "Little Angels Song." Every now and then a Korean comes by and smiles in sympathy.

The ceremony begins at 10:00 with representatives of each participating nationality carrying flags of their nations. Finally, itís our turn to enter the hall, marching two couples abreast through the 24 elders dressed in white robes. Slowly we approach the steps to the platform where True Parents are sprinkling the holy water. I grab my skirt to climb the steps to the platform, but the fabric slips out of my numb hands. Tripping, I begin to go down. John pulls me along at the relentless pace of the procession, and the purse under my arm that contains Johnís wedding ring falls down.

Finally, we make it past True Parents and down to line 29. Pain claws at my thawing feet. I cry, both out of pain and out of frustration at losing the ring. I wonder if John will forgive me. Cameramen are watching us. I apologize to John and try to explain in pantomime to a Korean about the lost purse.

Father reads the four Blessing vows in Korean, and we answer "Yea." We were told that the first vow involves our personal commitment to God, the second our commitment as a couple, the third our commitment as parents, and the fourth our commitment to humankind. Then Father prays. It is a very moving prayer, and I cry some more. Rings are exchanged and greetings offered.

The Korean newspaper reports 891 Korean couples, 797 Japanese couples, 76 U.S. couples, 35 European couples, and 2 Taiwanese couples.

The couples pile into our buses for our symbolic honeymoon tour through Seoul. On each seat is a large boxed sponge cake. On our seat is my purse, containing the lost ring. During the pantomime to the Korean usher I gave him a slip of paper with our couple number. Apparently when they found the purse they left it on the seat for us. Neither John nor I eat much; I am too thirsty for cake. We stop at a mountain lookout, and John buys me a Pepsi.

We are told to smile and wave, "to multiply our Blessing to the people of Korea." I get a little dizzy waving my hand side to side and watching the surroundings fly by. We have had no access to a bathroom since we left at dawn.

Finally we are deposited at the training center to change into our reception clothes and eat our only meal of the day. I have a cold, upset stomach, diarrhea, and cramps. It seems like all hell is breaking loose on my physical body, and my spirit is dissociating from it. I offer John his ring on the bus, and he refuses. I offer it again during lunch at the training center, and he still refuses. Finally, on the bus to the reception I beg him to let me give him the ring, and he consents. "We finally decided to make it official," he tells the couple in the seat behind us. I keep fighting back tears.

The Chang Chung Gymnasium is also the site of the reception. Professional Korean musicians perform. The Little Angels dance. Various Western groups sing. Americans offer a skit portraying a very tall American visiting Korea. We sing "Come and Go With Me to That Land" and conclude with a canon combining "Arirang" and "Tong-Il." Cheers and clapping rise from the stands as we begin each new round.

The remainder of the evening passes in a blur. The buses return us to Sutaek-Ri and we walk two miles or so to the training center in the dark. I bump into a concrete block on the edge of the road and hurt my shin. "This whole day seems like a nightmare," I tell John. I hope he doesnít take it literally.

We now live in Johnís hometown and have two lovely children.

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