40 Years in America

Karen Judd Smith

The first fish caught by Rev. Moon after his release from Danbury. Rev. Moon and Alan Hokanson are in the background on board the New Hope. On the Golden Sea; Gerhardt Peemoeller, Marilyn Morris, Steve Taylor, Karen Smith, Takeru Kamiyama and Hiroshi Matsuzaki.

The ocean, for me a "classroom and cathedral," gave me the groundedness (ironically enough), intertwined with the intangibles that provide fertile ground for growth through dramatic daily life experiences. For me, perhaps the word that best describes Ocean Church and the Ocean Challenge experience is "irony." If I were a Zen enthusiast, I might describe it as "the sound of one hand clapping." That is, the ocean in its kindness and severity, its beauty and its harsh, brute strength, its mystery, its giving of life and taking away of life, gives plenty of opportunity for our "well-ordered," compartmentalizing human habits to be evaporated into intense momentary reality for which there is no "box." The ocean is a place where I learned and where I met God again and again . . .and where I met Father’s heart, a simple yet profound desire of a father to feed his children -- all six billion of us -- physically and spiritually.

As deep as the ocean is, its beauty, strength, endless giving, powerful demands and humor are no less. How could I share my ten years from 1983 to 1993? I started as a new seminary graduate -- everyone’s favorite! Female -- enough said there. I lived and breathed fish, boats, saltwater, engines, seafood, chum, fish farming, ocean potentials and disasters, Alaska, the Keys, Gloucester. I was my older western brothers’ "lovely little sister" in the national office "telling them what to do." My older Japanese brothers loved having their un- Japanese sister persistently around with something to say! I always had a quiet chuckle when they were faced with the reality that I could haul the anchor in less time than it took two of them and handle seas that turned their stomachs. No great shakes. It just leveled the field. Without a word.

I could tell you one of the first impressions my new husband got of his delicate wife, as she pulled the small shark out of the water, and with a knife 18" long, cut off the spines, slit the belly, emptied the entrails into the water, removed the head, and put the still "swimming" body of the dogfish, washed, into the cooler for later use.

I could tell Father-stories, commercial fishermen-stories, stories of nights at sea being rocked by the waves as we told newly spun sea-stories to the sound of a flute and the lapping of waves on the side of the boat. I could tell stories of lives and deaths, of hot sun that scorches the scalps and minds of those who dared sit there all day, and of cold that chills to the bone marrow as wind lashed, of cables catching trawlers to unmovable bottom structures. The tension in the cable is in every human fiber of heart and soul as each visits again the realization that our connection with life itself is a very thin thread.

But most of all, I can tell stories of love that grew out of pain so deep in the souls of my brothers and sisters because we were given a harbor to protect us from the storm. My life was given a chance for greater potential, meaning and hope -- a gift of relating to God anew through one man that I still barely know, and who occasionally I feel I can call "my father."

But these stories will have to come later.

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