40 Years in America

Denis Collins

Boonville, California

I first met the Unification Church on the streets of San Francisco in March of 1978. But at the time the group went by the name of Creative Community Project. I had just quit my job as a supermarket manager in Elmwood Park, New Jersey and felt inspired to travel to the promised land of California to begin living an idealistic lifestyle. Two weeks later, a perky young woman by the name of Poppy approached me by Union Square. "Hi," she said. "Where are you from?"

"New Jersey and New York," I quickly responded, in case she could detect both a New Jersey and New York accent in the words flowing out of my mouth. "Great. What are you doing here?" Hey, I got nothing to lose, I told myself; just tell her the truth. "Well, I’m looking for a bunch of idealistic people living on a commune who want to create a better world."

"In that case, come on over for dinner," she invited me. Later that night I was off to a farm in Booneville. I had never been on a farm before. After a week of farming and listening to inspiring lectures, Bob Hogan finally got around to asking me what I thought of a guy by the name of Reverend Moon. "He brainwashes people," I shot back. "Plus they have orgies. I saw something about him on ‘Sixty Minutes.’"

That weekend everyone on the farm went down to Berkeley to hear a concluding lecture...except me. Bob invited me to stay on the farm another week and I was only too happy to help out. Everyone seemed so nice, and everything I heard about God seemed so true to this former Catholic/atheist/agnostic.

But the following week Bob couldn’t hold me back anymore. Then early on a Sunday evening I heard a little more truth. Poppy and Bob were Moonies! So were Matthew, Jennifer, Kristina and Noah! Confused, I left Hearst Street house and took the Bart to the San Francisco library. For two days I read everything about the Unification Church and Reverend Sun Myung Moon that appeared in the overflowing special section of the public library, most of it submitted by deprogrammers. It was all obviously false.

My heart felt relief. I walked over to the Bush Street house and claimed a small piece of rug as my home. It was challenging, yet peaceful. After experiencing God’s heart during a wild year of witnessing in Hawaii and a traumatic year of MFT fundraising, I spent three wonderful years at the Unification Theological Seminary.

But after completing my dissertation I could no longer make the personal sacrifices my leaders demanded and separated from the movement in 1983. I obtained a doctorate in Business Ethics and for many years tried creating a sense of social justice within my students and inside Madison, Wisconsin’s poorest communities.

Then in 1995 doctors informed me that I had an advanced case of Hodgkins Disease and would most likely die of cancer in August 1996. An out-of-body experience reminded me that the purpose of life was to grow my heart through creating heaven on earth. Soon I had vivid sensations and dreams of True Parents. Reflecting back on my life, I felt remorseful for having traveled a separate path and promised to serve True Parents to the best of my limited abilities with any bonus days God might grant me. Unexpectedly, the cancer miraculously disappeared.

When a faculty position opened at the University of Bridgeport’s School of Business, God told me to grab it. Next week my wife and I and our two beautiful children will pack our bags and head for Connecticut to help church members create profitable and ethical businesses and organizations. The adventure continues. Praise be to God and True Parents.

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