40 Years in America
4,000 Gather in Chicago to Embrace True Mother
From the very beginning of this campaign, one could feel that everything was going to be different than ever before. Just the fact that we have over two-months notice that True Mother would be coming was so different and unusual that many of us didn’t quite know what to do with it. Yet we began, in the most usual of ways, and that was by going out and visiting our ministers. For the past two years our Bishop, the Rev. Ki Hoon Kim, has designated the 2nd Sunday of every month as church visitation Sunday. We have a small Sunday Service at our Ashland Avenue Church, but the majority of members and Tribal Messiahs go out and visit their adopted churches at least once a month.
Over the past six months we have also been on an intensive witnessing and workshop campaign. CARP rented a workshop site up at Lake Geneva about 1 hour from Chicago and members were going up every weekend for a 2-day workshop, which lead to many 7-day and 21-day guests who were now becoming members. When CARP went on their Christmas fundraising campaign, the workshops transferred to the church and we began having evening programs every night and weekend. Through this experience, many new members were joining and many members were becoming lecturers and workshop staff.
As February 7, 1999 began to come closer, of course, our emphasis focused on the Blessing. But we continued to witness through passing out flyers for our evening programs. Through this process many new guests became blessing candidates. So when word of True Mother’s tour arrived, we were ready to welcome her back to Chicago.
It was hard to believe that it had been almost a year since True Mother had come to Chicago. In fact, April 10, 1998 was Good Friday, when 3,000 guests filled the Grand Ballroom of the downtown Chicago Marriott Hotel to hear True Mother deliver her speech, "Blessed Marriage and Eternal Life," amidst the amens and hallelujahs of the assembled churches in the congregation. But again, the spirit was telling us that this event was going to be different.
As we began to work though our network of established churches, a new phenomenon began to occur. We have done so much with our churches, that planning for this new event was beginning with a tremendous response, especially from our best ministers. Over the past four years, through the series of blessings, and everything else, we have been in constant relationship with our churches. And our network is growing. Our best ministers are becoming more and more important; many of their churches are growing; many of them are being promoted to superintendents and bishops; and many of them are introducing us to new pastors and friends. Also, one important aspect of the African- American Church Community is the importance of Church anniversaries and Pastors’ Birthdays. Our support of the events, often buying a table, or group of tables, develops an ongoing relationship with the churches. And the ministers most always will return the favor, by attending your banquet or church anniversary.
The next new phenomenon was that certain ministers have now elevated to new levels of commitment in their work with us. We have come to realize that given their incredible schedules and the fact that so many of the ministers are so serious, so dedicated and being led by the Holy Spirit, these men and women of God can go only so far with us on a horizontal level. In other words, they would only be willing/able to walk so far with their friends. Only the fact that they themselves are experiencing the presence of God and the Holy Spirit is the basis for their continuing walk of faith and commitment with our True Parents.
I remember our old friend, Dr. Richard Quebedeaux, who had a deep experience with God at one of our New Era Pastoral Academic Conferences. After that point, Dr. Quebedeaux would refuse to discuss our conferences with his friends. He would just invite them to attend, knowing full well that their concepts about our movement would be destroyed through their experience with God at our conferences. And the same holds true for our best ministers. Men such as Rev. T.L. Barrett, who offered the prayer representing all of Protestant Christianity at the RFK Blessing, attended our Interreligious Conference for World Peace in December in Washington, D.C., bought two tables and was the M.C. for our True Family Values Banquet two weeks later and then turned around and flew to Korea for Blessing ’99 where he once again was asked to offer the Prayer representing all of Protestant Christianity. Now, Rev. Barrett did not need go to Washington, D.C. or even to Korea just for the trip. This man works about 120,000 hours a week leading a vibrant and spirit-filled church to new heights every day. The street that goes past his Life Center Church is named in his honor. His church was the first one in America to fly the Family Federation Flag on its flagpole and I could go on and on. So it is God alone who is calling Rev. Barrett to work alongside his Unification Church/Family Federation brethren in the fight to save America.
The same can be said of Rev. Dr. Leroy Elliott, the Pastor of New Greater St. John Baptist Church on Chicago’s great West Side. Rev. Elliott, whose older brother Charles hosted True Mother at his King Solomon Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the, if not the, top evangelist in America. Rev. Elliott is on the road doing revivals 46 weeks a year. I witnessed one in Macon, Georgia, where the Beulahland Baptist Church was filled to its 2,500-seat capacity every day for the week that he was preaching -- and oh how this man of God can preach! Rev. Elliott tells the story of how as a child down in Kentucky, they used to catch squirrels by leaving some squirrel food in a box. Once the squirrel crawled into the box, the door would slam closed and the squirrel was caught. Last January, Rev. Elliott gave testimony to Rev. Kwak at a breakfast in Chicago, that the door to True Parents’ box had slammed closed behind him and that he is now caught. In other words, he has experienced God while working alongside of his Unification Church brethren and that "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt. 19:6). Rev. Elliott has a vision to save all of America and it seems that God has set him up to have access to almost every major Baptist pastor in the United States. Basically, he wants to take True Family Values to every corner of America.
A third phenomenon that is occurring is the interrelationship between the ministers. Years ago, after the ICC trips to Korea, Father asked the ministers to begin to fellowship together -- even having a joint service once a month. During this campaign, more than ever before, the ministers seriously began doing this. Many of them, who were from different denominations, began to come together to bring others to the event. Many of them began to preach in each other’s churches and invite and encourage other congregations to attend True Mother’s speech. Even unto the last minute, many of our best ministers were preaching at other churches and inviting them to True Mother’s speech.
So the 4,000 guests that filled the International ballroom of the Chicago Hilton & Towers Hotel were the guests of over 185 pastors who attended the event. The invitational committee of more than 100 ministers took up more space than the program. But that is just the point -- this was not a Unification Church event -- it was a product of the joint cooperation of the ministers, political leaders, business leaders, civic leaders and ethnic leaders of the Chicagoland area in an effort to support True Parents’ North American speaking tour in Chicago. Filipinos, Hispanics, African-Americans, Muslims, Christians, Catholics, Native Americans and Jews joined together to welcome True Mother back to Chicago. The program began promptly at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. For one hour, choirs from Rev. Wendell Lowe’s Acme MB Church, COGIC Bishop Bennie Allison’s Corinthian Temple Choir, Rev. Jesusa Barrett’'s Iglesia de Cristo Misionera Choir, Rev. Levan Brayboy’s Mt. Zion Inspirational Choir, Rev. Edwin Simmons’ New Friendship MB Choir, COGIC Bishop Ocie Booker’s Tabernacle Church of God in Christ Choir and Rev. Marvin Alexander’s Union Missionary Baptist Choir performed. From the moment anyone set foot in the auditorium, even just after 3 o’clock when the room was just beginning to fill up, one was immediately caught up in a mighty powerful spirit.
By 4 o’clock nearly every seat was filled and Rev. Jenkins began the program promptly. Bishop Cody Marshall, Pastor of the Freedom Temple COGIC and Chairman of the Religious Coalition of Illinois opened the program with a rousing prayer of hallelujah. After Bishop Marshall, Rev. Jenkins read off proclamations and letters of greeting from the Governor, Secretary of State and Treasurer of Illinois. A very personal letter was read from the Mayor and proclamations were introduced from the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago proclaiming Saturday, March 27, 1999 as Family Federation for World Peace and Unification Day in Chicago and in Illinois. As Rev. Jenkins read the proclamations, members of Chicago’s second generation paraded across the stage holding the framed proclamations up high.
The program went very smoothly with Mother’s videotape receiving deep appreciation. And when Pastor T.L. Barrett, Jr. was shown giving the prayer representing all of Protestant Christianity at Blessing ’99 in Seoul, each of his 250 members and guests in attendance gave resounding applause. After a beautiful introduction by one of Illinois’ most popular political leaders, True Mother took the stage to a standing ovation that did not want to sit down. Her speech was received with constant amens, hallelujahs and applause in the spirit-filled hall. We were truly having Church!
After she finished, Mother received flowers from Mr. Eric Seim and his beautiful new Japanese bride and then Mother walked down to the first row of seats and shook hands with the 30 dignitaries who were blessed to have been seated in the first row. Two of the ministers were so inspired that they just followed Mother out the back door and through the corridors up to the celebration room. They were just like true children following Mother wherever she was going!
The program concluded with two more choral selections from Minister Yakeerah and Rev. T.L. Barrett Jr.’s Life Center Church Choir and Rev. Constance Bansa’s Church of the Living God Choir.
By the time many of the members and guests entered, the celebration room was filled to overflowing as many of the pastors, including Rev. Elliott, Rev. Barrett, Rev. Constance Bansa and her sister Shirley Sims, Rev. A.I. Dunlap and Rev. Helen Cooper saluted True Parents in praise and song for nearly two hours. Leaders from the Nation of Islam presented True Mother with beautiful gifts and greetings of ah salam alakem. Rev. M.E. Sardon celebrated his 87th birthday, and the growing Chicago community of second generation blessed children serenaded True Mother with their Children’s Choir. Mother and Father returned the favor, each singing three songs and Mother moved each of our hearts with "Home Sweet Home."
Our true goal in this campaign was not just to fill an auditorium, but to bring true joy to True Mother. We sincerely hope that we were able to do this. On the way to the airport, Mother asked the motorcade to turn around and take her to the shore of Lake Michigan before heading for the airport. When she got there, Mother got out of the car and walked down to the shore to look at the Chicago skyline and pray. Quickly joined by all 30 people in the motorcade, Mother posed for pictures with the skyline in the background and reiterated her instructions that we should be diligent to take care of the 4,000 guests who had attended her speech. Even after entering her plane, she came back to the open door twice to wave good-bye to the members, and, as her jet soared off to Atlanta, several members could see the horde of angels surrounding her airplane.
Comments from ministers who attended the event: The program was great, but when I saw how many young people were moved by Dr. Moon’s sincerity, warmth and love, I truly realized the power of her message. -- Minister Earl Christy, Former Member of the 1969 New York Jets Superbowl Champions
I found Dr. Moon to be more correlative with other denominations in her presentation. Rev. Moon was actually converted into the Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church always talks about love. Dr. Moon sounded like a modern Presbyterian. -- Dr. Paul Swanson, Lutheran Professor of Theology, Emeritus
What I experienced was a coming together of all church denominations where we had the opportunity to mingle and mix. The Unification Church is truly carrying out the meaning of its original name, to unify all churches under the banner of coming together to worship God together through the Holy Spirit. I experienced the reality of the words that Jesus spoke in John 12:32, "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me." In my opinion, nothing is greater than unity -- this is the only way that we can eliminate the wars, the breakdown of the family and the child abuse that are destroying our Christian society. -- Rev. M. E. Sardon, Holiness Community Temple (Rev. Sardon, who has worked with UC projects for over 15 years, was celebrating his 87th birthday during Dr. Moon’s speech.)
When I sat at the lunch table with Mother Moon, I felt that totally I was her true son. -- Pastor T.L. Barrett, Jr., Life Center Church of God in Christ
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