Paradise Regained

by Mike Armstrong (Class of ’96)

When Father sent the U.T.S. graduating class of 1996 to New Hope Farm it was like an answer to my prayer. Of course, our prayers are not always answered the way we expect them to be, and New Hope Farm is no exception. The travel there is almost exclusively by dirt roads and with the hot weather and the bus windows down, I arrived at the farm covered in a layer of fine red dirt, feeling environmentally challenged. During the drive I noticed the surreal landscape, low horizon and lots of sky, the land is flat and dotted with palm trees, and with the occasional herd of emus (large ostrich-like birds) passing through, it begins to look like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie.

Arriving at the farm was a bit like driving into the television sitcom "Green Acres." I was met by a pig, five dogs and a disheveled group of brothers and sisters sitting in the shade on a porch of a rather humble looking house. One brother had an exotic parakeet on his shoulder. The pig (who happens to think it’s a dog) immediately dirtied my jeans by sticking them with his muddied snout and, as if to add insult to injury, I was jumped upon by five dogs with dirty paws. The dogs and the pig, having done their dirty deeds, returned to playing together. New Hope Farm offers plenty of opportunity to overcome any aversions to being covered in dirt. As I looked around I noticed a number of large trees, many laden with fruit (mangoes, guava) and other trees in full bloom. A grove of lemon trees was to my right, to my left, in the distance, a field of sugarcane and straight ahead there were plowed fields ending in a row of trees bordering a river. As I squinted in the bright afternoon sun what I saw was either a mirage or the makings of paradise.

Regaining paradise is evidently no easy task. The schedule at the farm is rigorous: pledge every morning at five a.m., breakfast at seven and then work from eight until noon when lunch is served. There is a siesta every day until two o’clock when work continues until about five. Dinner is served at six and closing prayer is at eight, so officially the day ends by nine or nine-thirty, when the sky is dark. There is a lot of sky at New Hope Farm and at night you can almost touch it. I never realized there are so many stars, I hear Heavenly Father saying "your descendants will number as the stars, if you can count them." At New Hope Farm I feel in touch with the very pulse of creation.

Every morning at six I milk the cows. I get enough milk (about 8-10 gallons) to make it through each day. I also drive a tractor which I use when I go to cut sugarcane for the cows to eat, otherwise they eat grass, they also eat dried corn on the cob, which the horses love also. There are five horses. "Oleo" is a buttery yellow stallion with a white mane, he’s beautiful but he is a stallion and therefore difficult to ride. There is also a white mare I call "White Lady", and three other nameless horses that are too wild to ride. Before I ride either Oleo or Lady, I always put my hand on their forehead and pray "that the horse and the rider may be one," and it works. I am coming into a deeper realization of the profound spiritual relationship that exists between humankind and the creation. I later heard of the book "Horsewhisperer," about a person who communicates with horses, for me a daily reality.

One of my greatest joys at the farm is to name the animals. As far as I know, Father has only named two of the animals and both are dogs. I forget their names, but I know they are Korean for "yellow dog" and "red dog", the colors of their respective coats. There was a beautiful newborn calf I have a good relationship with, I named him "spot", he acts just like a big dog at times. I am grateful that through my time at New Hope I am able to deepen and develop my relationship with creation. It is both a physically and spiritually challenging environment but I long to be there when I am away. My feeling is that the physical restoration of the Garden of Eden can only be accomplished once an heartistic foundation had been laid.

After I had been there for about two weeks I realized that I had a very difficult time to break through in my prayers. One night, almost by accident, I crossed over the fence and outside the farm and noticed that I was able to pray much more freely. When I meditated on it, I received the revelation that this was all an historic and heartistic process of restoration. The original Garden of Eden was made up of God, the Archangels and Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve left the garden, leaving God all alone. In the process of restoration, Adam and Eve are responsible to restore the garden and then to invite God back to live with them. So, in a way, we are responsible to first restore the garden and then invite God back. The process of restoration at New Hope Garden has its parallel in the "Song of the Garden," which I noticed I had begun to sing more since I’ve been there. I find a parallel particularly in the second verse: "Oh that this dry and barren ground in springs of water may abound, a fruitful soil become, a fruitful soil become." This is New Hope Farm. The environment is dry and barren and will abound in springs of water, but it is our responsibility to bring the water to the soil, so that it may become a fruitful garden. I’ve even thought how much it would move True Parents heart if there were lilies on the porch one time when they arrived. Anyway, sing through the song in your mind and it will give you a good idea of what New Hope Farm is all about.

There is also a very strong spirit there that seems to resist progress. I liken this to the angel that Jacob had to overcome to be victorious. I believe that we must overcome our pain and resentment to really connect to the spirit and heart of God. There is a lot of indemnity to be paid and the core indemnity is the restoration of shimjung. I think God has a lot of pain and resentment that has to be dealt with in our hearts, before we can substantially restore His garden and build it into His original ideal of creation: the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. We need to repent for all of the past wrong, the historical suffering of God and mankind and then we need to put the past behind us and build our kingdom anew, and that’s what is being done at New Hope Farm.the school underconstruction in New Hope Farm

I recently came back to the states and as I got off the plane I wiped my mouth with my arm and my senses were filled with the fragrant earthen aroma of New Hope Farm, my pores saturated with the pungent red silt. In that moment, shunning any previous aversion I may have felt to being covered in dirt, I felt a cosmic link to our primordial origins in Eden via the newfound paradise of New Hope Farm, paradise regained.


The school under construction