NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROWTH
A graduate arrives at New Hope Farm in Brazil
What happened to this year’s graduates? What are they doing? How do they understand their mission? What’s happening at New Hope Farm? The following excerpts are taken from three reports by one member of the class of ‘96, Ted O’Grady.
I came at night, crossing a murky river in a dirty wooden boat, arriving in the surreal light of orange-shrouded bamboo houses looking like toy army barracks. I wondered, “Where are the soldiers?” Rolling in the cab of a pickup truck, strolling in across the gravel front yard, I was met by a smiling Korean, looking for all the world like a vacationing Buddha, with a rounded face, balding head, and infectious laugh. I liked him right away.
True Parents came the following day. Mother saw me and said in surprise, “Oh, you’re here!” I said, “Father asked us to come quickly, so I came.” Father growled, “That’s true.” A few days later I met True Parents again. Mother asked me in English, “How do you like it here?” I said, “It’s hard work, but I like it.” “Hard work?” she said.
Later, I was invited to the dinner table with True Parents and the ubiquitous Korean elders. Hoon Sook Nim was there with her son who was accompanied by Hyun Jin Nim’s little boy. Hun Tae Kim, the Brazilian national leader, introduced me to Father as a former AFC member. Father laughed and said, “AFC means Africa!” My sense of dread slightly increased. Father said (in Korean), “There is only one UTS graduate here, but there are 43 expected. Where are the rest?” I said, “Father, I am a representative. It’s principle that one person represents the whole. Don’t worry, they are all coming soon!” Father laughed.
Several thousand Brazilians (it’s true) came to Nova Esperanca Fazenda (New Hope Farm) for the ambulance dedication ceremony. Father gave twenty-nine ambulances to surrounding towns within a 200 kilometer radius of the farm. A lot of money is being spent here. The local people don’t know what hit them, but the smart ones are trying to get a piece of the pie. These local entrepreneurs like Rev. Moon very much.
One other church has warned that we Unificationists eat our own children. I haven’t seen any evidence of that as yet. In fact, the food is quite uninteresting here; rice, beans and majoca, a potato-like root. I’m not sure a decent recipe exists for “fihho” stew!
A few days later, Ken Shafto and Oshima-san arrived just in time to accompany True Parents to the newly purchased Salobra Hotel located at the doorstep to the famous Pantanal nature preserve. There we fished for and caught piranha (it’s absolutely true about their teeth, razor sharp and “muito” dangerous). At dinner one night, True Father gave us a direction. He said, “Pioneer the twenty-nine towns that received ambulances, and do everything else (all projects connected with the farm) with the same effort as I showed you. You are too young!” Father spoke briefly to the three of us in English and, of course, this is only a paraphrase. In reality, thus far, we have been working hard as “farm pioneers”, physical laborers. It is the easy version of Father’s Hung Nam course.
Fourteen of us had a lottery a few weeks later and received towns; mine is a tourist mecca named “Bonito” (pretty) only forty miles from the farm. It is also a nature preserve with no good roads leading into it. This fact keeps it small, to the fearful Brazilians’ liking. We are paired with young Brazilian pioneers, graduates of the Brazilian version of UTS, who were sent out several months previously. They have already toured the towns and held DP seminars. In most places, there is already some foundation. All of us have visited our towns and met contacts. The Brazilians are very humble and simple people (except for the entrepreneurs); they welcome us warmly.
Deconstruction and other Cool Projects
UTS grads arrived intermittently throughout the month of August, after True Parents had left for Alaska. Moishien and his wife; Iwuk Asuamah, Bret and Annette Moss; Alan Saunders, Koji, Manami, Hidehiko and several others. At this point we had a lottery for our pioneer towns, fourteen of us in all. After the lottery, we all visited our towns for a few days to scope the lay of the land, and to taste the flavor of Brazilian hospitality. I’m happy to report that there were no evil spies in our midst; everyone came back with a positive report. The land is rich, the food is good and the people aren’t all that big. We have been good “do bees” for the most part, honoring our Korean elder, President Yoon Sang Kim, and laboring on the farm, sweating like the pigs we are (providential viewpoint!)
Speaking of sweating like pigs, our primary job here at the farm has been “deconstruction,” not “destruction,” because we have been called to tear down the tool shed, the chicken coop (a delayed project so far), the cow corral, the corn shed, and to rearrange the materials contained therein to various other convenient and not so convenient locations on the farm. Nothing is thrown out here; all the wire, wood and old tools are saved for usage at another time. Tools are a trip, although there is a very good (by Brazilian standards) hardware store in Jardim. We are constantly repairing the hoes and scouring the grounds for non-existent working shovels, picks and machetes. (Actually, this is a bit of an overstatement. There are several shovels, picks and machetes, but very few handles to go with them! Still, “somehow” (a favorite expression around here) it works. We seem to get the work done.)
One favorite predilection of President Kim is to “check” on the work done by the members after it is finished and then decide that it doesn’t look right and has to be “deconstructed” and done again, a job he usually does by himself. This habit challenges the patience of the farm members who have been here since the beginning (May, 1995). They have found various forms of mental survival ranging from exorbitant laughter (Javier, the young Argentinean brother), nightly American-made, Portuguese-dubbed videos and, now, Solitaire played on this very computer (one of my favorite hobbies). As for our “strategic plan” to accomplish our mission, the first step is to wend our way through the Tower of Babel (Korean, Portuguese, Polish, Czech, German, Japanese and, finally, English) that is New Hope Fazenda morning and evening service (5am and 8pm respectively). We then go to work in the fields.
All this may sound a little disheartening, but please don’t misunderstand. It is all part of the “New Hope Experience”. Forget planning, forget logic, forget timetables, forget your wife and family, and forget the civilized world; that’s the formula. If you can get by the initial hurdles, it’s not so bad and a certain understanding starts to well up from within, sort of like, “Oh, now I understand why Father has sent us to this God-forsaken desert! It’s so I can take off my old skin and become a new creature.” And that is a true testimony. (By the way, is Richard Nixon still the President of the United States?)
Here’s a rundown of my jobs here at the farm thus far: tree planting (4’x4’ holes in the ground dug with pick and shovel), boat cleaning and ferrying (a couple thousand people on “Ambulance Day”), bamboo chopping and hatcheting, burning garbage, carrying 70 kilo bags of corn to the new tool shed, unbolting, unnailing and whacking boards, driving the heavy equipment (tractor) for pole moving and garbage hauling, kitchen duty (washing pots and pans), “night watch” (every team, five in all, takes turns watching at night, just like the UTS booth), fishing (not very successfully), vegetable planting and weeding, a testimony and song on the first night and a very consistent attendance of morning and evening service every day! It’s all part of the project here at New Hope Farm.
Of course, I spent several days going door to door in Jardim inviting people to the “Unification World Group Exposition” (See Cornerstone June/July p.3), a good opportunity to practice my primitive but improving Portuguese (not difficult for Westerners), and two days in my gifted pioneer town of Bonito (more on this later). Impatient me has endured over six weeks at this farm, a miracle in and of itself. “All things are possible through Christ who strengthens me.”
“New Wine Into Fresh Wineskins”
I’m getting excited to do this job down here in no man’s land. But, there is a necessary precondition to success. In the parable of the wineskins (Luke 5:33-39), Jesus tells the people, “No one tears a piece from an new garment and puts it upon an old garment; if he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.” As regards our own situations relative to the current providence, the new garment we are speaking of is True Parents’ South American providence; the old garments are ourselves. The new garment, God’s budding new providence here in Jardim, will not be torn, but will remain intact. We should not expect to tear the garment when we come here but, rather, should adjust ourselves to fit into the new wineskin.
This is the essence, I think, of the UTS students’ efforts here at New Hope Farm. It is the course to take off our old skin and to emerge as reborn, new creatures in Christ, our True Parents. Without this fundamental, yet excruciatingly painful, process, everything appears as a blur, nothing makes sense, there is no balance, joy or hope. Thus, New Hope Farm can very often feel like No Hope Farm; it can be easily spurned, like the ugly duckling who later grows into a beautiful swan. However, the old skin is tough and scaly, and doesn’t come off easily; it is necessary to shed blood and sweat (I’ve lost 15-20 pounds in the past six weeks). True Father is sending us through the narrow gate in order to pave the way for many others, and to make us remove our old skin quickly.
I am reminded of the following admonition in Hebrews 12:5-8: “‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
We, then, are being treated like sons, true sons of the original blood lineage of God flowing through our True Parents. We are being disciplined, ignored, mistreated (from a secular viewpoint). What is our response in this situation? Who are we, the UTS graduates? I always like to think of the Jesuits, initiated by the Spanish military leader, Ignatius, whose “Spiritual Exercises” provided the backbone of a new religious order that ultimately penetrated the entire globe in every field of endeavor: religious, academic, economic and political. I see UTS graduates in that light; I feel the need for that degree of commitment, loyalty and sacrifice in order to establish the messiahship of True Parents worldwide.
Jesus never found this kind of disciples. We can be those disciples of, as we say, “Our True Parents” (who, in fact, can never be truly ours unless we kill our old selves and allow our new ones to emerge like a brilliant butterfly from the cocoon of death), penetrating to the ends of the earth with, not military power, not the power of authoritarian self-righteousness, but the power of incarnated true love that consumes our spirit and flesh, and makes all flesh into one within the great sphere of happiness and joy that is now budding here in Jardim. We must make True Parents’ messiahship by fulfilling our own. This is done through absolute faith, love and obedience to our inner conscience that is outwardly expressed through the flesh and blood of our True Parents. That is the task of UTS graduates, past, present and future. That is the task of all human beings. That is the specific task of this particular UTS class now working here at New Hope Farm, and of this particular individual who has authored these comments.