"A Family Affair" in Lithuania
by Gunnard Johnson (UTS Class of 1979) National Messiah to Lithuania

I would like to offer this report on our recent local Blessing Consecration given in Lithuania to connect on December 20th to connect all recently blessed couples with True Parents' Blessing given in Washington D.C. on November 29th. We called it "True Family Festival: Blessing '97 - World Peace Through Ideal Families.

Here in Lithuania we had planned in advance to wait until now to give the final consecration of the 40 million couple blessing. We received a copy of the video which was produced and distributed in Washington D.C. and fortunately it was of a very high quality and could be used at our event.

We began our preparations with a telephone calling campaign, starting three weeks before the event. We called about 6,000 of our 10,800 couples, mostly within the city of Vilnius. The maximum seating for the event was 220 so, based on past experience, we thought we should get at least 500 confirmations in order to be sure of filling the room. In the end, we only had about 100 absolute confirmations on the day of the event so I was anticipating a three-quarters-filled room. As it turned out, we had an overflow crowd of 250, including great grandparents, grandparents, parents, teenagers and children so it was truly a "family affair!"

The FFWPU President spoke first. He had attended the Washington event with his wife and son and he spoke very candidly and respectfully about True Father. He spent most of his 10 minutes talking about Father's accomplishments and his role in bringing together all kinds of people for the sake of world peace and harmony. It was one of the most straightforwardly positive and honorific speeches I have ever heard anyone give about Father. In fact, I want to give a copy of his speech to Father himself.

The WFWP representative and the president of the Martial Arts Federation also spoke with respect and admiration for Father. I then gave the keynote speech titled "The Ideal of the Blessing of Marriage" in which I contrasted conventional romantic marriage practices with the ideal of the Blessing. The second half of the two-page speech was a collection of quotations from Father's words in "Blessing and Ideal Family."

We then showed about fifteen minutes of video highlights from Washington D.C., focusing on the Blessing ceremony itself. It was so beautiful and pure to watch this ceremony again and the atmosphere in the hall was clearly elevated by this video. All of the guests stayed until the very end of our event, drinking in every moment. We concluded with awards given to the longest-married couples and those with the most children, followed by entertainment and refreshments.

As the event was ending, I couldn't believe my watch. It felt as though we had just started a few minutes before and now suddenly it was three hours later! And as the people were putting on their coats to leave and I was talking with many of the people I had met personally over this past year, it suddenly struck me that many of these people might be the core of our foundation here in Lithuania. Surely, others will come. We continue to reach out day be day to students, married couples and single people alike. We will work with many of these people on projects to educate university and school age children, to give love and family to the elderly who have no families, the children who have no homes or broken homes and the couples who are struggling to keep their marriages together. I felt as though we were witnessing the birth of God's hope for this nation.