The Words of the Burton Family
They were the generation that came forth -- during the 60s. They rambled and hitchhiked out of a decade known for Hendrix, Hair, hashish, hemp, acid, free love, Abbie Hoffman, Chairman Mao, SDS, antiwar rallies and tie-dyed opinions, and most found their way into a New-Age-sounding group called "the Unified Family," an obscure, brave little band of seekers huddled around Korean missionaries called "Papa Choi," "Miss Kim," "Colonel Pak," and "David S.C. Kim." None of them knew that 40 years later their little group would be the most successful new religion in history.
Or that they would be feted as "heroes of Unificationism" by their family, friends, and colleagues for staying the course, but that's exactly what happened to 51 of these 40-year veterans of faith at a celebratory banquet in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, on December 13, 2009.
Rev. Randy Francis, District Director for the states surrounding Washington, D.C., awarded each of the honorees certificates designating them as Ambassadors of Peace for their work as agents of peace. The banquet was held in part to mark the 40-year anniversary of the first Marriage Blessing in North America -- at the Upshur Street Church Center in Washington, D.C., in February 1969. The 90 guests who gathered at the Woo Lae Oak restaurant chuckled and sighed at the testimonies from Nobuko Peemoeller, Pamela Stein, Dan Fefferman, Reiko Jenkins, Diane Weber, Yuji Yokoyama, Sun Ae Moon and Mike Leone. Testimonies of many others were printed out and distributed.
Rev. Kevin McCarthy, a former pastor of the Washington Church, served as Master of Ceremonies. Ms. Emiko Nadimi performed "Climb Every Mountain," taken from The Sound of Music and "Memories," from the musical Cats. At the close of the program, Ms. Clair Stein, a daughter-in-law to Mrs. Pamela Stein, sang the Celtic hymn "Be Thou My Vision."
The testimonies made clear that the unseen hand of God was moving in the daily lives of those early disciples. Dan Fefferman's written testimony at the banquet reveals how in early 1971 he got the words and melody for the song "Generation of Righteousness" in just a few minutes: "We had this center on Warring Street and I remember praying to God: 'give me a song that the whole movement can sing.' I went up to the attic, and 15 minutes later I came down with 'Generation of Righteousness.' I'm sure some of my Russian Jewish ancestors were involved in getting me that melody, and who knows who else. It's one of the more complex songs I've written, and yet it took the shortest time to write. So I have to say it was a work of inspiration."
Pam Stein told the gathering that in 1969 she was a "free spirit" wandering around Europe searching for the Messiah: "One day, I was meditating under a fig tree in the mountains of Spain, praying to know the Will of God, when I received that I must return to America to meet the Messiah. But I didn't want to go back to America; I wanted to go to India. I argued with God and then in the days following, very quickly, bad fortune found me. I recognized my error, and immediately hitchhiked to the nearest airport (Barcelona) with only my backpack and sleeping bag. I arrived home in Berkeley, California, on July 4, 1969. It was forty days later that I arrived at the Ashby House Center in Berkeley, having been witnessed to by a least a dozen different members since my arrival. When I came to hear Lecture One that August 15th evening, it was Dan Fefferman who opened the door to welcome me."
Nobuko Peemoeller related how, at the age of 18, she was determined to spend her life as a social rebel. She vowed in 1967 to her high-school buddies that she would never marry and immersed herself in writings of communists and proponents of women's liberation. "But when I found God, I found my place, and my value," she said. In her written testimony she explained: "I was struggling with all kinds of questions about life. "Who am I?" "What is the purpose of my life?" "Where am I going after life?" I was like a floating piece of wood going in any direction a current took me. Those were my dark days of struggle. I never forgot the emptiness I felt in my heart. I was a very rebellious young girl. When I heard the Divine Principle for the first time, I was so shocked and excited. When I finished listening to all the Principle, I was not able to deny God's existence logically any longer."
Mrs. Sun Ae Park Moon, a daughter of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's cousin, shared about the suffering she experienced growing up in a family that attended Reverend Moon years before the first Marriage Blessing Ceremony in 1960. She spoke candidly of growing up "feeling abandoned" by her parents after they invested so many hours in church work and church-sponsored businesses. After a life-threatening illness at age 15 she says she had a change of heart and dedicated herself to the church: "At age 15 I opened my heart and attended a workshop to ponder whether I should stay in the movement. I decided the church was not bad. I joined the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) and decided to be a righteous daughter."
Mike Leone, a former pastor of the Washington church, was the last to give a testimony, which he titled, "Two Words." He wrote that in 1972 "one day I was walking down 16th Street in D.C. near our Upshur house and -- bingo! God actually spoke to little old me. I knew it was Him, because the voice encompassed my whole being -- spirit, body, all of me. He only said two words and has never spoken to me again since. They were: 'I'm lonely.' After that, I started bawling like a baby and said, 'That can't be right -- You are God Almighty -- how can You be lonely?' Well, those two words changed my life and kept me around for almost 42 years. I came to understand a little about the heart of God and the heart of True Father and True Mother -- I couldn't easily do things that might break their hearts even more."
Many a head nodded as Mr. Leone shared the observation that, after 40 years, "the days still go by slowly, but the years have flown by."
Contributed by Douglas Burton