The Words of the Cavanagh Family

How I met the Unification Church

Peter Cavanagh
June 8, 1999

I met the Unification Church in 1979 in Denver, Colorado. I had been in the USA for 20 days and was on my way to the British embassy to have my visa extended. While coming out of a Burger King with a milkshake in my hand, I heard some one say, "where are you from?" I turned around and saw this rather plump blond 21 year-old American girl smiling at me! As a shy working class 23 year-old Englishman, I was rather taken aback! She asked me if I would like to come with her for dinner at an international community house! I had been told that American girls were forward and often made the first move towards the opposite sex!

I was thinking maybe she belonged to some hippie drug infested sex-mad commune! I had heard many stories about the decadent USA! But this girl was so conservative looking and just so nice that I accepted her invitation and decided to take my chances at her hippie paradise. She asked me to follow her to her friend's van that would take us to her house. She then did a very odd thing (well I though so at the time) as we were walking along, she would stop other people in the street and ask them if they would like to come along to her house too! After half an hour, we stooped by the Greyhound bus station and Bernice (that was her name) began talking with someone she knew and tried to persuade him to stay and return to her house! All the time I (a complete stranger to this woman) was following her like a pet dog! At the time I thought this to be rather odd behavior but put it down to her being an American and to the free and easy American way of doing things! Of coarse I later found out that she was disparately trying to bring a guest to an evening program.

We eventually ended up outside a library where two new and large Dodge vans were waiting for us.

I thought these must be rich hippies! There were several young people inside one of the vans; a mixture of members and guests. At the house was a large crowd of people sitting around talking, smiling and laughing. I was relieved to see no drugs or naked people (some of the guests looked disappointed!). Then all at once, a tall blond American man (Clint Woods) got up and began to sing and play his guitar. Soon everyone was singing and I'm sure most of you have experienced what happens next! So I'll skip this part. At the end of the night, and with the workshop van ready to make the trip up to the mountains, I decided that I would go to this workshop (after much persuading!) But I wanted to go back into Denver, tell my friends where I was going and pick up my things from my friend's house. However, two sisters had other ideas about that! I was Cornered by these two ladies and they pleaded (yes pleaded!) with me to get in the van now; they could get my things later. They said everything I needed was at the camp; the van was leaving and I had to go now! They and Bernice Fay looked as if their world would come to an end if I delayed a moment longer. So I went in the van and up the mountain so as not to disappoint them.

I won't bore you with the workshop details and the next three weeks events. Despite Mr. Beard's humor filled lectures I was not convinced. I did decide to hang around for a while and help out. I felt obligated to the kindness shown to me; sure some of it was phony but most of it was genuine. I wanted to repay something back so I went fundraising for a few days (eventually did 7 years of it!) in Boulder with Tom Parmajano.

What I had ran into at Burger King three weeks earlier was Mr. Neil Solonan's IOWC team, which finally ended up in New York at the end of 79. I did not really join the Unification Church I kinda drifted into it; we slowly merged together! In Seattle, Washington, a few months later, Mr. Salonan publicly scolded me for not making more commitment. At this same meeting, someone hurled a smoke bomb through the open window where we were sitting. I began to realize what Mr. Beard had meant when he said to us newbies that there would be opposition. I had two thousand dollars, which I hid just in case I decided to leave. I remember a short blond Australian lamenting that he could not leave because he had given everything he had to the church! I wanted to keep my options open!

I had come to the USA in 79 to find a better way of life just as millions of others have done and still do. I wanted an education, a career and an American wife. It took me 7 years to get to the USA, working from the age of sixteen to raise the money. In 1977 I came to the land of the free, but got no further than the immigration at JFK, they thought the USA would be better off without me! In 77 I worked in Germany and 78 I made my way to the Bahaman islands and worked on a large American windjammer sailing ship (its a long story, I'll skip it!)

But eventually I made it! The land of my dreams and hopes, AMERICA! I was on my way to a job in California. And a few weeks later, while visiting friends in Colorado, I'm being asked to give up my dream and become a missionary! And Mr. Salonan asked why I was not committed! It would have been difficult for me to even join a mainstream church and attend only Sunday services let alone a small controversial group asking for a full-time lifelong commitment!

It was a struggle to stay, especially after Bernice, the person who witnessed to me told me that: "for thousands of years God has been asking people to help him, but they have all turned their backs on God 'will you do the same thing Peter?' A few months later, I learnt that Bernice herself left the Unification Church!

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