The Words of the Werner Family
Paul and Christel Werner
Below is an excerpt from the personal testimony of Rev. Paul Werner, the national leader of Canada, describing vividly the emotional upheaval in his life as he joined the Unification Church in 1963 and how he spent his first few months in the movement. Preceding the excerpt is a brief summary of his life up to 1963.
Born on September 13, 1927, in Labes, Pornmern (in what is now East Germany), Paul Werner was the ninth child of very religious parents. His father was a minister and his mother a hard-working woman who raised 11 children. His parents lived an exemplary life of faith and prayer. "Jesus was our daily bread."
As a young boy Paul experienced the turbulence of the Hitler era. At age 16 he was drafted into pre-military training and then into military officers' school. He was stationed near the city of Dresden when it was destroyed by bombing on February 13-14, 1945, and he had to take part in carrying out and burning the bodies of thousands of the dead amid the cries of the maimed who still lay buried beneath the debris.
He was captured by the Americans and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, where hundreds of prisoners died of malnutrition and gastric diseases. There he almost perished from hunger and thirst. The only thing that kept him alive under those circumstances were a strong determination to survive and his faith in God.
Later he was "sold" by the Americans to the French and spent almost four years in labor camps in northern France. Forced labor and pitiful rations reduced him to skin and bones and he was accidentally buried twice in mining disasters, but God still kept him alive.
In 1948 Paul was released and sent back to Germany, but meanwhile his family had scattered. Two brothers had been killed, five had been in labor camps, and his parents had had to flee to West Germany from the approaching Russians. His family lost everything in the war. Paul picked up the pieces of his life from the bottom, wearing nothing but worn-out army clothes. "A spoon and a pair of socks were my only possessions."
At age 21, in the city of Duisburg, Paul attended a revival meeting. There he received Jesus Christ as his personal savior and experienced rebirth. At that moment he dedicated his life, his love, and his heart forever to God and His son Jesus.
His application to become a foreign missionary was declined, and after some time his spiritual life declined as well, because he couldn't find people with whom he could share his love for God.
In 1950 Paul met a young woman named Christel at a Christian youth group and married her in 1951. One year later their son Klaus was born, and "looking for a brighter future" the Werners immigrated to Canada in April 1953 and later to the United States in 1957. Paul worked in a chemical lab and as a construction worker during the sub-zero Canadian winters.
During this time the family went through heavy indemnity -- nearly fatal illnesses and the death of a newborn son.
In 1961 the Werners moved to Sacramento, California, where Paul worked for and received his real estate license. Soon after that his life took an upswing. He became a wealthy contractor, investor, and real estate broker, thinking of early retirement.
We didn't clearly know why my wife and I ended up in Sacramento, California, in the early 1960s. But soon enough we would find out what God had in mind for us.
At this time I was in the process of building super-duplexes and apartment houses. I was dealing with investors, bankers, and the like in my daily life, and I was well occupied with making money, hoping to secure a good future for my family.,
We lived a good Christian life and prayed daily on our knees to Jesus, our Savior. I always knew and told my wife that one of these days I would become a preacher, even though we lived far removed from an outspoken religious life of service to God.
One day in the summer of 1963 my wife attended a farewell party for one of the secretaries she worked with at IBM. A former coworker, Sandy Pinkerton, offered to give my wife a ride to the IBM garage where she had to pick up her car. Little did she know the consequences that would result from that short trip. My wife told me later that Sandy had acted strangely in the car, as if she were deeply troubled by something. Then she began to cry, so my wife asked her: "What is it that's bothering you?" Sobbing, she answered: "Christ is on earth. He has returned!
My wife returned home much later than I expected. In my overprotective way, I scolded her. So she told me the story of this girl.
Paul Werner (kneeling, far left) with Dr. Young Oon Kim (standing, front row) and other members of the San Francisco center in 1963.
Something clicked inside of me. After all, you don't hear every day that Christ has supposedly returned. On the other hand, my wife and I had talked about this coming event many times before. "Why didn't you bring her home?" I asked my wife. I thought she must have fallen into the hands of some false prophets or some anti-Christian sect, since there were so many of them around. My Christian spirit was kindled. But something else was also there, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. My curiosity was aroused, and a magnetic force vibrated inside of me. To make it short, just hearing those words ignited me again. I thought: "Ah, God left me alone for a few years and let me sweat it out. Now He wants me after all."
I told my wife, "Why don't you invite Sandy to our house soon and let us find out into whose hands she had fallen. I would like to help her in her spiritual struggle."
Sandy agreed to visit us about a week later in our suburban home, on Sunday afternoon. She didn't come alone; her husband, John Pinkerton, and a woman named Pauline Philips [now Mrs. Verheyen] came with her. Sandy didn't look to me like she needed help. She appeared very strong and self-confident, and so did the others. We offered them coffee and cake, but they refused to eat. That bothered me and I thought these people were arrogant and had little understanding of etiquette. Later we found out they had been fasting. They began to talk, and within the hour they had told us that Christ had returned and was walking on the earth right now. Not only that, but they said it wasn't Jesus, the one we had been waiting for. It was somebody else, a Korean.
It was a strong confrontation; I could not accept any of it. They left us after about an hour and we were alone with what we had heard. All kinds of thoughts and feelings raged within me. Could this be true? What if it were actually true? Or maybe this person was the Antichrist! I was in turmoil. Like most other Christians, I expected Jesus to come back on the clouds. I believed in the Bible word for word and didn't question anything in it at all. I was convinced that God would reveal things to me that I couldn't yet understand; but for me the Bible was the word of God, and I was ready to defend every bit of it. That was my state of mind and heart at that time. I had just been told that Sun Myung Moon and Jesus were one in mission and that the returned Christ had another name. This was really hard for me to cope with.
I couldn't get rid of these thoughts, and we waited for those three people to come back again. We figured they would, after having made such a tremendous statement. But nothing happened. I thought maybe they regarded us as a hopeless case because of our strong orthodox Christian beliefs. After a week went by I told my wife to call Sandy and ask her to come back to discuss the matter further.
On fire to teach the Principle.
One week later they came back, and a very turbulent time in our lives began. They brought with them a book called The Divine Principle. The words were simple, but what problems they created for me! Just about everything written in the book seemed to be contrary to my firm Christian beliefs. This brought about one clash after another as I confronted both the book and the people who brought it.
I began to pray as never before in my life. In fact, I prayed day and night. I asked Jesus: "Tell me; my Savior, what is this all about? Is it true? Is Sun Myung Moon the Antichrist, or is he you, returning under a new name?"
Soon we even asked Pauline, John, and Sandy to move in with us. All my life I had been very self-confident and strong, but they took over in no time at all. I became a guest in my own house. They told me to ask God for answers to my prayers, and to fast and study the Principle.
At this time I prayed and studied without ceasing. I created an outline of the Principle book to make it easier to study. I fasted too, but especially I prayed -- hard.
Right from the beginning my spiritual eyes opened up, and I began to see things spiritually that I had never seen before. We designated one room in my house as a prayer room. Whenever I sat down to pray, I sensed the room was filled with people -- spirits. I could even see them, and the room was always full of light. I was drawn magnetically into that room at all hours. Many times I saw beautiful colors in there -- pink, white, royal blue, much gold, and a beautiful light green. It was such a wonderful feeling to sit in that room with so many spirit people and pray and talk to God. My prayers lasted for hours. Many times I even prayed through the night. I never wanted to leave.
These experiences were so wonderful that I didn't want to stop being in that spiritual realm. Soon I also found out that I had healing power, and many spiritual phenomena happened to me. I have always regarded myself as a rather down-to-earth man, and so have others. Therefore, I tested out all these spiritual experiences many times to verify them. I was also able to smell and hear spiritually. People who never had such experiences must have thought I was out of my mind. On the contrary, I was as keen as could be. Even today, after 22 years, I can still have those experiences if I want to.
Pauline and the Pinkertons continued to try very hard to bring us into the Principle, as we called it. One weekend Miss Kim [Dr. Young Oon Kim] came to Sacramento to teach us the Principle. Miss Kim was one of the first missionaries sent from Korea to America. For two days we listened for hours to her in-depth presentation of the truth and bombarded her with critical questions. She was the main person who taught us the Principle. We also visited the San Francisco center where Miss Kim took care of the members.
Autumn 1963: Singing at Union Square in San Francisco.
One night, while my wife was away in San Francisco, I woke up to a sudden noise at about two o'clock in the morning. As I sat up, I looked towards a chair about five feet away from me. I saw a man sitting there, an Oriental man, smiling and holding a baby in his lap. I was shocked by this experience. A few days later, I was in the center in San Francisco. I had the opportunity to look through the open door of Miss Kim's room, and on her nightstand was a picture of the same man who had appeared to me in my bedroom in Sacramento. It was our Father, Sun Myung Moon.
God showed me in so many ways, through opening up Heaven for me, that this was the road I should take. This was a time of real tribulation for me, as I tried to overcome my physical body and bring it under the control of my spirit. I began to take cold baths every night, even putting ice cubes in the bath water. I continued this for nine months and only stopped when I left for my mission in Germany.
When I was confronted with the Principle, the spirit of God truly worked. I received baptism not by water but by fire. I had had experiences with Jesus before, but my experiences with God and with Father were different and a thousand times stronger. I had heard about baptism by fire, but now I received it. When I came into contact with the Principle and began to pray and study, I felt surrounded by fire all the time, fire that came down from Heaven. It was the presence of God in the form of fire. When I had first heard that Christ was on earth, I felt subconsciously that it must be true. Yet another voice always kept saying: "Impossible. This is the Antichrist, because Jesus has to come on the clouds;' and so on. But inwardly something was decided already. I just had to fight it out.
One experience I had during the first 40 days of my struggles with the Principle especially stands out.
One evening in Sacramento, while I was in great anguish because so many disturbing and exciting things were happening to me, I jumped into my car and raced out of town down to the Sacramento River. Soon there was only wilderness all around me. The river banks were covered with all kinds of weeds, and the moon was out, partly hidden by clouds. I gazed down at the river with a troubled heart. There were rocks along the river bank, and I remember being told that Sun Myung Moon had kneeled on rocks and prayed for many hours. Here I was, out in the wilderness. I had prayed and cried so hard to God while driving out there that many spirits had come down to take part in this struggle. I could feel their presence. I knelt down on the stony ground. Father had done it, so I wanted to do it too. I prayed as never before, asking God for some kind of a sign, to show me whether I was going the right way or the wrong way. I prayed and prayed, crying out loud, shedding many tears. It was good that nobody lived in that neighborhood. They might have thought that I had lost my mind.
I kept yelling to God: "Father, You have to tell me whether this is the truth or not! I don't want to go to hell, but if this is Your work I definitely want to be a good disciple right away. I want to do as much as I can to restore this world to Your' All I wanted was a sign from Heaven, a confirmation or rejection of what I was about to believe in. I wanted God to come down and say: "Oh, my dear son, you served Me so well in the past, and since you love Me so much I'm going to tell you that Sun Myung Moon is My beloved Son. Surely, surely, he is My Son. Go and serve him!"
Vienna, 1966: Klaus, Paul, and Christel Werner (far left) with members in front of their VW bus, their first center in Austria.
But God didn't do that. Hour after hour I prayed. I never knew that it was possible to shed so many tears. This went on for six hours, but no sign came, no matter how much I cried to God. Finally, completely exhausted and somewhat disappointed, but with a quiet prayer on my lips, I slowly drove home. I walked into my house and lay down on the couch. I began to cry and cry. My whole body was shaking and the whole couch with me. I experienced a suffering I never knew before. I could not stop crying. Tears ran down and soaked the whole area. A great sorrow went through my heart and I felt that I had to carry the suffering of the whole world myself. Then God said to me: "This is your sign. This is what I feel when I look at mankind:'
For three days I couldn't stop crying. My crying even wore out my body. It was shaking, vibrating with my sobs. This was my sign from God. I'll never forget it.
Even though I had felt right from the beginning that the Principle was true, and that the Messiah was on earth, I had to go through tremendous struggles to get my confirmation. I prayed day and night and studied the Bible and the Principle. When I connected with God and True Parents, I got confirmation after confirmation from Heaven that Father was the one. Then I said to God: "Now I know that Your son has returned, and I'll give my life, my heart, and my love to him:' I made up my mind to serve God and True Parents faithfully. Wealth and power had been important to me, but all of a sudden nothing mattered as far as the material world was concerned. A much greater love replaced everything I had experienced before.
We had a nice family, and a good life. When I was confronted with the Principle, I knew that accepting the new Messiah meant total sacrifice. It meant giving up everything dear to me, everything I was and had, all my dreams and plans, even my wife and son. The simple truth that Christ had returned and was restoring this fallen world back to God made such a deep impact on both me and my wife that our desire to help Him made us offer everything -- our lives, our hearts and our love for this cause.
On August 11, 1963, my wife and I decided to follow our Master, as we called him then. After we accepted our True Parents, we began to go into homes in Sacramento to teach the Principle. It was our first home church mission. We went to prayer meetings and got thrown out of churches many times as soon as the pastor found out who we were. There are so many stories to tell about how God and the spirit world worked overtime to draw the first Westerners away from Satan and to use them in a greater way for God's dispensation.
A few weeks later we decided to visit a medium for the first time in our lives. As Christians we had never even considered coming into contact with a medium, since it was considered to be occult and evil; but at that time we decided to find out what this was all about. Four of us went, and when we entered that place we found an elderly lady with very kind and loving vibrations. The whole atmosphere in that room was very warm. We were just new members of the movement barely a few weeks old, but the spirit world must have told her who was walking in. She went into a trance right away and started moving her hands in a wave pattern signifying the flow of love. She then started talking about me for 20 minutes. I was completely amazed at what she said. She told me that I would be leaving America for Europe in the near future. The first years there would be difficult, but then great success would come, and this would happen only through love. She told me many things that would happen to me in the future. How could she know this? I had never seen her before in my life. Somebody in the spirit world must have known. Even though I was only a few weeks in the family at that time, my name must have been known in the spirit world. She said that all four of us were called for a certain mission, and continued: "I can't tell you today what it is, but you have to prepare for a great mission in the future. There is still a little time" Looking back at that experience now, I find that all the things the medium predicted indeed came to pass, one by one.
Curious to find out more, we contacted several other mediums, who spoke almost the same words. One of them told me that the greatest teachers she had ever seen in her life were surrounding me, dressed in gold or white attire. She was so amazed that she asked me: "Who are you?" It was quite an experience to hear so many wonderful things from a complete stranger, and I thought: "Where does all this come from? How could she refer to me as such a great personality?" What she really saw was the impact of the Principle in the spirit world, the truth we carried with us.
In the fall of 1963, while we were spending another weekend in San Francisco, the San Francisco family decided to publicly announce the return of the Messiah. We got busy making up big signs. One of them read: "CHRIST HAS RETURNED. HE IS NOW ON EARTH" On Sunday afternoon the whole center, maybe about a dozen members, paraded down Market Street displaying our revolutionary signs, and we finally stopped at Union Square. Religious groups often assembled there to speak out to the public. There we stood with our signs, and one of us started to talk about the new revelation from God. Just then another religious group showed up with their brass band and started to play hymns, completely silencing us; we couldn't compete with their instruments. Instead we joined them in singing along, and passers-by thought we belonged together. Suddenly it began to rain, and the downpour washed away the white paint on our signs. White splotches covered our dark suits but we hung on to our signs. While marching home our boards were practically bare and our clothes were soaked, but we felt very good inside. When we entered the center Miss Kim received us with a simple but wonderful dinner, and we all had a warm feeling of happiness.
Miss Kim had a very high and strict Principle standard, and for a newcomer, especially me, there was much to digest. The first Holy Day we ever celebrated was Children's Day 1963. For the first time Miss Kim gave us a deep talk about the suffering path Father had to walk to fulfill his mission. The atmosphere was high, and many tears were shed.
My wife and I finally decided to go back to Germany as missionaries, to help restore our native land. It was not easy to disengage from all the business affairs I was involved in. It was aggravating and time-consuming. My mind was already totally focused on God and the returned Christ. I went to my partner in real estate and investment and said to him: "Isaac, I have decided to become a missionary and go to Europe to spread the gospel there." Isaac Berger was a 63-year old, very wealthy Jewish businessman. He looked at me and laughed. He thought I was joking, but when he found out that I really meant it he became angry and called me an idiot, a dumbbell, and everything else in the book. His God was money. He once pulled a dollar bill out of his pocket, slapped it on the table, and yelled, "This is my God!" I'll never forget that. The poor millionaire Isaac was in a wheelchair from a stroke. His own children wouldn't even touch him because he was so ugly to them. For the previous two years I had taken care of him since he couldn't move under his own power. I had even picked him up bodily and put him into the tub for his bath. Even though he had called me his angel before, when I left he cheated me out of a great amount of money due me from our partnership.
I traded in my new Imperial for a VW bus, which was to serve as my first center in Austria and was later used for Father's first trip through Europe in 1965, when he blessed all the European holy grounds. On April 1, 1964, my wife and I loaded up a few suitcases and left California, crossing the United States to New York. Along the way we visited 40 churches, reading aloud some passages of the Principle in each one of them as a condition for future witnessing in those states. From New York a ship would take us to our new mission in Europe.