The Words of the Meijer Family
Maarten Meijer and "Hero" in the mountain wilderness of Oregon.
"Tell me about yourself!" he commanded me, as he slid back in his chair and put his feet -- shoes and all -- on my knees. The Rev. Dr. Allen Reeves had been the pastor of the second-largest Methodist church in town for 13 years. Who was Ito challenge such authority? So I obeyed! Our meetings, which from then on just deepened our friendship, were always opened and sealed with a fatherly embrace and a moist kiss on my cheek. His colleague, pastoring a church up north, would become my spiritual son a year later.
This kind of response to our outreach to Christendom, however, was unfortunately rare. Andrew, Joseph [other city leaders], and I counted the days that we gave CAUSA lectures only to each other -- since our expected seminar guests somehow failed to appear -- or to some little old lady in the back of the room who nodded "amen's" to our exposé of dialectical materialism. Too many clergy seemed to lack the urgency we felt to alert their congregations to the threat of atheistic ideologies. Too often we could experience something of what Jesus experienced, as his longing to express God's heart to the people was rebuffed. For example, one day when I walked through the door of Rev. Gordon's little church in the countryside, he, knowing I was a Moonie, gravely announced, "You are an angel of light!" and asked me to leave immediately. No amount of heartfelt pleas on my part could convince him that I had no relationship to Beelzebub!
The beauty of the truly Christian heart, however, was time and again revealed to us, reminding us why Father has urged s to unite with all of our Christian brothers and sisters. In my home church area, I visited from time to time a sincere fundamentalist woman named Beverly. She was daily challenged by an unemployed and resentful husband, a rebellious teenage son, and a younger son undergoing dialysis treatment, his skin turning yellow as a result of his malfunctioning kidneys. She invited me to attend church with her. It was a small charismatic church, and the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. The minister preached, the people prayed, and we sang many hymns, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty...." Then the altar call came. Suddenly I felt a hand around mine and as I looked to the side I saw her face, flushed with tears. "Please!" that face begged of me. "Please!" I was deeply moved by her profound concern for me, and by her sincere desire that I receive salvation.
Home church has, in fact, often been my Kingdom of Heaven. When I was walking through my area one day, I noticed an old man balanced on a ladder. Armed with a pruning saw, he was trimming the apple tree in his front yard. As I stopped and watched, he climbed down and introduced himself as Mr. Smith, adding that his age was 94. "My wife will turn 90 in August, two days before our 60th anniversary." Hallelujah! How many movie stars might envy the longevity of his marriage! Our sister Dymphna made a huge, colorful anniversary card out of poster board. We took it around the neighborhood and everyone happily signed it. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Don't know 'em, but sure, I'll sign it. It's a good idea!" People even contributed for a gift, and with the money, I bought an oversize box of See's candies. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were overwhelmed. Perhaps they tasted a bit of the Kingdom of Heaven as well.
The servant of servant's course has also become real through home church. Sally Jefferson owned 8 of the 12 houses on one block in my area. The house on the corner was the largest and least dilapidated, but the grass in the yard stood knee high. It took me six hours to cut it down. Neighbors from across the street noticed that their deliverer had arrived. They came to my aid with larger lawnmowers, scythes, rakes, and tools than I had ever seen in my life! They also came with words of advice, and with words of praise they uplifted me, while denouncing the landowner, in her absence, for such neglect. Then they returned to their homes, assured that I would complete the task. The empty cans, the scraps of plastic, and the dead possum I packed together with the grass in garbage bags. Mrs. Jefferson expressed her appreciation and endorsed me as a qualified gardener by giving five dollars as a donation for over six hours of work -- and asked me when I could come again, to do the yard of the house next door. "Next week," I promised humbly. And I kept that promise.
No amount of words can do justice to the sacrifices made daily, as a matter of inevitable course, by brothers and sisters in our region braving the perennial Oregon rains or the snow and ice of Montana's arctic winters. Patiently they go from place to place with the long-sought panacea, the Principle of Restoration, to cure the body of mankind, with a greater sense of urgency than a doctor who has discovered a cure for AIDS. Yet painfully often, the "afflicted" are leery of "easy answers" and "organized religion."
Truly, our brothers and sisters are heroes. One such Japanese brother, Hero, is aptly named. He loves America -- that's why he spells his name the way he does. He's a man of few words. If raising his plate toward the pot will get him another serving of rice, why waste words to ask?! For three years we unrolled our sleeping bags next to each other. "Goodnight, Here "Good- night." The next day, Hero: "We need call Mr. Jones." I: "Why don't you do it, Hero?" Hero: "My English no good." I: "He will understand you, don't worry." That was the usual extent of our conversations. Then came my spiritual birthday. After I carefully unwrapped his present, with his dark eyes following my every gesture, he took over. He unwound a long strand of bright red paper, which he then draped around my neck. At the bottom of it, like an Olympic medal, hung a three-ounce bar of gold. How much "spiritual gold" is in the heart of our members!
Maarten Meijer saying farewell to Rev. Joong Hyun Pak as he departs for Korea.
Susan is always taking care of everyone. She witnesses best, fundraises best, takes your messages, and gives you your mail. She raises the young, revives the old, solves problems, and has ready answers for the media, the members, and you. And she smiles on top of all the above. Now we sit together and she, back turned, talks to me in a small voice. For all her giving, how hard it was to receive, to entrust her own burden to someone else! If a wing of a butterfly is so intricate and easily damaged, how much more so is the human spirit and heart? And with how much more caution should we handle the rare and vulnerable beauty of the people entrusted to our care by God? Too often I have realized this too little and too late. How I long to be able to transfer peace, freedom, happiness, and ideals with the heart of a father!
But in spite of all our limitations, we've brought a number of ministers to religious freedom rallies and CAUSA conferences. We gave impassioned speeches at "no-nuke" demonstrations and wrote pointed letters-to-the-editor. We collected thousands of signatures and raised thousands of dollars. We witnessed, lectured, argued, prayed. Many times we wondered what we had to show for all our effort. Yet in fact there has been great progress world-wide, and as one family of True Parents we can inherit and participate in these victories.
For two-and-a-half years, Rev. Joong Hyun Pak was regional director in this Northwest Pacific region. Recently Father called him to work in Korea. In Seattle we bade him farewell. The testimonies about our elder brother moved both speakers and listeners to tears. I envy the boldness and sincerity of one sister who made a full bow before him, though she was gently interrupted by him: "Please, for True Parents only..." We all knew the humble circumstances in which his family lived, and how seldom his children have been able to be with him. But when his teenagers visited us, and we spent an evening bowling together, I could see in their beauty the fruit of living the Principle. Through the sacrifice and faithfulness of our elders, we can gain so much of True Parents' heart. I personally feel profoundly thankful to Rev. Pak -- my teacher, my guide, my elder brother, and a man who became above all, my friend!
The Rev. Dr. Allen Reeves has collected hundreds of pictures of his "favorite people." They cover the space in front of his books on the many shelves in his office. I, whom he calls his "guru extraordinaire," have been included in the ranks as well. The books have become increasingly unreachable behind the pictures of the people that represent the treasure of a lifetime of loving service.
I am just a descendant of Dutch dirt farmers from below sea level behind the dikes, but the parental love and discipline I have experienced in God's family have brought me the greatest hope and joy imaginable.
"In the midst of winter, I found that within me was an invincible summer," wrote Albert Camus. All of us who have been on the front line for a number of years have had the opportunity to taste that same summer. Once truly experienced, you wouldn't want to miss it for anything in the world. True, the suffering is real and at times very substantial. But challenges shared victoriously with brothers and sisters make for unbreakable bonds of heart. And this is even more true with God.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, or crying, or pain any more, for the former things have passed away. And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Rev. 21:1-5)
Note: Some names in this article have been changed.