The Words of the Natale Family
In Italy, as probably in many other countries, people misunderstand the real meaning of the word missionary, thinking that it refers just to the work that religious people do in underdeveloped countries.
But the so-called modern and civilized countries are starving for spiritual elements and searching for a deeper relationship with God and with their neighbors: home church is the best system through which we can work as missionaries, bringing a deeper spiritual renewal to all people.
This became my experience during 40 days of pioneering in Latina, a town near Rome. Before departing, I wanted to free myself completely from any ties that might prevent a total devotion to my mission, so I took just a little money and a few of our family magazines to use for fundraising. Inside, however, there were mixed feelings: the desire to begin the new mission was struggling with the doubt that the time might not be right and I should wait a while.
Upon arrival, I began to walk the streets, in order to know the city. I was in constant prayer, searching how to fulfill my mission in the best way. At last, I felt led to an area near the courthouse.
The next day I started to visit families, presenting myself as a Unification Church member and offering to do something for them. Latina is a rather rich town and somewhat conservative from the religious point of view; therefore, I was not surprised when people refused me and my offer to help them. A member of the Unification Church was a potential disturbance to the status quo.
In spite of my care and my hard work, people persisted in closing themselves off from me. That evening, I prayed to God and called on the True Parents, asking what to do. I really wanted to serve those people, but in the situation, I did not know how. They rejected everything I offered, convinced that their way of life, revolving around their individual and family interests, was the only right one and that they needed nothing else.
I decided to clean the streets of the area, as I thought this would be a tangible way to serve, regardless of their refusal; it could demonstrate my deep desire to help them. The streets were rather clean, but along the walls of the houses numerous weeds were growing, so I decided to pull weeds, devoting many evenings to this. I prayed that people could understand my spirit.
The situation continued without change, but I resolved not to give up; I would maintain the right attitude and continue serving with all my heart.
At last, one day the barrier of indifference cracked. One lady who had rejected me many times saw my efforts and approached me, asking why I was working the way I did. What I said impressed her; she thought for a while and then asked me what she could do to help me. This was the first time someone showed a desire to listen to me.
"The most important thing to me now," I replied, "is to meet and talk with the largest number of families living in this area." She agreed and set herself to organizing a meeting.
Ten days later I went to her house, where she had gathered ten families. I spoke to them for a long time about my purpose in coming and about the Principle. My speech met with fairly good interest, even though it is not easy for people to welcome with open arms an unknown person who is saying something new. Afterwards, the lady invited me to return when her husband was home. When I met him later, I spoke about my experience and about the message I was bringing; but when he found out I didn't belong to his church, he began to discredit my actions and accuse me of being a heretic. His categorical rejection closed the door to further discussion.
I felt strongly, however, that I had not come to Latina just to convince people to join our church but to bring 4 people to God. God doesn't belong to any church; He belongs to the individuals and to the families who put into practice His will and His way of life.
Being alone and having only 40 days, I felt I could not carry out any large- scale project and that the best way to serve was to continue cleaning my area. I had a strong desire for people to accept what I was doing, and the more I prayed the more I felt the urgency to reach that goal. Sometimes this feeling kept me from sleeping, so I would keep on cleaning until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
Once, a man who had called me a heretic approached me, stood by me in silence for a while, and finally said, "Pardon me; sometimes in our hearts wrong feelings can arise. Now I understand that you are doing this because of love." It was a great little victory, but not enough; almost all the families still rejected me.
Therefore, I decided to offer my services in a Vietnamese refugee camp. In the beginning I washed dishes, cleaned the floor and anything else I could. But even there I found a barrier of distrust that I could not break down. In fact, in spite of my unselfish attitude, the refugees looked at me with suspicion. Their terrible experiences did not encourage them to establish warm relationships with stranger; it was very difficult for me to move those people who were isolating themselves from me.
In my prayers, however, I asked Heavenly Father to help me to love them, pleading with Him to push them to accept me, so that we could build a group of people who could love each other.
At first, many refugees refused even to lend me a broom. But after a week of service and prayer until late at night, I noticed that their hostility was beginning to disappear. According to what they told me later, they began to wonder about my motivation. "Why is he doing this?" They would ask each other. "He doesn't even want anything in return." The eighth day I was there, I plucked up my courage and, knowing their curiosity, I approached one group who was watching me, introducing myself. Eventually, they began to accept me.
Once I had been accepted by the refugees, some of the managers of the camp began speaking well of me to their neighbors and friends, some of which lived right in my area: this at last was the beginning of a larger acceptance.
Now that the area was beginning to accept me, I could begin to think about the second part of my schedule: to find a family where I could live and give direct service. So I found Gastone, a 35-year-old worker, ex-communist, living alone. When I went to his house, Gastone had been leading the lonely and gray life of a worker for a long time. He had found strength and trust through prayer and leading a personal religious life. I almost wept for joy, because at last I could find someone who gave me hospitality.
But soon I realized that the most difficult times were still to come. Some time after coming to live at Gastone's, our relationship became difficult. It is not easy to live together with someone else, especially when he or she does not share completely your ideas. So, even though we were living together, praying and eating together, many misunderstandings began to arise.
I had gone there with a good purpose, but in my heart I was beginning to dislike Gastone. He belonged to a Catholic church that was conducting spiritual research. Also, because of his lonely character, he was in the habit of staying at home and praying. But I couldn't bear such behavior. I was an open person, while Gastone was very reserved; he didn't speak very much and did not care for others' interests and needs.
I became tired of his indifference and one day I burst out, "Why do you always live alone, not caring for anyone but yourself? Do you always have to seek God by yourself? God is not available in this way; the world is the place where you can find God!"
We had a long dispute broken by a sentence which made me reflect, "Who assures you that you possess God? What are you really doing that shows God is with you?" I didn't reply; I understood my mistake.
I had been behaving towards Gastone like a tenant; I just helped him with the housework, not dealing with my wrong feelings, not praying for him or serving him in the true way. The atmosphere was silent for a while, and Gastone became gloomy.
After a while, I stood up, went to the bathroom and cleaned it, and then began washing dishes. When Gastone saw what I was doing, he came into the kitchen and began to help me, smiling.
We burst out laughing, and for the first time, I asked him to pray together with me, feeling a real desire to do so. We had prayed together many times before, but there were always divisions between us and we could not feel God's presence.
Finally, on that occasion, we prayed, and God could revive our spirits.
From that moment on, we became real friends.
Gastone understood the importance of relating with people in order to deepen his relationship to God, as a result of this experience; and I became more patient and caring towards others. Gastone began to cooperate with me in various ways, and I could start teaching Principle to other families too.
When the 40 days were over, I had the opportunity to remain in Latina and continue my missionary activities, opening a new center where I was soon joined by some other members.