The Words of the Saarna Family

Talking the Talk, Walking the Walk, and Running the Run at Jr. STF Workshop

Chris Saarna
February 16, 2009

Close to 100 youth and staff attended the West-Coast Jr. STF second annual regional workshop at the Bay Area Family Church in San Leandro, California, from February 14th to February 16th. The theme of this workshop, was “Owning the Culture of Heart”. Under the theme, participants received guidance and training in building a spirit and culture of true love through becoming individuals who can unconditionally give true love to others.

Established in around 20 communities throughout the nation, Jr. STF is one of the main programs of the FFWPU Youth Education Department, specializing in leadership training for our middle-and high-school youth.

Participants drove long distances: from Washington State, Oregon and all over California. By the time we had arrived, everyone was exhausted. The workshop then began several hours later. Despite the lack of sleep, most of the Jr. STF participants were very eager at the start of the workshop.

On the first day, participants received lectures and internal guidance. Sunmee Holmes, a Los Angeles Field Educator, gave the “Principles of Creation” lecture and explained about the growing process to become children having a culture of heart. The second internal guidance was given by Bay Area Field Educator Chris Brown, addressing what it means to be blessed children creating blessed families while seeking to own the culture of heart. Internal guidance also was given by Kimikami Miyake, who spoke about connecting to and inheriting the “culture of our True Family.”

Also on the first day, there were short presentations on core values given by Jr. STF members who have started leadership training and an activity putting the core values into practice by creating a short movie about the culture of heart. In the activity, team leaders purposely did not help, so teams had to take a lot of ownership in making these movies and also practice teamwork while filming and acting.

The next day was full of many amazing and challenging activities. First thing in the morning was the long-awaited Challenge Run, an activity in which Jr. STF candidates (youth who were just recently introduced to the program) challenged themselves to run long distances with an internal spiritual motive. Despite the cold and drizzly day, each candidate determined to strive for his or her goal during the run. It was not an easy task, but, because of each person’s investment and dedication, the greater team goal was achieved within the last few minutes of the run!

At the same time, Jr. STF members participated in a series of intense and challenging volleyball training exercises. They practiced various volleyball drills and gave all their hearts into encouraging each other and making extra effort by, for example, diving to save the ball. Afterwards, we could see that the members really gave it their all even though they were tired and cold. Through giving their all, they were setting positive spiritual conditions for the candidates engaged in the Challenge Run.

After investing their hearts in these activities, the Jr. STF members were able to refresh themselves by enjoying a nice hot shower, a change of clothes, and a relaxing swim at a pool in the local community center.

In the evening, candidates took a test on the Principles of Creation, and Jr. STF members had a Divine Principle lecture competition. Afterwards, several of them were asked to present their lectures in front of the entire workshop. They did an impressive job of presenting insightful and comprehensive lectures to all of the candidates. We closed the day by watching each of the inspiring short movies the groups had made and listening to testimonies from many of the participants.

On the final day, Kimikami Miyake once again gave parting guidance about building the culture of heart in our own families and communities when we go home and capped it off by showing beautiful pictures of True Parents’ birthday celebration and the Blessing ceremony in New York. Finally, the workshop concluded with the promotion ceremony, in which nine of fifty candidates were promoted to Jr. STF membership training, and with short testimonies from some of the Field Educators.

All in all, it was an awesome workshop experience, and all the Jr. STF members from each region expressed their appreciation for participating in the workshop. Many of the kids were also uplifted by the Jr. STF spirit and culture and wanted to return home to share that with friends in their communities. It was a great experience for everyone involved, and each person felt God’s presence and love for them during the workshop.

Testimonies from workshop participants:

“I gained a new perspective on challenge and determination. The only way I can ever grow is if I push through my preconceived limitations. I want to continue to push and strive for whatever I want. I’m not going to settle for nothing: I heard someone say, ‘Nothing is easy, but who wants nothing?’ NO MORE PROCRASTINATION!”
Shannon R., Los Angeles

“My highlight was the volleyball training because I experienced ownership. The day before, I actually gave a small talk on ownership; I believe it to mean making something your own. The more you invest in something, the more you get from it/out of it. When you take ownership over your experience, it’s not just making your experience great, but it creates a wonderful experience for those around you and those you're working with. Ownership at the core is not individual at all; it’s not about making yourself the greatest and the best but it’s kind of like making yourself strong and great for the sake of the whole. I was glad that my contribution of ownership allowed us to have a successful volleyball challenge.”
Yuka Y., Seattle

“My highlight for the workshop was the volleyball training. The volleyball training made me realize that warmth comes in many ways. Whenever I encouraged a teammate, or another volleyball player, and I yelled it out as loud as I could, I remember being warm internally. Inside I felt happy.”
Jennifer P., Los Angeles

“The highlight of the workshop was the run. Even though it was very difficult and challenging, I got so much value from it, and I think I got closer to God just by talking to him and feeling that he was supporting me the whole time through my friends. In the end I also felt God through seeing everyone doing their best and striving to make their internal and external goals. Also this experience made me understand more about how much True Parents, especially True Father, went through. The run was WORTH IT!” - Rebecca M., Bay Area

“The run taught me to keep enduring and to not compare my speed to others because everyone is at their own level and is trying their best, which is what counts... I am determined to strengthen my relationship with God every day and to not let my mistakes burden me.”
Donald B., Bay Area

“In this 2nd Jr. STF workshop I had already run so I didn’t have many challenges or deep experiences with God in that. Instead I did a lot of helping with people studying for the test. I went around going to people if they needed questions of any kind.”
Toshiaki Y., Seattle

“Determinations: I want to work hard and make the effort to feel God in my everyday life, not just when I’m praying but also during school and when I’m with my friends. I also want to study the Divine Principle more to get to know God’s and True Parents’ words because there are parts that I do not truly understand. I also want to talk to God on a deeper level, instead of just reporting to him about my day.”
Hitomi F., Los Angeles

“I want to thank God for everything he has given me. I don’t want to be negative, but optimistic and not giving up. I want to witness, maybe naturally witness, to people, and I want to recruit more blessed children into Jr. STF.”
Sarah M., Bay Area

“I gained a deeper relationship with God and built my faith further; I understand why my faith must be mine and not just a reflection of my parents'...This has been an amazing thing in my life, and I think everyone should have the chance to experience it.”
Johanna F., Bay Area

Written by Chris Saarna, Los Angeles Jr. STF Field Educator 

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