The Words of the Sayoko Family

My Sisters Preceded Me

Nagai Sayoko
August 2007

In a lottery among leaders of Korea's church regions, my church, in the Tobong Borough of Seoul, drew Bolivia as the country our members would go to in order to help with events and the giving of the blessing. After one Sunday service, our church leader motioned to a box on the pulpit that was full of folded scraps of paper and explained that we would have a lottery of our own to decide which of our members would be going to that South American country. After filing up to the front of the church and pulling a paper from the box, I opened it to find that it was one of eight that had a number on it. I took part in this lottery representing my family, so I told my husband, "You got a number! You are one of the people who have to go."

My husband was happy. He would have liked to go, but for financial and other reasons, it seemed better that I go. He was excited about going to Bolivia; I felt more that I had to go than that I wanted to go. As I studied about Bolivia, though, I learned that the people there, like Japanese and Koreans, have the Mongolian spot as babies. I felt that we have the same root, and I wanted to meet them. I learned that Bolivia is the starting point of the Inca civilization. I was interested in that too.

We are from the 6,500-couple blessing group, which was mainly a Korean-Japanese blessing. My husband is the Korean. We have two sons and two daughters. Our boys were at a workshop in Chung Pyung for most of the time I was away; our youngest girl spent much of each day at a preschool. My oldest daughter, who is ten, helped around the house. My husband made rice and did the shopping.

As it turned out, only two members from our church were actually able to go to Bolivia. The other, Tanaka Yoshini, had been my partner years ago for church activity where we each needed to find and bless 160 couples. Soon after we worked together, she and her family moved to Japan. They have only recently come back to Korea, so I have not seen her for a long time.

It was nice, sharing the long flight to South America with Mrs. Tanaka, talking about old times, our families and raising children. We were met by Rev. Shin Myung-ki, who is the Adam-nation national messiah and the La Paz church leader at 5:30 AM at La Paz International Airport, which at 4,000 meters above sea level is the highest airport in the world. We learned that Bolivia had accomplished all its events, but that the underlying spirit of the providence was to bless every person. We would help with that.

They took us to the La Paz church, which True Parents bought. It is a three- story building in an expensive neighborhood. Bolivia has three churches. The focus of the church in La Paz is ambassador for peace activity. The national headquarters is in Cochabamba; there they concentrate on witnessing to young people. The third church is still being built in Santa Cruz. Of the three cities, Santa Cruz has the lowest elevation. Father and Mother both spoke in La Paz during the 1990s. True Mother, Kook-jin nim, Jun-sook nim, Jin-hwa nim and Yeon-sun nim all spoke in Santa Cruz on October 5, 2006.

The church in Santa Cruz will be a place that Father can come to if Bolivians have the opportunity to welcome him to their country again. It is not good for Father's health to have to struggle with the high elevation of La Paz. The elevation makes it very difficult for people who are unused to it, which is nearly everyone except the Bolivians. In La Paz, when walking at my usual speed, the difference in the elevation didn't seem to affect me, but even just walking quickly, I was soon panting.

That first day, we were taken to Lake Titicaca, a large, beautiful lake that straddles Peru and Bolivia. Along the way, we saw many Indian women, who are known as Cholito. They wear very colorful skirts adopted when Bolivia was ruled by Spain. The Bolivian people do look somewhat Asian.

That night six ambassadors for peace came to the church. One was a company president who used to be a provincial governor; one was a university president, another a university professor. There was also an ex-Catholic priest who went to the Chung Pyung Training Center when a large group of religious leaders went there and met Dae-mo nim.

The next day, we flew to Santa Cruz, where we saw the church that is still under construction and a wood veneer business that is doing well, exporting mostly to Mexico. We met the Abel-nation national messiah, Jeremy Jordan, who is British. We also met the Santa Cruz church leader, who is Japanese. He came to Bolivia in the 1990s. In 1994, Father asked for 1,600 Japanese volunteer missionaries. They went and worked in countries around the world. Ten of them came to Bolivia. In December 1996, Father called 4,200 Japanese volunteers to do missionary work exclusively in South America. Of those, 120 came to Bolivia. They have gradually returned to Japan over the last decade. Two Japanese families from those groups have settled in Bolivia.

The following day we went by bus to the church headquarters in Cochabamba. This took ten hours. It's 2,500 meters above sea level, but it is much easier to adjust to the atmosphere there than it was in La Paz.

After Hoon Dok Hae we went to Cochabamba's outdoor market. Later in the day, we were taken to see a gigantic statue of Jesus. In Bolivia, as in all other South American countries, most of the people are Catholic.

Mrs. Tanaka had to go back earlier than I did, so she needed to catch a plane to La Paz and another from there to Korea. I could not see her off. I had a high fever. I went to a doctor, but I still did not feel well. I thought about Father who had had a fever in South America during the speaking tour and about the Japanese women who had volunteered to serve as missionaries here, leaving their families behind. The missionaries from Japan went out while I was living in Korea. I had heard about that providence but it seemed far from me at the time. Even though I was in Bolivia for only a short time, I could imagine their feelings. What I was going through was not similar, but it caused me to think about their sacrificial hearts.

I was sick that day and all of the next day with diarrhea and vomiting, and when Sunday came I attended Sunday service, though I had still not recovered. Bolivia's Eve-nation national messiah, Sagawa Seiichi, gave the sermon. Married couples who received the blessing, perhaps even recently, had also come to hear the message. I was taken to the hospital later that day and put on an IV. Whatever was dripping into my vein was so strong that for a while it blurred my vision, but it completely cured me.

I felt fine the next day when I went with a Bolivian sister to bless people in a nearby park. I carried the holy wine, cups, church pamphlets and some paper in my handbag. The paper was for the Holy Burning Ceremony. People were asked to write whatever is precious to them on the paper, which would later be burned and prayed over in the church. The Bolivian sister spoke about True Parents. We would give the holy wine and the couples would be asked to affirm the blessing vows. I prayed in Korean. It was symbolically successful. The Bolivian people easily accepted the blessing -- only a few Protestants refused -- but it was not the full, formal Blessing Ceremony.

I also spent a day witnessing at a local university campus. I worked with a Bolivian sister. I would greet people in Spanish, and then she would do all the talking. We brought a total of five students back to the church for an introductory lecture. I hope they keep coming. Our church is on the second floor. On the ground floor is a market run by the members. The money made through the market finances the local church activities. At night, I helped out cooking at a hamburger stand there.

As Mrs. Tanaka had done, I flew back to La Paz en route to Korea. The La Paz church leader and her husband, who is Japanese, saw me off at the airport on my homeward journey.

I took with me a very good impression of the Bolivian members. The lives of the young members are a continual training course. They do cycles of forty days of fund raising followed by forty days of witnessing. They pray before they go out each morning. They have an internal goal and an external goal. They work without even resting for a day. I hope they all maintain that level of effort at least until their blessing. 

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