The Words of the Shimoyama Family
While I was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, I was a communist and a radical feminist, very anti-religious, and particularly anti-Christian. I had often argued with the Unification Church members who were witnessing on campus. Then one week in February, 1974, this big group of “Christians” came to campus, carrying placards with the face of their minister on it (Reverend Moon). They were giving tickets to a speech he would give that night. Despite my adamant opposition to these people all throughout the day, right before I left the campus that night, a young Japanese man approached me, thrust a ticket at me, and said, “You should come!”
He spoke no other English, so I couldn’t argue. But the thought occurred to me, “I SHOULD go!” I suddenly wanted to go. I justified it by saying to myself I would go there to stop the speech. And I did go, and yelled a bit. I discovered that a lot of other kids at Berkeley had decided to do the same thing: to go and yell. Halfway through the speech, in a lull in the speech, I found a chance to ask a question to Reverend Moon that really expressed my question to God, maybe the seed or core of my resentment. I yelled out in a brief silence, “Why is God a He?” This short question embodied all my other questions, such as: Why is this a man’s world?
Why do women get raped? Why do women sacrifice to put their husbands through college, only to be divorced by them? Why do men make more money, build the space rockets, historically receive more education, and found all the religions and philosophies? And so on. For the rest of the speech, the translator, Dr. Pak, began translating each pronoun referring to God as “He or She.” I was kind of dumbfounded and embarrassed to hear how it actually sounded from the stage. And I was humbled. They were so much nicer than I, or any of us, were.
I sat down. (I’d been standing, so that gives you an idea of the atmosphere at the speech.) Actually, I think the entire audience quieted after that, but I know that I for one sat down and started listening. I felt chastened by love and humility. I listened, and to my great surprise, joy and dismay, my heart changed. I listened to the remainder of the speech, and I realized that everything Rev. Moon was saying was true: that there is no joy in life without family, that true love is the source of all our happiness, etc. I had been going in the direction of radical feminism and Marxism/Leninism for three years, atheism for eight. I realized that what he was saying was true, and that he was a true man. I didn’t believe in God, but I felt that what he was saying about love was true, and that he embodied it. I had a vision of him, like Jesus, sitting by the Sea of Galilee, speaking to his followers while broiling fish they had just caught. I wanted to be there, sitting beside him. I wanted to be his first true follower. I wanted to convince him there was no God, and then change the world together.
I went out of the speech flying so high, so thrilled and happy. I stayed up all night studying in the 24- hour study halls they had at the school, like a ball of energy, planning to save the world with this great new man. I can remember that night in the study hall so well. A whole new universe of possibilities was spreading out before me. For so long I had wanted to change the world. Now I knew we would change it through true love.
About three months later, at the end of April, I was invited again, for the hundredth time, to the Unification Church center. This time I went. I listened to the lectures and felt that everything they were saying was true (except the part about God). I agreed that we needed more morality and more love, that Jesus' heart had been broken, and I joined the Church. Only later, when I went into the Church prayer room and saw the picture of Reverend and Mrs. Moon, did I realize that it was the same group that I had met at the speech in Eshelman Hall in February. I had met the Christ. And I had the biggest job in front of me that I would ever confront: changing myself and my character from one who was set to destroy the world to one who would try to rebuild it.
That’s my story of Father Moon. Ever since then, I’ve felt that he is walking with me, talking with me -- the girl he snatched out of the flames of Berkeley. I’m profoundly grateful to him from the bottom of my heart and will be forever.
I had almost completely forgotten about that 1974 experience, blocked it out, I think, and always told my story as just how I met and joined the Oakland church center. Then a few years ago, when I had to dig to the bottom of my guts in prayer and tears to re-find why I was here, I remembered how I had really met Father. I saw myself in that crowd, dredging out a memory that I hadn’t thought of for almost thirty years. I suddenly realized that I had directly confronted Father in a crowd and yelled at him personally, and he had answered me. And he loved me.
We had had direct one-on-one give and take. I had gone there to stop him, to kill him actually. I was VERY radical, and wouldn’t have stopped short of that, in a certain sense, in terms of my ideology.
With shock, in my prayer, I suddenly realized that once I had been that person in relation to Father. He had taken me in, into the bottom of his heart, and turned me around in the course of ninety minutes. I prayed and cried and looked at his picture, and said to Father (in the picture), “Do you remember me?” And I felt him say back, clear as day, “I do remember you!” It almost knocked my socks off! Here I had always felt like just a face in a crowd, one of many thousands of church members.
In that moment in prayer, I realized that maybe God, and Father did remember me, someone who had gone to his speech dying, and in a way, planning to kill him, physically or spiritually. Yet he had won me through his prayers, maybe prayers going back to the rock of tears*, for American young people who were so lost, so loud and noisy, but so sad and afraid, and crying tears for a God whom they had lost. I was one tiny, noisy, ugly unlovable fish he had caught that night in Berkeley. Though my way had been long and winding, he was still pulling me along.
That prayer was the second time he saved my life, and my second new spiritual life began then. I truly realized Father is the messiah, and the one who saved me. He is my personal messiah. I feel as if he is my spiritual parent, as clearly as if he put a line in the water and pulled me up. Because he was able to love me -- all of us that night -- he saved my life. That is how he will save all of us unloved Americans, who nevertheless retain the ability to see a bright light shining at the end of a tunnel, and to follow it.
It may be a little hard to understand how someone such as I, who was so far on the side of communism, could change so quickly. It was because of my youth. When I was young, I had been deeply religious, but then I lost that faith. But when I went as deeply into communism as I could go, what I found was that there was no love. I realized that without love, wherever we went and whatever we did, we would just recreate all the problems that we were trying to solve. We would make an “icebox” world. I had come to the conclusion that because of this fundamental problem in communism, it could never save the world. So when I met Father, and later the movement through the Oakland Church, I realized that they had the key. I thought I would just have to convince them there was no God. It was very simple. Then we’d take their love and spread it all over the world. It took me a while to realize that God was the source of that love.
Valerie Shimoyama joined the Unification Church in 1974. She was on a Mobile Fundraising Team (MFT) for five years, first in Los Angeles, then in the Chicago region (Michigan, Wisconsin, and later Ohio). She graduated to the Richmond, Virginia witnessing center in 1979, and was chosen by Father to work at the Washington Times, from 1982 to 1986.
She joined her husband at New Future Films in 1986 and worked for the business end of that department from that time until approximately 1999.
From that time, she began helping the Clifton, New Jersey Church Center as office support. She is now taking classes at the Unification Theological Seminary Extension in New York. She is also an Ambassador for Peace for America for the New York region.
Mrs. Shimoyama is the wife of Hiromichi Shimoyama, and the mother of three children, Tokuhiro, Karin and Marina.
The “rock of tears” refers to a rock on a steep hillside in Pusan, South Korea, where Reverend Moon spent many hours in tearful prayer in the first months following his liberation from the North Korean prison camp at Heung Nam. The rock stood just a few yards above a hut that he and a disciple built in Pusan after their arrival there as refugees.