The Words of the Vasmatics Family
Having officially started in 1996, the Albanian movement is quite young. The membership is also young; our so-called elders are just a little over thirty years old.
We have witnessing centers in five university cities. These centers are open every day for members and guests to visit. Full-time members, who are following the formula course, deepening their faith and helping the others who are going that way, live in the centers and run the activities. Other core members come to the centers every day after school and take part in programs. Whenever they can, they join witnessing, fund-raising, lecturing and outreach activities. Young members that have attended the lecture series up to the one on the Second Coming also come regularly; they continue their study of the Divine Principle and its application in daily life.
When guests come, they experience something different from being with their friends, and they long to come back again. The young and joyful spirit touches people. Knowing that someone is there, they do not hesitate to visit the center and learn something. They get the feeling that whenever they knock on our center door, it will be opened. Especially in the beginning, it is true that for most people what brings them back repeatedly is not the lectures but the atmosphere in which the lectures are held.
In Albania, family values are still very much preserved; you can find many families where three generations are living together. From one perspective, this is very good because it protects young people from many modern challenges. On the other hand, some parents have so much authority over their children that their sons and daughters can sometimes feel like prisoners.
Unfortunately, parents often don't know much about our movement. Sometimes, after only hearing about us from others -- who may not know us well -- and without personally visiting to see where their son or daughter is going and what he or she is learning, they simply forbid the child to come to the center. In such a case, it can become very difficult for the guest, who may have been very inspired by the seminars and the older members. Suddenly, the guest faces a crossroad, an apparent conflict between one's family and the church. Many people choose to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their parents, even though inside they feel an extreme desire to go the other way and make a full commitment to the church.
For some reason, the "Isaac" to be offered by many Albanians has been the family, and not everyone, especially if he or she had only attended an initial seminar, has the faith that Abraham demonstrated. Of course, for members who have developed a mature understanding of the Principle, these situations can help them to grow. Enduring persecution as well can help them to understand something of what True Parents have gone through and to feel closer to God.
In order to prevent any misunderstandings from the parental side, it is very good for us to contact parents from the very beginning. We can give them firsthand information about us and even spiritual guidance. Sometimes, by going out with parents just to listen to their concerns and worries and speaking with them about the ideals we have in common, we can help them feel comfortable enough to remove their resistance to their son or daughter coming to the center. Moreover, in this way, they also become spiritually charged and come to understand more about our principles, values and standards. They become supportive.
Recently, a mother came to the center with her son and asked if he could participate in a fifteen-day summer seminar. It was a remarkable experience for us, especially because a few months earlier she hadn't wanted to let her son even come to the center. But after we met them once and then met them again, she shared that she was just worried about where her only son was going. After knowing more about us, she was very sure that this was the best place for him to spend his free time.
In order to defuse misinformation and its consequences, it is incredibly important to be in contact with the parents. Eventually they will hear about us -- and why not from us instead of from their neighbors? That's why we also organize workshops for members' parents, where they can listen to simplified Divine Principle lectures in order to get an idea of what we teach. Moreover, they can also experience a workshop such as their son or daughter would be invited to, and see what their child will experience.
We also invite the mothers of our members to something organized by the Women's Federation on the local level and hold a warm-hearted meeting with them. The greatest achievement is when the parents testify in front of each other about how happy they are that their son or daughter joined the movement. Working with parents has many benefits. We can help each other a lot, sometimes in the most unexpected situations, and we can unite together to find the best way for their child to develop.
Generally the guests are invited to attend lectures in the center and later they can attend different workshops, either on the local or national level. There, they can receive character education or lectures on the Divine Principle. This is the easy part compared to what comes afterwards.
Of course, we take care of them while they are attending the lectures, but after Divine Principle seminars, they need a higher level of care, because as they increasingly understand the truth, the contrast between it and the present world becomes starker.
They come to face different challenges and their own limitations. They may also be moved to witness to their friends and their parents. We need to give to them a lot of love and support, so that they can successfully pass through all these challenges.
After the guests have attended the lecture on the Second Coming, we invite them to attend Sunday services. Through the services and (more advanced) Seminar II lectures, they can better understand the Principle and apply it to their everyday lives. They will understand the essence of Divine Principle more deeply when they begin to teach it and when they try to take care of someone else. Praying and setting conditions for others is the best protection for them and the best way) to feed their own original mind, which is always looking for ways to give to others.
Taking part in outreach activities serves dual purposes. It's both an opportunity to witness to many people and a chance for members to grow very much through beginning to take responsibility. In this way, they feel more that they are an active part of the church, not just sitting somewhere in the back, and it helps them to develop an attitude of ownership. Furthermore, they discover what their talents are, so they can feel valuable and they can do something for the community. They can contribute in their special way to the activities, by preparing a banner, playing music, giving lectures or even cooking.
It is so inspiring to watch members grow. One of the most beautiful moments is when they offer their first full bow to God and True Parents. It is a great feeling, as a spiritual parent, to see a spiritual child offers his or her first representative prayer, or come for the first time to stay overnight in the center or to experience Hoon Dok Hae for the first time. This inspires us to keep witnessing. At the same time, giving life to others keeps our spirit very fresh.
The formula course helps us to develop our character, to get rid of our fallen nature and to grow in heart in order that one day we can reach perfection. Experiencing an active center life is essential for internal development, we feel. It can be compared to how we learn about rice cakes: no matter how much people talk to us about them, no matter how much we read about them, we cannot truly know what rice cakes are like without tasting them for ourselves.
When summer comes and schools are closed, we don't let members become bored. At this time of the year, they have the possibility to attend a fifteen-day seminar. The first week is about Divine Principle, and the second week is about its application. Last year two ambassadors for peace also attended the seminar, and in spite of an age gap, they got along very well with our young members.
After the seminar, the participants can take part in a forty-day mobilization. They are divided into teams and move into different centers where they can experience in reality what they learned theoretically during the seminar. This is an "introduction" to the formula course. Some members become deeply inspired to do longer missions after participating in the mobilization.
All people have the right to follow God. Understanding the fact that we are God's children doesn't lead to our sitting calmly at home. We want to go out. We want to witness. We want to shout it out to the world. The feeling of being proud as a Unificationist helps to attract people. Our inner joy radiates out. It is natural that people want to stay with those who are happy themselves and who can make others happy. Witnessing has so much to do with one's lifestyle. Before the guests come to understand God's truth, they become acquainted with us, who call ourselves God's people. If they are happy with us, they gladly study the teachings that have helped mold our characters. If they see that we are joyful, they will be attracted to us naturally. Everyone is looking for happiness; no one wants to be sad. People go where they feel this desire is being fulfilled.
Besides being happy, people want to be successful. The lives of True Parents and their children testify to how successful you can become if you apply the Principle, if you apply the concept of living for others' sake. When seminar participants -- not only the young ones but also the ambassadors for peace -- see, for example, Global Peace Festival videos, they feel this is something very special that has never been achieved before in history. Hyun-jin nim talks in such a powerful way that it makes an impression even on those who don't understand English.
When we are talking with businessmen, we never fail to mention Kook-jin nim's example. He has proved that in the business sphere, applying the teachings of the Divine Principle will absolutely bring success.
One day I was talking with one mother and when I told her that our international president, Hyung-jin nim, is just twenty-nine years old, she was so happy. She told me society needs young people to take responsibility and take steps to change the world. She said that when old people speak to young people, the young ones think it is just moral education, but when another young person shows the way, they take it more seriously.
Dealing with ambassadors for peace is another level of witnessing. They need a different type of care, but they still need it. The older ones among them who have been in touch with the movement since long ago are really a great help; many of them are dedicated to moving God's providence forward. For me, what's most extraordinary is when they witness to their friends and family members. They speak so freely about True Parents, about the blessing and about all the activities going on around the world. The people listening, having known these ambassadors for peace for twenty or thirty years, have no doubts about what they are being told.
Whether the people in the audience are young or old, members or ambassadors for peace, when they hear this kind of testimony they become very inspired. For example, when we were travelling back from a Divine Principle seminar that we held for ambassadors for peace, one of them talked about what a great experience the fifteen- day seminar was for him. Many of the ambassadors for peace who heard this testimony applied to participate in the seminar this year. Their presence there will help the young members take the seminar more seriously and to dedicate themselves to building Cheon Il Guk.
For the ideal world to be built, we need people from all levels of society; in order for it to be built soon, we need a lot of them. Even though things might be going well and be developing, 2013 is very near, and we should find many of those potential members, parents, ambassadors for peace and any other people who want to make a difference in the world now.
I feel an urge for us to find other ways of witnessing, something which can widen this movement even more. We need to work together in such an inspiring way that when other people see us, whether on the street, in school or at work, they would like to share our beliefs and ideas. It is important to be joyful and to talk warmly, but it is even more important to have a "don't give up" spirit. Sometimes, when we have been witnessing for hours in the most miserable conditions, we find someone about whom we will say not giving up was so worthwhile. When we concentrate on giving life to the extent that we forget everything else, God works miracles. The conditions we set are what allow God to work with us.
Living a public life brings so many blessings from God. Sharing a mission as a couple, working together to fulfill Heavenly Father's will, is an especially great opportunity. Even though other people surround us all the time, this is still the best exercise for our hearts to grow through. Of course, it is often challenging, but there is no development without overcoming difficulties through fulfilling responsibility.
The way we "elders" live, the way we behave, makes a strong impression on younger members. If we set a good example, they can become very inspired, not just about their mission but also about their future family life.
The greatest compliment is when they say they also want to have a marriage where they can enjoy each other's trust and love.
Though God gave us His blessings at the beginning of creation, He is still waiting for us to fulfill them. Let us work together as brothers and sisters and let us build a world of one family under God.