The Words of the Wealer Family
I was very happy and grateful when I went abroad to my first mission country, the Bahamas. Always I had longed to serve in an underdeveloped country and that had been one of my plans even long before the family.
But after I joined I gave up this idea and I never imagined that it would come true the way it did after four years with the German family.
I began the foreign mission with much enthusiasm and optimism, thinking how wonderful it would be to serve together with a Japanese and an American in a less fortunate country. But the task of uniting three extremely different people in a foreign environment very quickly brought me back to the reality of what restoration is all about: a much more difficult task than I had ever imagined.
I know Heavenly Father wanted us to learn to love our missionary brothers and sisters so that we, as fathers of faith, could give spiritual life to our nations.
But how many obstacles inside ourselves had to be overcome to fulfill Heavenly Father's hope for us! It demanded from us not to be attached to our past lives in our respective national families, but to be very open toward the other missionaries.
When we began in 1975 we were not always able to do that and each one of us was a little bit stubborn. Besides our individual, personal habits, all of us had strong convictions how we should follow Divine Principle in our daily lives and how we should begin our active mission work. We had a German, a Japanese and an American "restoration plan" for our mission in our minds.
The clashes of those preconceptions were very often painful and really became a hindrance for the fulfillment of our mission. Now I feel deeply repentful for all the unnecessary hurts we gave to each other and to our mission country. I feel ashamed that I went as a foreign missionary to represent our True Parents, having been so ignorant of our Father's heart. I couldn't love my fellow missionaries the way I should have and I didn't know how to love the people of my country. Father gave us such a great task to lay an important foundation for the worldwide restoration, and with such ignorant and poor-hearted people he had to do it! When I think of Jesus having to gather all the poor in spirit to be the foundation for his church, I feel our Father's situation is so similar.
For the first three years I had to lay my personal foundation in the discipleship of our Father through endless spiritual conflicts, occasionally being on the verge of collapse. It was only God's constant support that sustained me through all my struggles. Sometimes I wanted to give up, but somehow He held my hand and didn't let go. During these five years I have had nothing to be proud of; I can only be grateful for Heavenly Father's never-ceasing companionship and the supporting prayers of our True Parents and all the brothers and sisters around the world. I know deeply in my heart that without those prayers I would have failed bitterly. I will always be indebted for all I received during the five years of overseas mission, and I hope that the seeds we planted in the people who met us will finally bear fruits for our True Parents.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love, I become as a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." (I Cor. 13:1)
In the beginning of our mission work (1975-1976), I often asked myself why God had put the American, Japanese and German missionaries together, because it seemed impossible for our individual characters to create harmony. We were so extremely different and our experiences in Japan, America and Germany had been very different. I couldn't understand why God had given us such a difficult task, and in my heart
I didn't really accept it as part of my responsibility to build this harmony. I still felt like a child and since the American and the Japanese were older and already blessed I expected them to be responsible for our unity I knew I was supposed to love my American sister and Japanese brother, but when the obstacles first came, I had no idea how to practice love or how to overcome the barriers. It seemed a job just too big and heavy for me, and I gave up before I ever really tried.
When we began to work actively we were still relatively united. All of us were anxious to explore our island. We shared many excursions trying to see places and meet people, getting to know everything. Then little by little our different opinions began to grow. We should have clarified them right away as they came up. Instead of communicating freely about every question, we kept a certain isolation from each other. Slowly misunderstandings accumulated and accusations began to creep into our hearts, poisoning our relationships.
The clashes of our different concepts of how to live and how to work were often so painful. We didn't scream at each other, but even without words our motions were so strong and penetrated into the most sensitive parts of our hearts. Now I can understand all the unnecessary misery we gave to each other. We made so little effort to come closer, under- stand, appreciate and finally love one another. Through all the unresolved misunderstandings we built up such walls that in our last months together we spoke only necessary things to each other. So many deep, negative feelings divided us and we were standing helplessly before them.
I am sure all of us three missionaries in the Bahamas were so lonely. Nobody shared the worries of the other with a compassionate heart. We were simply incapable of overcoming our resentments, pains and accusations. We demanded parental compassion from each other, but we couldn't offer it to each other. A sincere "Forgive me" was rarely heard in our center.
Our Japanese brother was rather withdrawn into himself.
He had the greatest problem among us with the language and with the foreign culture. Our relationship was one of politeness; kind, but rather superficial. We had no great problems, but there was little support or encouragement either. Even though he externally participated in our witnessing activities, it was hard for him to speak with us or with others deeply. Since I didn't have such language problems, many times I ignored him and his struggles. I was too busy with myself, and out of my self-centeredness I had no room in my mind to worry about him.
The American sister and I spent more time together; at least we spoke each other's language. But both of us had great prejudices against the other's nationality and often we hit one another with nagging remarks about "Those Americans" and "These Germans." We were seeing each other with glasses tinted by nationalistic dislike.
I knew that sometimes I should say something good about America in order to appreciate her, but since she talked all the time about how great America was, I felt it was not necessary to tell her that even more. Now I understand that she talked so much about America's greatness in order to protect herself, because I never admitted that the U.S. did anything good. The way to help the situation was not to deny her my appreciation of America, but to give it to her. But then I didn't understand that, and I was too hurt by her to even want to give it to her.
It was not easy to love someone who was criticizing my country, my people and our family there.
I felt rejected as a German and as a person. My heart was still too immature and insecure to bear that and still be able to forgive and to love. Because of my weakness, instead of trying to overcome this pain, I withdrew. I began to separate myself from the American sister and avoided being with her.
Usually we all met in the morning for prayer and for breakfast, and then we parted. For lunch and dinner we met again briefly and the rest of the day we mostly went our own ways. Only sometimes we visited someone together or went shopping together. During that year we had one brother living in the center and I felt ashamed in front of him because we gave him such a miserable example. Every time I said to someone that we were the Unification Church I felt like a liar, because we were so disunited.
The year in the Bahamas was a dark time for me. I needed someone to give me some advice and some encouragement about how to handle our relationships in the center, but there was nobody to give that. There was nobody to turn to for help. No united headquarters was established yet and from Germany only very general advice came. Many times I walked around the city screaming inside for some love, for someone who would understand. But of course there was nobody. It seemed as if the whole world had abandoned us. Of course, to any native person, how could I possibly complain about my fellow missionaries and then invite them to a lecture about how to unite mankind? So I had to keep it all inside.
One source of comfort I found was in creation. I searched for the places at the beach or in the parks where I could be alone and undisturbed. I sat and watched the waves or the trees, trying to find peace inside myself. I collected shells and through their beauty I tried to lift up my heart. There I could talk to God and even cry; Heavenly Father must have seen a helpless child -- confused and not knowing what to do. Divine Principle was true and a wonderful principle, but how to make it work in our family I couldn't see. My eyes were so blind and my heart so closed to the simple recipe of unselfish, sacrificial service.
When I returned to our center in the evening and was confronted with the question, "What did you do today?" all the shame, fear and agony were there again. All the temporary internal peace from creation was gone instantly. I tried to pray, but it seemed many times as if my prayers didn't reach Heavenly Father. I had the answer to our problem all around me and I lectured it regularly, but in my heart I couldn't under- stand. I couldn't serve my American sister. She must have suffered also very much because of that.
Actually, she tried very hard to witness and she brought many people to our center, but my support of her efforts was only external and often reluctant. I never praised her for her hard work in witnessing. I was more hesitant and fearful of my internal struggles. I tried to talk to people, but I was not dynamic enough and had no real spiritual power.
We had rather different ideas about how to do our restoration work; whether to start with top-level people right away or with the ordinary people first. Often we disagreed about this point, but we never tried to unite our efforts in one common method. Each just did according to his own idea. That divided our family and I believe this to be the internal reason that we finally had to leave our country. Sometimes our discussions about these different viewpoints became more dramatic, but without reconciliation in the end. Then at night we went to bed without saying "Good night." to each other.
After six months in the foreign mission the wave of negative articles in the American press also reached the Bahamas and affected our mission. We had applied for missionary work permits and we were afraid that those might be refused because of negative media influence. We began a big public relations campaign among government officials and church leaders to win support for our visas. The fear of losing our mission made us unite more closely; we prayed more together, and everybody contributed to convince people of the goodness of our movement. It was an intense battle. In our hearts each one of us was so desperate to be able to stay in our country; we wanted to do anything to save our mission -- or nearly anything except serving and forgiving each other. Even though we worked together, inside our hearts we held each other responsible for the failure of our mission.
Despite all our external efforts to succeed, internally Satan had defeated us already. Instead of leaving behind our personal differences, the persecution from the outside brought more tension among us missionaries. We made the mistake of thinking that the way to victory was to have other people unite with us, instead of us uniting with each other.
Sometimes we realized this and carefully talked about our feelings and problems. But Satan had hurt us too deeply already and the wounds wouldn't heal. The walls between us were too high to break them down without a mediator -- whom we didn't have. Accusations and resentments came up again and again. I had little hope that we would win this battle to obtain our work permits, and I was not surprised when we were finally asked to leave the country. If the Divine Principle were true, it was impossible to win an external victory without an internal victory, and I knew that we had failed to accomplish that. For me there was no doubt about how much we missionaries ourselves were responsible for failing our mission. I felt so absolutely incapable of doing this work for our True Parents, and it was so painful that we couldn't give them more.
With this feeling of deepest repentance and the desire to do better, I began a new mission in Latin America, since it was not possible to return to the Bahamas. I was spiritually weakened from the exhausting battles, but still there was some hope in my heart that it would be better this time. I couldn't give our Heavenly Father another disappointment like that -- and it would have shattered me completely too.
My new country also had had a similar history of failure in achieving unity. I was the third German missionary there -- the one before me had not endured the challenge of uniting with the other missionaries and had left several months before I came. The American sister had become sick and had returned temporarily to the United States. When I arrived in September 1976, there was only the original Japanese missionary with two members.
I still had so many struggles with myself and was not used to paying much attention to the Japanese missionary, so I spent more time with the native sisters than with him. He had established a certain pattern in the center and when I tried to change something, he protested.
The center looked cold and dirty, and he didn't quite appreciate my German sense of cleanliness. Beauty was an unnecessary luxury. Since we didn't have mats or rugs, he used to put our towels on the floor for praying, and afterwards he used them also to dry his face. When I bought my own towel (without using it for prayer!) he thought it was extravagant.
For some reason which he never explained to me, he wanted to return to Japan, and after one month he left. We never got very close. By the end of 1976, the family made a new beginning with three new missionaries.
Amazingly, the combination of us missionaries was similar to the one in the Bahamas: the same Japanese brother and an American sister who resembled the sister in the Bahamas in some ways. It was truly an opportunity for restitution and I took it as such.
Many parallel situations occurred, and our relationships were not so different from the Bahamas. Only one thing was different: all of us had a new, deep determination not to fail again! We were willing to make all the necessary internal efforts to create harmony in our center. God blessed our efforts more than I expected, and finally He could give us the oneness each of us had longed for.
We went through the same process of being misunderstood, hurt, accused, neglected and resented as in the Bahamas, but this time we didn't stop at this initial stage. We wanted to take up the battle against Satan, and we fought it out. During the first year together we spent a great portion of our time discussing our personal situations, feelings and ideas; we truly shared our hearts. I can't count how many times one of us said, "Let's sit down and talk." Hours and hours we sat at the small dining table in our center, trying to understand each other. Sometimes we shouted at each other or one of us would leave the center for a few hours, upset. Sometimes it took days before we finally re-established peace, but we never surrendered to defeat.
It was difficult to speak to each other openly about our resentments, fears, worries and struggles, but through them the walls between us began to tumble. We began to see our true selves, breaking down some of the barriers of nationality and personality. We also had very different characters, even extremely opposite ones, and it was not easy to appreciate each other. Because of our limited freedom to witness, we had some free time. My American sister filled it with reading books, while I was out of the house running around somewhere, often close to nature. But we managed to share: she her philosophical or psychological discoveries and I my love for the beauty in nature -- and it was enriching for both of us!
It took over one year for us to feel united in understanding each other's hearts, respecting our cultural differences and sharing some warm, loving feelings. It was worth every minute of struggle. It's a constant process, and I'm still right in the middle of it, but for what we have learned -- with and through each other -- we are eternally inseparable. There is a heartistic bond between us that goes beyond our old limitations, and for that treasure I will always be grateful.
Here we never faced open persecution, because we worked carefully and selected the people whom we invited to the lectures through much prayer. Conditions didn't permit us to witness openly, and our activities were rather limited. Instead of being outwardly spiritual, we focused more on our center life. That challenged us missionaries on a deep, personal level. When you are running around busily all day long, there is not so much time for reflection, and often your deepest fallen nature remains unexposed. But when you can't be active and there is more opportunity to meditate, unexpectedly, hidden aspects of your nature (original and fallen nature) may surface, which you had never discovered before. Often I was surprised about myself: "Is that really me? I never thought I was that way!"
The limitations of not talking freely about the Divine Principle also reflected in our relationships to each other. Many times we felt so frustrated, and naturally, when you feel unhappy about something, it is harder to be patient, kind and serving. But we were aware that this was not True Father's ideal. External limitations should not hamper our relationships with brothers and sisters. We always tried to keep a positive mind and to find joy and gratitude in all that we could do. It was not easy, and often I fell back into the complaining spirit because of having to work so carefully.
We had learned that only internal unity was the key to break through the barriers of external circumstances, and in fact, little by little, the situation changed so that we can work completely freely now. I cannot say that we went through less internal struggles than in the Bahamas, but we didn't give up our common effort for the mission, and we sincerely supported each other, aside from all the differences. Our American sister here was also more dynamic and initiating, and her insistence on mutual agreement and open discussion helped us not to become divided. Even though we passed through days of hurt and resentment, our hearts developed towards each other, and we tried to forgive the old mistakes and appreciate the good in the other.
After two years together, we had won some internal victory, and on that foundation, we could make a significant step toward the legalization of HSA-UWC. It will still take more efforts to understand and accept one another in all aspects, but I think we have found the secret to achieve that: to express your heart freely to each other, then re-examine yourself and with God's help improve your own attitudes and motivations. It's a deep struggle, but I know nothing more worthwhile. It's painful because it brings all our sins to the light, but it frees us from our fallen nature and gives us the freedom of happiness as God's children and helps us liberate others also.
"Behold, I will send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves." (Matt. 10:16)
In Germany, I had never spoken with a black person, not to think of living with one. In the Bahamas I was surrounded by them, and I must say it frightened me in the beginning. I was always nervous around them and could not relax, because I worried that they might feel some racial prejudice from me. Black people are spiritually perceptive and quickly sense the uneasiness one feels towards them. In Germany we had been warned to watch out for the native men in our countries, because they might get interested in us as girls only. So I always looked at Bahamian men skeptically, and when they felt that, they were hurt by my distrust. I was absolutely ignorant and unaware of black people's mentality. I had no idea how to win their trust and still be respected as a missionary by them.
Today, I think that I was so occupied with the internal problems in our center that I never made a full effort to understand the native people; to see their good aspects and their weaknesses and to adjust my living and working standards to them. On a vague but strong emotional level I felt one with the people and sincerely loved them. After a year, I even forgot that they looked different from me and felt as one of them.
Until now, I feel fond of many people who came to our center.
And yet, basically I looked at them with German eyes and judged them and their way of life according to my standards.
Many times I felt disappointed by the people. But it was natural, because I expected from them what I would have expected from a German, and they simply were not Germans. It took me one year to learn that I had to change, not them. For example, giving a boy much personal attention resulted without fail in him falling in love with me. When I noticed that, I always felt disappointed that they couldn't see beyond the very personal level what I really wanted to give them -- something so much greater than my own little love. Simple brother/sister relationships are nearly unknown in the Caribbean, and I only learned after too many mistakes that I couldn't treat a Bahamian boy like a German boy.
Another example: Punctuality is a great quality in Germany, because it shows reliability and reliability is one of the highest respected attributes a person can have. But neither punctuality nor reliability have any meaning for the Caribbean people; we spent countless hours waiting for people who had promised to visit us. If a plumber tells you that he will come tomorrow at 9 a.m. to take care of something in the house, one simply doesn't expect that he will show up at the appointed time. Receive him gratefully whenever he comes ... at least he came! I should have tried to accept the people the way they were, but I allowed such experiences to make me look down upon them. I'm sure I made people feel that way, and I believe that this was an emotional barrier hindering them from opening their hearts to us.
My relationship to God during that year was more one of obedience than love, and True Parents were my Messiah and Lord, but not my loving parents. Even though I felt absolutely loyal to Father, I could not receive much of his love, and he still seemed distant to me.
I saw how Satan used the people of my mission country, taking advantage of my internal weakness to pull me away from God. That made me even more hesitant and careful toward the people in order to protect myself. Father could still love those who persecuted him, but my love was not big enough yet. Nevertheless, Satan could never overshadow my knowledge of the Messiah's presence on earth, and that sustained me; the awareness of the reality of our True Parents was my lifesaver in many difficult moments. Even though I did not feel such a close, heartistic unity with our True Parents at that time. I knew clearly who they were and that there was no other way for me except to follow them.
Reflecting now about my time in the Bahamas, I see that I actually did not really unite with the society. I never became like a Bahamian, and even though I put on the native garb to look like one of them, I didn't adopt their way of life or their heart.
At Christmas time a special, colorful parade is held in the city. Everybody puts on a costume and marches and dances with the parade. Our native members wanted to form a little group to participate in the parade, and they wanted to do it with us missionaries. But I was too embarrassed and felt too strange jumping around on the streets with them. Our members would have been proud of us, and it would have been a demonstration of our unity with the country, that we really loved them the way they were. But my shame didn't let me mix with the crowd -- I remained an onlooker.
I had a similar attitude toward the Christian churches. The Bahamas is a very Christian nation, but they serve God in a different way than we do in Germany. Sunday services in Germany are very quiet; nobody dares to raise his voice, and everything is formal. But the Bahamian churches are just the opposite. The services are dynamic and the congregation participates actively with clapping hands during the chorals and with repeated exclamations of "amen" and "praise the Lord." The preacher shouts his sermon in a very expressive manner, and the more loud and dramatic he is, the better his sermon is received. It was hard for me to feel comfortable in these Christian communities. Even though externally I went along, internally I couldn't respect their way of worshipping God. I didn't see their national character as something they had received as part of God's unlimited and unique nature.
But many Christians received us very warmly and accepted us as their brothers and sisters in God -- their welcome without reservation often moved me very deeply. Generally, people were very warm-hearted, hospitable and generous, and many times we were invited into our friends' homes. Their openness to share with us to make friends touched me, because Germans are rather reserved and our hospitality is not at all so generous. For their big, kind and open hearts, I loved the Bahamians very much and until today I feel close to many of our old contacts. From that experience, I feel that the more closed-hearted European countries could learn a great deal.
Latin America was only in some aspects different from the Bahamas, because it had Spanish influence instead of English. Basically, the standard of values was similar in both countries. Here I didn't have a big language problem, since our center members spoke fluent English, and after spending the first three months studying Spanish, I had base for communication. Of course, my imperfect Spanish caused many funny (or sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, but most of the time people enjoyed my unconscious "jokes." And one of the best ways to win the heart of a Latin person is to make him laugh!
Other things than the language were more difficult to adjust to. Here I came closer to the people than in the Bahamas; therefore, the confrontation between the Latin way of life and mine was stronger. Among the Spanish people I didn't look as foreign, but I felt the differences more clearly.
One of the first things I had to learn was to embrace and kiss people, or more precisely, when greeting other women. In Germany we would do that only in our most intimate family circles (and not even necessarily there!), but in the Latin culture it is nearly an offense not to embrace or kiss a friend when welcoming her. That was very hard to get used to, and I didn't like it for a long time. But I had no choice but to learn to do it in order to be accepted by the people. It was not just adopting some external habit, but it was also learning to embrace people internally from my heart -- to see their goodness and to make it a part of my own.
Basically, I am a quiet person and I like a quiet environment, but Latin Americans don't. They love loud music and they love dancing. To find a quiet place in the city where one doesn't hear the typical "Salsa" music is nearly an impossibility. Even all the public buses had stereo-sets which pour out Salsa music 24 hours a day, and the people enjoy it! Parties (fiestas) are one of their favorite pastimes, and every weekend is fiesta-time. At first we lived in an apartment building with 30 apartments, and at least one of our neighbors had a party on the weekends. All the surrounding apartments had to listen to dancing music until the early morning -- many times a mental torture for me. And if you didn't like it, they would say, "Don't complain about the music, go and join the party!"
Latin Americans are joyful people, and to be happy, to enjoy life and to find love is probably their main purpose in life. And the more a person seems to achieve that, the more he is admired. When an 18-year-old girl brings home her first boyfriend, parents are quietly proud of her. But if she should turn 25 and has no intentions yet of getting married, they begin to worry. For them, a girl without romance must be absolutely unhappy. If a boy or girl stays at home reading books instead of going to parties, parents think there might be something wrong with their child. A more quiet young person who likes serious things like philosophy, science, classical music, etc., may have a hard time being accepted, and may often feel very lonely.
But those serious people are the ones whom we met witnessing, because they thought more deeply about the true purpose of life. Those who wanted a more genuine love than just some romance were coming to our center because they couldn't find it anywhere else.
Usually in Europe, we think that character is more important than physical appearance. If you are good and honest it doesn't matter so much whether you look or behave nicely or not. Here, it is just the opposite for most people: your external appearance, be it clothing, manners, position, etc., is more important than your character. Much emphasis is placed on, "What will others think of me?" That was difficult for me to understand, because I thought it was weak to live according to public opinion.
Often I saw in our guests that they couldn't understand why we must do good, no matter what others think. In the beginning, I was impatient with them to change, and I did the same things as I did in the Bahamas: I expected them to think like Germans. But Latins are simply different -- how frustrating for me (and for them) until I understood that! For a Latin American the most important thing in the whole world is to be loved and accepted. But if you are different from everybody else, you will not be loved and accepted by your surroundings. Only few people are strong enough to endure that. When I realized their great need for love I could feel more compassion, and I didn't judge them so much.
In the Bahamas I never went through the process of understanding people's hearts deeply, but here that was a much more intense experience for me. Even though I could historically analyze why people's standards were lower than in Europe, it still made me feel desperate many times, because they were not able to receive the Divine Principle.
Many who came to our center understood that the Messiah was living on the earth, and initially they were moved and knew that they should go this way. But even small things made them stumble and they didn't have the strength to persevere. They wanted to be with God, but when they realized how difficult and sacrificial this path would be, they withdrew and gave up. Sometimes the awareness of this message vanished and a few weeks later it was simply forgotten. Until today, I wonder how people can hear about the Messiah being on earth and not be touched by such a precious knowledge. Even those who did try and had the desire to join did not have the internal strength to substantialize their desire. I can only think that their ancestral merits must not be so good, and as a result they don't have as strong a spiritual support as our Western members.
Every time a new person listened to the Divine Principle, we asked ourselves, "Will he be strong enough?" Over and over again our hopes were disappointed, not because someone was bad, but only weak. For most Latin Americans, God is still abstract and far away, apart from their daily reality. Not many people had experienced God's love and presence in their lives. Heavenly Father seemed so unreachable; and yet their desire for love is so strong that they searched in many horizontal ways to find love. In the Divine Principle they hear about perfect love from God and among brothers and sisters, and they feel something about it. But they have never experienced true love, and therefore it is not real to them, not something worthwhile sacrificing for. "Yes, it sounds wonderful, but it's too hard to obtain," they say. "I'd better be content with the small, easy love I have now."
Through the Divine Principle we know what God could give us if we are willing to make efforts for it and if our national background gives us the strength to search for it no matter what the price. But the developing nations have been so neglected through history that for them God's ideal is an impossible dream. They don't feel prepared enough to pay the price for God's ideal -- and thus they don't even try. In Europe I had met individuals with such an attitude, but in here I realized that probably the whole of Latin America felt the same way.
Here Heavenly Father had chosen such precious people to come and join us, and I wanted to support them. When good persons had accepted the Divine Principle and were struggling, I prayed so desperately that God might strengthen them. But often it was as if Heavenly Father couldn't help them as much as they would have needed it. Sometimes, out of desperation, seeing someone die spiritually, I even asked God why He was so helpless that He could not save His own children. I wished that He would just take His children to His side, not allowing Satan to dominate them. But I came to understand that He couldn't do that.
I had chosen a favorite place for prayer out in the bay, and at low tide I could walk far into the ocean and sit on a big rock.
Out there in the bay, I could look over the city and I often felt like Father in the beginning of his mission -- looking at the whole world waiting for him. It was such a gigantic task -- for Father and for me (each on our own scale), but I knew Father and I shared this mission and we were fulfilling it together.