The Words of the Winter Family
Mr. Akaishi teaching the members.
Before Telling You About The 10-Day "Sin and Salvation" workshop we held for members in Dabou, Ivory Coast, from May 10-19, I would like to mention that the intense spiritual atmosphere there, even on the first day of internal guidance, was much higher than anything I'd experienced in a long time; I started out with many tears of repentance.
The Ivorian members had already won a wonderful victory of unity with the missionaries there. I believe they could now truly look beyond the missionaries' personal shortcomings and respect the missionaries as the representatives of True Parents.
The tragic results of not achieving such unity were shown dramatically in another African country, where the members' blatant rejection of one of the missionaries and his eventual expulsion from that country gave Satan the condition to attack scores of brothers and sisters. According to Heung Jin Nim's own testimony, the entire country and Africa as a whole could soon suffer devastating external "peripheral" events as a result of the failures in the internal "central" events. Thus, in his manifestation the day after the family members of that country repented deeply, Heung Jin Nim seemed to explode with joy, saying that God had succeeded in snatching a nearly total victory out of Satan's hands.
After learning of those events, I couldn't help feeling, as a former missionary to Chad and later to the Ivory Coast and Senegal, how blind I had been to my own responsibility and how little I had understood the significance of my position. All the destruction and suffering in Chad's endless war, the long and painful struggle to raise members in the Ivory Coast and Senegal, as well as God's frustration and sorrow, could possibly have been eased if only I'd been more serious about my responsibility, if only I'd tried harder....
Perhaps another personal realization comes close to describing God's purpose behind this "Sin and Salvation" workshop.
The workshop ended just before the third anniversary of the Day of Victory of Love (May 20). For me, that day back in 1984 represented a day of sorrow, as Father prepared to enter Danbury. I'd heard that Father had gathered the True Family to pray for the three days preceding his incarceration, but I could only guess what the True Family prayed about. This workshop finally taught me a little of what the True Family must have gone through.
Just think of it: If the expulsion of just one missionary could make a condition for Satan to attack a country and create so much grief for Heavenly Father, how much more terrible and serious it must have been for the United States, the fruit of 2,000 years of preparation for the Messiah, to reject and imprison the Lord himself? Father called it his crucifixion. What condition could God show Satan to keep him from claiming everything? How could we, who were responsible for laying the foundation to receive the Messiah, ever face God again?
True Father said that from that time on, we should no longer expect him to take responsibility for our mistakes but should pledge to take responsibility ourselves. From this, I can imagine that through the True Family's three days of prayer, Father was desperately trying to console God's wounded heart and was pleading with Heavenly Father to forgive us for our faithlessness and irresponsibility that led to his imprisonment. After three days, God must have answered, "I will forgive them, for your sake. But this will be the last time"
The "Cain/Abel" workshops that had been held in the Ivory Coast, which were developed by our Japanese missionary Mr. Tsukasa Akaishi, helped our brothers and sisters there to understand the providential position of the missionaries. Without repentance and restoration on a Cain/Abel level, neither a country nor an individual has sufficient foundation to receive the Messiah. When the Messiah comes, he hopes we have made our foundation to receive him so he can build on that heartistic level, teaching us about God's heart and how to take responsibility for other people and for history. But if we have not established our personal Cain/Abel foundation when we meet the Messiah, we often can't understand those higher teachings, and we may even disagree with them and rebel.
The workshop participants came from 18 different African countries.
In America, for example, how many times has Father condemned pragmatism and secular humanism, and how many times have we said, "Okay',' but in our hearts felt, "So what's so bad about pragmatism? What's so bad about humanism?" In fact, we should be repenting in tears for having propagated those ideas to the detriment of God's providence. But this is extremely difficult when you have been brought up and educated in a culture that emphasizes pragmatism and secular humanism.
Similarly, in Africa, there are other fundamental problems within the culture and traditional thinking that must be solved before God can be free to "come live here
During the "Sin and Salvation" workshop we took a hard look at these problems from God's viewpoint and tried to help our brothers and sisters find a way to repent in tears on behalf of their ancestors, for the continent as a whole, and for those fallen traditions that ran contrary to God's work of salvation.
The workshop triggered an intense spiritual battle in the hearts of the 102 brothers and sisters participating.
Yes, they could agree that God couldn't easily live here as long as a lot of Africans continued to nurture deep resentment and hatred against whites for the history of the slave trade and colonization. But how could they forget the teachings they had learned in school that America and Europe prospered through the blood, sweat, and tears of black slaves and from the wealth of resources they'd practically robbed from the African continent?
Yes, they could agree that sorcery, black magic, and the worship of spirits were forms of idolatry. But it's difficult to repent for something that's been part of one's culture for thousands of years. How challenging it is to admit that by carrying certain charms and participating in certain rites, many Africans had in essence been transferring their devotion from one god to another, trying to find the one that would give them the most of what they wanted.
And, yes, they could agree that polygamy was very wrong from God's point of view and a major cause of the murderous jealousy and rivalry that plagues African society. But so many members actually came from families in which their father had many wives. All had ancestors who had been polygamists. One brother had been married to two wives before joining the church, and others had lived impure lives encouraged by their acceptance of polygamy.
This cooking facility caught on fire during one of the lectures.
The spirit world made its presence felt very clearly in the members' struggle with these difficult issues.
A member whose grandfather had been killed by white colonists confessed that he felt he could never forgive whites for that. Several times in the workshop he really struggled -- even with simple prayer conditions. But by the end of the workshop he was crying in repentance and had a deep experience when the Holy Spirit came.
After Mr. Akaishi explained colonization from the providential viewpoint, four members wrote in their impressions that they heard voices tell them, "You must boycott this lesson!" and "Don't listen; he is lying!" They said that since they actually agreed with what Mr. Akaishi was saying, they understood that the voices were from evil ancestors and spirits.
The satanic spirit world caused strange things to happen even outside the lecture hall. Stray dogs came and started howling in unison at important moments in the lesson. The mother of a member who was cooking for the workshop saw a pot filled with boiling oil seem to tip itself over; its contents started to pour out on her feet. She jumped back just in time, but then she became paralyzed with fear and had to be yanked to safety as the oil set part of the cooking but on fire.
On the last night of the workshop, a Zairian sister dreamed that two groups of people came to talk to her. The first group of people were very joyful and thanked her for listening to all the internal guidance lectures. The second group was very angry and threatened her, "Don't ever come to a workshop in Dabou again!!"
Of course there were also spiritual phenomena that encouraged the members throughout the workshop. Several brothers reported that they felt an invisible hand waking them when they became sleepy in the lectures. A sister saw her grandmother appear from the spirit world, crying and telling her she was her only hope. Another sister was sobbing in repentance when suddenly she became hysterical because a voice started shouting in her ear, "You're not repenting strongly enough!!"
One brother had a dream that True Father came and took him to see his ancestors. They went together up to large tomb. Father opened it and inside was a myriad of people, all struggling to reach out to touch the brother. But Father ordered them to stop, saying they were not worthy to touch their descendant.
During a particularly difficult phase of the workshop, an elder brother heard a voice during his prayer say that there were several people in the room who didn't accept what Mr. Akaishi was saying and that their faithlessness was preventing God's spirit from manifesting itself in a stronger way.
But everyone was fighting hard to break through. Mr. Akaishi had been preparing the lectures for months, and in Zaire, Heung Jin Nim had told him, "You must speak, Akaishi!" Mr. Akaishi's teaching style is not loud and forceful, but he has the particular talent of being able to plow through the most dry and intellectual sections without losing momentum. His talks were powerful simply by their content, which was clearly inspired by heaven.
A group discussion outside.
Some of the things he said provoked a sudden gasp or yelp from those in the audience, who were stunned by what they heard. A few people actually started trembling violently during his lectures. Two brothers separately told Mr. Akaishi in private that if he had given these lectures just two years ago, he might have been kicked out! But nobody could resist the rock-solid reasoning and countless clear examples he used to back each point; even more importantly, the members felt in their hearts that it was actually God speaking.
For example, about racial resentment: In the illegal drug trade, he explained, the person who sells the drugs, if caught, always gets a stiffer punishment than the person who buys them. But concerning the slave trade, it is mainly the side that did the buying that is condemned by Africans, whereas the slave dealers, the Africans themselves, are not. In addition, it is not all the buyers who are despised. More Africans were taken into slavery by Arabs than by Europeans and Americans, but you almost never hear about African resentment against Arabs for what they did.
There was always slavery within African society -- right up to the end of the Second World War. But among Africans, if one man's grandfather had been a slave of another man's grandfather, the two grandsons might still be close friends -- if the grandson of the slave owner were not a great deal richer than the grandson of the slave. If he were, jealousy could easily push the poorer man to blame his poverty on the richer man's ancestor, and he could probably claim compensation, even if that were not the reason for his poverty.
Mr. Akaishi pointed out that if Africa were as prosperous today as America and Europe, there would probably be little or no resentment for the past slave trade and colonization. "In the event Africa were much stronger or richer than they." he asked, "Can you be sure Africa wouldn't herself establish colonies?" No one could say so with certainty.
His conclusion, then, was that racial resentment in Africa is largely the product of jealousy, and through numerous historical examples he demonstrated that Africa is underdeveloped today not just because of slavery and colonization, but because it has been so difficult for God to work there.
It would have been impossible for the brothers and sisters to deeply repent for Africa's situation if they continued to believe that God had abandoned Africa. But by the end of the workshop, it was clear to everyone: 'Africa had too often abandoned God!"
Mr. Akaishi is lifted high up on the members' shoulders.
Mr. Akaishi explained that God had sent Christianity to Africa with Jesus' own apostles. The Book of Acts tells of how a high civil servant from Ethiopia's royal court was converted. Alexandria in pre-Arab Egypt became one of the five main centers of Christianity, but in the fourth century, the early African Church rebelled against the authority of the church in Rome, despite Saint Augustine's reconciliation efforts. If it hadn't rebelled, Christianity might have been Africa's primary religion today, in- stead of sorcery and animism. Islam even used force to convert Africans in parts of the continent, and like African Christianity, African Islam today is somehow mixed with conflicting traditional African sorcery. Finally, centuries of Christian missionary activity on the continent (which resulted in many missionaries being killed) seems to have had little effect in most modern African countries and in fact has often been blamed for "disrupting African authenticity"
Many Africans still practice polygamy, sorcery, and fetishism today. It sometimes happens that wives will compete for the favor of one husband and teach their children to hate their half-brothers. They often fight over the inheritance, and sometimes even poison each other. (One member admitted that, when visiting home, he would eat only out of his father's dish to be sure he wouldn't be poisoned.)
To support God's side of the spiritual war going on in the lecture room, missionaries and team leaders did an all-night 21-minute prayer chain throughout the workshop, and missionaries took turns in a 12-minute prayer chain during each lecture. There were also several 21-minute prayers by the entire assembly.
On the third day of internal guidance, I was doing the final link in the overnight prayer chain, and I was finding it rather difficult to push out my early-morning grogginess to clear a channel for God. I was rambling on about the members' understanding that Satan had chained them and their ancestors into slavery through fetishism and polygamy. I prayed that, through repentance, they could be liberated.
Then I realized that it was God who needed liberation too! That suddenly became the theme of my prayers, and the more I prayed about it, the more sense it made to me.
Later that morning the missionaries were discussing the workshop, and Kathy Rigney, the national leader, started sharing about an experience she had had in prayer that morning. She had also been praying for the brothers and sisters to be able to understand God's suffering heart, and she said in her prayer that, if they could repent, it would mean their liberation. Suddenly she heard God say, "More important than that, it would be my liberation!" And she burst into tears as she felt how much that meant to Heavenly Father.
I was amazed to hear Kathy's experience. Kathy knows and loves each one of the members with such a parental heart that I'm sure she could feel to her bones what those expressions "liberation of Africa" and "liberation of Cod" meant.
It was originally planned that late in the third day of internal guidance there would be a two- hour prayer condition. We were anticipating some sort of manifestation of God's spirit. But the sword of truth had cut so deeply into the hearts of the members that many looked stunned or exhausted. They had understood the lectures, but they needed more time to contemplate what they had heard. So team discussions were organized, followed by a short prayer. Then there were impressions to write and an early bedtime, so we could get ready for the fourth and last day of internal guidance.
Even so, some people had very deep experiences during that evening's prayer, and Camara Bakary, the workshop coordinator, began to cry intensely, as he had when God had spoken through him before in Zaire. Later that night he told me that he had felt a high spirit coming into him, electrifying his whole body, but that whoever it was seemed to change his mind and leave. He said he thought it might have been Heung Jin Nim.
On the last day, Mr. Akaishi simply provided more Principle background to the topics already discussed, summed up the lessons given, and drew some final conclusions. Kathy asked a few brothers and sisters if they would offer public testimony at the next meeting in order to lead into the two-hour prayer.
At that prayer meeting, I sat in the front row just to the right of the podium. As I prayed for those who were speaking, I felt like my head was in a vise. My breathing became labored, and I felt the strain as the members tried to break through in their testimonies.
Of the four members who came up, I felt that only one could truly offer tears of repentance for more than his own personal sins. He must have struggled for 15 endless minutes trying to reach that point. All the while, I was praying desperately in my heart for him to break through.
Suddenly he burst into tears and threw himself to the floor, crying with all his heart, "Heavenly Father, I am the fruit of 6,000 years of sin!!!"
Immediately, tears started pouring from my eyes, and in my heart, I "felt" the words: "This is what I've been waiting for!"
We all joined in prayer, and then Kathy asked each member to come forward and declare his determination before Heavenly Father and True Parents to fight desperately to crush out every trace of polygamy and fetishism in Africa.
The gesture turned out to be much more than symbolic. The brothers and sisters shouted out their determination with all of their hearts as if they were picking up and casting off Satan's heavy chains that had been holding them and their ancestors for thousands of years. They were deadly serious. Several members trembled as they spoke. Many wept as they went back and sat down. It was an experience that must have touched God's heart deeply.
I couldn't sleep that night. I was too excited about what might possibly happen the next morning. I could sense deep inside that now conditions were set such that Heavenly Father could share His love with the members in a very special way.
The final "Mansei!" of the workshop.
May 20, the Day of Victory of Love, started with a 7 am pledge service. Kathy described her impression later that it was as if sparks were exploding in the air as the pledge was recited.
All heaven seemed to be reciting the pledge through the members; the words appeared to burst out of their mouths. Then as Kathy prayed, Bakary began to cry intensely again, making us wonder if someone were about to visit.
After a rich and tearful unison prayer, we had breakfast, then gathered around 9 am for a sermon by Mr. Akaishi.
The spiritual atmosphere was still setting off sparks of God's energy. Mr. Akaishi's sermon was powerful! I remember him saying: "If you still can't feel how terrible and sinful polygamy and fetishism are, you must be really dead!" He said he never wanted to speak that directly, but he had hoped each member would search deeply and find the truth within himself. Then he exhorted everyone to pray and repent with all their hearts.
Right after the sermon, we started singing "My Promise." Around the room, many people started crying in deep repentance. Some brothers and sisters started to shake violently and go into trances. Most of the missionaries were suddenly needed to carry or help people out of the room to console them and help them handle the spiritual experiences they were having.
Then the tidal wave hit! Bakary suddenly rushed up, grabbed the microphone, and pleaded, "Would the missionary brothers and sisters please come to the front of the room? Brothers and sisters, let us bow to the True Parents' representatives!"
As soon as Bakary spoke, the entire room was awash in tears. Kathy described it "as if something just broke. The Holy Spirit just filled everybody at that moment." Everyone was crying intensely.
The missionaries didn't quite know what to do when Bakary called them forward. Most, including Kathy, were busy trying to help people who had gone into trances. Kathy made her way to the front of the room to tell the members, who had already started bowing, to bow to True Parents' picture at the front of the room.
At the same moment, an elder church member sitting in front spiritually saw True Father come forward and stand in front of his picture. The member said he thought Kathy was telling everybody to bow to Father, and not just to his picture. Songs of Gratitude
The prayers went on and on with no signs of letting up. Kathy asked Bakary, who had quieted down, to lead a song to end the prayer. After three renditions of "Our Forefathers;' many people were still praying and crying. Finally, Gregory Novalis intervened to try to calm the members' hearts. It was quite a sight to see Gregory, amid the ongoing sobs and prayers in this electrified atmosphere, calmly write the title "Let Us Love One An- other" on the blackboard and then launch into a sermon! By the time he finished, things had calmed down quite a bit.
Then Kathy came forward with an announcement that set all our hearts skipping. She had found out from Bakary that in the instant before he had grabbed the microphone, God had spoken clearly to Bakary, saying, "You've been waiting for me to speak to you, but this time I didn't have to -- Akaishi said everything I wanted to say!"
Kathy then said it was important at that moment to express gratitude to Heavenly Father for sending the Holy Spirit to help in repentance. She called on the brothers and sisters to offer up joyful songs and celebration throughout the rest of the day; and they did that with all of their hearts.
The temperature must have gone up to 150 degrees, as over 100 people danced around the lecture hall, singing again and again the Zairian song, "God Has Chosen Your' They carried Mr. Akaishi around on their shoulders and held the other missionaries' hands high in the air.
Songs were offered from every continent represented (there were too many countries), and the applause and cheers were deafening when the Ivorian brother Edouard and his Zairian wife Kimbembi came up to sing. They are the symbol of unity between Zaire and the Ivory Coast.
Kathy topped off the entire celebration with three powerful but very lady-like Manseis which all the members said were "magnifique."
At that point, new national indemnity conditions were made. Then everyone returned home. All of us were new people, and I knew that a significant advance had been made here in the Ivory Coast toward God's liberation.