Unification News for November 1999
The Reality of the Eternal Return - Reflections on the 40-Day Japan-America Leadership Exchange
The American leaders who spent 40 days in Japan and Korea had deeply moving experiences. We saw, tasted, touched and felt in our hearts the love and sacrificial devotion of our members in the parent nations. The expressions of devotion are different in the two nations. The different cultural, political and religious environments call for differing methods for developing the church. But the root is the same: love for our True Parents and devotion to the ideals of the kingdom of God. Their love for True Parents is so accurate that they have been granted the position of parent nations.
In Japan I was stationed at the national headquarters. From that perch I could view the entire system. I was greatly impressed with the dedication of the members of that office who, like the members throughout the nation, work until 11 pm, midnight and beyond every night, day after day, without ceasing. They have their kitchenette in a corner of the office, with a dining table, and they eat lunch and dinner together and just carry on the work non-stop. They have a television set near the dining table, and a few staff may take a break now and then to watch part of a baseball game, or a sumo wrestling match, or the evening news. In fact, because they keep such long hours, their pace of work is measured and never too intense. I never saw a "panic" take place, with papers and phones flying, everyone barking orders and anxiety or temper levels rising. Even though President Ohtsuka’s door displays the sign "Emergency Room," and even though Japan is awash with one dire emergency after another, the atmosphere at the headquarters is amazingly calm. I credit it to experience-born professionalism. I credit it to absolute faith, love and obedience. I credit it to good preparation, exceptional communication and complete unity with the directions from above. And that is mixed, always, with a compassionate heart, as far as I could see.
What I have always loved about the Japanese membership is the holy spirit atmosphere in which they conduct their affairs. Every night that I was in Tokyo, for example, President Ohtsuka would arrive from wherever he had been speaking that day, at 10 pm or 11 pm, and go into his office and pick up the day’s reports. Sometimes he would call staff leaders in, or sometimes they just seemed to drift into the office just as friends relaxing after a long day’s work. In this relaxed atmosphere, they dealt with some of the toughest challenges facing our movement worldwide. They literally moved the national church from those simple meetings in that office.
Everywhere I went, I found this spirit of love and fellowship in the midst of dire straits. It is as if one were on an inflatable that has been plunging through whitewater rapids for forty years. The boat is Japan and the rapids are God’s providence. The boat is strong and the crew knows what they are doing. The only thing they do not know is when they will clear the rapids. They have confidence in their boat and in each other. "Oh, my brother, could you pull your oar back a tad bit?" "Oh, yes, not a problem, but if you could adjust the angle on yours it would stabilize us even more." All the while, everyone knows that with one false move, everything will be lost—not just in Japan, but worldwide.
Underpinning this is the strong spiritual leadership of the Korean pastors. The Japanese church is a ceremonial church in many ways, and the Korean leaders add depth and heart to the ceremonial life. The church often carries on ancestral liberation ceremonies; their presentation of the Second Coming lecture can be very ceremonial; the very process of gathering members’ offerings is ceremonial. They bow, light candles and give gifts and awards. The gifts often are holy candles and holy books. Books of True Parents’ words, signed by True Parents, are a reward the value of which cannot be assessed. Japanese homes always have entertained little altars. Ceremony goes beyond religious boundary. I heard that the typical Japanese is born according to Shinto ceremony, likes a Christian ceremony for marriage, and conducts their funeral by Buddhist tradition.
Our own movement there has had multiple branches and forms, including the "K-J church" and a form of Unificationist Buddhism called Tenseikyo. The leadership is now merging these into the Family Federation proper, as one movement with one structure and one spirituality. They are doing this very carefully and respectfully, through prayer and ritual services, removing the Tenseikyo symbols from various chapels and replacing them with symbols directly representing Unificationism. President Ohtstuka told me that this is a model for the transcendence of all religions once they are ready.
This is having a big effect upon our membership in Japan, by way of strengthening the central church. At the same time, our members’ business activities are privatizing. The economic life of the movement is horizontally-based, not vertically. This allows for greater creativity, diversification and individual responsibility.
Married women constitute the core of the church’s strength in Japan. They have day-care centers for their pre-school children, which allow them to attend a mid-morning prayer and study meeting at the local church. After the meeting they may return to their daily round of activities, or stay on for a couple more hours to do some door-to-door work. This is a manageable schedule for wives with family responsibilities, one that I would like to see implemented in America.
Our stay in Japan began September 4 with a high-spirited welcoming banquet hosted by Rev. Jeong Og Yu, Japan’s national leader, and Mrs. Dae Hwa Jung, wife of former Korean church president Rev. Young Whi Kim. That was followed by an introductory seminar lasting until 2 a.m., presented by the Japanese HQ leaders. It was thorough, comprehensive and unrelentingly honest. The Japanese leadership is spiritual and also very realistic. They conveyed the intensity of the Japanese movement, the theory behind our witnessing activities, the membership situation and everything. The next morning was a 5 a.m. Pledge Service, followed by another two hours of introductory seminar. We then drove to the Headquarters church at Shibuya in Tokyo and attended Sunday Service. We then divided into teams by region and headed out to our assigned areas.
Some of us began fundraising right away. Georg Beutl, Mark Hernandez and Joe Gonzales went on to set regional records in fundraising. Others were out witnessing. Howard Self gained three spiritual children during our time in Japan. We were meeting groups of members, visiting churches and video centers, spending evenings in members’ homes, sharing our testimonies about our life of faith and what is taking place now in America. Most effective was when we connected with the Japanese members heart to heart. Americans shed many tears with the members in the midst of the life of sacrifice. The members there are carrying unbelievable burdens, and yet there is a sense of joy in living that makes it all worthwhile. They are grateful for all things. And they strengthen and support each other.
The merging of Korean and Japanese leadership, as well as the matching and blessing of Korean and Japanese men and women, is creating of Korea and Japan one nation, one family with one tradition. Of course it is not yet perfect, but there is a degree of unity and love on both sides, of mutual respect and admiration, that I did not expect to see. It was very touching to me, because I see Koreans and Japanese as having very different personalities. To see their beautiful love as couples and their beautiful children was an inspiring testimony to the power of True Parents’ love and vision. Hearing young Korean leaders speaking fluent Japanese moved me very much. I was equally moved to see the Japanese members embracing Korean ministers. I realized that there could be only one power to make this come about: the love of True Parents. The only way to bring unification is through love for a common set of parents.
And I asked myself: what power is it that draws all these Japanese women, from 20 to 70 years old, to True Father? I realized that the answer lies in Father’s college days at Waseda University in Japan. There, as on any campus in any age, there are temptations awaiting every young man and every young woman. Father has testified to how he was tempted by young women in Japan, and how he overcame their temptations. At the same time he was discovering the secret of the fall of man in spirit world. The victory in the spirit world occurred on the foundation of victory over fallen Eve on earth. To win victory over fallen Eve is to liberate fallen Eve. I felt that this power of liberating womanhood explains this powerful standard of devotion on the part of Japanese women to our Father, especially because his victory as a young man going to college took place in Japan.
The Japanese church is a church of absolute faith, love and obedience. The air is thick with their desperation to raise funds for the global movement. They know that if they falter even one day, crises will emerge in many places. Their standard of offering and tithing far outstrips our efforts in the west. It means that they really believe in God, in the God who blesses those who live for the sake of others. God is blessing Japan and it was a blessing for us to be with our brothers and sisters for thirty days. We slept together, ate together, did everything together. Their hospitality left us speechless. And it came from the depth of their hearts, from their heartfelt love for us, who are their children providentially, even though most of us were older than most of them physically.
One member, Paulette Wiesinger, had been in Japan for a year with the New Hope Singers on IOWC back in the 70s, and she discovered at her center in Kyushu photos of herself singing back then! Other members found themselves in centers near their spiritual parents or in-laws. One brother, Howard Self, noted how the royal treatment we received compared with the way Japanese missionaries who come to America have been treated. The day they arrive in America, according to Howard’s experience, they are immediately plunged into church activities. This brought him to tears, as he failed to convince his hosts and hostesses that they had already served him enough!
Another brother, Eugene Harnett, noted how Japan is surrounded by water to the north, east, south and west, and how water was falling from the sky continually, and the air was so humid that it seemed to be coming from the ground below his feet, and water was coming from his eyes in the form of tears all the time. So he concluded that Japan is truly a water world—in other words, the mother’s womb. And there, we passed through the womb back to the father nation of Korea.
At the end we had a brief tour, including a church-affiliated hotel. There we donned kimonos, brothers and sisters alike, and joyously sang and danced to karaoke music. It was a night of such liberation, followed by long soaks in the hotel’s hot spring fed baths. Two days later we attended the celebration of the 40th anniversary of our church in Japan, with a crowd of 7,000 at a hall in Chiba. We also had the chance at that occasion to say our farewells to our Japanese brothers and sisters and do a full "kyung bae" after singing "I’ll Never Leave You Anymore."
After that event we loaded onto buses and headed to our headquarters church in Tokyo. There, after a quick dinner, we went out into the Shibuya station area, Japan’s Times Square, and street preached and witnessed. Altogether, between 8:30 and 10:00 p.m., we brought six guests to the center and made countless contacts. It was a wonderful conclusion to our stay in Japan. Everyone’s energy level revived to the highest pitch to hurl us into the Father nation of Korea.
Korea was a more internal experience. We had no orientation seminar, in part because President Hwang had just departed to attend the holy day in America, but in part because I believe it was God’s plan for us to absorb the Korean experience through the skin, not through the brain. I stayed at the headquarters church at Chungpa Dong, but it is the same there as any other local church. Finally, in that church, I was liberated from fax, phone and e-mail.
Korea was a "here and now" experience. Of course there is always a degree of unpredictability to life, but unpredictability has been brought to the level of a fine art in Korea. As often as not, what happened was exactly the opposite of what I was told would happen. Again, part of the cause of this was the lack of translators, but still there is a moment-by-moment quality to life in our church in Korea. But there is a charm to it, once one accepts it. As Rev. Dong Han Lee of Chungpa Dong church told me as he gave me the printed schedule, "It may change, but if it changes, it will be a change for the better." Again, Rev. Dai Young Lee presented my Japanese partner, Rev. Masatoshi Kawamura, and I an imposing printed schedule. It stated we would have, after our welcoming service, an evening prayer from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Well, at 10 p.m. we were with some local western members, having a wonderful time sharing over fruit and tea, and Rev. Lee announced, "This is our prayer meeting." Then he told me that tomorrow mornings 6 a.m. hoon dok hae would be "free prayer." I thought, this is the kind of church I like.
I went down to the shower room in the basement of the church. The "shower" was two faucets, each with a short hose attached. They sent water into a tub big enough for a child to sit in, but not an adult. This was all next to the washer and dryer, about six feet from the floor covered with drying potatoes and onions. In the middle of the room, laundry was drying on racks. Walls? Curtains? Are you kidding? Just hang loose there in the basement and splash yourself with nice hot water. And be grateful. After all, next to the dryer were two shelves full of excellent cleansing and beauty products. Strip down, buddy—if someone happens upon you, it’s their problem, not yours.
It’s this unexpected mixture, or unusual arrangement of things, from the western eye, that subtly affects one’s mind in the Orient. Drying onions next to the family shower, with the water heater and cans of motor oil on the opposite wall. In another house, for example, what should have been, from my perspective, on the table was on the floor and what should have been on the floor was on the table. I can’t remember precisely, but I think it was the phone on the floor and a wastebasket on the table. It’s no major issue, but it leads to an unconscious disorientation. Things just aren’t where you expect them to be. Similarly, there is the wonderful way they play with the English language. I read the following words emblazoned on a small plastic garbage can—a garbage can:
"This expresses our life vision
Is this purposeful? Does it really mean that this $1.29 garbage can expresses someone’s life vision—no, not someone’s life vision, but OUR life vision! I know we are supposed to find God in our mundane lives, but is this not taking it a bit too far? Another question is whether the author of the garbage can label was trying to get it right and is sorry that his English just isn’t up to snuff, or whether he believes that it is right? Or was he just plain old having entrepreneurial fun? or are they out to butcher our language as a way of revenge? Well, thank you just the same, but we do a fine job of butchering our own language right here at home. This is a topic worthy of a doctoral dissertation if there ever was one.
Why do I digress? I do it to point out that our Unification religion comes from a different culture. For us American believers, who have come to comprehend GOD through this teaching and its practice, it is important that we realize that God is beyond culture in that God has spoken to us through a culture that is not our own. You drive down narrow streets in Seoul or Pusan or Kwangjoo or Taegu or Inchon and come upon another building covered with neon signs. Bright lights and strong sounds blare from the thriving grocery store on the ground floor. You make your way past the parked cars and bicycles, and find a stairway at the dark corner of the building. On the second floor is a coffee shop/paperback bookstore for school kids. You continue up the stairs and come upon a hallway full of shoes. You make your way through the shoes ‘til you reach the door and have to deposit your own. You are a special guest, so there are slippers waiting on the other side of the threshold, neatly arranged so that you can step into them easily (if your feet happen to be less than size 8; otherwise, you forego the slippers).
You find yourself in a church—our church. Most of our churches in Korea require a thorough course of field experience in store front churches in America in order to digest the physical environment. I’ve been to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and they are not St. Patrick’s Cathedral. You might find out later than the church owns the entire building, and the stores belongs to members or is leased to non-members. On the floor above the minister and his family live. There is a grand piano in a tiny bedroom and you wonder how in heaven’s name they got it there. The daughter plays like Glenn Gould.
As you enter this simple chapel, there are members waiting for you. Some are preparing food in the back, others are holding children; they all applaud as you arrive. There are Koreans, mostly, with some Japanese and Filipino wives. In one or two churches I met Africans. You are ushered to the front and the singing and prayer begins. The minister asks you to give a testimony. They look for someone who can translate. If there was no translator, I spoke for a few minutes in broken Korean, which they appreciated just as much. I probably said the equivalent of "supreme can" many times over.
The service is short. When it is over, pews are moved about and space made for refreshments. Then we sing songs, into the night. One night like this, a lady sang "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian." She was so humble, such a simple woman and not that old, but I am told that she learned that song from Pastor McCabe back in 1956. Pastor McCabe. The missionary for a British Pentecostal church, stationed in Australia. Through the work of Dr. David S. C. Kim in England, this church sent him from Australia to visit us in Seoul, and he stayed with Reverend Moon’s small body of believers for 40 days. The member who was telling me this said that Pastor McCabe left Korea convinced that True Father is the Messiah, the Second Coming of Christ. McCabe did not, however, share this testimony with his own church or with anyone in the West. The article on his visit in his church magazine, that Dr. Kim showed me years ago, stated not much more than that this was a group of sincere Christians and that their leader, Mr. Moon, was a born orator. And here was this simple sister, in this humble little church above a grocery store, still singing the song that McCabe taught them, "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian."
Oh, it brought tears to my eyes. Rejected of men, rejected of the great and powerful, this humble little church has given everything to save the world. These are simple people, uneducated, unprofessional, denizens of the hermit kingdom for 4,300 years. It is they to whom God has entrusted His beloved Son and Daughter, and without recognition from anyone, they continue to give and give, and worship and pray and sing the very songs of those who failed to honor who they are. The songs of those whose lack of courage and vision has relegated those who should have glory in the eyes of the world, to third class status, struggling, almost pitiful. But in that room there was so much joy. There was no thought whatsoever that Pastor McCabe had betrayed them, or that it was like Nicodemus teaching Jesus’ disciples how to sing "Lord, I Want to Be a Pharisee," or that they were foolish to continue this way after so many years of seemingly fruitless effort. No, there was just love in that room and love is eternal, absolute, unique and unchanging. There was just the Holy Spirit of love, gratitude, family, purity—that is the strength to go on forever. Because it is God Himself in that room.
And so the people have learned to enjoy their life with each other following the Way. It is a "hobby," in Father’s sense of the word, something in which you invest yourself totally because you enjoy doing it. There is no double-mindedness about it, no second thoughts. In Korea I could just pray. Partly due to language difficulties, partly due to the continual round of Hoon Dok Hae gatherings in home after home, we were always singing and praying. I discovered how the informal life of meals and friendship can blend with the formal religious life of singing, prayer, study and sermons. It happens right in the home, with your friends and neighbors. This is family church.
So we would be out witnessing, putting up posters advertising counseling for those who want to get married, and as midday rolled around my partner would say, as if surprised, "Oh, here is a member’s house." It would be an apartment with a Unification flag or a little sticker on the door saying "True Family." And we would enter and, viola!, there would be a party going on! Well, I mean there would be eight to twelve members gathered and the table is laden with food and they have prepared everything for this team of people out witnessing. And there, already arrived, is Rev. Kawamura and his witnessing partner. And our minister would arrive soon and we eat and share deep into the afternoon.
This was the Korean experience—internal, not external. I visited no businesses (save for hurried jaunts through Segye Ilbo and the Il Hwa laboratories); I was never briefed about church growth strategies or structures or seminars. As I said, everything was absorbed through the skin, like a sukdum treatment, I guess, or like the way garlic comes out through the pores of your skin.
We did visit the Rock of Tears, where we heard a tear-wrenching testimony about a woman I had never heard of before. This woman, Mrs. Kim, Jae Sa, was a close friend and counselor to Mrs. Hyun Shil Kang, known as the first member to join in South Korea. Mrs. Kim had received revelations about True Father that had guided her to his mud hut, but she had not knocked on the door. To her, it looked as if it were perhaps an outhouse, or a place where a leper might live. She, a respectable 38-year old wife and mother, could not knock on such a door. Then dreams and visions revealed to her that the Messiah would come as a physical man and that this was his house. These had been spurred by a request from her protégé, Mrs. Kang, that she pray for guidance about the Second Coming. When Mrs. Kim told Mrs. Kang of what God had revealed to her, Mrs. Kang told Mrs. Kim that she had in fact met the man in that mud hut and believed him to be the Messiah.
Mrs. Kim then met Father, and went on to suffer enormous persecution from her Presbyterian church, members of which came into her house daily to pray that she separate from this Satan Reverend Moon. The members influenced her husband eventually to divorce her. This tale was told us by her son, who was 13 at the time. At that time he went with his father, but twenty years later he realized about the Unification Church. Today he is 64 years old. Every day he rises at 3:30 a.m., performs fifty kyung baes, and climbs to the Rock of Tears and far beyond it, to the mountaintop where Father prayed. He has carried on this spiritual regimen for seven years now. This is the root of the Korean church. He is just another church member, nothing unusual.
We had the blessing of swinging by Sun Moon University on the morning of October 13. It is very impressive and Dr. Lee, the university President, welcomed us and shared lunch with us. I can see that they are striving to carve out and create, literally, a university worthy of the kingdom of God, in a challenging environment—the environment of thousands of young Koreans. The university seems wide open for a variety of viewpoints, some principled, some strongly challenging or rejecting principle. It is a tough mission and I believe that we are making progress there.
We finally made it to Chung Pyung Lake late in the afternoon of October 13. The sky was filling us with golden light, literally, as we walked up the road in the process of being constructed to the Temple. As I glimpsed the Temple, well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. That world, the Chung Pyung Lake world of earth and heaven, has been transformed from the way it was when I was last there, February of 1997. I won’t even begin to try to describe it in detail, but it is huge, majestic, holy, palatial, exalted, …words fail me. Everyone’s jaws dropped to the floor as we walked through the premises.
But best of all, Daemo Nim was there and she met us during our brief tour, walking gingerly with us through the construction debris-laden buildings and porches. We had a great photo-op with her and then each member one by one could shake her hand as we departed. It doesn’t sound like much, but boy were we ever resurrected and many were crying and crying away. We rode back to Seoul with Mrs. Soonja Richardson on the bus, Daemo Nim’s English translator, and she explained a great vision for the future of that place. The closing banquet featured a fine speech from Reverend Hwang, president of the Korean church, and a happy meeting with Dr. Chang Shik Yang, our American Continental Director.
This is a quickly written account and many like it could be written without repeating anything. The forty days were overflowing with God’s love. The providential time of this moment is that of the unification of Korea, Japan and America into one nation. Our great blessing was received in that context. I understand that there may be more such 40-day exchanges; if so, I would encourage any and every American leader to partake of it. Go ahead, indulge yourself.
Finally, whatever we did, whatever we might have given to our brothers and sisters in Japan and Korea—and I know we did give something—it does not equal what we received from them. I hope that we can equal their sacrifice in the months and years to come, by fulfilling the dreams they have for their elder son.
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